Atlanta's Best Bars for Craft Drinks and a Unique Vibe
By Lesli Peterson
Atlanta Local Expert
A grade-A bar requires the perfect mix of taste and ambiance. The Porter Beer Bar offers both, with more than 400 bottles and 30 beers on tap, beer cocktails, and so many other tasty options that the girth of the menu rivals Lord of the Rings. The Porter begs a visit with a group of friends, while Eleanor’s intimacy begets a better date night. The cocktails are the best in the city, and this offbeat hideaway might have ranked number one if not for the exorbitant prices.
Brick Store Pub, like The Porter, serves hard to find craft beers. The atmosphere is more college-town than bohemian, and they resonate well as the ubiquitous neighborhood pub. While still casual, Polaris introduces an elegant air with their open floor plan, “living room” feel and unique cocktails. Homage is paid to the Polaris of the 70s, but the new Polaris far surpasses her predecessor.
The Wrecking Bar promises savory drinks in an historic setting. Sister Louisa’s doesn’t offer the gourmet options of Wrecking Bar, but the art work and corner ping pong table will win you over, if not offend you. The Earl's been around a while, but it remains a staple of East Atlanta Village. Manuel’s is another neighborhood landmark, which has even seen the likes of President Obama. Holeman and Finch is a concrete choice for young professionals and business travelers, and SkyLounge at the Glenn showcases the best view of the city that Atlanta has to offer.
SkyLounge at the Glenn
SkyLounge was awarded mention as one of the best rooftop lounges in the world, primarily for its location atop the historic boutique Glenn Hotel. This Luckie Street location offers expansive views of downtown lights and energy. The open-air luxury rooftop bar is refreshing and cozy. A covered awning ensures enjoyment in all weather; glass panels enclose the space in winter so visitors may still enjoy the panoramic view. After a dinner of shrimp and grits or North Georgia trout at Glenn's Kitchen, savor SkyLounge's signature cocktail high above the city. The Glenntini's infused vodka is presented in a cold martini glass with a garnish of cucumber. (404-521-2250, 66-404-5366)
Holeman and Finch
Holeman and Finch Public House sits tucked into the bottom of the Aramore Condo building in South Buckhead. Made famous for their legendary burger, once available only to 24 lucky souls after 10pm and on Sundays, lucky Atlantans can now savor the sizzle at any time. The intimate industrial space finds young professionals at the bar after work, and foodies in the dining room. Communal tables don't offer much in the way of privacy, but they open opportunity to share your delight over the cuisine. The Bone Marrow St John is decadent, and pairs well with a pottage of shrimp, with grits and bacon. Cocktails are delightful, fun and infinitely southern, with names such as Bless Your Heart, Down Yonder and Hold Your Horses. (404-948-1175)
Between Virginia-Highlands and Little Five Points, cozy Manuel's stands as the stately grandfather of Atlanta's nightlife scene. Once referred to as "Atlanta's quintessential neighborhood bar," the tavern dates back to the mid-50s, when Manuel Maloof served sandwiches and suds to the neighborhood crowd. Today, the joint serves as city archives of sorts, with its Coca-Cola mural, classic Braves pennants, and old beer cans. Sunday nights feature Manuel's popular trivia contests, which tend to get competitive, and the Laughing Matters comedy troupe leaves patrons in stitches the first Saturday of each month. Manuel's has most recently been visited by President Obama and by rumors of closing. The city's hallmark tavern will not be shutting their doors, but will take a short hiatus in January 2016 for structural upgrades. (404-525-3447)
Located in East Atlanta Village, The Earl is one of the older establishments in the neighborhood, but still one of the most popular. The alcohol selection is typical of most pubs; there are no specialty cocktails or craft beers, but there is a full bar. Folks come here for the vibe --it's an Atlanta institution. Be sure to try a burger with your brew, they are a favorite of the locals. You'll dine or drink in the front room while live music bellows from the back, making conversation easy. Expect local bands for the most part. Tickets run about $10-12. Parking is free. (404-522-3950)
Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium
Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium doesn't serve craft beer and high-end cocktails. In fact, most folks are guzzling a PBR or sipping on a Spiritual Sangria, the bar's signature drink. Church, as it is referred to by locals, makes a debut on the top 10 list because of its unique campy quality. The space packs in tacky, sometimes offensive, religious art and tchotchkes and attracts a young, trendy crowd. The space looks small until you head upstairs. A large open room, with corner windows shines light from Edgewood, near Old Fourth Ward, on sofas, a Ping-Pong table, and ample space to chill. The bar has also been known to draw various celebrities when they film in the city--Ben Stiller has reportedly come on multiple occasions. ((404) 522-8275)
Before its transformation to a public house, the historical building was a Victorian home, a Methodist Church and even a dance school. Exposed stone walls and old English furnishings create a posh and rustic feel in the basement bar. Wrecking Bar beer is brewed on a 7 barrel (BBL) system in the warehouse at the rear of the property. From the serving tanks, beer travels to draft beer towers at the bar in the brewpub. Select from up to 15 taps and 2 casks at any one time, although for special events, there are often close to 30 beers pouring simultaneously. Scrumptious eats make Wrecking Bar much more than a brewpub. Local farmers and artisans contribute heavily to culinary offerings like the kielbasa and farm egg skillet or the smoked trout sandwich served with their award-winning fries. ((404) 221-2600)
This blue-domed rotating restaurant and bar sits perched atop the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, with stunning views of the city. The first rooftop restaurant in the city, it originally opened in 1967, and then closed for a decade in the early 2000s. Recently reopened in summer 2014, the space now boasts a contemporary, high-end feel, with a museum-like throwback to the past. Specialty cocktails introduce guests to classic, seasonal concoctions with a modern twist. Unique ingredients include honey from Hyatt Regency's rooftop bees and craft spirits from small batch distilleries. From the open, residential-style kitchen emerge shareable small plates inspired by local, seasonal ingredients. The rooftop garden also grows tomatoes, beans, peppers, herbs, flowers and other produce, all of which is served in Polaris. Dinner at Polaris is unforgettable, but not necessary. Having a cocktail at Polaris just might be the perfect end to a romantic date night. (404.460.6425)
Brick Store Pub
Dreams became reality for three friends from Athens, Ga. when they opened The Brick Store, which stands as the hub for the locals of Decatur. Exposed brick walls and dark wood paneling present an old-style pub atmosphere that is far from traditional. No TVs, no neon, no lame music and no major domestics. They rotate a carefully selected array of 12 draught and 75 bottled beers. Upstairs you'll find the Belgian Beer Bar, featuring 8 rotating draughts and over 120 Belgian/Belgian-style bottled beers. Don't miss the delicious eats; select small plates include the Bavarian pretzel with spicy mustard and the cured meat and cheese plate. (404-687-0990)
Muss & Turner's looks like any other upscale neighborhood eatery, but there's a secret. Give a nod to the hostess, but keep walking past the open prep area, around the corner to the left and through the freezer door. Yes, open the freezer, where a new world opens up. It's Muss & Turner's hidden bar called Eleanor's. The room is dark, with a few cozy booth seats, and some bar seating as well. The staff behind the oak counter sport lamb chops, tattoos and dreads, and they can whisk you to another land with their fabulous concoctions. The Dickle, cassis, and lemongrass mix are amazing. Too much for you? They do the classics, too. The drinks are a tad pricey, but the cost is worth the ambiance. Enjoy drinks and awesome tunes, or order from the full Muss & Turner menu. (770-434-1114)
The Porter Beer Bar
The Porter is Atlanta's beloved brew house, situated in the heart of the Little Five Points neighborhood. 400 unique and hard-to-find beers, plus 30 on tap offerings provide plenty of reasons to schedule a visit. Don't bother calling ahead, though; reservations are not accepted. The Porter draws an eclectic crowd, from ale-loving attorneys to craft-critical bohemians. The mass of people crowding the bar and dripping into the street give this pub a friendly, party-like buzz. Be sure to sample the eats. For a savory snack try the pretzel, and for your sweet tooth, bite into the chocolate brownie with beer ice cream, butterscotch and malt crunch. (404-223-0393)
About Lesli Peterson
Lesli made her way to Atlanta over 20 years ago, after living in Germany, Japan and six U.S. states. She relishes the discovery of obscure, offbeat and unwonted places, and she will chat up any willing stranger to uncover a new secret locale. After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. She now serves as the Family Travel Ambassador for Georgia, freelances for several publications and manages 365AtlantaFamily, a blog about traveling with kids and not for them. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Read more about Lesli Peterson here.