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James Joyce Irish Pub 

It was Irishman Oscar Wilde, not James Joyce, who declared, "Work is the curse of the drinking classes," but Joyce may have later raised a glass in salute when the words were offered at his favorite pub. So shake off the curse by heading straight after work to the James Joyce Irish Pub in Avondale Estates. Judging by the crowds at the month-old tavern, the drinking classes have already gotten the idea.

The built-from-scratch Tudor tavern needs some breaking in, but the cut stone, dark wood and antiqued light fixtures create a convincing atmosphere for enjoying a pint. The beautiful backbar features a huge mirror with Joyce's caricature etched in the glass, an image found throughout.

Irish native Denise Gerard and her Australian husband, Michael, who also own the Brewhouse Cafe in Little Five Points, are the publicans. Guinness, as dense as Joyce's prose, is properly poured here, so be patient ($5.25 for a 22-ounce glass). Bass, Harp, cider and the like are also on tap, along with plenty of American brews for those whose tastes run that way. A fine selection of single-malt Scotch and Irish whiskey will warm your cockles when the weather turns cold, as will the two fireplaces on the pleasant patio. In the meantime, take advantage of Atlanta's decidedly un-Irish weather for some al fresco imbibing.

Although the Gerards' intention was to open a pub as much as a restaurant, the Irish specialties and meat-and-potato style entrees are attracting neighborhood families as well as young barflies. I saw several tables with three generations gathered 'round. A sampling of authentic dishes including Irish stew ($9.95), bangers and mash ($8.95), and fish and chips ($8.95) proved satisfying, if somewhat monotonous. An inviting selection of salads and appetizers is also available.

After dinner, we moved to the bar and were soon engaged in conversation with the whole Gerard family, comparing notes on Bushmills vs. Jameson, among other weighty topics. We weren't the only ones talking, as evidenced by the clamor around the crowded bar; the patrons no doubt inspired by the Irish fondness for words.

James Joyce Irish Pub. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-midnight. Brunch Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. 22 N. Avondale Road, Avondale Estates. 404-296 5097.

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