What was once a soda factory is now a place to find other forms of effervescence. Venkman’s cavernous, comfy space serves filling fare and killer cocktails, and all with the sparkle of live shows. Unlike most dinner entertainment experiences, however, Venkman’s is foremost a restaurant and bar. Its new-American menu delivers fresh takes on gastropub staples, like pork-cheek tacos with pickled shallots, Georgia trout with local veggies, and mussels with feta and peppers. The house specialty is a must: pimento grit fritters with Alabama white barbecue sauce, a crisp variation on the South’s goto cherry-pepper spread.
Weekend brunch is even more dazzling, serving a more daring menu that features duck-egg hash with sweet potatoes, Bourbon-cured salmon Benedict, breakfast poutine with a hint of maple, and blueberry ricotta donuts with lemon curd. Those seeking the hair of the dog may also delight in the tallboy standard breakfast with cheddar biscuit and a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. But if Pabst won’t cut it, try the bottomless mimosas, rosé on draft, or an assortment of reviving cocktails, like the cachaça-eucalyptus-lime libation or pineapple sour with basil vodka.
Located near the BeltLine, Venkman’s nicely preserves some of the warehouse vibes of the Old Fourth Ward, making use of its square footage with a big outdoor patio. Inside, the long bar is as inviting as the diamond-tufted booths and main-floor seating. All that space is perfect for catching live music, trivia nights, puppet brunch, and other performances that complement the atmosphere rather than dominating it. (Bonus: Most shows are free, with tickets needed mainly for Friday and Saturday nights.) 740 Ralph McGill Blvd. NE. Tel: 470- 225-6162. www.venkmans.com.
Staplehouse is ranked high on the city’s, as well as many of the country’s, best-restaurant lists. While dining here is an inspired culinary event, the restaurant is also the for-profit arm of Giving Kitchen, a non-profit organization that supports restaurant workers when they face personal or financial crises.
Beyond their compassion and community service, the team behind Staplehouse also makes incredible food. The chef’s tasting menu (that changes daily) for a set price of $105, can be expertly paired with wine. There are classic Southern ingredients like collard greens, oysters, buttermilk, and pecans. Then there are more nouveau, foodie-baiting elements like kimchi, farro, king crab, and ramps. Diners don’t know until they’re seated precisely what prepared dishes will come their way or what flavors may delight or astound them. Regardless, eating at Staplehouse is among ATL’s top experiences, and curious travelers with adventurous palates are sure to find it memorable. Located in the Old Fourth Ward, Staplehouse’s industrialminimalist style befits its historic building that reflects a respect for tradition and simplicity. It’s also a modest sized space, so remember to reserve your bar or table seats in advance. Walk-ins are welcome too on the covered patio, or at the upstairs Paper Crane Lounge, where you can enjoy craft drinks and an abbreviated dinner menu. 541 Edgewood Ave., Tel: 404-524-5005. www.staplehouse.com.
Cruise up Cheshire Bridge Road to the Colonnade restaurant, and you may wonder what brought you here. That’s understandable, since the dark façade and neon could suggest a forgotten diner. Not so. Just ask the Atlantans that have enjoyed the Colonnade’s unforgettable comfort food for decades. Since 1927, the place has been a dining classic for locals and a gathering place for queers and the night owls who love them.
Colonnade has mastered the Southern culinary notion of meat-and-three (that is, a choice of meat and three sides). You can fill up on pot roast, short ribs, chicken livers, or salmon croquettes, each with a choice of a dozen different sides, from pole beans, turnip greens and fried okra to whipped potatoes. But people flock to the carpeted dining room for one special dish: Colonnade’s crunchy, juicy fried chicken that made the place an institution.
Of course, LGBT patrons love this place for its food, sweet prices, and friendly service. Throw in a classic bloody Mary or margarita, and you too may swoon for this eatery where all of Atlanta can find common ground over home-style cooking. 1879 Cheshire Bridge Rd. NE. Tel: 404-874-5642. www.colonnadeatlanta.com.
9 MILE STATION
Atlanta has its share of skyscrapers, but elevated dining in the fresh air is what sets apart 9 Mile Station. It’s a crowning feature of Ponce City Market, one of A-town’s urban-renewal marvels whose first 60 years served as a 2,000,000-square-foot Sears, Roebuck & Co. distribution center. It reopened in 2014 as a multipurpose megastructure that preserved original architecture, adding shops, a food hall, and an imaginative roof space complete with the Skyline Park micro carnival, RFD Social bar, and 9 Mile Station.
Taking its name from an old local streetcar stop, the restaurant’s sweeping views are nearly as impressive as its menus. Don’t be deterred by its self-description as a “beer garden,” which drastically understates the drinking and gastronomic experiences here. Naturally, there’s a stellar beer selection with some standout flavors on draft rotation, and a rich wine menu. The cocktail program spans local spirits and imports, plus four kinds of old-fashioneds, and two house shots (one sweet, one bitter) that you’ll be challenged to pair with the perfect brew.
Then, there’s 9 Mile Station’s delectable one-page, oft-revised menu. Entrées can go lighter or heartier, but are perfectly prepared and include homemade pasta, delicate fish and shellfish, seasonal salads, and vegetable-forward sides like parsnip purée and succotash. The signature here, though, are boards that lend to the convivial atmosphere. Among them are the sausage trio with custom condiments and pretzel baguette; the meat and cheese with pickled veggies and quince jam; and the classic crudité-andspreads, with pimento cheese, hummus, and whipped feta. For a beer garden, 9 Mile Station is deliciously lofty. 675 Ponce de Leon Avenue NE. Tel: 770-999-1532. www.9milestation.com