Friday, March 22, 2019

50 Best Bars in Atlanta

There are something like 4.7 bazillion establishments in metro Atlanta that serve booze. If you think picking the top fifty and then ranking them seems like a fool's errand, you would not be alone. And indeed, we never intended to rank them—just list our favorite fifty bars alphabetically. But then someone (okay, it may have been the editor) said, "Shouldn't we say who's best?" Then someone else said, "Rank them all!" So this is how we did it: Each bar could score a maximum of 100 points—up to ten each for setting, food, activities, the mix of people, and service. Up to thirty points for quality and depth of drinks (this is a bars package after all). And finally, up to twenty points for the "X factor"—that ineffable quality that may defy easy description but nevertheless makes the place special. (Clermont Lounge, we're looking at you.)

1. Wrecking Bar Brewpub

In a city that has leveled so much of its history, what Bob and Kristine Sandage have done to renovate the century-old Kriegshaber mansion on Moreland, just south of Little Five Points, is nothing short of heroic.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

2. Kimball House

Occupying an early-twentieth-century train depot, this cocktail bar du jour possesses the area’s most charmingly period dining room, with belt-driven overhead fans and liquor shelves that rise to the lofty ceiling.

3. Brick Store Pub

The Brick Store turned seventeen this year, which makes it the éminence grise of Decatur Square bars, and, like many of the Belgian beers it cellars, the place only gets better with age.

4. The Sound Table

This dapper Edgewood spot is ideal for a hot date, thanks to sultry DJ mixes (lots of funk and soul), dim lighting, and strong house cocktails.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

5. Mary’s

How fun is Mary’s? Walk in the front door and you’re immediately on the dance floor, where the crowd—a mix of ages, genders, and fashion and sexual preferences—is moving to remixed 1990s pop songs.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

6. Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium

Grant Henry is many things—former seminary student, proud father, civic developer, folk artist, muse for Hollis Gillespie—yet somehow all of these roles coalesce magically at his bar.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

7. Ticonderoga Club

While co-owner Greg Best maintains, “We’re not a bar,” one of the principal reasons to visit this whimsical Krog Street Market eatery—besides the celebrated clam roll—is the chance to tipple cocktails.
50 Best Bars: Hotel Clermont

8. Hotel Clermont

The stylish design and priceless view are reason enough for the insane popularity of this cabana-style rooftop scene teeming with millennials.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

9. Northside Tavern

Our fervent hope is that present and future owners of Northside Tavern forever resist the urge to cash in on selling the land on which this institution sits, one of the last true dives in Atlanta and home to some of the best live blues.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

10. Elliott Street Deli & Pub

Opened by brothers Mike and Pete Jakob in 2006, this 600-square-foot bar wasn’t even meant to be a bar: Originally, the siblings purchased the building, behind which the Mercedes-Benz Stadium now looms, to house their construction business.

11. The Porter Beer Bar

Do yourself a favor and play beer roulette with the Porter’s menu of vintage beers, which goes on for page after page. Where will you land?

12. Manuel’s Tavern

Perhaps the only bar in town that earns the label “institution,” Manuel’s is beloved by longtime intowners, cops, reporters, and politicos.

13. Blind Willie’s

The late-night denizens of Virginia-Highland (college kids in oxford shirts, midnight joggers, Audi drivers) would be unfamiliar to this place’s namesake.

14. Leon’s Full Service

Leon’s U-shaped bar encourages conversation. Its cocktail list—which on a recent night included drinks made with mezcal, cachaça, and genever—encourages experimentation.

15. Holeman and Finch Public House

Founding drink-slinger Greg Best has moved on, but the bar that jump-started the city’s cocktail craze—along with the waistcoat-and-tie uniform for barkeeps—is as crazy-busy as ever.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

16. S.O.S Tiki Bar

With its retro graphics, over-the-top fruit garnishes, and its menu-topping pupu platter, S.O.S has fully embraced tiki kitsch, but it’s still a serious cocktail destination.

17. Stem Wine Bar

Refined small plates; a thoughtful, mostly Old World wine list; and attractive bartenders behind a sleek marble bar make for Atlanta’s best wine perch, satisfying the casual drinkers ordering California Chardonnay and the adventurous souls looking for surprises.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

18. Trader Vic’s

This bar beneath the Hilton Hotel isn’t just an Atlanta gem—as one of only two remaining Trader Vic’s locations in the country, it’s a national treasure, too, especially among tiki purists.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

19. Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall

Nestled against the busy BeltLine Eastside Trail, this sprawling restaurant and hangout spot effectively occupies Atlanta’s hipster epicenter.

20. Argosy

The fellas who brought us Bookhouse Pub and underground dance dive MJQ get a bit more upscale without losing their grit in this warm, vintage-inspired space.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

21. Little Trouble

Another winner from the folks at Victory Brands, this restaurant/bar/lounge is a neon-lit oasis at the end of a concrete hallway in the White Provision complex.

22. Mac McGee

On most nights with no soccer games, this cozy pub on the Decatur Square is the perfect place for drinks and quiet conversation.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

23. Victory Sandwich Bar

Victory burst onto the scene in 2011 as a scrappy little sandwich spot with excellent sliders, an instant-hit ping-pong table, and a wicked sense of humor. Then there was the slushie machine; it didn’t take long before Ian Jones and Caleb Wheelus’ boozy frozen whiskey and Coke exploded in popularity, becoming an iconic Atlanta drink.

24. Ormsby’s

Remember when people went to bars to have drinks and talk? Neither do we. And so there is Ormsby’s, a playground for quasi-grownups.

25. Blake’s

Atlanta’s quintessential gay bar is as much a club as it is a bar.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

26. Himitsu

Himitsu deftly recreates the experience of visiting an exclusive Tokyo bar, with its attention to detail and presentation.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

27. Bookhouse Pub

Come for the chill vibe and creative cocktails; stay for the covert Twin Peaks references and serious bar food (think bone marrow).
50 Best Bars: Bon Ton

28. Bon Ton

This is a bar with an energetic vibe that carries on into the wee hours—to that end, should you need a late-night pick-me-up, their frozen Vietnamese Irish coffee made with condensed milk will do the trick.
50 Best Bars: Bar Margot

29. Bar Margot

Bar Margot, an exquisite cocktail lounge inside the Four Seasons, feels just as timeless as the forebearers to whom it pays homage. But beyond the tufted leather chairs and top-shelf booze, you’ll find warm, approachable service, a sleekly modern atmosphere, and a little dash of whimsy here and there.

30. Johnnie MacCracken’s Celtic Pub

This remedy to OTP strip mall bars may seem cramped, but the labyrinthine layout hides pockets of couches and tables perfect for intimate sampling of Johnnie’s sixty draft beers and 250 bottled brews.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

31. 57th Fighter Group

Founded in 1981 and modeled after a bombed-out European farmhouse, DeKalb-Peachtree Airport’s signature restaurant houses one of the most underrated patios in the city, with fire pits and a runway view.

32. Midway Pub

This former auto shop boasts the biggest patio in East Atlanta Village, but if you’re planning to view a big match, arrive early.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

33. Clermont Lounge

Complain all you want about the hipster hordes; the Lounge—with its duct-taped bar, empowered strippers, and $2.75 PBRs—endures as a stubborn piece of authenticity in a world gone plastic.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

34. Euclid Avenue Yacht Club

It’s not a real yacht club—it’s an ironic yacht club.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

35. Atkins Park

By day, Atlanta’s oldest tavern is a low-key lunch spot. After dark, the center of gravity shifts to its narrow, tin-ceilinged barroom, where sizable beer-quaffing crowds are lively, bordering on raucous.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

36. Highland Tap

In a dimly lit cellar below the bustle of Virginia-Highland, old-hat bartenders have been pouring stiff drinks since 1989.

37. Pinewood Tippling Room

This hip, minimalist Decatur drinks haven may be the only place around that offers a flight of hard-to-find (and pricey) Pappy Van Winkle bourbons, as well as barrel-aged cocktails made in-house.
Best of Atlanta 2018: Watchman's

38. Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits

From the brilliant minds that earned Decatur’s Kimball House a James Beard nomination for its bar program, this airy spot in a corner of Krog Street Market evokes a more youthful but no less impressive vibe.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

39. Cafe 290

Surprise! The best place to hear jazz in metro Atlanta is the ground floor of a two-story office complex in Sandy Springs.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

40. Cafe Circa

Let CC’s Rooftop, Cafe Circa’s bar with a view, elevate you above the Edgewood Avenue bar scene both physically and literally—up here you’ll find a smoother, laid-back vibe thanks to lounge seating (and, soon, cabanas); a bar and menu that evoke Caribbean flavors without feeling like a theme park; and a DJ spinning R&B, old-school hip-hop, and sultry jazz.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

41. Empire State South

With ladders lining the back-bar and a handsome, library-like aesthetic, this stunning restaurant and bar feels a world apart from the corporate Midtown office building where it’s housed.

42. Polaris

This spaceship-shaped cocktail lounge isn’t Downtown’s only revolving rooftop hotel bar, just the most bad-ass.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

43. Paper Crane Lounge

This charming little lounge tucked in an alcove above the highly celebrated restaurant Staplehouse feels more like a Brooklyn living room than a bar in the classic sense.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

44. Southern Comfort Restaurant and Lounge

This truckstop honky-tonk is the genuine article: It’s rowdy, cheap, and lovingly worn in, like a ragged old pair of acid-wash Levi’s.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

45. Johnny’s Hideaway

More than thirty-five years ago, Johnny Esposito opened a bar where the Rat Pack would feel welcome.
50 Best Bars: Painted Pin

46. The Painted Pin

Buckhead got a lot more fun when the Painted Pin arrived in 2014, bringing with it 20 bowling lanes and traditional pub games.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

47. Ink

Is it ridiculous to sit in a small, dark room and recite your whims to a bartender so that he can make you a custom, $16 cocktail? Of course it is, but it is also fabulous.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

48. The Earl

Its many regulars will be appalled to know we almost left the Earl, one of the best music venues in town, off our list.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

49. Joystick Gamebar

Arcade-themed bars may have surged in popularity in recent years—but when Joystick opened its doors, and its Mrs. Pac-Man machine, to Edgewood Avenue in 2012, it was a revelation. Joystick is still going strong as a self-identified “nerdy dive bar.”
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

50. The Bar at the Colonnade

Whippersnappers may scoff at a joint that closes at 9 on weeknights and 10 on weekends, but the clientele of this restaurant, founded in 1927, could hold their own with any millennial.
This list first appeared in our August 2014 issue. We updated in February 2017.

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