I’m totally unprepared for how to start this review.
I am used to recommending delicious food and unmissable experiences. I have no problem suggesting that you take out a mortgage on your home to enjoy a fine meal or travel 400 miles for the perfect slice of pizza. But, how can I recommend mediocre food?
And yet…I am.
The Varsity is the world’s biggest drive in. Though this Atlanta institution has been open since 1928 (with a few locations around town, now), precious little has changed in the decades that have passed. The menu is still short and sweet, the prices are still cheap, and carhops still come to your vehicle announcing “what’ll ya have?”. That’s the battle cry here – it is found at the counters and from the carhops, and though I have heard that there is a special ling that you must use to order, I just went up to the counter and winged it and did just fine.
A standout of the meal. Thick cut and freshly fried, covered in a batters o light and crisp that it actually has a pocket of air between the onion and its coating. The onions are sweet and steamy, an ideal counterpart to the lightly crunchy, wheaty breading. It feels somewhat ridiculous to be this obsessed with onion rings, but…honestly? They are totally awesome.
I wanted to love this…but it isn’t up to the standards of my favorite dog. The hot dog itself lacks snap and spice, the slaw is rather insipid, and the chili has only the faintest touch of spicy-savory flavoring that the best hot do g chili should have. The bun is cottony and though the whole dog is certainly tasty enough, it is in no way the best hot dog I have ever eaten. Tasty enough to eat, not tasty enough to build a shrine to.
Also disappointing – can’t hold a candle to Merritts. Dry patty, somewhat grainy chili, and a spongy bun. Not bad, not good. Totally forgettable – which is NOT what I expect from the world-famous varsity.
Luckily, things look up with dessert. The frosted orange is heavenly – like what I imagine an Orange Julius might taste like. Creamy and cold, the first taste if of sweet, rich vanilla. Then, there is the final ending note of orange, citrusy and fresh. It is lighter than a milkshake but heavier than a soda – the prefect addition to a meal.
And this. Get it. McDonald’s should be embarrassed for selling the swill that they call fried pies. This is the queen of fried pies. A flaky, none to sweet shell that MUST be made with lard or some other oil unknown to us poor Yankees. It is just that crisp and rich. It is filled with smooth, sweet peaches that while some might see as slimy, I know to be luscious. This is one of the best treats on the face of the planet, and THIS I can heartily recommend.
The other stuff? Not so much. Yet, I ate the hot dog. I scarfed down the burger. And the fries looked so good that I wished that I had more room to try them. And, more than that…it’s The Varsity. It’s an institution, it’s cheap, and everyone in Atlanta eats here. There is no better way to really become part of the city during your short visit there, and the vibe is so laidback and fun that I can’t help but recommend it.