Best Bars in Atlanta

Atlanta's Best Bars for Craft Drinks and a Unique Vibe

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
Photo courtesy of 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.

Recommended for Bars because: Sweeping views of Atlanta's downtown make this a must-see for any guest of the city. The space is intimate, and charming.

Malika's expert tip: The view at SkyLounge is one of the best in the city, so be sure to visit on a clear evening. It sits above The Glenn hotel, which is a unique boutique accommodation and warrants a stay even if you're a local.

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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.

Recommended for Bars because: Crafty cocktails and unique small bites make this a culinary delight. Try fois gras, bone marrow or liver pate with your libation.

Malika's expert tip: Holeman and Finch flies under the radar, with no bold signage out front. Come early to ensure a private table; most seating is around large communal tables. Skip the valet and parking is free.

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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.

Recommended for Bars because: Manuel's is an Atlanta institution. It's a casual neighborhood bar that has served multiple generations.

Malika's expert tip: Don't expect fancy cocktails or a suave ambiance. Manuel's is casual and laid back, with typical pub fare. But it's classic Atlanta. Even President Obama amde a stop here.

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East Atlanta

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.

Recommended for Bars because: The Earl is an old-school bar with solid drink offerings, superior burgers and live music.

Malika's expert tip: Don't visit without ordering the burger and staying for a live concert in the back room.

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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.

Recommended for Bars because: Church is all about the atmosphere. Religious-based folk art adorns the walls, and walks the fine line between adoration and blasphemy.

Kelly's expert tip: Visit Monday's for ping pong, Tuesdays for tarot readings and Wednesday for church-organ karaoke. Order the sangria, and be sure to eat the macerated fruit for an extra kick.

Read more about Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium →

Little Five Points

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.

Recommended for Bars because: Wrecking Bar is a gastropub that brews its own beers, and serves them in the basement of an historic mansion.

Malika's expert tip: Explore the history of this unique building during the Saturday tours. Order an 8 oz "shorty" of several draft selections to make your own flight.

Read more about Wrecking Bar →

Photo courtesy of Lauren Rubenstein

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.

Recommended for Bars because: Superior cocktails with choice ingredients and unique distillers set Polaris apart from other bars. The high-end ambience encourages you to settle in for the long-haul.

Kelly's expert tip: Parking is free if you get your parking ticket validated. While you're rotating, be on the lookout for the beehives atop Hyatt Regency. Several cocktails include the sweet honey from these hives.

Read more about Polaris →

Brick Store Pub
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Morgan

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.

Recommended for Bars because: More beers than you can try in a year and a special Belgian Beer Bar upstairs make this a mainstay.

Malika's expert tip: Enjoy your brew outside, and take in the hustle and bustle of Decatur. Parking can be a challenge, but Brick Store is only minutes from MARTA, making it the ideal alternative.

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Photo courtesy of Eleanor's

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.

Recommended for Bars because: Eleanor's is tucked away from those who don't know its secret location. Its intimate space reinforces the speakeasy vibe. Cocktails are unique and delicious.

Malika's expert tip: Visit early in the evening to avoid the crowds; seating is limited. You won't notice that the sun is still out. There are no windows in this hidden bar. Drinks are among the best in the city, but the prices are high.

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Little Five Points
The Porter Beer Bar
Photo courtesy of 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.

Recommended for Bars because: 430 beer selections, plus cocktail, wine and liquor options keep locals returning. The food surpasses pub fare, with beer pairing suggestions for every menu item.

Malika's expert tip: The Porter does not take reservations, so expect to wait. Pass the time with a drink from the bar, which you can sip outside for excellent people-watching. With over 430 beer options, you'll need the extra time to select your second drink, anyway.

Read more about The Porter Beer Bar →


Meet 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...  More About Lesli