Considering that Ole Miss played a game in the Georgia Dome to kick off this college football season, preparing a "what to do" type of post that wasn't repetitive or full of ideas you've already had was a bit of a challenge. Surely you already know where the World of Coke is, and you've undoubtedly waddled through the Georgia Aquarium after eating a Vortex Burger and a pair of Varsity Chili Dogs, so all of the run-of-the-mill "what to do in HOTlanta y'all" type of stuff isn't really what we're looking for.
And considering that you'll be in Atlanta for no more than a few days, and that you'll be spending most of your time watching football, getting ready to watch football, or recovering from watching football, we decided to keep this list of suggestions confined to those things which are a reasonable distance to and from the Georgia Dome (if you consider a quick cab or MARTA ride reasonable, that is) and are geared more towards the drinking habits of SEC football fans.
Our thoughts though on many of these establishments do not yet exist. They've been recommended to us, but we've never been there ourselves. So we've done what every curious bar patron-to-be does; we consulted Yelp. For every eating and drinking establishment we list below, we're going to offer a glowing five-star review and contrasting that with what we hope will be an amusingly scathing one-star review. That way you can set your expectations accordingly and, hopefully, find a place that you don't hate.
There's a lot we're going to miss here because Atlanta's a big city with an even bigger and more extensive metro area. If there's something that you'd like to contribute, please do so in the comments thread. Before then, though, read through our guide to drinking in Atlanta as told by Yelp, organized by neighborhood.
Buckhead is a neighborhood in Atlanta - or, rather, a collection of neighborhoods - that makes up what is more-or-less the northern quarter of the city. It's a major commercial and financial center, and is known as a neighborhood rife with higher-end retailers and boutiques, fine dining, and overpriced real estate. Naturally, a lot of Ole Miss fans are going to be spending their time in Buckhead.
But don't let the expensive cars and bougie clothing throw you off; there's lots of fun to be had in Buckhead, even for those who aren't looking to get dolled up or break out the Amex. Here, let Yelp do the talking:
Five-star: 3 Stars?? 3 Stars?? 10 stars if I could!!!! This place rocks. Chad took care of us, as usual. He is the best bartender around. My husband and I always experience great food, great service, and a great atmosphere. The food is ALWAYS fresh!! We LOVE this place. Keep up the great work!
One-star: Don't come here if you're Black!! They are racist... They as in the bouncers. My waiter was nice.
There were probably a half-dozen comments regarding racist bouncers. Didn't want y'all to think this one comment was an outlier.
Tin Lizzy's Cantina, which has a pretty healthy number of five-star reviews, is a Mexican-esque joint known for good margaritas and live music. People seem to love their nachos and faijitas, whereas others don't like the long wait and "yuppie" clientele.
Five-star: Gr8 popd and fantastic service. Parking is limited, but use Landmark across the street for easy access. Plenty of choices to satisfy most. Kitchen is quick, so order only when you're ready to eat. The deck and live music are awesome mood setters in good weather, but there's plenty of bar/inside seating too. Hannah and Britney are fab servers as well...they'll make sure you're taken care of.
One-star: maybe great to pick up the opposite sex (or same, if that's your thing), but the service sucks, as does the parking. so we tried takeout. they got that wrong, too, and shorted us some meals. what started out as a great family restaurant has turned into a loud bar with terrible service and no one seems to care. too bad, because "cool bars" loose their coolness after a couple of years.
The Dive Bar is exactly what it sounds like. It's in Buckhead. It's not very well received.
Five-star: DUUUUUUUDEEEEE this place is SUPER fun!!! I always wonder why the bars I go to get mediocre reviews, but I had a great time here. Maybe it was the crowd that happened to be there on Thursday night, or the two guys I came with?? Anyways, the drinks were pretty cheap, (I do not actually remember how much, but it couldn't have been too much, right?) and the interior is a little nicer than your standard dive bar.
Another cool thing about this place were the employees. I asked the bartenders to a take a picture of my friends and me, and they ended up taking some selfies of themselves, too LOL. Oh and I have to give a shoutout to Suzanna (not sure if I spelled your name right...) She is the manager of the place, and was out chatting with some of the patrons. I will definitely be coming back here when I stop by in Atlanta again!
Oh, and in response to the few reviews I read that said Dive Bar is racist: that's nonsense!!! I am Asian, and I totally got in. Also two and a half of the bartenders were also Asian! (Pretty sure one of them was half...)
If you have to, on Yelp, defend a bar as not being racist, well... Let's just say a lot of the one-star reviews were of the "I'm a minority and the bouncer wouldn't let me in" variety. Fair warning.
Also, the only other five star review was someone asking "Is this a good place to make a clean break?" Not sure why someone went to Yelp for that, but I'm willing to volunteer "no" as an answer.
One-star: If you like hanging out in a tobacco infused atmosphere with drunk college punks, scanky attention ho's and enjoy stepping in beer then this place is just for you. I tried this place out for the first time last night and was out of there as quickly as I went in. The highlight was watching a guy beat up his girlfriend right outside the bar. From now on I am sticking to more upscale and classy places. I hope someone smartens up and puts a wrecking ball to this s&^% hole!
Finally, there's Prohibition, a cigar bar and speakeasy that's a place to be for a more relaxed yet refined atmosphere - at least when compared to the other Buckhead bars we've mentioned. Also, you have to enter the place via an old English phone booth, like this:
Via somebody on Yelp.
Cocktails! Cigars! Old English stuff! Fun!
Five-star: What a fun night! We came in through the phone booth and wasn't exactly sure what was going to happen. Our server was so helpful funding us cigars to our liking. The atmosphere is 1929 in honor of prohibition. Everyone is smoking a cigar but surprisingly not a eye burning smokey place. Thank God because my contacts would melt! Lol Overall fin place to have a cigar abd nightcap. Loved it!
One-star: this place is awful in all aspects!!!!! please, please, please, whatever you do, contact me before going to this terribleness!!!!!
The author of this review can be found here. Feel free to take her up on her solicitation to be contacted if you're thinking of going to Prohibition. (Most of the other one-star reviews involved poor service delivered by generally surly bartenders.)
Midtown is, in a very general sense, what's south of Buckhead and north of Downtown. It's where Georgia Tech is, and is just north of the Bank of America Plaza tower, the tallest building in the United States outside of New York or Chicago (thanks, Wikipedia!). It's eclectic, diverse, young, sometimes pricey and generally convenient.
Deadwood Saloon is Midtown's wild west-themed bar (why?) that people have opinions about. Opinions such as:
Five-star: The Deadwood is a great local dive for both residents and tourists. The wild west theme starts and ends on the walls and bar surface. This bar doesn't really have a themed menu, it's just a bar, and a good one at that. The barkeeps here are among Midtown's finest, be sure to tip them well. Draft beers and stiff drinks are enough to keep me happy but this place has good food too. The Miss Daisy burger is my favorite menu item here. Definitely worth a visit if you're in Midtown.
Two-star: I guess I had an awful experience compared to the other reviewers on here. This was our 2nd bar of the night. We got there at about 10 pm on Friday. This place was completely dead. They were shutting down the upstairs bar. The downstairs bar had maybe 10 people sitting at it. Minus my group of 5, that was all that was in this place. A couple of those people were smoking, and that just totally ruined the experience for me. Unfortunately, I don't plan on coming back.
The Highlander is a wildly popular dive bar with a heavy metal feel to it. Its pub grub is pretty well received. Others don't like the clientele and decor.
Five-star: Been going here for years... there is literally NOTHING on the menu that isn't amazing. Prices are great, portions are great, staff is great, drinks are strong.
One-star: Over rated! Waitress sucks! I ordered a shot and I'm still waiting for it and it has been three months.
Three months? You should probably just give up on that and go home. Others remarked that their beer was flat and that the food was "one step up from a Sonic."
If you're looking for live jazz music with good cocktails, then Churchill Grounds is the Midtown spot you should patronize.
Five-star: Cover charge was $10 per person on a weds night. They had a great jazz guitarist and female vocalist. It wasn't busy and we had gotten there early so we had a decent spot at the bar. Drinks were fairly expensive but not outrageously so. Music was great and my fiance and I enjoyed ourselves. We will go back. The food menu is small and mostly Asian inspired. Seemed a bit odd honestly and nobody was eating. I'll stick to the drinks and music.
One-star: I was looking for a great date night idea and heard this place was suppose to have a great atmosphere. I was so disappointed. First there is a $20 cover charge which is ok. Then they have this great menu on the website and when we got there all they had was ravoli. There are two waiters in the entire place and both of them are bad. It took 22 minutes to get a martini. When we finally got our order it was cold and disguisting. The band was ok but I have heard so much better in far cheaper places. Save your money on this one!
I like beer. If you're like me, Publik Draft House is a place you might be interested in. It's a craft beer and cocktail bar with a good gastropub type of menu. It's usually crowded. That's a good sign.
Five-star: This is one of my new favorites.its convenient if your in the city as well as casual and functional. There menu if filled with plenty of variety for everyone, however my favorite was the lamb burger recommended by the server. There beer menu is also phenomenal with a few of my craft house favorites.this place of definitely on my must go for Atlanta.
One-star: Man, I really thought this place was going to be cool. I really WANTED it to be cool. But it sucked. From the outside it looks like a British Pub, but on the inside it looks like a Richard Simmons video. Seriously, streamers hanging from the ceiling and crap. I lol'ed.
Most of the other complains involved rude bartenders and a terrible experience with a fried goat cheese appetizer.
Stats and Taco Mac are the places Downtown that you'll find most Ole Miss fans before and after the Peach Bowl, but if you want to venture elsewhere for drinks around the Georgia Dome, our first recommendation would be Park Bar.
Five-star: Great location, right across from Centennial Olympic park, with a nice view of the Ferris wheel. (If you are sitting outside) We've been to Park Bar multiple times and always had outstanding service! They have typical bar food but our favorite is the Bison Blue burger. They also spin the wheel and we typically get free shots or 20% of our bill. Overall, cool spot!
Two-star: I had high expectations for this place based on other reviews but my oh my was this place overpriced and underwhelming. Not a good value at all. I ordered the Cuban frita(sp?) burger since it was highly recommended by our waitress. What a disappointment... It wasn't terrible but it wasn't memorable either. For $15 I expected something more enjoyable. My wife ordered a salad and it was mostly large pieces lettuce with dry chicken slices overtop. All in all we felt unimpressed and frankly ripped off considering the price.
We (that'd be Whiskey Wednesday and I) like Park Bar because the drinks are strong, inexpensive, and can be ordered in a plastic lidded to-go cup complete with a stupid little bendy straw. It's not as corny as it sounds, considering that a tall Jack and Coke slurped on your walk to the Georgia Dome is far from the worst way to pregame.
If you want a great view of Atlanta from a rooftop in Five Points, try SkyLounge. It'll probably be cold and wet, but whatever. You'll have fun.
Five-star: If nothing else, come here for the PHENOMENAL view. That's worth it alone. Had a wonderful time on a Wednesday evening, enjoyed a few drinks, and enjoyed the magnificent view from sunset into the night. Drink prices were actually less than I was expecting for such a nice place; definitely recommend stopping by here for a drink!
One-star: It's still on top of a great hotel but the vibe is gone, the views are now limited. The plush leather sofas have been replaced with Ikea sectionals. The open sky is now blocked by a white canvas roof that looks like a cheap tarp from a tailgate. The on-trend music has been switched for a DJ blasting outdated tunes (with no theme or transition) WAY too loud from a setup on a folding table with temp speakers posted around. The drinks are still decent. The staff is much less friendly but given the changes I can't blame them.
No theme? No TRANSITION?! UN. AC. CEPT. A. BLE.
The view though, that's acceptable:
Via the Yelps
Maybe that's not what you're looking for, though. Maybe you'd rather pretend to be cultured and smoke hookah while eating Mediterranean food. If that's your jam, check out Anatolia Cafe and Hookah Lounge, a spot that's generally well received by folks looking for food, drinks, or tobacco inhaled through a water pipe.
Five-star: Dope spot. Came here often to chill with folks after classes. I probably did hookah about twice a week. Great spot for food too. The gyros are delicious. Awesome atmosphere.
One-star: Service wasn't very friendly. They charge beyond two coals. The building doesn't have a very welcoming atmosphere. The staff moves with zero sense of urgency. I would advise AGAINST.
A couple of weeks ago, when the Peach Bowl matchup was announced, I tweeted:
Recommend some neighborhoods for drankin' in Atlanta that are not Buckhead.— Red Cup Rebellion (@RedCupRebellion) December 8, 2014
Lord Spencer of Hall, SB Nation's Director or Editor of Somethingoranother, and an unapologetic Atlantan, replied:
@redcuprebellion Ponce: the Local, Bookhouse Pub, and El Bar— SPENCER HALL (@edsbs) December 8, 2014
What Spencer's talking about is a handful of bars along Ponce de Leon Avenue, the boundary separating Virginia Highlands and Poncey-Highland, a pair of neighborhoods that, like Buckhead, I expect to see a lot of Ole Miss fans partying in because of their boozy, college-town feel.
Let's look at how Yelp feels about Mr. Hall's recommendations. First, El Bar, a spot that has a reputation for good music dished out in cramped quarters:
Five-star: I love el bar fridays because Speakerfoxxx and Cristodisco are some of the best djs around. They mix new and old music so effortlessly and everyone inside is gettin down by the end of the night. The only thing missing is a huge fan in the corner cooling us off because it gets hot in there but when I go home soaked in sweat I know I had a good time.
One-star: Some guy threw a drink at me and tried to fight me, and i got thrown out!? The security at this place is horrible. I find it strange that an individual tried to get into an unprovoked altercation with me and my friends and we got thrown out. If you don't care about your personal safety, come to El Bar! This place is not worth spending money at. This Latino will never go back to "the" bar; Latinos get thrown out for no reason. Son racista?
Other compliments were that the bar was crowded and loud. Other complaints were that the bar was crowded and loud.
Next up, The Local:
Five-star:Yaaaaas. My tab here was $20.50 Smokey as F. Loud as hell. Diverse as anything. Chick(s) puking. Dudes dancing. Shit karaoke. And everything in between. Worth every penny and minute. I had a fucking blast. Excuse my French.
One-star: This place is awful. If you enjoy ordering a Jack and coke and being ignored for 12 minutes when the the bartender finally acknowledges you again as you request the same beverage and the response is "you can see we are busy" that's a joke. #shittyservice #attitude #terriblebar
Most of the one-star reviews were novellas written by spurned hipsters, so this really does seem like my kind of place.
And what of the Bookhouse Pub?
Five-star: Excellent food, drink, and service. Shrimp and grits was insane. Pot stickers were also great. Entrees of pork pot pie and flat iron steak paired with their Carnivore Cab were delightful. Every single drink and bite I consumed were excellent. Cool dark atmosphere and back deck with a view of the Bank of America tower. Great little spot.
One-star: Worst service ever, managers and staff were flat out were rude. poor high gravity beer selection. Need to fire the staff, change the menu, and get some real beers in there. Go somewhere else.
Again with the poor reviews that consist of paragraphs after paragraphs of complaining. It's like people think that folks who read Yelp are looking for a riveting tale of how your waitress was rude and something more than "the french fries were soggy imo."
Of course, no trip to Ponce is without a stop in the Clermont Lounge. Instead of a pair of Yelp reviews, here's a video of Anthony Bourdain taking in Atlanta's finest establishment with a visibly uncomfortable Alton Brown:
The only thing that would make that scene more Atlanta is if Big Boi showed up and started rapping the second verse of Ain't No Thang.
Of course there are gobs and gobs of places outside of the aforementioned watering holes in and about Atlanta. It's a city with a criminally underated eating and drinking scene. So, if you've got the time, venture out to Little Five Points, Decatur, East Atlanta Village, or anywhere that you find a Waffle House worth patronizing. You won't regret it, probably.
Have fun, be safe, don't drink and drive, and don't make the rest of us look like assholes. Happy New Year, and we'll see y'all in Atlanta.