Visit Atlanta: This is where to get your drink on

Atlanta is known for a lot of things: great weather, delicious food, bad traffic. But did you also know Atlantans know how to drink? Yup, it's a hidden talent. From the craft cocktail scene to the multitude of breweries in and around the city to the umpteen festivals, Atlanta knows what's what when it comes to booze. As a boozer myself, I'm here to share my fave spots to take down the fire water like you're a local. Git yer butt down here!:

The Sazerac (photo from southernliving.com)

The Sazerac (photo from southernliving.com)

Kimball House, Decatur: this is THE place to go if you are an aficionado of the craft cocktail and the oyster. My opinion is to go with something traditional, like a Sazerac, but there's something to be said about a simple gin concoction as well. My dad says gin goes with shellfish like funny hats go with the pope.

The Southern 75 at Proof & Provision (photo from temperedspirit.com)

The Southern 75 at Proof & Provision (photo from temperedspirit.com)

Proof & Provision, Midtown: P&P is the "speakeasy" concept at the bottom of the beautiful Georgian Terrace Hotel in Midtown. There are lots of reasons to drink here - the beautiful hotel, the delish menu and the crafty craft cocktails. There's also table shuffleboard. Try the Southern 75 (bourbon, Demerara syrup, lemon and Sweetwater 420).

Ecco, Midtown: One of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta. The wine list at Ecco is amazing, but branch out and try the Long Live the Queen: Bombay Sapphire gin with hints of elderflowers, lemon, peach and mint. It's so refreshing! 

Dirty Vodka Martini at Highland Tap (photo from tripadvisor.com)

Dirty Vodka Martini at Highland Tap (photo from tripadvisor.com)

Highland Tap, Virginia Highlands: Highland Tap is like a comfy pair of slippers. It's dark and cozy and is a great spot to relax with a big ole steak and a classic cocktail. I always get a dirty vodka martini with blue cheese stuffed olives. They have a heavy pour so you get a little sidecar of extra martini to keep you satiated for at least 20 minutes.

Barcelona Wine Bar, Inman Park. Barcelona is all about the wine, and lots of it. Saddle up to the bar, order some tapas and get your wine on. I lean toward Malbec, but they have a huge selection of Spanish, Argentinian and Chilean wines just ready for the drinkin' -- especially on (hint) Monday nights, when they sell all bottles for half price.

Peach Daiquiri at Polaris (Photo from hyatt.com)

Peach Daiquiri at Polaris (Photo from hyatt.com)

Polaris at the Hyatt, Downtown: Polaris reopened last year after a ten year hiatus. They've renovated but the retro vibe is still alive and well. Take in the revolving view of Atlanta with their special "retro" drink: the Polaris Peach Daiquiri.

Minero, Ponce City Market, Old Fourth Ward: this is the newest spot from Charleston's Sean Brock. Try the Minero Sangria. It's my new favorite sangria made from citrus, cava and rosé. I also feel compelled to tell you that Minero also serves a tall boy can of Tecate for $3. Bargain of a lifetime.

Brick Store Pub (photo from 10best.com)

Brick Store Pub (photo from 10best.com)

Brick Store, Decatur: The Brick Store and its exclusive beer list have received national & international acclaim on the world’s two biggest beer websites — beeradvocate.com & ratebeer.com. They've also racked up eighteen (and counting) consecutive years of “Best of Atlanta” recognition for their fabulous beer list and pub food. Try any one of their local or regional American craft beers, German and English specialty beers or vintage and reserve bottled beer list. You'll even get it served in the proper glass.

bartaco, Midtown and Inman Park: the bartaco Margarita. If you are willing to be patient, you won't be disappointed in the cocktails from bartaco. They squeeze their own juices on demand, for each drink, which of course takes time, but also makes for a fabulous drink.  

Corner Tavern Bloody Mary (photo from tripadvisor.com)

Corner Tavern Bloody Mary (photo from tripadvisor.com)

Corner Tavern, Edgewood: The Nook gets all the attention for their crazy Bloody Mary that comes with everything but the kitchen sink (seriously, it has steak, tots and a beef straw sticking out of it), but for taste of the Bloody Mary alone, without all the fanfare, try Corner Tavern. You still get some fun add-ons - pickled okra, bacon - but the star is the drink. 

The Southern Gentleman, Buckhead: Love a Moscow Mule? Try this place. You pick vodka, gin, Absinthe or Bourbon, they mix it with lime juice and homemade ginger beer. Yummy. Located in the new Buckhead Atlanta shopping/dining complex. 

Victory Jack & Coke slushie (photo from sweetpeachblog.com)

Victory Jack & Coke slushie (photo from sweetpeachblog.com)

Victory Sandwich Bar, Inman Park and Decatur: This one's a no brainer: the Jack and Coke Slushie. If you haven't had one, you need to remedy that immediately. 

Brezza, Ponce City Market, Old Fourth Ward: Here's another spot at Ponce City Market I've already scoped out for their drinks. Brezza is founded by Jonathan Waxman of Jams and Barbuto in NYC. Here you need to try the Shrub, a combo of red wine, ginger and balsamic vinegar. Trust me, it's delish.

I feel confident you won't go thirsty! 

 

Atlanta Pizza Quest: Old Fourth Ward Pizza

Grandma Pie (photo from krustco.com)

Grandma Pie (photo from krustco.com)

People, there's a new (relatively speaking - they opened in January) pizza joint in town and it's going to blow your mind. 

It's called Old Fourth Ward Pizza; it's across from Krog Street Market; and it's AMAZING.

You wouldn't know it if you stumbled across it. It honestly looks like Sbarro-esque with old school ice cream parlor tables and no ambiance to speak of. (In fact, I think it shares space with an ice cream place.) You also can't get an adult beverage there (but if you think ahead, you can BYO).

But what this place lacks in ambiance it makes up for in the pizza. I've only tried one thing there because there is only one thing you should try there and eat over and over and over: the Grandma Pie.

Recently included in Creative Loafing's 100 Dishes to Eat in Atlanta they had this to say:

"In Atlanta, where round pizzas and those with exotic, Neapolitan names get all the attention, O4W Pizza’s rectangular masterpiece called Grandma is a tantalizing alternative. The Irwin Street Market pizza joint specializes in pies made with simple, quality ingredients and not a hint of trendy brouhaha." 

Creative Loafing also voted the Grandma Pie top prize in it's Ultimate Atlanta Pizza Smackdown in July. Here were some of the comments made be the tasters:

"I love this pizza. I love eating this pizza. I think about this pizza way more than someone should think about a food item."
"It’s almost mysterious in a way. It’s very simple, but there’s something magical about it. I think they sprinkle it with fairy dust."

This is Jersey style pizza. Thin crust with lots of sauce and cheese. According to Old Fourth Ward's website (www.krustco.com) Chef and owner Anthony Spina learned the pizza business the old fashioned way – by working it. Growing up in New Jersey, Anthony became an expert at the art of making simple, handcrafted pizza.

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I've eaten the Grandma pie twice: once on site and once to go. If you eat there be prepared to wait: it takes about 30 minutes to get a Grandma from order to table. And like I said, with no booze that makes waiting a bit painful. Plan ahead and BYOB or W or order your pizza and go over to Krog Street Market and toss a few back while you wait. 

Once you get the Grandma pie in front of you, all that stuff fades away. This pizza fills the box corner to corner. Neopolitan style crust is more my jam, but in this case it works because you will not taste better sauce and cheese anywhere. ANYWHERE!

On this occasion we got two Grandma pies to go and had 4 questers. The consensus among most of us was that the "dining experience" either sucked or was non-existant and we scored accordingly. Also most of us rated them lower than other pies for the crust. Although the crust was fine and is certainly how a Jersey pie is supposed to be, we all agreed we like a chewier, Neopolitan style crust better. The sauce and cheese however, blew our ever-lovin' minds. Here's how it rated:

We rated O4W Pizza a 49.25 out of a possible 60 points total.

When scoring on food only (removing the "dining experience" category), we rated O4WP a 36.25 out of 40. That's 90% approval!

Overall, another really stellar addition to Atlanta's already incredible pizza scene. How lucky can one town get??

Mangia!

 

P.S. Even the cat likes the Grandma pie!

Visit Atlanta: Ponce City Market Food Hall

Photo from poncecitymarket.com

Photo from poncecitymarket.com

OK people listen up. Creative Loafing just profiled the 16 or so food stalls opening soon at Ponce City Market. 

If you need a little background, Ponce City Market is a soon-to-be-open food hall and marketplace in Atlanta that also houses businesses, apartments and retail. 

According to PCM's website

"Ponce City Market begins to reopen the fully renovated Sears, Roebuck & Company building, restoring its prominence as a vital landmark in Atlanta’s burgeoning Old Fourth Ward. At the heart of Ponce City Market is the marketplace itself, a flexible space to gather, eat and shop."

Want more? In early 2014, Travel + Leisure ranked Ponce City Market as one the 25 in its list of “The World’s Coolest New Tourist Attractions,” and just a couple days ago, Zagat included PCM as one of its "14 Most Anticipated Fall Openings Across the U.S."

This is big stuff. Once fully open and operational, Ponce City Market could be held in the same esteem as New York's Chelsea Market and San Fran's Ferry Building Market. And combined with the fact that it's right on Atlanta's BeltLine trail - it's putting Atlanta in a whole new category of attractive places to live in the U.S.

Now let's get to the good stuff: the FOOD.

We finally have a comprehensive list of the food stalls and retail shops that are coming to the Central Food Hall at Ponce City Market and there's a lot of great stuff to look forward to. (Click here or here for the details of all the vendors coming into PCM this fall.)

Here are the openings I'm looking forward to from the list of food vendors announced so far:

  • Minero: Mexican street food from James Beard winning chef, Sean Brock, of Husk and Minero in Charleston, SC.
  • El Super Pan: Latin-inspired sandwiches from Atlanta's Hector Santiago, Top Chef and former owner of Pura Vida.
  • Bellina Alimentari: like a mini-version of Eataly - Mario Batali's Italian marketplace in New York and Chicago - this will be one of the largest operations at Ponce City Market. It will consist of a restaurant, a gourmet Italian market and a wine bar. Chef Dave Berry, formerly of Horseradish Grill, will be the executive chef of the restaurant.
  • Biltong Bar: South African cuisine (meat pies!!) from Justin Anthony of Yebo and 10 Degrees South in Buckhead.
  • H&F Burger and Hop's Chicken: both concepts from Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch in Atlanta. We all know the beauty of the H&F Burger; add to that a casual stand to get fried chicken and biscuits.
  • Dub's Fish Camp: casual-style fish shack from James Beard winning chef Anne Quatrano of -- among other things -- Bacchanalia, Atlanta.
  • Ton Ton: ramen, yakitory, and sushi from Atlanta's Guy Wong of Miso Izakaya and Le Fat.
  • Boti: Indian street food from the founders of Chai Pani (in Ashville, NC and Decatur), Meherwan and Molly Irani. Will also include an Indian spice market.
  • As yet untitled Italian bistro: celeb chef Jonathan Waxman, of New York's Barbuto, is bringing his food to Atlanta in the form of a casual bistro. Will be located next to William-Sonoma.

Seriously? How will we try it all?? 

And that's not even all of it! There are several more food stalls, coffee and a farm stand in addition to what I've noted, plus whatever is going on "The Roof at Ponce City Market," Yup, there's even going to be stuff on the roof: mini-golf, rides, games and of course - food and drink. (Read more here.)

According to Atlanta Eater, the majority of Ponce City Market's food hall tenants will open this fall and into 2016. (Atlanta Intown reports more specifically "...the food hall eateries would begin opening mid-September and continue rolling out into November.) Many plan to time their openings with the October 10 "Party at Ponce," a celebration of the opening of PCM. For more information about "Party at Ponce" click here.

Bon Appetit y'all!

 

Visit Atlanta: Bike Share program coming in 2015

Photo from atlantabicycleshare.com

Photo from atlantabicycleshare.com

Great news Atlanta: following in the footsteps of most major cities in the U.S. (Boston, Chicago, New York, Denver, San Fran, to name a few) we are finally getting our first bike share program! 

Atlanta has teamed up with Cycle Hop and Social Bicycles to bring 500 bikes for rent to Atlanta streets later in 2015. Great news for those of us looking to get along the BeltLine and through our many parks without having to purchase, maintain and store a bike of our own. 

According to atlantabicycleshare.com, the bikes can be located and reserved online with the Social Bicycles app (or on the bike itself). Each bike is equipped with a GPS locking mechanism and are remotely monitored. They can be locked at a Cycle Hop hub station or at any public bike rack.

And according to Atlanta Magazine, being a late adopter to the bike share world isn't necessarily a bad thing. We can learn from others' mistakes - such as the troubles the bike share program Citi Bike has had in NYC (read more here). 

Kasim Reed biking the Beltline's Eastside Trail (photo from peopleforbikes.org

Kasim Reed biking the Beltline's Eastside Trail (photo from peopleforbikes.org

This is a big step in making Atlanta more vibrant and accessible. A bike share program will also keep Atlantans (and our visitors) fit and healthy, generate revenue for local businesses (including the new Ponce City and Krog Street Markets) and reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. 

To subscribe to receive more information from Atlanta Bike Share, click here or follow on Twitter here.

For more information and news about the bike sharing industry, click here.

 

Visit Atlanta: My favorite restaurants to bring out-of-town guests

I give a lot of thought to where I bring friends and family when they visit me. I want my guests to experience the great food Atlanta has to offer, as well as feel jealous that I get to live here and eat at these fabulous places on the regular (is that wrong?).

Unfortunately there are so many choices, you can't possibly hit them all. Trust me, I've tried. Each of our neighborhoods has it's own selection of great spots, both casual and upscale. At any given time I have an alternate list populating my brain space.

For now though I've narrowed it down to 11 spots you can't go wrong taking a visitor. 

Here they are, in no particular order:

The dining room of Two Urban Licks (Photo from go.rollingout.com)

The dining room of Two Urban Licks (Photo from go.rollingout.com)

Two Urban Licks, Old Fourth Ward.

Two Urban is one of my - and everyone else's - favorite restaurants in Atlanta. And for good reason. The space is beautiful, the food is fantastic and the atmosphere is always electric. Plus as an added bonus, it sits squarely on the BeltLine. A great representation of Atlanta dining.

The exterior of The Iberian Pig (Photo from theiberianpigatl.com)

The exterior of The Iberian Pig (Photo from theiberianpigatl.com)

The Iberian Pig, Decatur.

Best Spanish food in the metro Atlanta area, hands down. 

Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow (Photo from hlntv.com)

Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow (Photo from hlntv.com)

Gunshow, Glenwood Park.

You can't come to Atlanta without visiting Gunshow, Kevin Gillespie's already iconic eatery with dim-sum-style roving carts and long communal tables. Make sure you plan early though; this place is so popular you need some heavy duty lead time to get a reservation.

The always hopping bar at Ecco (Photo from ecco-atlanta.com)

The always hopping bar at Ecco (Photo from ecco-atlanta.com)

Ecco, Midtown.

Another of Atlanta's favorites. Mediterranean small plates, pastas and pizzas and a huge wine list. Best place in the city to spot celebs too.

Fat Matt's (Photo from tripadvisor.com)

Fat Matt's (Photo from tripadvisor.com)

Fat Matt's Rib Shack, Morningside

George Clooney was right - this place is a can't miss. I don't know if it's the best BBQ in town (I'm not an expert by any means) but I do know this cozy joint has live blues nightly, great ribs and local beers. Great scene all around.

The dining room at BoccaLupo (Photo from clatl.com)

The dining room at BoccaLupo (Photo from clatl.com)

BoccaLupo, Inman Park.

BoccaLupo is relatively new to Inman Park but it's not chef Bruce Logue's first rodeo. This place is rocking updated classics and contemporary Italian food. My worship of the black spaghetti is well known.

Inside view of Superica (photo from supericaatl.com)

Inside view of Superica (photo from supericaatl.com)

Superica, Inman Park.

This was a tough one. Atlanta actually has a lot of great Mexican and Tex-Mex options. I picked Superica because of Chef Ford Fry, Atlanta's current super chef; because they gave me the best smoked chicken taco I've ever had; and because it's located in Krog Street Market - the newest addition to Inman Park's dining and shopping scene. A must visit.

The Bar at The Optimist (PHoto from theoptimistrestaurant.com)

The Bar at The Optimist (PHoto from theoptimistrestaurant.com)

The Optimist, West Midtown. 

Hands down one of the best restaurants in Atlanta. I'm not even worried that my northeast friends would be disappointed with a Southern seafood place, because, well, they won't be disappointed. I think they'll be impressed. Another of the prettiest spaces in the ATL too. 

Varuni Napoli, Ansley Park and Ammazza, Edgewood

Can't forget the pizza! Atlanta is lucky to have some of the best pizza I've ever had. I picked Varuni Napoli and Ammazza for this list because they both have fabulous Neapolitan style pizza cooked in wood ovens shipped right from Italy and they are both fun communal spaces with full bars (priorities). 

The bar at King + Duke (PHoto from kinganddukeatl.com)

The bar at King + Duke (PHoto from kinganddukeatl.com)

King + Duke, Buckhead

King + Duke is such a cool spot. I definitely wanted to include Buckhead on this list and King + Duke's location is perfect - across the street from Buckhead Atlanta (Buckhead's newest shopping and dining destination) and around the corner from the beautiful St. Regis Hotel. Sip a cocktail on their gorgeous patio then grab a table and enjoy seasonable local ingredients cooked over an open flame. 

Cafe 640 from North Highland Ave (Photo from clatl.com)

Cafe 640 from North Highland Ave (Photo from clatl.com)

Cafe 640, Poncey Highlands

Last but not least is my favorite neighborhood spot, Cafe 640. This place just makes me happy. I like to take visitors here to enjoy the laid back, cozy atmosphere (or the bustling patio) to wolf down delish sandwiches and salads or fantastic brunch options. You can't go wrong with any of it. Insert your own favorite neighborhood spot here that means something to you.

Did this do the trick, friends from afar?? Get your butts down here!