The Varsity - An Atlanta Institution

If you've been tagging along lately, you may have seen me refer to The Varsity as an "Atlanta institution." In my experience, there are two questions that tend to arise when I mention my love of The Varsity. The most common is "What's The Varsity?" and usually comes from people that have spent very little, if any, time in The ATL. Another common response tends to come from locals, or those who have experienced The Varsity firsthand...."You like that place?" Well, the answer is simple really...I don't just like The Varsity, I love The Varsity, and so I felt it appropriate to take a break from the reviews of our Atlanta dining tour to explain why.
The Varsity Atlanta

First, a little bit of history. The Varsity first opened in 1928 on the campus of Georgia Tech, and was originally named "The Yellow Jacket." In order to accommodate the crowds, The Varsity later moved to it's present location on North Avenue, where it lies adjacent to I-75. It's likely if you've made the drive through downtown Atlanta, that you've seen this iconic sign...
The Varsity Atlanta

As for the food at The Varsity, it's simple really...Burgers, Chili Dogs, Fries, and Onion Rings. Sure there are other things on the menu, but why would you want to order anything else? If you're looking for a gourmet meal, this is definitely not your place. But if you're looking to throw caution to the wind in the name of greasy goodness, then The Varsity is for you. A word of caution however...When you hear the clerk ask "What'll Ya Have?" its best to "Have your money in your hand and your order in your mind!" Trust me on this one...

The Varsity Atlanta Food

The Varsity occupies two city blocks, and they need every bit of that space and then some to accommodate the throngs of people that visit each day. If you find yourself visiting during lunch, or before a Georgia Tech football game, you'll likely find every parking space filled, and the 25 registers with lines 10 people deep. The Varsity boasts that two miles of hot dogs, 2500 pounds of potatoes, and 300 gallons of chili are sold each day. In addition, The Varsity sells more Coca~Cola every day than any other single location on the planet...quite a feat.

The Varsity AtlantaIf you're in a hurry, don't come at lunchtime.

So why is a place that doles out greasy chili dogs and onion rings so special? Well, The Varsity isn't just special to me, it's special to Atlanta as well. It's the kind of place where people start working at 15, and have never heard the word "retire." Such as Frank Jones, or "Curb Man #1," who's worked at The Varsity for 66 years, and at age 80 is still going strong. There was the legendary Erby Walker, who sadly is no longer with us, but who was a part of The Varsity for 55 years, right up until his last day. Simply put, The Varsity is a slice of Americana that you just don't find very often.
The Varsity Atlanta
I've been going to The Varsity since I was a little kid, and over the years, there have been some great stories about the lengths I have gone to have a "Varsity fix." There was the time when I convinced my grandparents and aunt that The Varsity would be open at 7:30am, and yes I wanted it for breakfast. I was right, and it was the best breakfast ever. While in Piedmont Park watching Paul McCartney in concert, I spotted The Varsity food truck, and learned that chili dogs go well with "Live and Let Die." But perhaps the biggest example of the lengths I'll go for The Varsity came many years ago, when my grandfather and I driving south on I-95, decided to detour 400 miles out of the way to stop for chili dogs. Yes, it was worth it...The Varsity Atlanta
So that's the story of The Varsity, and why it's not just an Atlanta institution, but a personal one as well. The next time you find yourself passing through The ATL, hop off on the Spring Street exit and check it won't be disappointed. And if you're from Atlanta, or have visited before, there is a good possibility you think I'm crazy, but somehow, I'm OK with that.

Enjoy Your Stay

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