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Where the Bartenders Drink: Booze Recs From The SOS Tiki Bar’s Bobby Dudley

Ever wonder where your favorite local bartenders love to drink off the clock? Us, too. Thus Eater Atlanta gives you its Boozin’ Go-To Guide — your barkeep’s guide to Atlanta, the Southeast, and beyond.

Bobby Dudley at The SOS Tiki Bar.
Bobby Dudley at The SOS Tiki Bar.
Jonathan Phillips/Eater Atlanta

You might not meet a friendlier or more energetic bartender in Atlanta than The SOS Tiki Bar’s Bobby Dudley. All tatted up, sporting his signature Hawaiian shirt and mischievous smile, Dudley has brought his love of tropical drinks (and rum), tiki history, and Florida beach upbringing to the landlocked masses in Decatur Wednesday through Saturday nights.

Growing up in St. Petersburg, Dudley says his first restaurant job was pure chance. One evening, while dining out to celebrate his girlfriend’s birthday, a frazzled restaurant manager asked him if he was looking for a job. Dudley said yes, and a week later found himself in training at what he describes as a "typical Florida, Latin-inspired fine dining and caipirinha bar." He bussed tables, washed dishes, served food, and eventually ended up behind the bar when a coworker didn’t show up for their shift one night. The restaurant was a chaotic, sometimes messy world full of tropical fruit, mojitos, and hot Latin tempers. Dudley fell in love with it all.

After moving to Atlanta in 2009 and working behind high-volume bars like Tin Lizzies and Tap, Dudley found himself at a crossroads. Was bartending his career or just a way to make ends meet? He found his answer under the direction of Kellie Thorn at Empire State South. It was there he not only realized he loved the bar industry, but that he also had a lot more to learn about crafting cocktails. Dudley threw himself into the job: working as a bar back, taking day shifts, handling prep work, and reading every cocktail book he could get his hands on in order to up his game. A year later, he landed behind the bar at Paper Plane (RIP), where he continued to hone his skills under Martin Hwang and Jason Harris. The concept was retooled a few months later into The SOS. Dudley decided to stay on and is now creating some of the city’s booziest, flair-heavy tropical imbibes (with and without the use of fire). The garnish game is strong in this one.

Late-night spot

After a busy shift, I end up at Octopus Bar pretty regularly. Erin and Ashley are the best, funniest people and have put up with me at my worst.

Dive bar

Righteous Room all day! Best jukebox in the city. Cheap beer. Always hilarious.

Happy hour bar/lounge

Lately, I’ve been coming into Decatur a little early before shifts and grabbing some pizza, pasta, and maybe a negroni or a glass of wine at No. 246.

Brunch

I’m much more of a fan of sleeping in than of brunch. My brother and I end up at Argosy in East Atlanta pretty regularly on Sunday afternoons — after I’ve had a full night (and half a day’s) sleep.

Place for drinking and dining

Staplehouse. Love the food. Love the wine. Love the staff.

Bar where you're a regular

These days, Trackside. Always solid for an after-work beer or two.

Top three bars not mentioned above:

Empire State South

Kimball House

Bookhouse

Out-of-town fave in the South

Five and Ten

Out-of-town fave anywhere in the world

La Factoria (Puerto Rico). Amazing cocktails and the friendliest, most laid back staff. Those dudes single-handedly made my trip worth it. I’ve been trying to send them bottles of chartreuse because they don’t get it distributed there. None of them have landed though.

Go-to cocktail order

Gin and tonic, two dashes angostura.

Under-the-radar bartender to watch

There are a ridiculous amount of talented folks doing awesome things in this city at the moment. There are two who stick out to me. Logan Saunders of Biltong Bar. The man is absolutely crushing it over there. Also, my own Holli Medley. I defer to her knowledge regularly, and her opinions are always a huge help to me. She’s got big things on the horizon.

Bonus round

I would also like to add my favorite coffee spot. So crucial to my day! The baristas at Cakes & Ale are awesome and always pour me delicious caffeinated beverages to get my days rolling.

All Coverage of The SOS Tiki Bar [EATL]

All Boozin’ Go-To Guides [EATL]

The SOS Tiki Bar

340 Church Street, Decatur, GA 30030

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