When you live in a city like Atlanta (read: massive and full of talented residents), it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of celebrity chefs, 100,000-seat amphitheaters and major attractions. Yes, Coca-Cola is amazing — but what about those lesser-known spots that have stood the test of time? Those local haunts that are packed with residents every day and night? Here are 8 of Atlanta’s favorite local hangouts.
It may not look like much from the outside, but locals know that what awaits you on the inside is as delicious as the exterior is suspect. Not only will you find some of the city’s best barbecue (go for the chopped pork sandwich with Brunswick stew), but a walk-up bar and live blues make this one of ATLiens’ favorite spots for a cheap night out.
If there’s one things Atlantans love, it’s some friendly competition with their cocktails — which explains why Ormsby’s, a Westside hangout, is always packed. It has bocce ball, darts, shuffleboard and pool. But unlike most sports bars, this speakeasy-style tavern complements the games with dozens of rotating craft beers, an impressive wine list and fun snacks, such as Guinness-dipped pretzels and spicy lamb merguez with tzatziki.
Though this laugh factory bills itself as the world’s smallest full-time comedy venue, the talent onstage (think Margaret Cho and Jeff Garlin, all the way down to amateurs testing out open-mic nights) suggests that it’s also one of the best. With just 80 seats, this intimate, booze-only club, situated behind burger mecca Vortex Bar & Grill, has been beloved among locals since it opened in 2009.
Georgia native Bruce Logue garnered his first devotees during his time manning the stove at La Pietra Cucina, but locals went truly fanatic when he opened his own place — a rustic Italian eatery, housed in an unassuming bungalow in Inman Park, where 20-yolk tagliatelle and fiery squid-ink spaghetti reign supreme. The value-driven, made-from-scratch menu explains why Atlantans book their tables weeks in advance.
This church-turned-concert-venue feels like a hidden gem in a city full of incredible live music, despite the fact that big-time performers such as Elton John and Local Natives regularly perform there. Partly because of the 2,600-person capacity, likely because of the charming décor and definitely because of the killer layout, there’s literally no bad seat in the house, especially in the balcony and even from the pit floor.
Few cities can claim a beer bar with more than 50 drafts and 800 bottles. Fewer gastropubs have made it to the James Beard semifinals. But Atlanta’s Porter Beer Bar in funky Little 5 Points has done just that, and on a shoestring budget to boot. The husband-and-wife team behind the local watering hole serves up innovative pub fare, including short rib pastrami Reubens and salt and vinegar popcorn, alongside one of the largest beer selections in the country.
Like any good city, Atlanta has a love affair with brunch. And everyone there knows that one of the best spots for eggs and coffee is this open-all-day café, where Southern hospitality and comfort food has been dished up since 2004 (a testament in itself). Despite the locally roasted Batdorf & Bronson craft coffee, free Wi-Fi and inventive plates (did someone say hot chicken biscuits with zucchini pickles?), West Egg keeps its prices affordable, sealing the deal.
Buckhead often gets most of the glamorous press, but hipster-laden East Atlanta is where you’ll find the locals — especially late night at Octopus Bar. Restaurant industry folks and trendy residents alike can be found at this self-proclaimed punk-rock fine-dining spot, noshing on hamachi belly or rabbit-shrimp wonton soup until the wee hours.