accessAtlanta

City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Atlanta Classic, The Colonnade

101912dine_1

In the search for Atlanta Classics, you would be hard pressed to find a more tenured candidate than The Colonnade.

First opened in 1927 by Frank Tarleton, The Colonnade quickly established itself as an institution of classic Southern food. Only one other restaurant in Atlanta can claim a longer history — Atkins Park Tavern, which opened as a deli in 1922 — but none can claim to have operated unchanged continuously as long as this icon of old Southern cooking.

AJC Dining Team member Jon Watson writes about popular eats.

AJC Dining Team member Jon Watson writes about popular eats.

Tarleton ran the restaurant out of the original location at Piedmont Road and Lindbergh Drive until losing his lease in 1962, when The Colonnade moved to Cheshire Bridge Road. It wasn’t until 1979 that current owner Paul Jones took over. In 1982, Jones expanded the restaurant to the size it is now, increasing the dining room to more than 200 seats and adding the bar area.

To say that stepping into The Colonnade feels like a time warp is certainly true — the décor has a decidedly ’70s aesthetic, in that “haven’t gotten around to updating it” sort of way. Of course, the crowd favors the older set, which is to be expected with 85 years of loyal customers. But the demographic is more melting pot than geriatric ward, a lively blend of the old guard, their children, eccentrics from the less-than-uptight Cheshire Bridge area, and young new Atlanta diners looking for a taste of the old South.

It only takes one evening seated at the bar, or a quick eavesdrop or two in the dining room, to feel the immense sense of community that exists between the regulars and staff here. I frankly feel out of place, because it seems I’m the only one in the faux library/bar who doesn’t know the bartender’s entire family by name.

Therein lies much of the charm of The Colonnade and an integral reason why it has outlasted every other restaurant in Atlanta: These patrons know The Colonnade, and The Colonnade knows them. That sort of familiarity takes time, cultivated over years and generations, but for folks raised in the South, the food will instill the same feeling from bite one.

Make no mistake: This is the house that fried chicken built.

Pick the brain of most longtime Atlanta residents, and you can safely bet the Southern fried chicken ($14) will be the first dish they mention. It is undoubtedly the restaurant’s most famous and most popular dish, and rightfully so. If I

Photo by Becky Stein

Photo by Becky Stein

were to put my food-critic hat on, I’d comment on its execution and simplicity. Extra crispy skin, juicy meat, fried in fresh oil, with just the right amount of saltiness and deceptively simple seasonings. But that would over-complicate things. Put simply: It is old-school chicken, done right.

But there is more to The Colonnade than fried chicken, and it seems they have been just a few decades ahead of some of our more recent trends.

For all of the fancified plates of offal around town, none seems to pull off fried chicken livers ($6, half portion) quite so well. The secret lies in flaky, crispy batter and the freshness of the livers — not a hint of that disconcerting chewiness liver is so apt to develop.

And if you like your beef on the bloody side, don’t be shy about ordering the half-pound sirloin burger ($10) medium rare. I’d eaten here at least 20 times before a regular pushed the burger on me — my dedication to the fried chicken marking me as an obvious newbie.

Take a straw poll of regulars, and you’ll find many of the dishes have their own camps of dedicated loyalists, meals they return to week in and week out. Trays of thick, braised short ribs slathered in brown gravy ($15) routinely make the rounds through the dining room, and I’ve known more than one devotee of the gut-warming, fork-tender pot roast and whipped potatoes ($14).

While the Colonnade’s menu remains largely unchanged, the arrival of Executive Chef Ryan Cobb six years ago marked the injection of some new blood. With a background in fine dining (the Georgian Club, Carbo’s Cafe), Cobb was given the freedom to mix things up, with a rotating selection of Chef’s Features like kangaroo tenderloin or pan-seared calf’s liver smothered in bacon, apples, Vidalia onions and brandied demi-glace ($16).

Amidst the rapid expansion and evolution of Atlanta’s restaurant scene, rife with countless hot new things opening and flashes-in-the pan shutting their doors, we need a classic like The Colonnade. There would be no new South cuisine without the old South, and it’s worth keeping around just to hang on to our roots.

Or, more importantly, for a mean plate of fried chicken.

The Colonnade — Atlanta
Food: classic Southern
Service: Southern charm, but fast-paced
Best dishes: Fried chicken, fried chicken livers, cheeseburger
Vegetarian selections: plenty of sides to build a solid veggie plate
Price range: $-$$
Credit cards: cash or check only (ATM on site)
Hours: 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Fridays, noon-10 p.m. Saturdays, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays
Children: welcomed
Parking: ample, if you don’t mind spilling into the Cheshire Motor Inn lot
Reservations: no
Wheelchair access: yes
Smoking: no
Noise level: loud
Patio: yes, but more of a smokers lounge
Takeout: yes

54 comments Add your comment

Lester Maddox...

October 18th, 2012
5:33 am

I do declare….Old South cuisine has gone north and acquired New York City prices. $14 for a fried chicken plate? So sad how Atlanta has been taken over by Yankees. Oh well, there’s still the buffet at the Kentucky Fried Chicken just around the corner. Thank you Jesus…….Lester.

Bill

October 18th, 2012
6:45 am

Lester, you’ve clearly never been to New York City if you think you can buy anything more than a cocktail for $14.00. You’ve also clearly never been to The Colonnade…their platter of chicken would easily feed Scarlett, Rhett and Miss Melly. Troll elsewhere.

AJ

October 18th, 2012
7:46 am

@Lester – It is a 1/2 chicken – wing, breast, leg, thigh plus 2 sides (one of which can be a salad) and bread. How much do you think it should be? Keeping in mind the cost of running a business (salaries, rent, electricity, taxes, etc)

Rodney

October 18th, 2012
7:51 am

Some people call it the “Gay and the Gray”, or “God’s Waiting Room”, all with love, so it’s nice to see The Colonnade getting some recognition ;) Nobody, nowhere, would consider it fussy or fancy, but as meat and threes go, you’re hard pressed to find better.

I’m a huge fan of the fried chicken livers – I have a friend with whom I plan Sunday night visits when she’s in town so she can get that big old slab of prime rib (special on Sunday night only, I think).

Good Food Eater

October 18th, 2012
7:56 am

Funny, I was there last night. The Colonnade sets the standard for fried shrimp. The best anywhere! They make a mean fried chicken as well.

nsk

October 18th, 2012
8:09 am

Despite living in neighborhoods around this place (Emory, midtown, Buckhead) for ten years, I’ve never even heard of it. Clearly its appeal hasn’t permeated all circles. Sounds kind of like an upmarket Carver’s but with only white people.

Baltisraul.....

October 18th, 2012
8:26 am

nsk……white people like fried chicken too. If you lived in the area and have not gone to the Colonnade, you must have been under house arrest.

Smiling Dog

October 18th, 2012
8:36 am

nsk, really? You’ve never heard of it and you have loved in those places for years? I can forgive that but your next comment is ignorant. Let that permeate the circle around your brain.

Dave

October 18th, 2012
9:19 am

Loving the Atlanta Classic series. Well done.

Ptc dawg

October 18th, 2012
9:27 am

paul

October 18th, 2012
9:33 am

Wonder when Atlanta will catch on and expand beyond food like this…it is 2012 people. Let’s quit eating like it is 1982. It really is sad that the only culturally diverse food exists off Buford Hwy. American food is just so boring and unhealthy.

BuHi

October 18th, 2012
9:54 am

No offense Paul, but that is an incredibly ignorant comment.

“Wonder when Atlanta will catch on and expand beyond food like this…” – you obviously don’t go out to eat much in Atlanta.

“Let’s quit eating like it is 1982″ – no idea what that means.

“It really is sad that the only culturally diverse food exists off Buford Hwy” – this is politically-correct, nonsensical blather. “Culturally diverse food”? Seriously – WTF does that mean? Last time I ate at Sinaloense or Quan Ba 9 or Panahar I didn’t see any “cultural diversity”. I saw singularly-focused ethnic food. In keeping with your statement, I guess you could say it borders on “culinary jingoism….”.

I know a bit about ethnic food, and Buford Highway is a gem in this city. That being said, on what planet is Southern food is NOT a form of ethnic food?

“Boring and unhealthy” – too much TV for you, methinks.

I’m not trying to be a comment thread attack dog, I just don’t understand the hatred people seem to have to Atlanta and things American. The only thing Atlanta has “catch on” to is that it doesn’t need to “be like” anywhere else. I will be elated on the day we realize that. Atlanta needs to be what it is. In Austin, they say “Keep Austin Weird”. I say, “Let Atlanta be Atlanta”.

BuHi

October 18th, 2012
9:55 am

Oh, and good on you Jon! I’ve been meaning to get back to the Colonnade for a while. Thanks for getting back on the radar.

N-GA

October 18th, 2012
10:35 am

The biggest loss was when they stopped serving lunch during the week. Our office was nearby and we would drop in once each week. Their roast pork loin (on the bone) was wonderful, too. So was the roast turkey with dressing.

Most of the retirees would come in for lunch and have their leftovers boxed to be eaten later for dinner. And the hot rolls and corn bread…..mmmmmmmmm!

Robert G

October 18th, 2012
10:42 am

I love the Colonnade! I had their Coconut cream pie for dessert the last time I ate there. Delicious! Perfect after splitting the 4 piece fried chicken plate with a friend.

Cheryl

October 18th, 2012
10:55 am

I also LOVE the Colonnade! It’s the only place I can get one of those true Southern dishes – tomato aspic, with that dollop of (real) mayonnaise on top. Add that aspic to the fried chicken/pot roast./ livers, sweet potato casserole and another extra vegetable side, and I’m taken back twenty years to my great-aunt’s house for Sunday lunch.

colonel beauregard

October 18th, 2012
11:11 am

Sorry to bust your balloon, girls, but the Colonnade is extremely overrated.

Its popularity is based solely on the fact that it is a major gay mecca. But the food? Eh. It’s not that good. My mama made fried chicken and southern veggies ten times better than this. And it’s overpriced big time. There’s a long wait for a table and the service is slooooow.

The Colonnade is fun for the people-watching but that’s about it.

rojer

October 18th, 2012
11:49 am

Crazy talk. Happened on the place a while back and was totally surprised and very happy. Gays, Geezers or Goons… ill gladly sit with them all to have another plate.

FM Fats

October 18th, 2012
11:55 am

Probably won’t find cassoulette at the Colonnade.

Sam

October 18th, 2012
12:05 pm

NSK: Lots of blacks eat at Colonnade as well. It’s a great place with huge portions cooked just right, and luscious yeast rolls and tiny corn muffins. Ymmmmm.

greg

October 18th, 2012
12:13 pm

The fried chicken is wonderful. If you haven’t had the fried shrimp then you are really missing out. Some of the best in the city.

seemore's mom

October 18th, 2012
12:28 pm

Been eating there for 40+ years. Last 2 visits (in the past year) yuck. Didn’t have meat loaf and it was meat loaf nite. The onion rings were horrible (and i love them). it just wasn’t up to par. Fried shrimp was cold and all battr. I figured one bad night, but twice. Their salads are incredible. Only plac I know that has early bird special. maybe will try again, but would be real upset if it was 3 times bad. don’t know if i can handle the disappointment of what was one of my faves.

Jack

October 18th, 2012
12:52 pm

seemore’s mom You should try not to drink before eating the next time.

Baltisraul.....

October 18th, 2012
2:43 pm

paul…….we don’t need diverse eating habits. We love American food Don’t preach to us what we should do w/ our own disposible income for dining out.

[...] Atlanta Classic, The Colonnade [...]

emz

October 18th, 2012
3:22 pm

Ate there recently and enjoyed it.

SAWB

October 18th, 2012
4:54 pm

I too love this place I imagine it is what a nice Atlanta dinner out would have been like in 1945. I mean where else can you get a top notch steak with a side order of butter beans.

DawgVegas

October 18th, 2012
6:31 pm

As mentioned above, my ONLY complaint about this landmark is that they are now closed for lunch during the week. I was a regular when they were opened during the day, but am usually back in the ‘burbs, unfortunately, by dinner time.

jerry gardner

October 18th, 2012
6:59 pm

@nsk
Why must everything be racial?

Betty L Douglas

October 18th, 2012
7:34 pm

I grew up in Atlanta and loved it in the 50’s and took my children there

SAWB

October 18th, 2012
7:53 pm

While it is difficult to believe someone has never heard of the Colonnade keep in mind some folks just don’t get out much. While Atlanta has a lot to offer some people are just too hung up with their own personal prejudices and fears to get out and enjoy the diversity around them.

Atlantarama

October 18th, 2012
8:25 pm

I love The Colonnade, but I wish they’d bring back my favorite dish from the past: Breaded Veal Cutlet.

Avery Cobb

October 18th, 2012
9:19 pm

Honestly, Its a shame people comment on something trying to get people to hate on the Colonnade. Its a restaurant there’s going to be problems, but you don’t have to troll on every review like your a food critic. -_-

SAWB

October 19th, 2012
12:14 am

Debbie

October 19th, 2012
12:48 am

jlmdra……What? The subject was Colonnade. Which by the way is great. Classic. Love the old Atlanta mainstays. There are so few of them left.

Charmed by the Colonnade

October 19th, 2012
5:47 am

Colonnade is also a great place to go on Thanksgiving Day.
Great turkey and dressing, and feels like you’re with family.
You’ll have to try it some year.

Enjoyed your article John and appreciate you highlighting the Colonnade. :) Thank you!

drlouie

October 19th, 2012
6:35 am

I started going there around 93? Had a group of 4 that went every Fri night without fail. Good food, great staff. Eventuallly the group grew to 8-10 people and always had a great time. Used to complain to my partner about not going anywhere else but just gave up. He is known as the “MAYOR of the Colonnade”. Shout out to Ray!

Ad Nauseated

October 19th, 2012
8:07 am

Jim Nazium, you should crawl back under the rock you slithered out from under. People like you are beyond laughable. Ignorant, uneducated, trashy, and just plain moronic. I do think if your IQ was one point lower, you’d be a plant.

allison

October 19th, 2012
8:39 am

Remember what your mother told you as a kid, if you can’t say anything nice, do not say anything at all………

Baltisraul.....

October 19th, 2012
8:42 am

JIM NAZIUM……..Snce your post has not ben removed yet, don’t worry, it will be! You crossed over the line, big time!

Trish

October 19th, 2012
8:53 am

Best place in ATL to get chicken livers, pork chops, and yes prime rib! BTW the floor show is always entertaining

Mar -Atl Foodie

October 19th, 2012
9:20 am

I love the Colonade, but I don’t like some of the menu changes or if the rolls get over-cooked. Probably the only place left to get tomato aspic. The baby green limas, turnip greens, collards, creamed corn and rutabager are all good. Strawberry short cake with that thin slice of ice cream in the middle is so good if you can get to dessert. We need to keep our Southern Heritage restaurants. The Yankees come down here looking for good Southern food, not some of the pretend stuff out there.

Foodie K

October 19th, 2012
11:04 am

Ate there for the first time recently and was really disappointed, considering the hype which I’ve heard all my life, being a rare ATL native. The fried chicken was ok – not the best, not the worst. IMO, it needed a little more seasoning. The mashed potatoes came out of a box and the green beans out of a can – just like my grandma used to make (seriously – cooking was not her thing). I was little suprised at the prices. I think I’d rather go to my local Piccadilly and pay half the price for the same quality of food, but then I’d miss the people watching. It really is God’s waiting room! Also, they only take cash, so make sure you’ve got some on hand…whoops.

yuzeyurbrane

October 19th, 2012
11:29 am

You forgot to mention the fantastic yeast rolls and the use of fresh vegetables. The only place I take visitors who want a authentic Southern cooking experience.

normal

October 19th, 2012
11:32 am

Jim Nazium – real creative play on words from a guy who can’t even spell ‘fag’. This is a restaurant review not a place for ignorant hate spewed spelling challenged posts. Grow up

Baltisraul.....

October 19th, 2012
12:07 pm

Wait a second….Foodie K says the veggies are out of a can. Yuzeyurvrane says they are fresh veggies. What is the ans? I think I know since it has been a regular stop for me for over 25 yrs. What say you.

Ad Nauseated

October 19th, 2012
12:30 pm

I’ve been eating at the Colonnade since the mid 60’s and I’ve only had one dish served to me that I couldn’t eat. It was a side dish of collard greens which tasted like someone had thrown a burned up piece of charcoal in the pot. I told the waitress and she took the side dish back to the kitchen. A few moments later the manager came out and apologized and said apparently someone had let the pot of collards burn on the bottom. I chose another side dish and he comped my entire meal. Now that’s the way to run a restaurant.

Edward

October 19th, 2012
5:12 pm

Colonnade never uses canned vegetables or “boxed” potatoes, so someone obviously doesn’t have much of a discerning palate. My late partner and I ate at the Colonnade every Friday with a group of friends for nearly 10 years, usually with the same waitress. While there was the occasional miss from the kitchen, they were few. And there is definitely no watered-down liquor coming from that bar, the drinks are potent and generous.

N-GA

October 20th, 2012
9:54 am

I rarely post more than once on the ATL food blogs, but I decided some of you might want to know more about the Colonnade: http://colonnadeatl.com/

If you select “menu”, be sure to examine all the header selections. I encourage you to select “Gallery” and view the video. Have fun!

Dan

October 21st, 2012
8:58 pm

Best place there is in Atlanta !!! Not only is the food great = so is the staff – beat buns