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!
Paul Calvert. [Photo: Matthew Wong]
Paul Calvert runs a not-so-speakeasy with Southern sensibilities over at Paper Plane, where they welcome "Members and Non-Members Only." There and next door at Victory Sandwich Bar, he crafts some of the finest cocktails in the city, loved by the public and industry alike (both Miles Macquarrie and Greg Best have listed the Decatur spots as "go-to" bars). We first met Calvert when he put The Sound Table on the map, and then fell for his creative takes on tequila, mezcals, and rum at Hector Santiago's much-missed Pura Vida. Now that he's found his groove in one of the metro's hottest neighborhoods, the accolades have kept pouring in, including a recent nod in Garden & Gun as one of the 10 "Best New Bars." So, sit back, relax (with a cocktail, maybe), and check out Paul Calvert's recommendations for drinking well around town and a bit farther out.
This one is a little unfair. In order to exit Paper Plane, I have to go through Victory Sandwich Bar, where I will inevitably see many of my friends in the service industry. Of course, even if I were a day-walker, I'd still end up at Victory when the night runs late: great drinks, an air of mischievousness, cool people, food until 2:00 a.m. As I get older, I find that my house is one of my favorite late-night spots: friendly dogs, all-you-can-drink for free, Roy Orbison on the record player, and a pretty cute girl lives there, too.
The Local. Righteous Room (great jukebox). Euclid Avenue Yacht Club (for the memories). Manuel's Tavern (for many reasons, including the Kennedy miscellanea. I still miss my New England dives, after all).
Happy hour bar/lounge:
Although I don't get to enjoy happy hour much, I'd say that the experience at Kimball House is pretty perfect. Who doesn't want to see William's smiling face greet you at the door first thing after a tedious day at the office, followed by oysters, cold gin cocktails, and white wine with more minerality than a quarry? One observation: I've always been told that happy hour is illegal in Atlanta.
Brunch (hungover vs. not):
Hands down my favorite thing in all of Atlanta to help battle a hangover is the following: the cheddar-apple turnover, warmed slightly and with as much burnt-sugar char as possible, from The Little Tart Bakeshop in Grant Park; a few of those with a cup of black coffee from Octane and the ship is righted again. Also, One Eared Stag for the egg sandwich with the egg on top and the black pepper biscuits with jam, and H. Harper Station for the Conductor's Breakfast.
Place for drinking and dining:
Great question. This is tough because it can be incredibly difficult to get all major components of dining out right every time: bar, dinner, dessert, service. We certainly fight this battle every day at Paper Plane. I'd say that the one place that does this consistently well is Miller Union. Steven [Satterfield] and his chefs are incredible, as is Pamela [Moxley]—her desserts are my favorite in town. The service is brilliant. Julie and her team at the door are kind and accommodating. Stuart and Vince make cocktails that are lean and elegant and pair well with dinner. The wine list is ridiculous—I always learn something new just by reading it. Even having Neal [McCarthy] lurking around doesn't hurt. The number one thing they nail is generosity. Miller Union is an incredibly generous place to go eat and drink. Some additional favorites: Empire State South, The General Muir (sneakily good cocktails), BoccaLupo (again, cocktails that get better and better each time I go), Cakes & Ale, Wrecking Bar, and Gato Arigato (BYOB!).
Bar where you're a regular:
Victory? I really am not a true regular anywhere else. I don't really go out that much. I wish I were a regular at Church and Bantam Pub; they seem like such cool places to know everybody.
Top three bars not mentioned above:
Going out to drink is, for me, so much more about the people than the drinks. So, in no particular order I like the following: seeing Navarro at The Sound Table, meeting Greg for a beer at The Bookhouse, seeing Nate at Proof & Provision, Aaron at Octopus Bar, Rebecca and Justin at The Porter, old friends and new at Brick Store Pub and LEON's.
Out-of-town fave (national):
A bottle of Txakoli rosé, oysters, romaine salad, and steak tartar at Neptune Oyster on Salem Street in Boston's North End. Also, Eventide in Portland, Maine. Somebody told me that there's some other city called "Portland" that's got good food and drinks and whatever, but for me there's only one Portland and it's in "Vacationland." Also, The Ramp in Cape Porpoise, near Kennebunk, Maine, is great for a burger and cold beer.
Favorites are nearly impossible for me. Nothing is the same every time: the people, the weather, the food and drinks, you—it all changes. Here's a memorable one: go to Grenada, Spain. Near sundown, walk up the hill to the Albaicin, just west of the Alhambra and above the dry river bed. There's a little place along the edge of the hill where you can get fresh olives, roasted almonds, goat cheese, anchovies, and wine so dry it'll strip the enamel off your teeth. It looks like a cave inside, decorated in terra cotta and blue tile. Assemble your goods, find a seat on the tiny patio, and watch the sun set behind the castled ramparts of the Alhambra. This is a great place, although I can't recall the name and I don't know if I could ever find it again.