Neighborhoods - Avondale Estates
Walking off Pallookaville tots with Jim Stacy
Jim Stacy emerges from the kitchen at Pallookaville Fine Foods, his six-foot, six-inch frame and Mickey Mouse-turned-Cthulhu T-shirt are imposing, his voice a hardy baritone, and his craggy red beard flaps in the breeze like a pirate's flag. "How do you want to do this?" he asks. "We could walk, but everything in Avondale is pretty much a series of short drives."
A leisurely sightseeing stroll around Avondale Estates might be exactly what the mind and body need after taking down a Rolypoleon — a Mount Olive pickle done up as a veggie-friendly alternative to a corn dog — along with a basket of cheesy tots and a milk shake. A walk will happen, but, like true Atlantans, we first jump into my green Ford Focus to explore a geographic area covering 1.1 miles along the southeastern edge of Decatur.
Our first stop is Southern Sweets Bakery. Technically, this is in Decatur, but it's just past the ruins of an abandoned Fenner Dunlop cog factory, part of which is located in Avondale.
"This would be a great place for a festival," Stacy says of the giant cement hole in the ground.
Since October, Stacy has focused his time and energy on running Pallookaville with his wife, Kim, and co-owner John Gianoulidis. Stacy, once a manager of the Starlight Drive-In, says the futures of such lauded annual gatherings as Drive Invasion and Monster Bash are uncertain. Talk of launching Pallokapalooza here puts a gleam in his eye. Avondale's no stranger to festivals. The Rail Arts District, a few blocks south, hosts the annual Art-B-Que food, music, and art fest over Mother's Day weekend.
At Southern Sweets, locals greet Stacy with praise for Pallookaville's soda fountain, and tell him how stoked they are that Avondale finally has a corned beef sandwich. Others ask when Pallookaville will be featured on his "Get Delicious!" PBS show or the "Deep Fried Masters" show he co-hosts on Discovery's Destination America. "That's sort of a conflict of interest," he says.
At the counter, talk with the manager, Trish Robinson, is all business: pies. On this day of decadence, Pallookaville rolled out a new milk shake for two made with a full slice of pie from Southern Sweets. The way Stacy and Robinson talk, you might think they were in the beta testing phase for some new technology. But it's pie and a milk shake. What more do you need to know?
Next stop is Pine Street Market for a crash course in handmade artisan meats. We sample evergreen and chipotle-infused sausage bites before trekking across College Avenue, Avondale's main drag, through a picturesque neighborhood to Lake Avondale Park — a scene that could have been lifted from a Norman Rockwell painting.
While meandering along the path surrounding the lake, Stacy counts 14 turtles' heads poking out of the water. Two hawks screech overhead. This bucolic bit of nature seems an unlikely counterpart to the traffic whizzing past the Tudor Revival architecture along College Avenue, but it's all part of this idyllic southern borough's original design.
"It was all inspired when George Francis Willis took a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, where William Shakespeare was from," Stacy says while thumbing over Google on his phone.
The town's founding father was a real estate agent and patent medicines mogul, and he built a community that stood up to the ages.
"I like Avondale Estates because it is, for Atlanta, uncharacteristically preserved," Stacy says. "It is time to build a vibrant and intelligent Village for the neighborhood. I'm shocked I have to explain 'Why Avondale?' so often. To me it seems like a no-brainer."
Pallookaville Fine Foods
The walls of Pallookaville are covered with a shotgun blast of pop culture ephemera, from antique toys and velvet paintings of Muhammad Ali and Col. Sanders to that sexy leg lamp from A Christmas Story. The mammoth corn dogs are a gateway drug to a menu that balances deep-fried decadence and Southern fare made with only the finest locally sourced ingredients. And there's booze. 17 N. Avondale Plaza. 404-500-1785. www.pallookaville.com.
Pine Street Market
Offering a fine selection of artisanal meats, Pine Street Market has an Old World flare for the art of the butcher shop. Salami, pork chops, sausage, and bacon are processed in-house, catering to all of your meat-loving desires. 4 Pine St. 404-296-9672. www.pinestreetmarket.com.
Southern Sweets Bakery
Hidden away in a warehouse between Decatur and Avondale Estates, Southern Sweets is known for its delectable pies, cookies, cakes, and, oh yes, banana pudding. But this out-of-the-way café also boasts humble but impressive breakfast and lunch menus stacked with everything from a smoked salmon scramble that'll knock your socks off to a baked French toast casserole that's like biting into a little piece of heaven. 186 Rio Circle. 404-373-8752. www.southernsweets.com.
Lake Avondale Park
Tucked away on the residential side of College Avenue, Lake Avondale Park is a great place for a picnic or a midday stroll around the lake. While you're there, check out the ducks, geese, turtles, blue herons, hawks, and birds that congregate on this bucolic bit of nature hidden in the city. Lakeshore and Wiltshire drives. www.avondaleestates.org.
Rail Arts District
Staked out on a swathe of repurposed industrial warehouse terrain touching Avondale Estates, Decatur, and Scottdale, Rail Arts District (RAD) is a place of refuge for painters, pottery makers, glass blowers, and the like. It's home to various studios, galleries, and performance spaces, serving as the heart of Avondale's arts community. Franklin Street. 404-377-8033. www.railartsdistrict.com.