The Varsity: this massive diner in midtown Atlanta has been a high-profile name both in Georgia’s growing dining world and across the U.S. for decades, and especially lately, having secured a spot among The Daily Meal‘s list of the top 100 burgers in the U.S. as well as a shout-out for its chili dogs in Travel Channel’s “Hot Dog Paradise.” You’ll instantly be drawn into the spot for its massive red sign, and once you set foot in the halls of the converted school building, you’ll quickly find yourself hooked. The Varsity is many things, a car-friendly drive in in the midst of a crowded inner city and a converted school building that can handle a massive number of customers. The experience is simply addicting.
The spot has a few locations around greater Atlanta now, but the downtown location remains the most famous. It’s not for nothing, either, the drive-in lets you order directly from your car or you can brave the masses inside for a burger, dog or other kind of fast food. The much acclaimed burger is, in fact, pretty good. A cheeseburger or hamburger comes pretty simply, a very quick and inexpensive little treat with few other things to highlight it. I was a fan of the “Big V” burger which came with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles and all the other goodies over two quarter-pounders with cheese. It’s fast food, to be sure, but it’s a good burger.
The much-acclaimed chili dogs are great too. I tried a Midwest fan’s favorite, the slaw dog, which is also topped with a creamy cole slaw on top of the complement of chili. The dog is fantastic, once again built like fast food but the secret is in the chili-mustard combo. The chili is meaty and just a little bit spicy, and so the mustard adds a little bit of tang to it. Add in the sweet cole slaw, and you’ve got a real trifecta of goodness.
While all of the media mentions seem to acclaim the place for good food, the fact remains its fast food, and it’s not the kind of stuff that tends to make those lists on taste alone, in fact the flavor profiles are simple by today’s standards. What ties the Varsity together is the whole experience; the driving up to the stand and ordering out your window. The walking into the old school building and ordering from one of a dozen stands among a crowd of a hundred people; of passing through the halls, past the yell of the servers welcoming a new plate to its owner and taking a seat in the desks of one of the classrooms, where families gather and kids congregate. It’s a really great experience to behold. And if you pay a visit to this old Atlanta relic, you might fall in love with it, too.
- Cash only for the drive-up service! That’s a huge thing to know.
- Drive up does get crowded but the inside is even more crowded. Just expect a lot of people when you come here.
- Get a burger first!