The cookout. The ballpark hot dog. Greasy fair food. We could try to tell you that eating on the patio at some fancy restaurant is the true outdoor food experience, but who are we kidding? How do you really know its summer? When you get that whiff of smoky grilled meat wafting through the air.
It's summer, and we want to stand and sweat and eat things that are bad for us.
Atlanta isn't well-known for its street food, probably because there's not much of a street life — we're better at roads than walkable streets. But in the summertime, we move our eating outdoors, whether to a vendor, a roadside stand, or family cookout.
COOKOUT LOCATIONS You may simply want to create your own outdoor eating fun. If so, here's a list of Atlanta parks that have great grilling facilities: Adams Park, 1620 Delowe Drive, 404-756-1827; Brownwood Park, 205 Emerson Ave., 404-624-0747; Candler Park, 1500 McLendon Ave., 404-817-6757; Coan Park, 1530 Woodbine Ave., 404-371-5008; Grant Park, 537 Park Ave., 404-624-0697; Perkerson Park, 770 Deckner Ave., 404-756-1859; Piedmont Park, 400 Park Drive, 404-817-6757; Pittman Park, 950 Garibaldi St., 404-215-2824; Rosa Burney Park, 477 Windsor St., 404-817-6757; Stone Hogan Park, Stone Hogan Road, 404-817-6757; Washington Park, 102 Ollie St., 404-817-6757.
FAIR FOOD There are plenty of summer festivals offering enough fried nastiness to cause our collective hearts to stop. There are chocolate-covered bananas, deep-fried Twinkies, greasy versions of various Italian and Greek classics, and of course, the corndog. The eponymous event known as Corndogorama may get all the hype, but the Pallookaville cart is worth trying for a more refined fair food experience. That's right, gourmet carnival food. Pallookaville's corndogs are made to order and come in versions such as the American Frank, Kielbasa and Italian sausage (and one monster of a dog that combines all three). The cornbread is homemade and also comes in jalapeño or cheese varieties. Sometimes tamales make an appearance, and ingredients such as pickled cactus show up. You'll have to keep your ear to the ground to figure out the cart's current location. www.pallookaville.com.
HOT DOGS We don't have nearly a big enough hot dog culture in Atlanta, at least not in the street-vendor capacity. Of course, there's the Varsity (61 North Ave., 404-881-1706, and other metro Atlanta locations), an experience unto itself, where you can sit in a hot parking lot next to the highway and suck down dawgs and exhaust fumes at the same time. What could be more Atlanta than that? For a more vendor-y hot dog experience, check out D&B Taste of Chicago (1125 Peachtree St., 404-578-2783), an actual hot dog stand serving the Midtown lunch crowd.
ORLEAGIAN SNOWBALLS Located on the corner of Ponce and Moreland, this vendor offers snowballs, New Orleans style: fluffy shaved ice, flavored syrup and condensed milk. You can choose from 30 handmade syrups that range from classics such as strawberry and mango to the mysterious Tiger's Blood and nectar. Open daily, 1-8 p.m. during the summer; weekends only the rest of the year. 1161 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-897-4646. www.orleagiansnowballs.com.
STREETSIDE BARBECUE During the summer, and especially on the weekends, you can usually find at least one barbecue cookout happening somewhere on the city's streets. In abandoned lots and closed gas stations on Moreland Avenue, Memorial Drive and beyond. Sometimes it's a church benefit, sometimes it's just a few guys and a smoker, but the ribs, sides and occasional fried fish are the ultimate in summer grub. Look for the big black smokers, the smell of charred pork, and the hand-written signs.
TACO TRUCKS If you've spent any time in California, the taco truck should be a familiar concept. Delicious, highly authentic Mexican food served from a truck — what could be better? They're harder to come by in Atlanta and we have to go mostly by rumor. These businesses don't stay put; it's not like they're in the Yellow Pages. We've spotted trucks in the following locations: on the corner of Huff Road and Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard on the Westside during lunch hours; and on the corner of Pat Mell and Favor roads in Marietta. Got more? Send 'em over — we'll start a map.
— With additional reporting by Gloria Love
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