How do you discover a city? How do get under its skin in a way that feels like more than just basic touristing? How do you track down the local hangouts, the un-touted hotspots, and the beloved haunts?
You ask a local, that’s how. But not just any local, you ask someone who’s “in the know” — a mover and shaker who keeps up to date on what’s hot and what’s stale; someone who takes pride in knowing their city. That’s why we went to the pros when we wanted to learn about all things Atlanta.
We asked Chef Akhi — a celebrity chef, food influencer, and recipe creator — and Miya Bailey — a community organizer, humanitarian and artist — for their takes on the ATL.
PART I: CHEF AHKI’S ATLANTA
Atlanta is so lit right now. It’s new and old at the same time. There’s a lot of new energy, so it’s like a ripening. Everything is popping in Atlanta. Atlanta is popping, it’s ripening, it’s lit, it’s exploding!
Chef Ahki cares about wellness. As a private chef, she’s cooked for Lenny Kravitz, Lee Daniels, and Waka Flocka Flame. As a TV presenter, she’s a regular guest on The Wendy Williams show. But perhaps where Chef Ahki thrives the most is as a “health food activist” — speaking and blogging about the importance of a healthy, balanced, yet flavorful diet.
Or, to put her multi-hyphenate in her own words:
I am a chef. But I’m so much more, so I almost hate saying “chef” because 90% of what I do nowadays is not cheffing. I’m an author, health food activist, educator. That means that I spend a lot of time educating the public on healthy foods and how they can use them to prevent illness or to heal themselves from disease. I definitely do a lot of speaking engagements throughout the year, a lot of workshops, culinary classes, and also detox retreats.
Now that you know a few things about Chef Ahki, you can see why we wanted her take on what to see, do, and most of all eat in Atlanta.
Chef Ahki on…
I love the Kirkwood area, as well as just all of East Atlanta. I love Grant Park, Inman Park area, I love East Atlanta because there’s just a lot of art, there’s a lot of really cool coffee shops and little art boutiques and galleries. There are parks on every corner and that’s kind of where all the festivals are, so that’s kind of where we like to congregate.
You’re really not visiting Atlanta until you hit an Atlanta festival. You gotta hit like Freedom Parkway and check out the Inman Park Festivals, you gotta go down into Castleberry Hill and check out where the AUC and all of the black colleges are, and you gotta go and visit the West End.
Later, you gotta go down Lee and Ralph David Abernathy and absorb some of that culture, some of that art. Also, you’re definitely not visiting Atlanta unless you go over into Southwest Atlanta and visit the Swats. I think most people would consider Swats a bad neighborhood, but I see a lot of beauty there, a lot of culture, and it really reminds of Old Atlanta, what we call Old Atlanta.
Honestly, I go to a lot of secondhand stores. I go to Buffalo Exchange, I go to Rag-o-Rama, I go to Oh Goodness. What else? Lou Lou Boutiques — I practically live there. My personal style is classic, unique, and fun.
I love Ethiopian food, so I go to Desta. Desta Ethiopian is slamming. It’s like somebody’s Ethiopian grandma just put their whole foot in it, it’s delicious. I also like to go over to True Foods Kitchen in Buckhead. It’s really well-thought out food. For the most part it’s really clean food with lots of options. R. Thomas is famous in Atlanta — it’s mostly plant-based but it’s like 24-hours, so you can always roll up to R. Thomas and get something as exotic as a chai tea and a fresh coconut smoothie with the whole coconut cut out for you, or you can get a quinoa burger.
I’m a chef, so I cook a lot of my own food, but if I was in the mood for Caribbean I would go down south and get myself some Tropical Paradise Caribbean food; really good spot. As a chef, I love the Grant Park Farmer’s Market. We have a beautiful community of people who are striving to keep seasonal, local foods present in the consciousness. It’s normal for us to wake up on a Saturday/Sunday morning and go out and get farm fresh food from urban organic farms or go over to the farmer’s markets.
The Tabernacle is… it’s like the Holy Grail of really great concerts — mostly because they break artists before they blow up and end up over at the Civic Center or the Fox or whatever. The Tabernacle is kind of like that place when you’re really doing your thing and people are really ready to see a great show, it’s like four or five levels, and it used to be a church. So it’s got this interesting vibe that is nostalgic, you can’t get enough of seeing a good show at the Tabernacle. You know it’s going to be a very grass roots, intimate concert. Super dope place.
I am so proud of Atlanta because we are such a resilient people. We’ve been through a lot of changes, but we continue to just recreate ourselves over and over again. Everything that we do in the arts, in sports, in entertainment, we affect the entire world through our culture.
PART II: MIYA BAILEY’S ATLANTA
Atlanta shaped me as a human being. It’s that type of place that you can use your passion to make a living. I moved to Atlanta at 19… I was a tattoo artist and my first client was Usher. He introduced me to all a couple of other people and I never slowed down.
Atlanta’s that type of place — where you can use your passion to make a living. Then you can pass those blessings on.
Miya Bailey isn’t limited by rules about what a creative life looks like. He draws tattoos, he paints, he sculpts — but he also creates community. Bailey’s desire to build a structure and opportunities for up and coming artists has made him a legend of the scene. He knows that Atlanta thrives because of the arts and his drive to support that is a huge boon to up and comers.
Here’s Bailey in his own words:
I’m a visual artist. I’m a community builder. And I’m a humanitarian. As an artist, I work in different mediums. I sculpt. I paint. I woodwork. I’m a tattoo artist. I also own a art gallery. About 60% of my income goes back into the community of Atlanta. Right now we’re building a community library in the art district, called Castleberry Hill. It’s going to be a community library focused on the visual arts and music.
Now that you trust Miya’s cred, check out his favorite spots in the ATL:
Miya Bailey on…
Can’t miss experiences:
The first place I would probably say is Apache Café on a Wednesday night. That’s the night for soul singing… Like really good soul singing. People from all over the country come there. And it’s probably like $5 to get in and the food is so good. And it’s just a good vibe in there. So you get to get some really good music.
Then hit Busy Bee if you want some good soul food. You’ve also got Kandi Burress — she’s got a soul food place called Old Lady Gang.
City of Ink! If you into like culture. You into art, tattooing, beautiful ladies, beautiful people period. It’s just a good vibe. If you a tourist and you never been to Atlanta, and you want a true representation of Atlanta culture and diversity, I would say City of Ink is probably the hub of the Atlanta creative scene. Not just the art scene but fashion, music, visual arts, filmmaking, everything usually comes out of City of Ink in some way in Atlanta.
Where to shop:
I like to go the thrift stores. I go to the Goodwill or something like that and always find some really good vintage shirts or jackets. I like vintage clothing. When it come to sneakers and shoes, I would go to Little Five Points. I go to Wish. Wish is a sneaker boutique and they’ve got really rad stuff in there. I don’t really like to wear sneakers that’s everybody’s already got, so I go to Wish for the exclusive stuff.
Where to get your fine art fix:
Of course, my art spot: Notch 8 Gallery! I think that’s a pretty good place to be if you into fine art and you want to buy art work and you want just to take Atlanta home with you a little bit! What better than to take back a little essence of the city with you?
On how long to visit:
I would tell anybody to come visit Atlanta. Just to experience it, at least. I would say you need a good week. I wouldn’t try to go for a couple of days. I would go for a whole week. One night you might want to go to Malcolm X park. Next day you might want to eat some good vegan food. Next day you might want to eat some greasy hot wings. You need time…
It’s like all these different varieties of things to do. I don’t know it makes life with choices and options is just a beautiful life. And I just like the city and with the options it gives me. If you’re dope and an original, then Atlanta is going to support you. It’s not like … I hear people go to cities it’s haters man. They hating. They don’t support. I don’t see that in Atlanta at all. If you doing good to people and you supporting other people, they’re going to support you. You can’t be egotistical. You can’t be a narcissist. You got to think community. And your community will give everything back if you keep community first.
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