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.)

75 Best Restaurants in Atlanta: Kimball House

1. Kimball House

Occupying an 1891 train depot, this restaurant—and its James Beard Award–nominated cocktail program—is home to the area’s most charmingly period bar, with belt-driven overhead fans and liquor shelves that rise to the lofty ceiling.

2. Wrecking Bar Brewpub

In a city that has leveled so much of its history, what Bob and Kristine Sandage have done to renovate the circa 1900 Kriegshaber mansion on Moreland, just south of Little Five Points, is nothing short of heroic.
Ticonderoga Club

3. 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 establishment—besides the celebrated clam roll—is the chance to tipple James Beard–nominated cocktails.

4. Brick Store Pub

Brick Store has been around for more than two decades, which makes it the eminence grise of Decatur Square bars. Like many of the beers it cellars, the place only gets better with age.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

5. Mary’s

How fun is Mary’s? It’s an East Atlanta Village gay bar where all are welcome, and the second you walk in the front door, you’re on the dance floor.
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—and all of these roles coalesce magically at his bar.

7. The Sound Table

This impossibly hip and refreshingly diverse Edgewood lounge, from co-owner and DJ Karl Injex, is a worthy destination for its sultry sets and its strong yet playful cocktails.
50 Best Bars: Hotel Clermont

8. Hotel Clermont

There probably will be a line to ride the elevator to the top of Atlanta’s best and newest boutique hotel. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll realize why: The stylish design and priceless view are reason enough.
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 by 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 gem 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.
50 Best Bars: Bon Ton

11. Bon Ton

Eric Simpkins, an alum of New York’s famously pioneering cocktail bar Pegu Club, is an expert bartender who never takes himself or his drinks too seriously.

12. Holeman and Finch Public House

Founding drink-slinger Greg Best has moved on (to Ticonderoga Club), but the bar that jumpstarted the city’s cocktail craze in 2008—along with the waistcoat-and-tie uniform for barkeeps—is as crazy-busy as ever.

13. Manuel’s Tavern

One of the few bars in town that earns the label “institution,” Manuel’s is beloved by longtime intowners, cops, reporters, and politicos.

14. Leon’s Full Service

Leon’s U-shaped bar encourages conversation. Its clever cocktail list encourages experimentation and its extensive beer menu will delight any hops snob.

15. 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. But the spirit of Blind Willie McTell remains alive and well behind these brick walls.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

16. S.O.S Tiki Bar

With its retro graphics and over-the-top fruit garnishes, S.O.S. has fully embraced tiki kitsch, but it’s still a serious cocktail destination; despite its small size, it boasts the largest selection of rum in Georgia.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

17. Clermont Lounge

Complain all you want about the hipster hordes; the Lounge—with its duct-taped bar, unconventional strippers, and $3.50 PBRs—endures as a stubborn piece of authenticity in a world gone plastic.
Trader Vic's 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. 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.

20. Argosy

The owner of Bookhouse Pub and underground dance dive MJQ joined forces with two former employees in 2013 to launch a gastropub that’s a bit more upscale without losing the crew’s signature grit.
Little Trouble

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.
75 Best Restaurants in Atlanta: 8Arm

22. 8Arm

8Arm’s bar is fashioned out of a pink-neon-lit shipping container that opens onto a covered patio adorned with a disco ball. The architecture might be DIY and the vibe chill AF, but the beverage program is serious.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

23. 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

24. Empire State South

With a handsome, library-like aesthetic—complete with a rolling ladder gracing the back bar—Empire State South feels like it’s been around for longer than its nine years.

25. Blake’s on the Park

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

26. Himitsu

This is the rare Atlanta speakeasy that’s not easy to get into—you must plead your case via email to snare a reservation. Is it worth the effort?
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

27. Bookhouse Pub

Come for the chill vibe and creative cocktails at this divey, faux–Pacific Northwestern lodge (by far, the coolest strip-mall destination in all of Atlanta).
Best of Atlanta 2018: Watchman's

28. Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits

From the brilliant minds that earned Decatur’s Kimball House several James Beard nominations for its bar program, this airy restaurant and bar in a corner of Krog Street Market evokes a more youthful but no less impressive vibe.
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.

30. 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.
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 bars (and bar patios) in the city.

32. Stem Wine Bar

Refined small plates, a thoughtful list of 27 wines by the glass (plus a by-the-bottle reserve list), and attractive bartenders behind a sleek marble bar make for one of metro Atlanta’s most reliable wine perches.

33. 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 from Johnnie’s 74 full-time taps and hard-to-get bottled and canned brews
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

34. Euclid Avenue Yacht Club

Marlins and lifesavers hang among skulls and biker photos in an assortment of gritty clutter that looks like it’s been there since the place opened in 1987.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

35. Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall

Nestled against the busy BeltLine Eastside Trail, this sprawling restaurant and hangout spot is a hipster haven.
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.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

37. Cardinal

Cardinal is not your typical bar. Two friends have created a free-spirited space in south Grant Park’s Beacon development—hidden behind their small food market, Third Street Goods.

38. Midway Pub

This former auto shop boasts the biggest patio in East Atlanta Village, but if you’re planning to view a big match on one of the many screens, be sure to arrive early.
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.

40. Polaris

This spaceship-shaped cocktail lounge isn’t downtown’s only revolving rooftop hotel bar—just the most badass.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

41. Golden Eagle

If your ideal night out channels the glamour of the early 1960s (minus the misogyny), might we suggest Golden Eagle?
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

42. 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.

43. 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

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-washed Levi’s.
Johnny's Hideaway 40th anniversary

45. Johnny’s Hideaway

More than 35 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.
Colonnade

47. The Bar at the Colonnade

Whippersnappers may scoff at a joint that closes at 9 p.m. (10 on Fridays), but the clientele of this restaurant, founded in 1927, could hold their own with any millennial.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

48. The Earl

In East Atlanta, the Earl is a stalwart, a survivor, a steady and reliable presence. It also serves awesome shoestring fries. We can’t stay away.
Joystick Gamebar

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. 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.
This list first appeared in our August 2014 issue. We updated in February 2017.

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