Travel

Eat and drink your way through old-school ATL

Published On 05/03/2013 Published On 05/03/2013
Still Standing Tour of Atlanta

Pop quiz: what do Barry White, Neil Young, and Queen have in common? They all claimed to have "Staying Power". But when was the last time you bought one of their albums? No, staying power is hard-earned, which is why we're celebrating those Atlanta institutions that have stood the test of time with this epic, day-long crawl, winding you through the restaurants, bars, and attractions that continue to anchor the great ATL.
Stop One: Your journey starts in Kirkwood, where you'll find one of the best burgers you'll ever have in your life. Ann's Snack Bar is home of the "Ghetto Burger", a bacon chili doublestack that the Wall Street Journal once called the "Best Hamburger in America". Owned and operated by Ann Rice, the 8-stool storefront has been in operation for nearly 40 years, operating the entire time on eight simple rules that all patrons must abide by if they want to enter

Stop Two: Hop the Marta Blue line from Ann's and travel back in time to historic Oakland Cemetery in Grant Park. Originally designed in 1850 as a rural alternative to traditional graveyards -- whose downsides include overcrowding and a complete lack of nearby Waffle Houses -- it soon became a resting place for scores of Civil War casualties, as well as city mayors, poets and authors. Oakland's ornate architecture and impressive mausoleums helped land it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976

Stop Three: Back to the Blue line and out to Five Points Station, where in 1969 Underground Atlanta made use of the viaducts over the city's railroad tracks, turning them into a shopping and entertainment district for Downtown. The hub of restaurants, clubs, street vendors, and live performers has survived over the years by offering a must-see glimpse of "old Atlanta"

Stop Four: Time to score the nearest taxi and head towards Midtown to The Varsity, whose capacity to accommodate 600 cars and 800 guests makes it the world's largest drive-in. Over the past 75 years, myriad athletes, actors, and presidents from Bush to Clinton have answered the carhops' siren call of "What'll ya have? What'll ya have?", mostly because doing so results in bucketloads of chili dogs, burgers, shakes, fries, and pies. Clinton looooves pies

Stop Five: Walk off that chilli dog by walking up North Ave, where the Fabulous Fox Theatre opened in 1929. Originally intended as a Shriners temple, the idea was scrapped when movie mogul William Fox bankrolled the completion of the building to expand his theater brand, and to this day it serves as a backdrop to major concerts, film series, national events, and stage productions. Having survived bouts with bankruptcy and possible demolition, the Fox was saved and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974

Stop Six: Now look both ways before crossing the street and stepping back in 1911, which is when Georgian Terrace Hotel was constructed. Renovated in 2000 and 2009 to respectively add Livingston's Restaurant and Bar and Mims Cafe (both named after early Atlanta Mayor Livingston Mims), the hotel shares an intimate history with Gone with the Wind -- the unfinished original draft was handed off in the lobby in 1936, and the hotel played host to movie's after party in 1939

Stop Seven: After taking down a few frosty bevs at the Georgian, it's over to Mary Mac's Tea Room. Opened in '45, Mac's is synonymous with authentic Southern cuisine in Atlanta. Get the fresh-shucked corn, hand washed collard greens, fried mudbugs (crawfish), and country-fried steak with giblet gravy

Stop Eight: Fat on fried foods, it's time to cab it up Ponce to Atlanta's first and longest operating strip club, the Clermont Lounge. Located in the basement of the Clermont Motor Hotel, the club has survived nearly fifty years of pending closures and condemnation to serve up cheap beers, karaoke, live music, and DJs spinning tunes that the "talent" (look, they don't quite meet the traditional physical standards set around these parts) has absolutely no chance of grooving to. You can't leave Atlanta without seeing Clermont's resident mascot Blondie

Stop Nine: You hungry, girl? Then head over a couple of blocks to Poncey-Highland's Majestic Diner for "Food That Pleases", though possibly not as much as the ladies at Clermont. Since 1929, the Majestic has been dishing out a true Southern diner experience in the form of their classic burger, vanilla milkshakes, and stacks of pancakes, all 24/7

Stop Ten: Walk across from the Majestic and you can hurtle into 1939 by stepping through the opening of the Plaza Theatre. Another art deco structure with a flair for neon lights, The Plaza was probably at its sideburnsiest in the '70s, when it was an x-rated film house, but it moved into indie-arthouse/foreign (a.k.a., soft core) flicks in the '80s. Nowadays it hosts the yearly Atlanta Film Festival, as well as weekly screenings of cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Stop Eleven: Hey, now that you have that "Time Warp" song stuck in your head, it's only appropriate that you skip up the street to 1956, the year that Manuel's Tavern opened its doors. Serving up ice cold brews and American eats, it immediately became a quintessential neighborhood watering hole, modeled after old WWII English country taverns and loaded with salvaged furnishings from pre-demolished homes. Over the years, Manuel's has expanded, serving as a popular hangout for lively politcal debates and hosting Jimmy Carter's initial announcement of his candidacy for governor in 1970. The original owner also served as CEO of Dekalb County

Stop Twelve: Foxtrot and Charleston your way back down N Highland into the 1920s, and grab a drink at Atlanta's oldest continuously-licensed tavern, Atkins Park. The VaHi restaurant began life as Atkins Park Delicatessen in 1922, and still stands as the go-to watering hole for great beers, family dining, and lively good times

Stop Thirteen: This is it, you're almost done! A mere one block north lies your finish line: Highland music house Blind Willie's. Round out your day with good booze, great blues, and fine cajun cuisine at a bar that opened twenty years ago in an effort to bring older working musicians to town. Sorry, Queen, but it looks like Blind Willie's has more Staying Power than even you.

Ann's Snack Bar
Oakland Cemetery
Underground Atlanta
The Varsity
The Fox Theatre
Georgian Terrace Hotel
Clermont Lounge
Majestic Diner
Plaza Theatre
Manuel's Tavern
Atkins Park
Blind Willie's
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1. The Varsity 61 North Ave NW, Atlanta, GA 30308 (Downtown)

Billed as "the world's largest drive-in," The Varsity in downtown Atlanta can accommodate up to 600 cars and 800 patrons. Each day, the drive-in sells more than two miles of hot dogs, 2,500 pounds of fresh-cut potatoes, 5,000 homemade fried pies, and a ton of onion rings (literally). The place was founded in 1928, was featured in Gone with the Wind, and has had been visited by three presidents (Carter, Bush, and Clinton). Basically, you need to go here just to say you did.

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2. Ann's Snack Bar 1615 Memorial Dr, Atlanta, GA 30317 (Kirkwood)

The burgers at Ann's snack bar, some of the best in Atlanta, could qualify the Kirkwood spot as the eighth wonder of the world. The voluptuous, hand-pressed Ghetto Burgers bring chili sauce, bacon, a super-secret seasoning, fat pieces of onion, and fried bacon together in a burger that's admittedly difficult to eat but so worth the mess (you've just gotta dive right into this one). There isn't ample seating, but after a short wait you can sit along the bar and watch it get made right in front of you, which, trust us, will work up an appetite large enough to tackle it on your own.

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3. Underground Atlanta 50 Upper Alabama St #007, Atlanta, GA 30303 (Downtown)

Created from the abandoned viaducts beneath the city, Underground Atlanta offers a host of restaurants, entertainment, and shopping opportunities. Stop by for a guided walking tour, and you might even learn a thing or two while you're there.

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4. Oakland Cemetery 248 Oakland Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30312 (East Atlanta)

So this is totally normal: $15 nets you a two-day pass to this multi-stage concert with 100+ acts doing it live...in Oakland Cemetery. There'll be food from Six Feet Under (really, guys?), Pallookaville, and Hottie Hawg's Smokin' BBQ, plus psychic rea

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5. Georgian Terrace Hotel 659 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 (Midtown)

This circa-1911 hotel was renovated in 2000 and 2009 to respectively add Livingston's Restaurant and Bar and Mims Cafe.

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6. Mary Mac's Tea Room 224 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 (Midtown)

At Mary Mac's Tea Room, patrons can enjoy a taste of authentic Southern cooking and hospitality. This means heaping plates of staples like fried chicken, braised ox tails, and grilled liver and onions, as well as a number of specialty drinks like the Mint Julep and Georgia Peach. The place is over 70 years old and was officially named “Atlanta’s Dining Room” by the City of Atlanta. Read any online traveler’s guides and you’ll be convinced that there’s no way to visit Atlanta without eating here. There are pencils and paper sheets on your table for you to write your own order, a tradition of MM’s that dates wayyy back (pre-Bieber).

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7. Clermont Lounge 789 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306 (Poncey Highland)

Virginia Highland's Clermont Lounge is oh-so many things: a dive bar, a live music venue, a frequent karaoke spot, and, perhaps most notably, Atlanta’s oldest strip club. What more could you ask for?

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8. Majestic Diner 1031 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306 (Midtown)

An Atlanta landmark since 1929, Majestic Diner offers up "food that pleases," including milkshakes, pancakes, hamburgers, waffles, and just about any other comfort food you crave. Bright lights, late hours, and endearing greasy spoon goodness-- what more do you really need?

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9. Plaza Theatre 1049 Ponce De Leon Ave, Atlanta, GA 30306 (Midtown)

Plaza Theatre is the oldest operating cinema in Atlanta, offering screenings of select new releases as well as movies that have been out of theaters for years. It also hosts film festivals, and there are midnight showings of classic movies every Friday night.

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10. Manuel's Tavern 602 N Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307 (Old 4th Ward)

A neighborhood bar since the 50s, Manuel’s Tavern is still buzzing with lunch, dinner, and late night crowds in Poncey-Highland. Its decades-old charm remains, and the iconic tavern continues to draw diners from across the country -- including the likes of Jimmy Carter and, slightly more recently, Barack Obama. The menu features classic American fare like burgers, steaks, Buffalo wings, and an entire section of the menu devoted to hot dogs. And their beer list is sizeable, as well, with 30 beers on tap and twice that in bottles. Stop in for a burger, a beer, and a little slice of Atlanta history.

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11. Atkins Park Restaurant 794 N Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306 (Virginia Highland)

Atkins Park is Atlanta's oldest continually-running restaurant (it began as a deli in 1922) and the figurative cornerstone of Virginia-Highland. It remained relevant and beloved by Atlantans, with solid burgers, sandwiches, and entrees like short rib pot roast. Its beer selection beats a lot of newer and trendier places in the beloved Va-Hi district--there's a wide assortment of canned, bottled, and draft beer available, as well as a varied selection of wines. AK offers late-night drinking and family-friendly dining under the same roof.

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12. Blind Willie's 828 N Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306 (Virginia Highland)

Since opening its doors for service in 1986, this musician-owned ATL blues bar has been all about bringing in older talent for their shows in an environment that was literally hand-built by the owners and their local musician friends. Good thing, 'cause you know their acoustic game will be spot on.

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13. The Fox Theatre 660 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 (Midtown)

The historic Fox Theatre hosts live entertainment ranging from musicals and live concerts to speaking engagements. Additionally, you can swing by and catch a screening of a movie that's out of theaters.

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