Top picks for late night/early morning eats.
The post-party breakfast is a sacred ritual, reserved for the strongest revelers who’ve danced their way to dawn. You stumble into a restaurant and collapse bleary-eyed into a booth, ears still ringing from the subwoofers you’ve been hugging all night. Early-rising office drones at surrounding tables shoot curious glances from behind newspapers as you rattle off your order. When your food arrives, the first bite is a blessing. The second bite is bliss. By the time you finish your meal, it’s like you’ve been brought back to life—at least enough to stumble back home and into bed.
Atlanta’s nightlife ecosystem spans everything from glitzy VIP nightclubs to family-run strip clubs to dusty warehouses. But finding a spot for an after-party meal can be tricky, since most kitchens shut before midnight. Still, the city abounds with options for a late-night Southern breakfast. You just have to know where to look. Which is why I turned to some essential players in Atlanta’s thriving underground party scene: Taylor Alxndr, founder of a queer and trans advocacy organization Southern Fried Queer Pride, as well as DJs Leonce and JSPORT, who throw a club night called Morph. These three professional party people told me where they go to grab a bite once the lights come on.
Atlanta is the birthplace of the 24-hour Southern comfort food chain, which holds a special place in the hearts of many locals. The first-ever Waffle House, preserved in its original 1955 glory, has even been converted into a museum full of memorabilia, while other outlets around the city have become the late-night hangout for hungry party people. When I first linked up with Leonce, JSPORT, and Alxndr on a chilly winter evening, they were in the midst of throwing a massive party and vogue ball in an industrial freight depot in downtown Atlanta. After the event ended, the performers and their friends filtered into a nearby Waffle House, tired and stumbling in their heels. Waiters barely batted an eye at the glittered-up groups of revelers, making it the perfect pit spot for eggs at 4 a.m.
“I always go to Waffle House!” Alxndr said. “Not only because of the unlimited carbs, but also because of the Southern hospitality. They'll serve you just the same as the next person, even if you're stumbling in at 3 a.m. in full drag and heels.”
“I always get the hash brown bowl with sausage, gravy, and jalapeños,” she continued. “I wash it all down with Atlanta water, aka Coca-Cola. They also have really great pecan pie.”
This hip New American cafe stays open till 1 or 2 a.m. most nights, and is a favorite amongst Atlanta’s cool kids and foodies. Its big windows, white walls, and minimalist decor gave it a cheerful and airy vibe when I met up with the DJs the next morning for brunch. All four of us ordered 8ARM’s signature avocado toast, served with a scoop of rock crab on top. Looking around, we realized that every countertop table around us was stacked with plates of the toast too.
The ideal time to stop by this popular joint, however, is late at night, when you can lounge in the outdoor patio and take your pick from the late-night menu, which includes spicy fried chicken sandwiches, baby clam toast, and crispy brussel sprouts, along with original spins on iconic cocktails from some of the city’s top mixologists.
Holler & Dash, a restaurant entirely devoted to Southern-style biscuits, has been called “Cracker Barrel for Millennials”—which makes sense as it’s own by Cracker Barrel. The interior is industrial yet cozy, with exposed ceilings, wood paneling, and neon signage galore. The fast-casual restaurant claims that they can prepare your biscuit in less than 10 minutes, and even lets you order online or at a digital kiosk by the front door, making it the ideal destination for hangry party-hoppers who’d rather skip the long brunch lines. “Holler & Dash is my favorite post-rave brunch place in Atlanta,” Leonce said. “Don’t sleep on the biscuit sandwiches. If you’re really hungry and can eat it all, I would order a Chicken Holler with a strawberry parfait and coffee.”
If you’re the kind of party person who craves healthy food when you have the drunken munchies, R. Thomas' Deluxe Grill is the only spot in the city for you, according to JSPORT. The local institution, which opened in 1985, is known for its robust menu of organic, vegetarian-friendly fare—which ranges from super food grain bowls to pastas, wraps, and breakfast food. “The variety can be overwhelming for a first-timer,” said JSPORT, who recommended the fish tacos and the Busy Bee smoothie, which has pear juice, mango, dates, local organic bee pollen and honey.
Parrots greet you at the entrance of this eclectic, family-owned grill, which serves up its signature free-range burgers 24 hours a day amidst charmingly hand-painted furniture and colorful lawn art. Depending on what time you show up, the waiters might even serve you while dressed in their pajama pants. “R. Thomas' Deluxe Grill is one of my top go-to post-rave spots,” said JSPORT. “The decor gives off a rave vibe in itself. So is the party ever really over? No, because the party goes in your mouth here.”