Downtown, the one-time railroad hub where Atlanta literally began, has come a long way from its days as a vertical office park that turned into a ghost town after the sun set. Though still overrun by government buildings and nine-to-fivers, the area is continuing to grow into a community where young singles and small families have converged to be near the joys of urban life: the entertainment, the walkable streets, and, yes, the chaos. And thanks to Georgia State University’s decision to concentrate its students and faculty in downtown, the streets are a little more bustling. Yes, parts can be touristy. But the heart of the city boasts history, density, and, if the city doesn’t turn its back on the area, seemingly unlimited potential.
This gourmet mom-and-pop stand delivers highly inventive and inspiring ice cream creations. Traditional strawberry and chocolate are pure perfection, but flavors such as black walnut, sweet corn, and coconut jalapeno are creative standouts. The salted caramel flavor is a game changer. Non-ice cream items include made-to-order crepes — one filled with the heavenly, nutty Nutella and fresh strawberries.
Chef Ron Eyester's candor and cheeky antics have bristled the occasional diner but his decision to create a triangle of restaurants near the border of Virginia-Highland and Morningside has endeared him to the community. The empire began with Rosebud, which can always be counted on for chicken liver toast, oysters, and other tasty fare.
A gallery and co-op space for contemporary art, lecture series, drunken critiques, workshops, talks, and a couch just for sitting. Run by a trio of Georgia State University students who also live upstairs. The Low's opening in 2013 marked the trio's first advancements toward unifying contemporary artists and challenging perceptions of art.
The Downtown music venue, art space, and burgeoning community center has become one of the most exciting additions to South Broad Street in recent years. On the nights when the Mammal Gallery hosts a show, the street springs to life, animated with music and modest crowds of people admiring the colorful murals from urban renewal program Elevate.
Owner Nicholas Quinones keeps the standards high with a menu that changes daily. Yes, daily. The team at Woodfire Grill aspires to create recipes based on seasonal, local produce. Farms, artisans, and ranchers it uses include Crystal Organics, Mary's Gourmet Gardens, Dillwood Farms, and more. Come for a special occasion, because Woodfire serves up first, second, and main courses for dinner.
Originally a cotton-gin manufacturer, the Goat Farm is a Westside haven for working artists and performance companies, a frequent location for movie shoots (cough cough, Hunger Games, cough cough), and a great live music venue.
The cinematic chaos and glamour of Two Urban Licks draws a decibel-shattering crowd eager for rambunctious dining and willing to sit out the long wait just for the youthful exuberance that fills the restaurant. For the best dining experience, stick to the appetizers and small plates. Outdoor bocce courts along the Beltline's Eastside Trails
A local blues, jazz, and roots institution that's been around for more than 25 years. The North Highland Avenue storefront, with its signature guitar-wielding neon alligator, has persevered through an unpredictable economy and the commercial ebb and flow of roots-based music that regularly fills the dimly lit room.
Wild Bill’s is a sanctuary for suburban cowpokes in search of line-dancing, fight nights, and concerts from such country and western stars as Pat Green and Miranda Lambert. They even take down the mechanical bull for rap nights, and have hosted concerts by Foreigner and Skid Row. Basically, it’s a hay hootin’ time. If you’re nostalgic for the era of stone-washed jeans and ladies with bangs teased to the ceiling, welcome home.