On a recent rainy Thursday evening, I found myself sitting at the bar at Forum Cocktail Company looking to order a happy hour martini and a snack to tide me over until dinner. It had already been a long day. Despite attempts to shield myself from the wind-swept rain walking to the Underwood Hills cocktail lounge, my umbrella was no match. My clothing was just damp enough to be annoying now, sticking to my arms and legs whenever I moved. My hunger pangs were creeping into hangry territory. Needless to say, I was in a sour mood.
While initially seeking a martini, I ended up staying for dinner and indulging in a delightfully saucy bowl of meatballs all’amatriciana paired with another gin classic — the tuxedo (gin, dry vermouth, maraschino, absinthe, and two dashes of orange bitters). Both were mood boosters, but the meatballs from this cocktail lounge proved the greater surprise.
Drew and Brittany Fancher, the couple behind mobile bar business the Aero Bar, opened Forum Cocktail Company earlier this summer at the Works along Chattahoochee Avenue. Forum features two bars under one roof: a main bar and lounge up front serving a tight menu of food and a reservation-only cocktail bar located at the end of a narrow hallway in back. The allure of a hidden bar heavily advertised and needing reservations isn’t that appealing to me. My dining partner and I opted to sit at the main bar, but seating is also available at tables throughout the front lounge.
I didn’t hold out much hope of ordering more than a small board of charcuterie and cheese or pile of crispy bar fries. An unfussy snack would have suffice to pair with my drink. It’s how many cocktail bars in Atlanta typically roll when it comes to serving food (The simpler the better to keep service and drinks flowing smoothly.) The food at Forum Cocktail Company isn’t wimpy, something I greatly appreciated that dreary Thursday evening. The best food finds are always those you stumble upon at places you least expect to find such dishes.
I love a zesty red sauce dish and spied the meatballs all’amatriciana. The tomato-based sauce is warm and comforting, comprising guanciale or sometimes pancetta (think Italian bacon), pecorino romano cheese, onions, and hints of spice from red pepper flakes. The bowl of three generously portioned meatballs presented to me were as pristine as the photo above, swimming in red sauce and garnished with melty burrata and fresh basil leaves. Two hunks of crusty bread accompany the meatballs meant for sopping up the excess sauce.
The dish will set you back $26, but is easily shared with another person given the size of each meatball. If you’re dining with a friend, I suggest sharing the meatballs and ordering the seasonal salad on the menu, along with one other dish, like the crispy okra dusted with togarashi served with a gochujang aioli dipping sauce or the yuzu-marinated octopus ceviche. Finish with tiramisu laced with aged rum. The coffee- and rum-soaked dessert is fitting for a cocktail lounge.
- Meatballs all’amatriciana $26
- Tuxedo $14 (cocktails range between $14 and $16)
- Crispy okra $20; octopus ceviche $28
- Tiramisu $14
Forum Cocktail Company open Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursday 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Friday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m. to 2 a.m.
208 Chattahoochee Row, Atlanta. theforumcocktailco.com.