It takes a Village 

The shabby, white-clapboard exterior and dark faces inside may not be initially inviting to the neo-hipsters on their way to the swanky Eastside Lounge, but those who venture into the Village Sports Bar and Lounge in East Atlanta will find themselves in a cozy, unpretentious joint. Co-owner Judy Hunter says it took a while to get the mostly white bar-hopping crowd into a "black place," but "once we get 'em in, we got 'em."

Judy makes a point of learning her customers' names and welcoming them into the Village family. By the end of the night, you'll probably be getting bear hugs.

This is a sports bar?:
The lounge emanates a funky vibe, from the red and green bulbs in the industrial light fixtures to the crackling-blue Kool cigarette display and fake fire cauldrons. A big screen TV and a smaller one behind the bar are the only concessions to the "sports bar" in the moniker. The Florida-Miami game on Sept. 6 was more of a pleasant diversion than the focus of attention.

Show me the way to the next whiskey bar:
Miss T (apparently there is no Mr. T, here) hustles double-duty as mixologist and waitress for the three tables in the front bar, which can mean slow service at times. But the customers don't seem to mind waiting on the mouth-watering ribs cooked in the smokehouse behind the building, the smells of which permeate the adjacent parking lot.

There's a decent selection of bottled brews, and I'm sure Miss T could whip up an appletini or lemon drop, but a lounge like this calls more for brown liquor -- Crown Royal seems to be a popular choice. A Maker's Mark "with a little bit of water" ($6) was generously poured, and topped with a trickle of ice water from a pitcher on the counter. If you are thrifty, go with a well brand for only $3. Domestic beers are also $3; imports $3.50.

Acid-jazz trip:
The room adjacent to the bar features music most nights, with a $5-$7 cover Thursday-Saturday. Wednesdays are open-mic night. Rock bands rotate on Thursday nights -- performers have included the Hiss and bands from the International Hits stable. Most Fridays and Saturdays feature the house band O.S.R.R., laying down old-school funk.

On a recent Saturday night, guest band Cadillac Jones had an integrated crowd of attractive young professionals and neighborhood locals packed on to the black-and-white tile dance floor to groove to their Headhunters-influenced jazz/funk. The booty-shakin' mass created a swirl of color under the blacklights that illuminate the vintage day-glo posters on the walls and turn teeth and clothes electric blue. As Dolemite would say, "Right on, muthafucka!"

Village Sports Bar and Lounge. Mon. 6 p.m.-1 a.m.; Wed.-Sun. 6 p.m.-close; closed Tuesday. 525 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-659-3835.



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