In 1904, the City of Atlanta paid $99,000 for 185 acres of rolling turf that would become Piedmont Park—on condition that the city limits (and its tax base) would stretch northward from its existing boundary of Sixth Street up to 15th. Now more than 200 acres, Piedmont Park is Midtown’s crown jewel and has been the site for annual Atlanta rituals including the Dogwood Festival, Music Midtown, and Atlanta Pride.
The centrifugal force of the urban neighborhood was further cemented with the opening of the Parisian-inspired, 10-story, $500,000 Georgian Terrace Hotel in 1911 and the Fox Theatre across the street on Christmas Day 1929. Nearly a century later, with construction cranes forever dangling overhead, Midtown remains a work in progress.
Georgia State Representative Park Cannon, whose District 58 slices through the community, says it’s a place “where people of economic opposites and vast social differences are neighbors.” She adds, “One of our goals is to help our community acknowledge that we all stand on different steps of the equity ladder. Editing our expectations and actions is necessary in this Southern melting pot.”
What’s to love?
The Fox Theatre
Nearly torn down in the 1970s, this Islamic- and Spanish-inspired, 4,665-seat theater (originally built as a home for Atlanta’s Shriners) hosts more than 150 performances a year. The Fox even has a recurring guest-star role as a mosque in Disney+’s Ms. Marvel series.
Rock, hip-hop, and jazz fans gather annually in Piedmont Park for events such as the Atlanta Jazz Festival, held each Memorial Day weekend. There’s more music next door in Old Fourth Ward, where the Shaky Knees Music Festival (featuring the Killers, Muse, and the Lumineers this May 5–7) and One Musicfest are held in Central Park. Even without a ticket, Midtown residents can sit on their balconies and hear icons in both locations sing for free.
Big Boss Chinese
Chef Guy Wong’s elevated take on fast-casual Chinese American food became an immediate go-to when it opened during the pandemic in the 10th Street space formerly occupied by his mom’s beloved Chinese Buddha. Georgia Tech students and neighbors alike flock to Big Boss for modestly priced old-school favorites like General Tso’s chicken, crab Rangoon, egg drop soup, and bubble teas. And whether you grab it to-go or dine-in, White Rabbit or Hi-Chew candies are included with your order.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary in the neighborhood last year, Paul M. Juliano’s wing emporium at 129 North Avenue has become a Midtown institution, even scoring its own cameo in the first season of Donald Glover’s FX series Atlanta. The restaurant recently added a touch-screen kiosk for easier DIY ordering. And don’t bury your face too deeply into your phone—regulars like rapper T.I. and his family might be waiting next to you.
Edgar’s Proof & Provision
Tucked in the basement of the Georgian Terrace, this speakeasy has become a favorite hideaway for locals looking to escape throngs of tourists heading to the Fox. Edgar’s specializes in bourbon but has a highly skilled mixology staff who can create a handcrafted cocktail to match your preferred spirits. From 1974 to 1979, this basement space was Alex Cooley’s famed Electric Ballroom, a 125-seat rock club where acts like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and the Pretenders cut their musical teeth.
This article appears in our February 2023 issue.