Sunday, September 30, 2018

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, we're looking at you.)
Atlanta bars

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 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?

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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

11. 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.

12. 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

13. 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

14. 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 in Atlanta

15. The Mercury

The team behind Decatur’s Pinewood have recreated a swanky, mid-century steak-and-cocktail experience in Ponce City Market without resorting to winking irony.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

16. Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall

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

17. 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

18. 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.

19. 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.

20. JCT Kitchen & Bar

JCT’s popular bar isn’t in the restaurant; it’s on the roof, in an airy space that spills out onto a patio boasting cool views of the gritty-chic Westside Urban Market.

21. 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.

22. Blake’s

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

23. Himitsu

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

24. Bookhouse Pub

Come for the chill vibe and creative cocktails; stay for the covert Twin Peaks references and serious bar food (think bone marrow).

25. Barcelona Wine Bar

If you know nothing about Spanish wine, it’s time to learn.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

26. Amer

The name means “bitter” in French, but don’t be intimidated. This cozy Inman Park watering hole wants to make cocktails fun.

27. 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

28. 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.

29. 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

30. 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

31. 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

32. Euclid Avenue Yacht Club

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

33. 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

34. Highland Tap

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

35. 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.

36. Glenn Hotel SkyLounge

Downtown needs more places like Glenn Hotel’s SkyLounge.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

37. 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

38. 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.

39. Proof & Provision

Improbably buried in the Georgian Terrace basement, P&P feels like a cross between a speakeasy without the passwords and a neighborhood bar without the Bud Lite signs.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

40. Foxtrot Liquor Bar

The whiskey-heavy bar menu offers ample evidence that Foxtrot is serious about thoughtful craft cocktails.

41. Polaris

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

42. St. Regis Bar

Of all the Buckhead hotels with ritzy bars, the St. Regis comes closest to having a real bar scene thanks to its well-appointed, clubbish room.

43. Cypress Street Pint & Plate

When owners Billy and Jenn Streck launched Cypress in 2007, they wanted their pub to make people feel at home.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

44. Johnny’s Hideaway

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

45. Five Paces Inn

On weekend nights, this entire Buckhead block turns into a frat party.

46. The Highlander

With decor that veers into biker/metalhead tackiness, the Highlander presents a foreboding face.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

47. 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.

48. Righteous Room

This hole-in-the wall next to the Plaza Theatre has everything you’d want in a dive bar: well-stocked jukebox, cheap beer, and perpetual darkness.
50 Best Bars in Atlanta

49. Taco Mac, Virginia-Highland

Even though the chain boasts more than twenty-five restaurants in the Southeast, this original recipe (circa 1979) is still charmingly intimate—reminiscent of the building’s past life as, yes, a taco stand.
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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