Exploring Atlanta's food scene -- by bike

“You’ll love Atlanta,” friends and colleagues said when they found out I was moving here. In the same breath came the warning: “You’ll hate the traffic.”

Oh, swell! How was I going to learn this city and its maze of culinary destinations if I was stuck in traffic all day? I needed a plan of action and decided my crash course was absolutely going to involve alternative forms of transportation lest I go nuts hearing the Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” on every radio station while my car idled on I-85.

I appreciate MARTA (thanks to Atlanta Journal-Constitution radio and TV reporter Rodney Ho, I now correctly refer to the train as just “MARTA” instead of “the MARTA”), but I wish she went further in every direction, so I could more easily get outside the Perimeter.

Enter into the picture my bike: a reliable, comfortable Marin hybrid that can handle street and sidewalk just as easily as a trail. Call me crazy for attempting to cycle in a car town, but biking gets you up close and personal with neighborhoods while giving you the mobility to hop from one ’hood to the next far easier than on foot.

I’m glad to report that I’ve managed the biking thing fairly well, apart from finding myself caught in a downpour on Piedmont Road at 4 p.m. on a weekday.

The Beltline seems to be everyone’s first answer to cycling-eating bliss, so I jumped on the trail at Piedmont Park and rode a mile south to Central Food Hall at Ponce City Market. I remembered my bike lock, but it wasn’t even necessary. Walking through the breezeway, I was greeted by a bike valet who tagged the bike, hung it and watched over it while I found sustenance in the form of spicy green gazpacho, a Reuben sandwich and a tomato salad from Farm to Ladle.

I refrained from weighing myself down with a lobster roll at Dub’s Fish Camp, but I did grab a bag of addictive Utz crab-flavored potato chips to munch while perusing the shops. I know there’s fried chicken at Hop’s and a burger at H&F next door, but when I’m hungry at noon 20 minutes is too long to wait in line.

Passing by the converted warehouse that is home to Two Urban Licks, accessible from the trail, I made a mental note to head to its patio for Sunday brunch one of these weekends when I want to bathe in sunshine. Oh, and what is this laid-back Ladybird place? Gotta grab a co-worker and do Friday happy hour there.

In short order, I reached Krog Street Market, where I wanted to stuff my pannier silly with a Soul Rebel chocolate bar from Xocolatl, croissants and scones from the Little Tart Bakeshop and beef brisket from Grand Champion BBQ. Alas! Those don’t travel well when you’re peddling.

However, finocchiona from the Spotted Pig does, and the folks there even sliced it for me so I could eat it at will as I hit the street. Headed west, I came upon Sweet Auburn Curb Market. My tummy could’ve handled a meat pie from Panbury’s had it not been closed for vacation. Another reason for a repeat visit.

Tour No. 2: Buford Highway. From descriptions, this long strip sounded like an edible United Nations. I had to get a taste.

The question: Could I do Buford by bike? The answer was yes, thanks to the recent Buford Highway Bikes and Bites tour organized by We Love BuHi and Civil Bikes. MARTA dropped me off at the Doraville station and it was a quick cycle (on sidewalks) to the meeting point, where 77 food-curious urban cycling advocates gathered before pedaling a 4.5 mile police-escorted loop, with stops for sweet sesame balls filled with creamy coconut and barbecued pork steamed buns, plus beef cheek tacos, banh mis and sweet bubble milk tea awaiting at the finish.

They hope to make this an annual or semi-annual event. Count me in.

The local farm scene intrigues me, which is why I’m this close to signing up for the 2015 Tour de Farm taking place Oct. 24 and 25.

Presented by Community Farmers Market (the nonprofit that manages a number of area farmers markets), the two-day, 50-mile ride begins and ends at Decimal Place Farm in Conley. Besides that farm, where goats roam, vegetables grow and cheese is made, bikers will go on a fruit foray at a nature preserve, visit a farm that raises chickens and pigs — and veggies for good measure — and another where the focus is produce, but the farmer’s hand is in everything from cows to bees to fruit trees.

Of course, there is the promise of food galore, including a chef-prepared dinner and breakfast. Are you as enticed as I am? Find more information at farmatl.org.

The ride is fully supported. They even carry everyone’s camping gear, which I don’t currently own. Guess I need to make a trip to REI. I wonder if I should bike there.

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