Brunch is its own food group, so we needed something to get the job done.
We stumbled upon the Virginia-Highland area, or “VaHi” for short, of Atlanta which: omg, in love.
The neighborhood gives me serious old school vibes with modern and eclectic restaurants, pubs, and tons of Instagram worthy photos. Highland is also home to Illegal Food. A restaurant that is serious about it’s eats and rightfully so.
The interior of the restaurant is super modern, casual, and comfortable. When you step inside, there are booths, traditional, and bar seating available. There is also exterior patio seating with window views, which bigger groups would totally love for a Sunday indoor/outdoor vibe. We were greeted promptly and kindly by their hostess and our server was was equally awesome. Illegal Food also has a full bar and fun cocktails. Sunday brunch hours are 11a-4p, we went around 230p and were seated immediately.
Run by Laurie and her husband/head Chef Steven Lingenfelter, Illegal Food takes their love of food and creativity in the kitchen to the next level. A major component that makes them so unique (and deelish) is the fascinating accompaniments that go along with the items on the menu. After chatting with Laurie, we learned that the menu, created by Chef Lingenfelter, has several items that are inspired by creations he would actually create at home: I.E. a sour cream dip for your french fries and house made ketchup with an apple base; I dig that. Chef Lingenfelter meticulousness really comes through on the menu when you see interesting pairings like their sous vide BBQ pulled pork hash with potatoes and Breakfast Macaroni and Cheese with House Cured Bacon and Sunny Side Eggs. This eating experience felt personal.
Additionally, they get it: Illegal Food is locally responsible and works in partnership with locally sourced farmers for produce and cattle which makes their infamous, award winning burgers.
Quick quirk: I’ve officially become that lady at the supermarket that brings her own bags. Living in Gainesville for so long really shaped my view and perspective on the importance of buying local and the elevation in the food and experience at the table, so: buy local!
On to the good stuff; Literally.
What To Nosh:
The menu is specific. There isn’t an exhaustive menu which I love, (especially for Brunch), because it’s Sunday, and girls’ gotta eat. Each Sunday they have a rotating menu and during the week they have a few items and daily specials as well.
We started with a couple of Chicos (sparking water), their Cinnamon Sugar Pork Rinds (I know), and Deviled Eggs.
The eggs were my favorite (closeted southern girl). They are topped with Hickory Bacon and a fresh slice of jalapeño. We mutually decided that the jalapeño was needed for the total bite-experince, so don't order without it. Shoutout to Illegal Food for not having soggy or runny egg filling, spot on just like your g-ma would make. I thought it would be interesting if candied jalapeño was used in substitution.
The rinds were my friend’s favorite (she actually took the leftovers to go; that’s how much she enjoyed them) and we both decided that contrary to what you might think, they were extremely light, airy, and provided a good blend of savory and sweet.
My friend had the ODB: One of their amazing Brasstown beef burgers between Krispy Kreme donuts used as buns, topped with American cheese, house cured Creek Farms bacon, an over easy egg, and maple mayo. Her side homefries were one of my favorite things with homemade ketchup; a gentle mix of crispy edges and savory flavor. Godly.
This burger is what dreams are made of. Insert: food coma post devour. It’s a scandalous meal but the ultimate comfort food combination. You know the food is good when the table is quiet and there were no words to be had- nothing had to be sent back, altered, or enhanced.
I had the Sausage Biscuit and don't let the name fool you. It stacks a pork belly breakfast sausage with a fried egg and cheese, between an in-house baked biscuit WITH a side of blackberry syrup that is made from the personal fruit collection of the Chef; whet? I know, insane. The vision people, the vision!
Over a blackberry smash and a glass of Proseco, we argued that 'Sausage Biscuit’ was a significantly understated depiction of what I believe to be the best breakfast sandwich I’ve had to date. Legit. This is coming from two Jersey girls who will argue with you for hours on the holiness and staple of a pork roll, taylor ham, and the importance of the SPK (salt, pepper, ketchup) ratio. Yes friends, this is what brunch conversations are made of.
My only disappointment throughout the whole visit was that we weren’t able to try their intense Okonomiyaki style fries, that are topped with smoked Katsuobushi and an array of sauyce made in-house; but we will definitely check them out when I get back to Atlanta.
Why It Made The List
Local buzz: Illegal food is not only locally recognized as a killer place to grab superior eats, it was awarded the best burger in Atlanta since 2014 by the Atlanta Magazine, Business Insider, Atlanta Mac & Cheese Fest, and Zagat. Bottom line: get your dining game up & treat yo-self.
Experience: I love visiting my friends and family in Atlanta, BUT I absolutely hate driving in the city. It seems that the roads are getting wider and the whole merge right to instantly turn left deal really grinds my gears, read: rage. That being said, the location of Illegal Food really helps put the leisure in the dining experience which I don’t think a lot of restaurants get enough credit for. Also, I hate going to a new restaurant and sitting in fear for 60 minutes that my car is going to get towed or I have to build in an extra 35 minutes due to traffic. The complete dining experience at Illegal Food is ace from start to finish. After you're finished eating, the Highland area is so awesome you could definitely stop in before you head to other places day or night.
Let's Debrief: Illegal Food boasts casual dining, but there’s nothing casual about their commitment to great food and creativity. They take traditional southern cuisine to a new level and provides you a unique dining experience. Illegal Food gives vibes of the comfort food you know you want to try and create, but don’t have the patience to follow through with after watching all those videos on your Facebook 100 times. Check them out:
1044 Greenwood Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306
Price Point: $$
Hours: Monday: Closed; Tuesday/Wednesday: 5-10; Thursday/Friday: 5-11; Saturday 11-1; Sunday 11-4
+all photos taken by yourweeklyfollowup
+many thanks to Laurie D. & Chef Lingenfelter for the radical dining experience and allowing YWF to be a guest of Illegal Food.