The 5 Best Run and Brunch Combos in Atlanta

Running in Piedmont Park.
Running in Piedmont Park. Alexa Lampasona
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Brunch could be the most indulgent of meals: After all, it's when biscuits and gravy reign supreme, and where dishes that should maybe be classified as desserts are devoured as entrees. Leaving the table guilt-free is nearly impossible—unless you've made room for all those delicious calories in advance, of course.

Hitting a running route early can ramp up energy and productivity for the rest of your day. Enjoying brunch after a run makes you feel even better. When you've earned it, that extra side of gravy tastes even better. Here are five great places to run with excellent options for brunch nearby. (For more help finding an after-run brunch option in another neighborhood, you can visit this dining guide.)

1. Morningside Nature Preserve

Morningside Nature Preserve is intensely green.
Morningside Nature Preserve is intensely green. Jim Hodgson

The 33.1 acres of forest in the Morningside Nature Preserve are an idyllic refuge for city-based runners. The trails are quiet, save for wildlife, and intensely green and lush—yet only 20 minutes from downtown. A suspension bridge, a few elevation changes and the South Fork Peachtree Creek—nicknamed "Dog Beach" by locals who bring their pets out—complete what is arguably one of Atlanta's top tucked-away trails.

For brunch options, the Morningside Kitchen Restaurant is just minutes from the preserve. It was opened last year by the founders of Murphy's Restaurant in the Virginia Highlands. Inside it's a bit upscale, but the patio is perfect for a laid-back, post-run brunch on the weekends, where they serve their signature rotisserie chicken as a hash with poached eggs. The kitchen has also got its chicken biscuits with a hangar steak and sunny-side eggs combo down to a science. If you enjoy fresh baked goods, Alon’s Bakery & Market, located on North Highland Avenue, offers some of the best in the city.

2. South Peachtree Creek Trail

A wooden boardwalk snakes around a soothing creek in this Decatur PATH Foundation trail. Maybe because of its short length—it's only a mile long—the South Peachtree Creek Trail is somewhat overlooked. All the better for you, though: Its serene feel is elevated when your trek is a less populated one. You'll cross a single road, but otherwise, the stretch from Mason Mill Park to Medlock Park is a wonderfully quiet one.

About 10 minutes from there is Downtown Decatur, home to tons of great restaurants. Thumbs Up Diner, styled exactly as a diner should be and with a menu of classics to match, is an extra-special spot, though. All of its locations, Decatur included, pour coffee that's 100 percent organic arabica from Nicaragua. The restaurants smoke their chicken and turkey in-house, offer pure New England maple syrup, and all of their jams are house-made. Sweet Melissa’s has been serving up breakfast and lunch in Decatur since 1989. It has all the breakfast staples you’d expect—done well—plus some creative options, like the Peachtree Polenta, a morning take on shrimp and grits.

3. BeltLine Eastside Trail

French toast with creme anglaise and edible flowers at Ladybird.
French toast with creme anglaise and edible flowers at Ladybird. Lisa Panero

This paved stretch of the BeltLine runs from 10th Street and Monroe Drive at Piedmont Park down through Irwin Street near DeKalb Avenue. Along that route, you’ll find swaths of green space, iconic parks (Piedmont, Historic Fourth Ward), and the connecting Freedom Park trail. The shifting views of eye-catching street art and sculptures as you breeze into each of the five intown neighborhoods it connects will help you maintain energy all the way to the finale.

For brunch options, at the 9.25 mile marker on John Wesley Dobbs Avenue, there's a strikingly cool, easily accessible option for post-workout respite. Modeled with the outdoors enthusiast in mind, Ladybird resembles a campground lodge. It includes the cozy "Map Room," a bigger mess hall with a massive flag and taxidermy adorning the walls, and a patio that completes the communal camp vibe. Weekend brunch is a hearty selection of Southern staples and tasty extras like mushroom strata and breakfast tacos with chorizo scrambled eggs. Also just off the BeltLine, complete with picnic tables for outdoor eating, the Neighborhood Cafe on North Highland Avenue features house-made breads, croissants and pastries, and hearty breakfast dishes.

4. Freedom Park Trail

Intertwined with the Eastside BeltLine stretch is the Freedom Park Trail, a longstanding route that runs through the 207-acre park. Run the 2.5 miles from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site to the Carter Center to the park, or head out on a 3.6-mile loop from the Carter Library to Freedom and Candler parks. Altogether, seven intown neighborhoods are connected through areas where permanent (and temporary) art installations pop up along sporadic skyline views and peaceful greenery.

Whichever route you choose, Highland Avenue in the Old Fourth Ward isn't far—and that's where enticing brunch options abound. The Highland Bakery is a local favorite. Built on great coffee and healthy-but-scrumptious muffins, the selection has grown to include an array of homemade breads and homestyle Southern fare. Shrimp and grits, sweet potato pancakes, black-eyed peas, and Benedict eggs done every which way make it hard to save room for their sweets, like mini donuts or cinnamon rolls. Several blocks south of the bakery is Serpas Restaurant, which serves New Orleans style cuisine in a spacious but comfortable space. Regular items on the menu include a creole omelet and fried oyster egg benedict. Of course, don’t forget to start with a couple of New Orleans beignets.

5. Piedmont Park

Piedmont has an awe-inspiring backdrop of Midtown to keep motivation high.
Piedmont has an awe-inspiring backdrop of Midtown to keep motivation high. Lisa Panero

Pounding through the paved, moderately hilly 4-mile running path at Piedmont Park offers some of the city's most iconic sights, like the expansive, bright green meadow juxtaposed with a clear-cut skyline view or the gorgeous Lake Clara Meer option, where the buildings are reflected in the water. An Atlanta institution, Piedmont Park is also a go-to for kite-flyers, Rollerbladers, sun-baskers, and picnic lovers. Head out early for a more solitary run, or join your fellow city folk in enjoying all the iconic Midtown spot offers.

Indulge in the epitome of Southern comfort food at the Flying Biscuit Cafe, a homegrown spot so good that it now features locations in the double-digits throughout Georgia and nearby states. The Piedmont Park edition wasn't the first, but it's easily one of the busiest. A bustling, eclectic environment is part of the Flying Biscuit experience. Its sweeter standards—french toast with raspberry sauce, organic oatmeal pancakes with warm peach compote—are a dream. The crowning jewel, of course, is the famed biscuit itself—perfectly fluffy inside, and subtly sprinkled with sugar on top.

The Nook on Piedmont Park actually faces the park and features one of the best-known patios on the city. The tavern features an extensive food and drink menu, but if you’re up for an indulgence, try the signature Totchos (tater tot nachos) that are available throughout the day. Get the breakfast variety, which comes with chicken sausage, gravy, and an egg over easy. You may want to add an extra mile or two onto your run, but it will be worth it.

Originally written for Atlanta CVB.

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