Not long ago, I decided to check out a Buckhead bar that’s the epitome of fashion. But, before I could get in, I had to email the joint for a secret code to let me in the door.
Not my thang. I’m much happier at my new neighborhood Kroger on Glenwood Avenue. It has a nifty wine and craft-beer bar with a relaxed mood and a three-drink maximum. (That’s right: Kroger doesn’t endorse drunk shopping.)
Luckily, Atlanta has a number of establishments with a friendly, laid-back vibe; good drinks; and dependable grub. Here are some faves:
Mac McGee. This authentic Irish pub on Decatur Square is one of the best spots in town for sipping whiskey. The bar offers rotating whiskey flights of three 1-ounce pours for $15, a great way to do a mix-and-match taste test of Scotch, bourbon and Irish whiskey. I’m crazy about the Sazeracs here, and, if you are feeling peckish, the house-smoked corn-beef hash, topped with a fried egg, is excellent.
111 Sycamore St., Decatur. 404-377-8055, macmcgees.com.
Ration & Dram. This Arizona Avenue spot has a terrific drink program. Wave of Mutilation, made with tequila, pineapple and lime, manages to taste both tropical and autumnal, thanks to a splash of spicy pimento dram. In Bed With Harvey combines pisco with aged Antiguan rum, Gran Classico bitters and lemon. On the classic side, the bar's Brian Stanger makes a kick-butt Sazerac.
130 Arizona Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 678-974-8380, rationanddram.com.
Mason Tavern. Check out this Decatur newbie for killer burgers and a promising list of craft cocktails. Its Always the Bubbly One (gin, St. Germaine, lime and simple) is a sprightly spin on the ginny T, while Su Tan Borracho is a double-whammy Texas margarita makeover of tequila and mezcal, sweetened with Grand Marnier and agave and perked up with cilantro and a sriracha-salt rim.
1371 Clairmont Road, Decatur. 404-963-2322, masontavernatl.com.
Porter Beer Bar. With its monster beer list (more than 800), solid cocktails and better-than-average pub grub, this pioneering Little Five Points gastropub remains a perennial fave. Wash down those bacon hush puppies and pull-apart pretzels with a Prohibition cocktail (essentially a super-potent Manhattan) or a Wild Heaven Wise Blood. If you’re overwhelmed by the multi-page beer menu, keep in mind the clipboard flips from light to dark.
1156 Euclid Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-223-0393, theporterbeerbar.com.
Manuel’s Tavern. For many Atlantans, this 60-year-old Poncey-Highland spot is as familiar as their own living room. After an extensive seven-month renovation, Manuel’s is back, with 41 brews on tap (vs. the 26 of yon). While there are plenty of craft options, a $2.50 pint of draft PBR and a bowl of Brunswick stew make for an honest, dependable and democratic pairing.
602 N. Highland Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-525-3447, manuelstavern.com.