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The Varsity

The Varsity: A Landmark in Downtown Atlanta

Every city has its icons, those places that, through a magical mix of atmosphere and shared experience, become essential to the local culture. For Atlanta, one of those places is The Varsity. Since opening in 1928 across from the Georgia Tech campus, The Varsity has become more than just a restaurant—it’s a local legend.

The Birth of a Legend

The Varsity’s story begins with a young man named Frank Gordy, who, like many college students, realized that engineering wasn’t his true calling. After dropping out of Georgia Tech, Gordy traveled to Florida during the 1920s land boom, where he discovered the concept of drive-in restaurants. Inspired, he returned to Atlanta and opened The Varsity, a name chosen with foresight that Bulldog fans from Athens would never patronize a place called the Yellow Jacket.

The enormous Varsity sits on 2 city blocks.

The Heart of Atlanta

Stepping into The Varsity is like stepping into a time capsule of Atlanta’s history. The smell of chili and onions wafts through the air, while the sound of countermen calling out orders in their unique lingo adds to the atmosphere. “What’ll ya have?” they shout, turning a simple meal order into an Atlanta tradition.

Memories and More

The Varsity isn’t just about food—though their menu is a delicious journey through American comfort food, from burgers and hot dogs to fried pies and the famous F.O. (frosted orange). It’s about the memories: childhood excursions downtown, football gamedays, and date nights. Even Atlanta’s late Mayor Maynard Jackson was known to drop by for a chili dog. During his first term, he famously defended The Varsity against road construction plans, stating, “If we can send a man to the moon, we can widen that road and save The Varsity, too. I mean, first things first.”

In Varsity lingo, onion rings are “rings,” fries are “strings,” and a “bag of rags” are potato chips. Chocolate milk is always served with ice, unless you ask for no ice, or “N.I.P.C.”

Family and Tradition

For nearly a century, The Varsity has remained a family affair. Frank Gordy’s descendants still run the place, viewing it not just as a business, but as a public trust. Despite the trials and tribulations—including tragedies that would turn anyone’s hair gray—the family has kept The Varsity going, turning lemons into lemonade. Or more aptly, onions into onion rings.

Hot dogs come with chili and mustard. In Varsity lingo, a “naked dog” is a plain hot dog on a bun, “walk a dog” is a hot dog to go, and a “red dog” is a naked dog with ketchup.

An Enduring Icon

Frank Gordy was a hands-on boss, known for his meticulous standards and generous rewards. His influence is still felt today, from the employees who greet customers with a smile to the gleaming counters that shine under the neon lights. Through the decades, The Varsity has adapted without losing its charm. Even as new dining options have sprung up, The Varsity’s unique appeal keeps drawing people back. It’s a piece of living history where visitors find comfort in the familiar sights, sounds, and tastes of this beloved institution.

The Varsity can accommodate 800 diners inside.

Frank Gordy’s influence extends beyond the restaurant’s walls. His approach to customer service and community engagement has inspired other restaurateurs, including Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, who admired Gordy’s commitment to excellence and hospitality.

The Varsity has two Atlanta airport locations – International Terminal Concourse F in the upstairs food court and Domestic Terminal C, Gate C21.

The Varsity continues to grow, with a total of 8 locations in metro Atlanta, including 2 at the Atlanta airport, ensuring that new generations can enjoy the classic Varsity experience.

The Varsity serves more than 2 million Coca-Colas a year, more than any other restaurant in the world.

As Atlanta continues to evolve, The Varsity remains a beloved part of the city’s downtown. So next time you’re near Georgia Tech, stop by The Varsity, place your order after a cheerful “What’ll ya have?” and become a part of Atlanta’s ongoing story.  Remember, if you haven’t experienced The Varsity, you haven’t truly experienced Downtown Atlanta.

The Varsity Atlanta
61 North Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30308

Please note:
The downtown location does not accept cash, so be sure to bring a credit/debit card or wireless payment via Apple Pay or Google Pay.  Drive-thru and curb service is currently closed.


The Varsity is located right across the I-75/85 Connector from Georgia Tech.

  • From Southbound 75/85: Get off at exit 249D, turn left and you will see The Varsity on the left immediately across the bridge.
  • From Northbound 75/85: Get off at exit 249D, go across Spring St. to West Peachtree St. and turn left. Go to North Ave. and turn left again. Follow North Ave. until you see The Varsity on the right.
  • From Marta: On the North-South Line, get off at North Ave. station and go west on North Ave. until you see The Varsity on the right.

(404) 881-1706

Chicken salad was on the menu for over 90 years. It is no longer sold in stores, so now you can make this Varsity classic at home.