Atlanta, Georgia is not an obvious city. Your store-bought guidebook is useless. Most likely the person behind the desk at your hotel is too. You are going to need a guide. Hi, I’m a 38-year-old native and I want you to love this city as much as I do. But first, a brief history.
There were a bunch of train tracks that came together so a city sprang up, but it was quickly burned to the ground by a guy named Sherman. (Civil War) Things were tough for a while but we slowly got back on our feet. There was a long period of time where we were kind of backwards but then a local man named Martin started a revolution that changed not only our city, but the whole world. (Civil Rights Movement) Not too long after that we got us an airport. A really, really big airport. In 1996 we had a huge party called The Summer Olympics and over the last 15 years, if you liked a song, odds are it was written by someone who lives here.
These days we are a city of six million people who live in the middle of a forest with trees, on trees, on trees. The natives speak slowly and use lots of colourful words. Y’all won’t understand them all. But not everyone is native; in fact, most folks are from somewhere else. They stay for a reason. In the fall we all fight about football (American football that is). We drink sweet tea and have a local beverage called Coca-Cola you may have heard of. It’s been called “Hotlanta” because in the summer it gets hot. Unbelievably hot. I cannot emphasise the word HOT enough. But these days it’s “The ATL”. Or if you don’t have time to say that, you can call it “The A”.
So now that you are a little more informed let me tell you about what we like to do the most. Eat, drink and throw parties. Yes, I know that a party is just a bunch of people eating and drinking but…here are a few places for you to check out.
Where to eat…
The Varsity - The world’s largest fast food restaurant. It is an institution and you should order a chilli slaw dog, onion rings and a chocolate milk.
Buford Highway - This is the international hub of the city and sports a kitchen from just about every country in the world. A few highlights include Ming’s BBQ (Chinese), Nam Phuong (Vietnamese), El Rey Del Taco (Mexican and open late), The Atlanta Chinatown Mall Food Court (I don’t mean to sound ignorant but I don’t know what these restaurants are. I just know they are all good).
Canoe - Simply put, the best food in the city. Upscale dining alongside the Chattahoochee River. Order the rabbit.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room - Southern food done right. Pick a meat and three vegetables. That’s how we do.
The Waffle House - It’s late at night, or early in the morning. You are hungry. This is your saviour. The menu is extensive but you only need three words, “Scattered, smothered, covered.”
Where to drink…
El Myr - Bikers, skateboarders and rock n’ rollers. Order ‘the Griz’. Food ain’t too shabby either.
The Family Dog - Laid-back tavern in one of Atlanta’s finest neighbourhoods. This is the type of place people meet after work and tell stories about their day. Live music on the weekend.
Trader Vic’s - A tiki bar located underneath the downtown Hilton. Warning! You are going to get drunk. On Thursdays they have a band that is so good you it may be the only thing you remember from the night.
The Clermont Lounge - Enough has been written about this place lately, so I’m not going to explain much about it. Google it. You are either into this kind of thing or you are not. But trust me, you have not truly been to Atlanta if you have not had a Pabst Blue Ribbon at this bar.
Where to party (We call them festivals)…
Inman Park Fest - In late April this neighbourhood blocks off the streets and has a two-day blow out. The streets are lined with vendors mostly selling art and food, but behind those vendors are the most beautiful houses in the city and most of them are having parties. Go into one of those parties. Smile. Pour yourself a drink. No one will mind.
Shaky Knees Fest - This is becoming one of the best music festivals in the whole USA. It’s in May. You will dance. You will be happy. It was just this past weekend as I write this. My knees are still shaking
Tomorrow World - This is the same party they throw in Belgium each year, known there as Tomorrow Land. DJs, DJs, DJs!!! Coming at the tail end of September. From a weather standpoint, there is no finer time to be in Atlanta. Once again, get ready to dance.
Atlanta Falcons Football – Eight times a year, sometimes more, 70,000 people descend on The Georgia Dome and get all kinds of rowdy while “The Dirty Birds” take on lesser teams such as the Saints and the Panthers. Black, white, rich, poor, young and old are perfectly united for 60 minutes on Sunday mornings. You will need a Red or Black shirt and some Retro Air Jordan 3’s if you really want to do it right.
‘Welcome to Atlanta where the players play.’ Thanks for coming. Y’all have fun.
Image: Stephanie Kruse