Atlanta, Georgia, saw a flurry of development after the 1996 Olympic Games were held in the city. This development has led to the formation of new neighbourhoods and the refurbishment of older, rundown ones.
Today, neighbourhoods such as Buckhead and Brookhaven offer luxury stores and high-end restaurants, while Little Five Points and Inman Park boast an eclectic vibe and are packed with thrift shops, boho boutiques and concept bars. Other neighbourhoods, such as Reynoldstown and Cabbagetown are more artsy, with the streets full of art walls and small galleries. Then there are some neighbourhoods that are still coming into their own; West Midtown is up-and-coming with deluxe new restaurants and exclusive shops.
Midtown combines the best of each neighbourhood, adding its own unique twists. Known as the Gaybourhood, it is the second largest business area after downtown. Georgia Tech lies to its western edge and some of the best art museums in Atlanta are located here. It is adorned with numerous outdoor spaces, some of which offer stunning views of the downtown skyline. This culminates in an interesting mix of professionalism and commercialism with a free, more relaxed, and young atmosphere, which is full of energy and sprinkled with art. Here are some of the best spots in Midtown to explore.
The Flying Biscuit Café (1001 Piedmont Avenue) serves familiar southern food in rainbow surrounds. The walls are painted in blocks of bright yellow, purple, pink and green and interspersed with murals and abstract designs, while multi-coloured, floral tables complete the scene. Food is served in this friendly, relaxed restaurant from breakfast through to dinner; the breakfast menu is available all day. Dishes include pancakes, omelettes, salads, sandwiches, pot pie, meatloaf and, of course, the signature flying biscuit. Take-away is also available.
Mixologists at The Lawrence (905 Juniper Street) shake up twists on classic cocktails and their own signature mixes at the impressively chic dark wood bar, which forms the centre-piece of this restaurant with its ceiling to bar top display of liquor. A fine list of beers and wine is also available to choose from to accompany the modern cuisine. Classic entrees are well presented and punctuated with Asian flavours such as kimchi and wasabi. Brunch and lunch menus also have some interesting choices including the chicken and red velvet waffle and the crab cake burger.
Italian favourites are served at Pasta da Pulcinella (1123 Peachtree Walk), with appetisers of bruschetta and caprese salad and entrees including veal and beef tagliatelle and mushroom ravioli. This cosy restaurant has outdoor seating on a terrace adorned with lush foliage, which stands out against the yellow clapboard. Inside seating is naturally lit with light streaming through the large windows. The neutral walls are vivified with decorative white coving and paintings of the Italian landscape. Italian beers and wine are available and the dessert menu offers a light tiramisu, thick chocolate cake and a fresh crème-brûlée.
Animal print and leather studded seats set the tone at Establishment (1197 Peachtree Street). The chic, ranch style décor continues with the rustic wood-clad walls and the wooden bar, which is filled with spirits, creating an old-world feel. Deer horn chandeliers and spotlights cast limited light adding to the charm. Choose to sit at the granite top bar or in a private, cosy booth to enjoy well-mixed and well-presented signature cocktails (the menu changes seasonally). Traditional, old-style southern fare is also available.
Bar Margot (75 14th Street) is a classic hotel bar set in a bright, airy space. The cosmopolitan design retains traditional French style features such as the grey, white and fabric panelled walls with feature mirrors. The space is enlivened by subtle orange-rimmed circular booths placed through the centre and floral fabrics adorning bar stools. The room is headed by the bar where custom cocktails, including the Gin Margot; a twist on the refreshing G&T, are served. Late night snacks of cheese and charcuterie are available.
Classic and bespoke cocktails, such as the old fashioned and eastern sunsets, are on the menu at McCray’s Tavern (3647, 1163 West Peachtree Street), along with a huge selection of craft beers and a variety of red and white wines including organic options. Fronted by glass, the interior has a crisp industrial feel, with stark polished concrete walls, a polished wood floor and a mixture or polished and rustic wood and steel furnishings. American comfort food is served, with options including salads, sandwiches, burgers, grills and snack food.
The Atlanta Beltline is a 22-mile circular pathway connecting neighbourhoods around Atlanta with the official starting point in Midtown. Greenery engulfs the loop, which was built on disused railroad routes. Avenues of trees line the path, while areas to each side are filled with shrubs, grass and wildflowers. Local art displays can be found interspersed in the green spaces. Use the path to cycle, run or walk from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, avoiding the city traffic and taking in some fresh air. Along the route, shops, cafes and restaurants can be found for refreshments.
In the heart of Midtown is Piedmont Park. With views through the trees to the skyscrapers of downtown and a large lake, this park makes a perfect picnic setting. On Saturdays a farmers’ market, The Green Market, is held with stalls selling local produce from meat to pasta, cheese, cakes, tea and soap. Large grass areas are broken up by paths for walking, running or cycling and there is also a sports track for the more serious athletes. The Atlanta Botanical Garden lies in the northern section of the park with the large lake dominating the southern area. Festivals are held here throughout the year, including art, music, dance and food festivals, and Atlanta Pride.
On the north-western edge of Midtown lies Atlantic Station; a relatively new development comprising a mixed-use space, complete with contemporary outdoor areas. Patios and perfectly-cut lawns are lined with avenues of trees with café seating spilling out on to the pavement. Yoga lessons, pop-up markets, gym classes and craft days are all held at various times in the central areas. Shops, bars, restaurants, nail bars and hairdressers are located here amid office buildings and the movie theatre. This is a nice place to relax on a sunny afternoon, with plenty of opportunities for distraction and activity.
The Ponce City Market is an old industrial site which has been redesigned to offer a complete experience. An open-air section is laced with boutiques selling jewellery, clothes, bags and hats while the inside area has a food market with assorted speciality stores and restaurants offering varying cuisines. An elevator leads to a world of activities on the rooftop, from hoop shooting, mini golf and other arcade games. There is also a bar and some fast food trucks for refreshments.
An industrial style, multi-level red-brick building houses the Westside Provisions District (1198 Howell Mill Road). The tall windows create a light, airy space where high street brands such as Anthropologie, J. Crew and Lululemon Athletica can be found. The space is also frequented by pop ups and luxury boutiques selling anything from clothing to outdoor furniture and interior décor. Gyms, coffee shops and restaurants can also be found in the large shopping complex.
Food orientated Caravaca Market (782 West Peachtree Street) gives access to the world’s best products, sourced locally. The market hall is dissected into sections; the food provisions area sells deli meats and cheeses, jams and other gourmet produce; the bakery, where freshly baked croissants, bread, wraps, salads, cakes and hot drinks can be purchased; and a wine bar where wine can be tasted and bought. Various seating areas allow shoppers to enjoy their fresh produce and baked goods immediately. Alternatively, there is a pizza and beers section to source lunch.
Opera Nightclub’s (1150 Crescent Avenue) layout and décor are based on an idyllic opera venue. Chandeliers glisten in the light over the multi-level main room. The two upper levels have glass balconies which overlook the main dance floor. Other areas include the garden, outside cabana area and the secluded, dimly-lit lounge. Each night brings a different theme to this uber-cool venue. Performers integrate into the opulent scene on stage, along with the DJs.
A small venue on the edge of Piedmont Park is home to Blake’s on the Park (227 10th Street), a friendly, colourfully-lit, gay bar. The interior is dominated by the square wooden bar and the relaxed décor of red-brick walls and softening wooden elements reflects the relaxed vibe. The floor-to-ceiling glass frontage overlooking the street gives the impression of a larger space. Live entertainment including DJs, dancers and drag shows alternate depending on the night. Basic, but tasty food is available, from BLT sandwiches to burgers and snack food such as nachos.
White leather sofas, low lying white patient tables and glass and stainless balconies are softened by a wooden floor and dark fabric walls in Opium Atlanta (968 Spring Street). Low-level lighting created by spotlights and hanging chandeliers creates a luxury lounge ambience amid the modern style of this hip hop lounge and dance club. An outdoor terrace offers fresh air and city views. Indoor booth seating is available by request.