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Nov 29, 2011 04:57 PM

Downtown Atlanta Bars (a little divey okay)?


I will be visiting Atlanta for the first time in mid-January, at a conference for four days and three nights, staying downtown. No car, but am willing to walk, taxi or take a short bus trip.

Thanks to Chowhound I've got a handful of local, old school Southern and soul food restaurants to check out.

Now I need to find a real, down to earth, old school Atlanta bar. Any recommendations?

I like quality beer and whisky and a properly executed martini, but I am more interested in ambience than great drink. I am imagining some old Southern place with yellowing Dixie Beer posters circa '62, a Confederate flag that hangs dustily on a wall, good ol' boys wearing Caterpillar hats with no irony. A comfortable place but not fancy, maybe working class, maybe a bit divey, not unwelcoming to Yankees. I don't know if such a place even exists in a modern metropolis like Atlanta any more, or if I've just seen too many movies.

And I apologize in advance if all this sounds condescending and stereotyping. I mean it romantically, not negatively. I in fact love the South and Southerners, and that's why I'm excited to visit Atlanta for the first time.

Thank you!

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  1. Nothing really comes to mind in downtown - it's set up for business dinners and tourists, so not a lot of divey-local spots available. There's a dive called SideBar on Poplar, but it might be full of GSU students and is more of a greasy sportsbar. Gibney's is in the back of Peachtree Center mall and is a happy hour spot for local workers. Manuel's Tavern in Virginia-Highlands might fit the bill better than anything downtown and would be a short taxi ride; it has a lot of heritage in Atlanta.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jboeke

      Thank you. I will look these up. Oh, and thanks for warning me about the sports bar. I should have mentioned that I am most definitely NOT looking for a sports bar.

      1. re: EarlyBird

        Ah, jboeke, Manuel's is a great suggestion. That's pretty old-school Atlanta.

    2. EarlyBird, that gave me a chuckle this morning! I'm pretty sure you're not going to find an old-school southern dive un-ironically near downtown. I doubt you'll find a place unwelcoming to Yankees, either, as most of the population of our city is not from here. If you can take an overnight trip to a little town outside the city (Madison is a good option - 1 hour east), you'll find southern charm like that galore.

      The only places that come to mind, none unfortunately within walking distance, and all with their own various grains of salt:

      Northside Tavern. ( Pretty close to what you're looking for. Taxi drive from downtown. They play music every night, not sure about a cover during the week (it's $10 on the weekends).

      Yacht Club. It's in Little Five Points (NOT to be confused with Five Points), so there's more ironic facial hair and PBRs than good ole boys and Schlitz, but it is a solid, fairly southern dive bar. Another taxi ride, bout 2 miles from downtown.

      Pal's Lounge. Not exactly what you asked for, but a genuine dive bar. It's on Auburn Avenue, underneath the 75-85 overpass. As a 30 year old white yuppie-type woman, I stand out in there. Like a lot. But am always welcomed in with smiles and cold beer. They have karaoke on Friday nights, and it's GOOD - the people singing kill it with soul and R&B. It's a teensy place, with a teensy stage crammed in the front. Bars on the windows. The street outside the bar is quite sketchy, but I love it there. This is probably 1 mile east of downtown.

      I've also heard about a "trucker bar on the southside" that I've never been to. Ah, yelp helped - Southern Comfort. Sounds like exactly what you're looking for. . Not close to downtown but might be worth it for a southern "culture" fix.

      I'm curious to see if anyone else has suggestions. Good luck and hope you enjoy your time here!

      3 Replies
      1. re: abbyloving

        Great leads. I will look into them. Pal's Lounge sounds great, and if I can get enough time to travel to Southern Comfort and I'll have to do so. (Gee, I guess Atlanta has come a long way since Sherman's march!)

        1. re: EarlyBird

          id give The Vortex a shot--heres a review
          Its a pretty wild place,not divey--they have on at midtown too,but i thinks its more toney

          1. re: EarlyBird

            Yacht Club is a good suggestion, but it is more urban hipsters than truckers. Still a fun place. The Earl in East Atlanta Village is similar (but with music in back).

        2. I've never been, but I have several friends that really love going to Trader Vic's. Not sure it really fits your description, but it's downtown and from what I understand pretty fun and lively.

          1. Trader Vic's makes a great Mai Tai, the "original" Mai Tai depending on who you ask, but the scene is upscale Polynesian. The actual bar area is pretty small with most of the space being taken up by the restaurant.

            If you don't mind heading up to the northern suburbs I'm sure Dixie Tavern in Smyrna/Marietta area would fit what you're looking for. Waitresses in cut-off jeans and flannel shirts with local musical talent (this is the place where Zac Brown Band got their start and Zac still drops in quite regularly just to hang out) on stage in the center of all the action. If you're looking for loud and rowdy Southern folks ready to party then this is the place.

            1 Reply
            1. re: itsme_timd

              You had me at "loud and rowdy Southern folks." Thank you. If it's not too far a haul for a person without a car, I may very well check it out.

            2. The original comment has been removed