As the ‘Southerner,’ I was charged with giving the critic’s picks for the top five fried green tomatoes in Atlanta for the Best of the Big A. Upon hearing this assignment, the overachiever part of my brain kicked in. I decided that despite having tasted many fried green tomatoes over the years, I needed to compare the top contenders head-to-head. Road trip time.
I packed a little bag with napkins, plates, utensils — my mess kit — and a list of addresses. I drove from Buford to Kennesaw to Atlanta proper. When all was said and done, I’d eaten fried green tomatoes for lunch and/or dinner for five days at 14 different restaurants.
Now, to hit that many restaurants I couldn’t eat inside each one. But I also couldn’t just let them get soggy in their takeout boxes. So, the front seat of my car became Fried-Green-Tomato-Tasting-Central.
How did I decide? First, I checked to see that the breading was crispy, well seasoned, and not too thick to overwhelm the tomato. So many of the tomatoes I tried could have been exponentially improved with a little seasoning. Second, I was looking for a soft tomato (cooked through) that packed a tart tomato flavor. I tried to consider the tomato itself apart from the sauces and other accompaniments.
Here are my top 5 picks explained:
1) The Busy Bee Cafe, Atlanta:
The fried green tomatoes at Busy Bee are a clear winner in my opinion. The tomatoes are sliced very thinly so that they are completely cooked and soft. They have a bright burst of flavor, which is complemented by a very well-seasoned, thin and crispy cornmeal crust.
2) Rico’s World Kitchen, Buford
I went to Rico’s based on the reader nominations for best fried green tomatoes. Though it was a bit of a drive, I wasn’t disappointed. The tomatoes, again, have a thin and crispy cornmeal crust. They are topped with the powdery parmesan cheese, which typically isn’t my favorite ingredient, but in this case it lends a nice sharpness to the tomatoes.
Though I haven’t tried any of their other food, Williamson Bros. was on my way to another restaurant, so I decided I might as well try their tomatoes. I received them piping hot with a crisp flour breading that reminded me of the Varsity’s onion rings. That definitely worked in their favor. I wasn’t crazy about the remoulade served with the tomatoes, but I didn’t factor accompaniments into my decision.
4) South City Kitchen, Atlanta
While I tried to separate sauces and accompaniments from the actual fried-green tomatoes, it was impossible to do that at South City Kitchen. Their fried green tomatoes are cooked with goat cheese inside the breading. But, that’s also what I love about these tomatoes. The goat cheese adds a creaminess that sets off a tart tomato flavor. The bread crumb crust, though a touch greasy, is crisp and seasoned.
5) The Fickle Pickle Cafe, Roswell
The fried green tomatoes at Fickle Pickle are also difficult to separate from their accompaniments because they are served on a sandwich. I did, however, pull them off to taste them separately. Though sliced a little on the thick side, they have a crispy cornmeal breading that is well-seasoned. And while I like their tomatoes as a solitary unit, I love them paired with the sweet tomato jam, basil mayonnaise, and pepper jack cheese on the sandwich. But again, that didn’t factor into my decision. The Fickle Pickle has a solid fried-green tomato.
– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team. She also publishes her own blog, Going Low Carb.