ATL - variety playhouse and more ?'s
We'll be taking in a show at Variety on the 11th, and staying at a Marriott that's just over two miles away (thinking the Marriott Downtown - 160 Spring Street NW).
That evening, what are options for upper mid scale dining. We don't want overly formal or expensive, but certainly would be willing to spend money where it's worthwhile. We're open to just about any type of fare, but would like something that is an Atlanta standout. It doesn't need to be in btwn the hotel and venue, but close enough to one or the other to make a cab fare reasonable.
Also, for the next day, we'll be bumming around with my brother in law and his wife. They live in Smyrna, and we'll spend the day with them coming into the city, taking some of it in (very open at this point on activities, etc). And by the end of the day we'll end up back in Smyrna. They won't be able to pick up larger tabs of any kind, so I'd be interested in some low cost but good lunch food especially. Isn't there a hot dog place by Ga Tech that's semi-famous? That or anything along those lines (especially good southern) would be perfect.
All - first of all, thanks for so many great suggestions and so much information. Truly a nice board (for what turned out to be a nice city). Secondly, I apologize for posting back so late - the end of our trip meant moving a LOT of inherited antique furniture around Highlands, NC and then back to Northern VA and returning to work amidst the calamity.
As I intoned, outside of the traffic, Atlanta showed a great side to us. I think I mentioned my wife had gone to Emory for 1 or 2 years, but that was almost 15 years ago now. She was remarking on the growth (where doesn't one?)
Anyway, we carefully reviewed the options and ended up just driving by Varsity so I could see it (okay - cross that off my list). We also ended up being more pressed for time than we thought we'd be - as mom in law had set in motion a baby shower for which we had to get back to Highlands on Saturday.
So, for all the choices for Friday night, I gave my wife (who is just shy of receiving her certified Hound-hood) the choice. The two finalists were Float Away Cafe and El Myr. There are a few "family of restaurants and markets" in the DC area and we really like the handful that exist - and each of them also provides for a scale - from upscale to relaxed. This is what enticed us to Float Away Cafe - but we thought that we'd instead get some things from Star Provisions and instead take in El Myr.
One of the hard things of this board is that it's hard to solidly rec for others at times, since you don't know backgrounds and personalities too well. For us, taking more time in Little Five Points, and eating there, being relaxed, checking out stores and the neighborhood is more our speed (than cabbing or driving around). As far as the "roughness", we move along at holes-in-the-wall pretty well. We expected actually more of a hole in the wall than El Myr turned out to be. Also, mentions here of things such as the Green Burrito, and a couple of other looks online (AOL, etc) helped out the decision.
So, the review:
We started with a app combo (salsa and guac), and I had a super nice 420 on tap. The chips were only okay, but the salsa and guac both were very good. I forget now, but we each had our faves btwn the two.
Ordering our main portion was very tough! I wanted almost everything. I ended up going with the chicken burrito with jalapenos and green chili. There was something heavenly in either the black beans or the green chili - I was thinking it might be some toasted cumin seed and ???
I got the burrito with a side of the hot salsa - which I loved and heavily preferred over the regular. The burrito was tasty and moist enough on its own not to need any salsa put on top, so I just enjoyed it with chips.
My wife got the chicken soft taco. I had told her that the reports said the size was not small and you weren't kidding. We also got a salad to split which ended up being WAY too much food for us (oh well - it's a night out in a new town - splurge). I mention the salad though as the dressing (ranch) seemed to be house made and was excellent.
As far as the venue - very nice - very very similar to the Blue Note in Columbia, MO, where I was house photographer for a few years just after college. We found seats easily upstairs with a great view and good sound.
The next day we went on a tour of Emory and Decatur (where my wife spent her non school time when at Emory). We ended up doing some shopping there at the boutiques on Ponce de Leon partly due to talking with someone at El Myr about the bag /purse she had.
All of this, plus a slow morning, plus calling to find that brother in law and his wife were just waking led us to be very hungry while there and not wanting to wait to Smyrna. We ended up seemingly with choices of Taco Mac, chains, or Viet Chateau, which is of course where we went. We had pho and summer rolls. Both very good - nothing outstanding nor sub par.
At this point we felt a bit rushed and needed to pick them up and head back to Highlands. Wish we had more time, but we'll be back - probably in a year.
One other note, in Little 5 Points I saw a Zesto. I brought up the history of it and found it started in Indiana, but I never knew it was beyond the midwest. My first ever job was at Zesto and I have fond memories of that and also being a kid going there. I always thought it started in Jeff City, MO, but I stand corrected. Either way, we were still too stuffed from dinner to even think about trying it.
Thanks again all - I've already mentioned in person to DC hounds the nice responses I got from the Atlanta crew.
Definitely count on brunch at South City Kitchen in Smyrna - great modern Southern food (and good bloody marys!). For dinner, I wholeheartedly agree with Fritti - great funky upscale pizzaria/trattoria on N. Highland Avenue with a hip crowd. Equally fun is Noche in the Highlands area for tapas and sangria/margaritas. And the Varsity is great greasy hangover food, washed down with a "Frosted Orange". Have a blast!
All good suggestions but Ted nailed it IMO. Obviously a local who is familiar with Son Volt's music and hits the best bars/venues/restaurants in the area. My (complete obnoxious) post would be almost exactly like Ted's, but longer. All Ted's places are close and reasonable.
BTW, it can be difficult to get a cab in L5P (little 5 points) on occasion in terms of the ride home.
Also, if you are into burgers and fairly rock-n-roll, I would also consider the coronary bypass burger at Vortex, also located in L5P. El Myr and Yacht Club are also "rock-n-rolll" so do it up... Son Volt. You could walk to all 3 of these from Variety (venue) so check 'em out and pick your favorite. Cheers
I am a FAB fan like Laurendlewis. Sit at the bar. Some complain of service occasionally, b/c they are new and are learning to deal with the numbers. I love it though. A Saturday lunch for 10 bucks near the hotel is a knock-out if you are into it... very elegant classic room here
Specific pre-"game" drinks:
Mojitos- Pura Vida (great tapas for dinner too if interested- get reservations)
Tequila/Margaritas - El Myr (a "tattoo" place with good fish tacos)
Beer- Yacht Club or Vortex probably: (disclaimer: I am more liquor/wine than beer)
Also, if it is sold out, you may want to go early enough to get a seat at the Variety if you are a "sitter."
re: Rowdy Food
Again, wow. Thanks so much. We are sitters now, as wifey is pregnant. I appreciate the drink recs tho as I'll be having a couple at least.
Do we want to get there early during opening act, or in btwn sets suffices (how much seating is there at Variety?).
As far as food, I'm almost overwhelmed for that night. The front runner was Star Provisions, but now I'm more open. We're not into FAB - we have a good place near us and we don't want that this trip. Vortex seems out due to being a burger place. El Myr is up there it seems, but I don't seem to know enough about Wisteria, Pura Vida, Sotto Sotto/Fritti, or Apres Diem.
Also, what's little 5 points - is that where the club is or where the resto's are (or both)? Def. would like a cab, but we can plan in a ride if needed.
re: Dennis S
If Son Volt doesn't sell out, you should be ok arriving between sets.You can always pull the "I'm pregnant" card for a seat.
El Myr is a hole in the wall. If you are wearing a t-shirt, want loud music, desire tequila, and need ultimate proximity to Variety, this is your place. Many local ATL guys/gals in bands hang out here. May be scary for some... probably not great if pregnant.
If you and the wife want nice tapas and great mojitos, Pura Vida is really great... but get reservations. Place is festively elegant but casual even considering it is fairly expensive. Note: relatively small plates and somewhat small portions... but chef is quite talented.
Sotto Sotto is fancy and arguably one of the very best restaurants in ATL, IMO. Most upscale of those listed in your last post but still not the super fancy elegant Bacchanelia, etc.
Fritti is the pizza place next door to Sotto Sotto. It can be trendy casual. I don't like the pizzas but some people do. Pizza is "gourmet" mostly. Good place but low on my list.
Wisteria is southern fare, pretty fancy version too. If you are not from the south you may want to check it out. I don't love it, but I am from the south. Food is still very good at Wisteria.
Arpes Diem is located in a true strip mall beside a theater, unfortunately not uncommon for ATL. This is low on my list and not located very close to Variety. Eclipse di Sol, next to Pura Vida, would be a better bet as it is closer to Variety and similar in some ways o Eclipse di Sol.
Little 5 Points is the area or neighborhood where Variety is located. It feels a little like a very small Berkeley, CA. Pura Vida and Eclipse di Sol are in Poncey Highlands. Wisteria, Sotto Sotto, and Fritti are in Inman Park. Apres Diem is in midtown. All are fairly close though.
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Put ‘em in memory dial now
1. Get reservations for dinner wherever you go (unless El Myr)
2. Drinks at L5P bars after dinner/before gig, if time,... or after show
3. Pura Vida for tapas and mojitos is guaranteed good yet not too fancy. If you are a "big" eater, maybe not the best. Otherwise this may be your best bet
4. Sotto Sotto if you want great (mostly Northern) Italian and a romantic night. Keep in mind some of tables along the far wall are too close together. Fantastic restaurant.
5. Wisteria if you want some fancy southern fare.
6. El Myr is you were ever in a punk band
7. Floataway Cafe is great too
8. Star Provisions is a nice high-end expensive gourmet store. It is attached to 2 superstar nice and expensive restaurants. At Star, you can buy a sandwich at the counter and a bottle of wine... and sit out front. It is viewed more as a gourmet take-away counter located within a gourmet shop. Great, great place but doesn't seem ideal prior to Son Volt at Variety.
It is just different tastes for different taste buds.
re: Rowdy Food
Excellent extra elaboration. And good alliteration on my part ;-).
I'm not as down on El Myr, obviously. It is a dive but I think the food is pretty good and cheap. Buddy of mine, who I don't consider a foodie at all, used to love it right after it opened. I hated it- either it changed or my opinion did. I'd rank it somewhere a little below Taqueria del Sol (mostly for griminess), but a little above Willy's just because I've had good food there.
Usually when I go to Variety, I'm dealing with parking, meeting folks, etc, and grabbing a bite/drink right next door has its advantages. Definitely different if you're cabbing it the whole way.
The best times I've had at Apres Diem were with a group of folks when we grabbed/reserved some of the couches and had drinks and apps. And it is generally on the way from your hotel. I don't think I've been to Eclipse di Sol- I think I am still longing for the space as Cafe Diem way back in the mists of the past.
But I am a huge fan of Eclipse di Luna, so I can't totally knock their other location.
I concur with Ted's suggestions, particularly Fritti. So much so, in fact, that I am going there with some friends before a show in June. It is close by, has interesting pizzas and is reasonable. My wife really likes the Crudo e Rucola (proscuitto and arugula). I tend to try something new everytime and don't recall being disapointed. Here's a link to their menu: http://www.frittirestaurant.com/fritti/dinner.html
The hot dog place you must be thinking of is The Varsity. It is worth going to just for the experience. The food is just ok, but the place is a lot of fun. It claims to be the world's largest drive-in, which is very possible. The counter people can be a bit brusque but that's part of the deal. Be prepared to have cashier's shout "What'll ya have?" and "Have your order in mind and your money in your hand." If you go, order the FO, which is a frozen orange drink.
As for a reasonable place near Smyrna, I like Meehan's Public House in Vinings. It is an Irish pub, although they have good burgers and a good menu. Try to sit outside if it is a nice day. Here's a link to their website: http://www.meehansalehouse.com/Main.aspx
Hope you have a good trip. Please let us know how it goes.
Looks like you're going to see Son Volt. Good stuff.
Since I don't get down that way all that often, I like to hit places in Little 5 Points. El Myr is a dive, but I like their burritos, quesadillas, etc. It's good to get there early, grab a bite, and hopefully not feel in a rush to get next door. Euclid Ave Yacht Club's right up the street also.
For more upscale, you could do Wisteria, Pura Vida, Sotto Sotto/Fritti, or Apres Diem. That's in addition to laurendlewis' suggestions. They're all on the way to Variety. I'd feel a bit weird hitting Bacchanalia before Variety. The cab rides would be long, in almost opposite directions, and you'd want to change (to dress down) in between.
Be sure to take advantage of the good beer on tap at Variety- they serve locals like Terrapin and Sweetwater, often with whatever special release beer that's currently out.
You could get your Bacchanalia-ish fix and have lunch at Star Provisions. My wife and a good friend also swear by Carver's Country Kitchen, though I haven't been yet.
I have FAB (French American Brasserie) on the mind b/c I just went last week - delicious French food, entrees are generally in the 20s.
I also like Toast, Mitra, Rathbuns, Trois, One Midtown Kitchen, Two Urban Licks....
That "famous hot dog place" is The Varsity - it is hot dogs, hamburgers, shakes, chili dogs, etc - I think it is disgusting personally, but some feel it's necessary to visit. If you decide to go, bring Tums and ... prepare to stop on the way to Smyrna. :)
This is NOT a "low-tab" restaurant, but Tomo is a sushi place in Vinings (on the other side of 285 from Smyrna) that is unbelievable. Not too familiar with the area.