Photo by Zagat
Edgewood Avenue has remained a center of nightlife for Atlanta for close to a decade now. While late nights can still be spent roaming from bar to bar even during these crazy times, anyone who grew up making bad decisions on this downtown street knows that it has lost many of the places that gave the bar road its character. From the closing of Department Store to the more recent bad news from Mother’s and the Sound Table, Edgewood just isn’t the same place that it used to be. For me personally, the greatest lost was something that happened years ago, the moving of Illegal Food.
Illegal Food was an award winning restaurant that made its start inside of the Edgewood barcade, Joystick Gamebar. The small popup was able to defeat Holman and Finch’s legendary burger to become Zagat's Best Burger in Atlanta in 2014 and 2015. They were able to achieve this by not only meeting H&F’s same standard of high quality ingredients and execution, but also featuring creativity in their selection while the previous champion focused on simplicity and exclusivity with their 10pm Burger. Whether it was their classic Hank burger, their Asian inspired Banh Mi Burger, or their amazing Le Cluck chicken sandwich, Illegal Food made it possible to visit over and over while trying a new sandwich each time.
Le Cluck Chicken Sandwich
Of course Illegal Food’s success and rapidly growing clientele quickly grew them out of the barcade, and into their own space. They moved from the youthful and wild Edgewood to a more relaxed Virginia Highlands, and brought their fans with them. Unfortunately, something about the economics was off, and the business closed down a couple of years later. Atlanta lost a great restaurant that year, but Edgewood was changed when the burger joint left it long before.
Back then there was food available for people to combat their drunken hunger, but nothing quite like Illegal Food. It was a 5 star restaurant in a space that would usually be occupied by really good bar food at best. It was the equivalent of expecting Waffle House, and receiving a meal made by Chef Kenneth Temple instead. The partnership between Illegal Food and Joystick soon came to an end though. Illegal Food gained their own home and restaurant, and Edgewood lost one of my favorite establishments on that avenue.
There has been some great additions to Edgewood that keep the food scene interesting, such as Georgia Beer Garden across from Joystick, and even more recently a new Slutty Vegan location, but nothing has ever taken the spot in my heart that belongs to Illegal Food. If you never had the opportunity to enjoy some pinball, Metal Slug or other classic arcade games, and then enjoy the best burger the city of Atlanta had that year, then you truly missed out on a great time to be alive. You missed out on one the greatest pop ups ever.
Photo by NFA Burger's @BillyBurgers admiring Illegal Food way back in 2014
Despite the closure in 2017, Illegal Food still exists through various popups, catering, and barbeque delivery in the East Atlanta area. While they focus on much more than just burgers these days, they still make top notch offerings for all to enjoy. Order their family meal this weekend, and have dinner delivered this Thursday, November 19th or Saturday, November 21st if you would like to give their amazing food a try. Also join their newsletter to stay informed on their next events and deliveries in the future.
Thank you for reading.