We're already learning where Atlanta chefs like to eat in our Go-To Guide. Now we're also finding out where our favorite bartenders love to drink (and eat) when they're off the clock. Welcome to the Boozin' Go-To Guide. Cheers!
Greg Best at Victory Sandwich Bar. [Photo: John Maley]
If you care at all about finely crafted cocktails and the stories behind each one's alchemy, you'll want to thank Greg Best whenever you take a sip at one of Atlanta's watering holes. When Best and his business partners (Gina and Linton Hopkins, Andy Minchow, and Regan Smith) opened Holeman and Finch in 2008, they forever changed Atlanta's cocktail culture—bringing us house-made, ingredient-driven, community-gathering drinks inspired not just by the stories of the South, but also by the stories of the spirit-makers themselves (from tried and true producers to new, small-batch operators). Not bad for a Yankee from Poughkeepsie. But, as Best has put it, "I'm a Yankee by birth and a Southerner by choice." And that's plenty alright with us, especially since he's one of the most gracious Southerners we know.
So if you see Best eating at a bar (as he's known to do), pull up a seat and start chatting—maybe even ask him what he and Regan Smith are working on now that they've left H&F (he's shared with Eater that they're currently looking at the east and west sides of Midtown). Here are a few spots where you might find our nationally recognized bartender with a local address.
If I'm out late, chances are I'm at Victory in Decatur. Inevitably it's where we all end up, and for a reason, too. Like Miles said previously, you're guaranteed to run into friends and industry family members. I'll add the fact that the food and drinks are great, and that the staff rocks! For the record though, it was originally the Victory location in Inman Park where I went late night and fell in love with the atmosphere, so I anxiously look forward to the next iteration of that location.
Though it has recently undergone improvements and renovations that may skew the "dive bar" persona for some folks, The Local is, and always will be, my favorite dive. The only bar in history to agree to the idea of a pitcher of Fernet—fortunately, the few in our group that night who held their wits despite their cups navigated us out of those waters before we hit the rocks...
Happy hour bar/lounge:
Kimball House. Period. The finest happy hour both in spirit and manifestation this guy has ever had the joy to revel in.
I also really think the lounge in Cafe Istanbul on Lawrenceville Highway is the unrivaled best place to have an unexpected blast!
Brunch (hungover vs. not):
There is a deep joy in stepping back from the brink of destruction via a good hangover brunch. A kind of second chance at life thing. For that experience, I choose H. Harper Station every time. I swear it has nothing to do with the whiskey selection…
When I'm engaging in a normal brunch, however, I like the food and vibe at Sun In My Belly in Kirkwood. There is a really unique look and feel to the spot that just says comfort.
Place for drinking and dining:
I have to say that Cakes & Ale has long been my favorite spot to belly up and fill my belly. Spectacular wine list, delicious cocktails, friendly faces, and some of the best food in the city.
Bar where you're a regular:
I wish it truly was only one bar where I am a regular. If I had to choose one, though, I'd say The Bookhouse on Ponce. Even if the formula for picking this one was mostly constructed using a detailed analysis of my bank statement, I enjoy being in this bar as much as I do my home. Easily one of the most comfortable and special places in my world.
P.S. Coffee bars should count too, and for anyone who knows me, they know I live at Aurora in Little Five. I have literally had a coffee (or three) here everyday that I've been in town for the past 10 years.
Wrecking Bar: Deeply satisfying food and an amazing spatial aesthetic make drinking the great (proprietary) beers and cocktails here even more fun.
Leon's Full Service: What these guys and gals started in Decatur has inspired and contributed so much to our culture in town. On top of that, they continue to put out great product consistently, no matter how busy they are!
Out-of-town fave (regional):
Bellocq in New Orleans is one of my favorite (and downright ballsiest) bars in the American South. I believe that to get lost here is to truly understand the essence of cocktail culture. Never mind the fact that it resides in one of the most profound historical drinking towns of all time…
Out-of-town fave (national):
There is a bar that I grew up with in Poughkeepsie, NY, that has changed the direction of my life on more than one occasion. It has, and will always be a cherished treasure for me and my family. That bar is called The Beech Tree Grill, and everything tastes better there.