First, we need to establish two important details. A pimento is not a type of cheese, per say, but a pepper with sweet flavor and a mild heat that when blended with other ingredients creates a spread that is arguably the best thing you’ve ever put in your mouth.
That room for debate leads us to the second point: not all pimento cheeses are created equal. Because Atlanta Eats clearly takes this Southern staple seriously (and are spoiled by plentiful menus graced by the good stuff, whether indulging for breakfast, lunch, dinner or the ultimate snack), we’ve narrowed down five favorite local dishes for you to enjoy ASAP.
Empire State South – At this point, some born and raised Southerners are likely shaking their heads and swearing that (insert relative’s name here) makes the best pimento cheese they’ve ever tasted. Well, not all of us are so lucky. In that case, we embrace James Beard award-winning Hugh Acheson for Empire State South and Atlanta-raised executive chef Josh Hopkins as kin. Get your fix a number of ways here; we suggest starting with a small jar of pimento cheese with bacon marmalade. For earlier risers, the pimento cheese also makes a cameo appearance on the fried chicken biscuit.
Grindhouse Killer Burgers – When an order of their freshly ground burgers, Boozy Shakes and crinkle cut fries can more than satisfy, we understand how a first-timer who is living fast and eating well could overlook the Cheesy Poofs. And that’s why we so urgently want to bring them to your attention. These fried pimento cheese nuggets are literally and figuratively golden, and can be found at the Piedmont Road and Athens locations.
Smokebelly BBQ – From the same gents behind Tin Lizzy’s Cantina, The Big Ketch and Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails, Smokebelly BBQ arrived to East Andrews scene in Buckhead last year as a tribute to all things heartwarmingly Southern. While chef-crafted ‘cue may be the focus here, snacking on the pimento cheese served with pork rinds or house made crackers goes well with a cold drink, soul-warming tunes and good storytelling (read: juicy gossiping) on their welcoming front porch. We recommend this belly bite with a dash of salsa, too. Want more? Opt for their one-of-a-kind pimento cheese BLT plus smoked turkey on Texas toast. As Executive Chef Nagib Sued puts it, “The secret to our pimento cheese is in the aioli we use. And the aioli; well that’s a very closely guarded secret.”
Fox Bros. BBQ – Green apples, pretzels, carrots, celery – we’ve dipped it all in pimento cheese before. But perhaps pimento cheese’s best sidekick is BBQ with all the fixin’s. That winning combination couldn’t be more apparent than with one bite of their Fox Bros. “Burger” – chopped brisket topped with bacon, tomato, red onion, pickles, jalapeno mayo and last but far from least, melted pimento cheese on a buttered, toasted sesame seed bun. Steadfast fans can stick to the classic pimento cheese sandwich, served cold or on Vienna bread.
Buttermilk Kitchen – If you wake up in the morning with a craving for spicy cheese, head straight to Buttermilk Kitchen on the Chastain stretch of Roswell Road. Chef Suzanne Vizethann, who first debuted her culinary prowess and “mastered” pimento cheese at The Hungry Peach inside Atlanta Decorative Arts Center, serves up (gluten-free) pimento cheese grits as well as a pimento cheese omelet (made with pepper jelly and Benton’s smoked bacon) before 10:30 a.m. on weekdays mornings (the weekend brunch menu rotates), and the tables fill fast. Later lunch-goers can still get a taste of her masterful version served with pickles, pepper jelly and toast.
We’re tempted to keep listing, but at some point have to exercise a little dietary self-control. Let us know who we missed on this list, and tuned in to Atlanta Eats on Peachtree TV Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. for more of the city’s best bites.
Written by Colleen Ann McNally