Here's Our Travel Guide to This Nation of Over 7,000 Islands
Ponce City Market
The expansive restaurant/winery/concert hall opened this past summer, and just announced what’s probably Atlanta’s newest, speakeasy-style cocktail bar for folks looking to hide out for an intimate evening, all week from 6pm to midnight. The “luxe industrial” design borrows from PCM’s guts and bones, with good decorative use being put to vintage electrical boards and switches leftover from when it was an old Sears & Roebuck. At the bar there’ll be cocktails such as the Masataka Swizzle (Nikka Taketsuru 12-year Japanese whisky, amaretto, lime juice, demerara syrup, and mint), and the El Conquistador, which blends Mezcal Amaras Espadin, sherry, spiced pear liqueur, and lemon.
How to get in: You’ll need to follow them on social media (citywineryatl on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) where, every week, they’ll release a name. Once you’ve received it, head out to PCM; there’s an unmarked door on the left side of the art supply shop Binders, where you’ll find a door guy waiting for you to tell him that name you heard, or, you know, to just stare at you like you’re in the wrong place.
Nothing’s wrong with you if you never knew there was a speakeasy inside the delicious Muss & Turner’s, because everything’s right with the food and drink in the main area. The place is named after an “in-house sage” who throws monthly meetups for ladies at one of the designated tables, where featured speakers break down all things life. If you’re not female and find yourself uninvited, just go any other time -- there are great chicharones and charcuterie to go with your “Brown Thrasher” concoction of bourbon, lemon, Amaro Averna, and hickory-smoked apple shrub.
How to get in: Walk straight in and keep going until you get to what looks like a walk-in cooler, open it, walk past the wine cellar, down the hallway, and start soaking up the atmosphere as well as the cocktails.
RPB is part of a franchise that might spread beyond ATL if successful. It’ll feature fresh juicing, rare tinctures, bitters, flavor agents, and liquors that are hard to find -- all put together by even fresher bartenders dressed to the 1920-nines. The new spot is made to look like the old spot (you’ll recognize the hand-painted, backlit ceiling, honey onyx bar, and fireplace aesthetic), but it's using the restored brick floors of ATL’s iconic Dailey’s building for unique character, and have installed a “mob-style” kitchen which you can rent for private poker and pool games -- yes, there will be tables already set up. You can also grab Neapolitan pizza, carpaccio, and a few desserts if you decide to interrupt drinking with eating.
How to get in: The spot's new, and like Prohibition was when it was new, you need to find somebody who knows the phone number. Try hitting a nearby bar first and tipping your ‘tender before.
Old Fourth Ward
Though Pizzeria Vesuvius is no more, the owners of Edgewood Speakeasy also run Bone Lick BBQ, and they’ve installed it in Vesuvius’ space. This means you can get delicious tender smoked wings and other great meat madness to layer your stomach with before you walk through the bookshelf door that leads to the hidden middle bar above The Music Room, which they also own. Things are pretty simple -- if you have a favorite drink, ask them and they can either make it or make up something similar -- and there are great DJs pretty much nightly, along with events like comedy open mic on Sundays at 9pm. They also share a free parking lot with Noni’s.
How to get in: Walk into Bone Lick, past the bar, hang a left near the kitchen and look at the bookshelf. It’s really a door -- those books are glued on and aren’t going anywhere. Pull the wooden frame; it swings open to the right.
Below and behind the not amazing but pretty damn good Mexican restaurant El Azteca is one of the weirdest, tiniest dancing places not even Elton John’s ATL-lovin’-ass could have seen coming. Expect an industry crowd early in the week, where other bartenders and service staff get their drinks even more low-priced than you, but that only makes it easier to pick up a seedy/sexy bartender or server. Also, if you see people dancing, there’s a good chance that they’ve been partying all day/night, so be prepared to walk around them as they groove to DJs like Speakerfoxxx -- which inspires some quixotic and jerky dance moves.
How to get in: Go down and around the back of the restaurant to a graffiti-paint-dripped gray door. If it’s after 10pm, El Bar is open, the door will open too.
“Smokebelly” itself could have been the perfect name for a secret drinking establishment inside the East Andrews barbecue restaurant, but instead they took an old-school speakeasy synonym, which kept things nice and pork-minded. Hopefully your own eyes work, at least well enough to appreciate the ornate rugs, red velvet wallpaper, dark wood furnishings, and all the other trimmings you’d expect from their secret-society-inspired hangout. The snacky menu features a pimento cheese spread served with a side of pork rinds, a daily cheese/charcuterie board, and spicy tuna tartare toast. Drinking is also pretty throwback-fancy -- ask for a classic Sazerac, or get house cocktails like the Time on a Beach, with light rum, Fernet Branca, citrus/mint, and pisco.
How to get in: Ask Smokebelly’s bartender for the password (tips appreciated), then go outside and around the back, where you’ll find a door featuring a small pig attached to the wall above it, and a doorbell to ring. Give whoever opens that door the password. See no evil, hear no evil, pork no evil.
Tri-Cities residents don't care that you don’t know what the hell goes on in Hapeville, East Point, or College Park, but you’re going to want to be included on The Duck Club, as it’s tucked inside the rear of Rev Coffee Roasters -- yup, the same folks from the great coffee spot in the Jonquil (no-man’s-land) area of Smyrna. Inside the dimly lit shotgun space, you’ll find hung animal heads, tapped beers by Hapeville’s own Arches Brewing, a damn good fried chicken sandwich, great wings, and one of those six-sided poker tables.
How to get in: Walk in Rev and head to the back-right side of the room. There’s a door just before the back wall, and a hallway that curves to the left. Go there. It leads to your happy place.
It was called The Fred, but Taco Mac must’ve realized beer bars aren’t human, so the owners renamed it, kept the seasonal, classic, and very rare beers, plus added more. It's also got wines and cocktails, and didn’t alter the beautifully barrel-shaped interior. GA did, however, take away the requirement to have a high number of their “Brewniversity” loyalty points to drink the good stuff, and made it so you can get in there and enjoy premium brews -- about a dozen drafts, 50+ bottles, and a secret stash of 750ml brews that start around $20. There's also a smaller, separate food menu that includes beer-brined wings, flatbreads, truffle fries, and knockwurst with bacon-braised onions.
How to get in: Walk down the side of T. Mac, behind the building, and you’ll see a door with a plaque of a monkey. Knock, and ye shall be received.
Chops is already exclusive enough, as evidenced by the price point on the unbeatably great seafood and steaks, but there’s even more secrecy and selection when it comes to what it's hiding for real elites. Pick a cigar from the huge humidor room to smoke, and listen to a live pianist or cellist while you drink like pre-WWII and experience super-great secret service. Ask for the Frank Sinatra table if you’re really believing you belong.
How to get in: You could look for the secret door, but the staff will just quietly laugh at you since you’ll have to be a member or have one walk you in. Find a way to get that done, then go outside and to the back, and look for a big dude with a list, near a door.
East Atlanta Village
Rare 750ml bottled beers, parlor games like shuffleboard and skeeball -- as well as ancient British ones no one cares for like “skittles” and crokinole -- are all waiting for you underneath a menacing giant squid hanging from the ceiling (don’t worry, it’s wooden). BBP keeps a great, rare 750ml cask beer situation, and hosts a ton of events that make it not as stuffy as other local speakeasy-ish joints (read: Argo-Skee, date night comedy shows, weekly all-vinyl DJ parties and more). The bad news? Um, there isn’t any. Other than you need to take your ass home eventually.
How to get in: Beeline it through Argosy, straight to the back, after 8pm, Wed-Sat only.
It’s not necessary to know anybody famous or be in the mafia to get into the secret den of one of ATL’s best steak makers. The dark-bricked hideaway has large paintings between wraparound booths with arched entrances, and the mirror-backed, glowing marble bar is perfect for leaning against -- which helps as leaning and drinking do kinda go together. While you’re there, you can order anything off of KR’s menu, from lobster Calabrese risotto to a 26oz porterhouse for two.
How to get in: Just tell the host at KR Steakbar you wanna go to The Bureau, and they’ll lead you in -- through the kitchen.
Located underneath the main bar of Buckhead’s oldest British bar is what looks like a bunker for World War II veterans that never aged, possibly due to alcohol’s amazing pickling effects. Are there frills? Hell no! Drinks? Hell yes! And darts.
How to get in: Walk past Churchill's super-divey main bar, and down that uninviting staircase near the bathrooms. The private-membership vibe makes it a lot less hole-in-the-wall-y, but that’s also part of the mystique.
Just behind Churchill's, this 25-and-up venue sells itself for private events but is also a good place to be on Thursday nights, where members and folks who are privy to its location come through to mingle and dance without the fratty aftertaste of other Buckhead spots. The concept is Wall Street greed, and the high-end spirits -- including rare vintages of Japanese whisky, Scotch, and bourbon, and cocktails such as the bluish Bull Market (mezcal, lemon, crème de violette, and agave nectar) -- are well worth the investment. There are even “vesseled” group cocktails that clock in around $100 and can handle up to eight folks.
How to get in:
Look for a private wood porch; it leads to an unmarked door. You don’t have to be a member, but they get special privileges. And while membership is free, it requires invitation.