Neighborhoods - East Atlanta - 2014
A quiet walk through Atlanta's rowdiest neighborhood
On a warm weekday evening in East Atlanta, Kyle Withrow enjoys a round of beers with friends and co-workers on the patio of 529, where he works as a manager. It's a familiar pre-shift ritual for the group. The neighborhood that's known for its nightlife is surprisingly quiet, except for one particularly yappy dog hanging out across the street at the Flatiron. At 7 p.m., many businesses are closed. According to Withrow, things won't pick up until 10 p.m. or so. "There aren't a lot of daytime businesses around the Village, at least not yet," he says.
After Withrow finishes his beer, we walk along the back of the businesses lining Glenwood Avenue. We end up at the Basement. "It's closed," he says with a sigh. We walk back along the front of Glenwood. Withrow takes the toothpick out of his mouth and uses it to point to a few landmarks. Tomatillos is his new post-workout spot. Mary's has the best karaoke. Regulars fill the Glenwood, which has a vibe "similar to Little Five Points' Yacht Club," he says.
We cross over to Flat Shoals Avenue. "I used to always stop at Joe's before work," Withrow says of the neighborhood coffee shop. "I gave up caffeine a few years back and miss the hell out of it. My usual order would have been a black coffee but now it's some decaffeinated tea."
We stop in front of the Earl, which, aside from the Flatiron, seems to have the most early evening action. Withrow says hello to a few friends sitting outside. Someone orders a round of shots. He ducks inside to check on a friend's band that's playing later that night. When he returns, we talk about some of the memorable shows that have taken place at the Earl, one of the city's most beloved music venues. He remembers the Archers of Loaf reunion shows from a few years back.
"One of my favorite bands from the '90s doing three nights at my favorite venue was near perfect," he says. "Greg Cartwright playing Dunch for the past few Mess-Arounds was quite possibly the best/most depressing thing I've ever seen."
The small talk continues as we pass Argosy, where he recommends the pork belly and a bourbon-based Manhattan. Withrow points to another favorite restaurant on the opposite end of the road, Octopus Bar. "I love the lobster rolls, but it'll cost you," he says of the menu at the after-hours spot. "They're definitely worth it."
Soon the glow of 529's sign beckons and we make the short walk back to where we started. The bartender opens the sliding-glass window that leads from the patio to the bar, signaling that the neighborhood is slowly starting to open for business. Withrow runs through a few memories from his years at 529, a bar and music venue known for hosting some of the country's best up-and-coming acts, including Kurt Vile. "You knew he was destined to be bigger than the small crowd he was playing for after the first song," he says. "He's one of my favorite songwriters around."
Music plays a big part in Withrow's life, so it's fitting he would find a home in East Atlanta after moving here from Marietta. "I look back fondly on going to shows at the Echo Lounge in high school and being fascinated with the Village and surrounding areas," he says. "I didn't see myself living in Atlanta at the time, but now the neighborhood that intrigued me the most is a big part of my life."
A bar and music venue located at the corner of Glenwood and Flat Shoals avenues. Despite its small space, 529's stage has hosted plenty of up-and-coming musical acts and is one of the best spots in town to hear local music. 529 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-228-6769. www.529atl.com.
Pad your belly with a decent selection of bar food before checking out a local band, established act, or indie darling at one of Atlanta's most beloved live music venues. 488 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com.
Voted Best Restaurant for Late-Night Eating in CL's 2013 Best of Atlanta issue, Octopus Bar is a restaurant where people in the restaurant industry want to eat after getting off of work. Forget your typical late-night eats, chefs Angus Brown and Nhan Le have helmed a sophisticated menu with favorites like smoky bulgogi barbecue with lettuce wraps and the best lobster roll in the city. 560 Gresham Ave. 404-627-9911. www.octopusbaratl.com.
A multi-level, "Brooklyn-inspired" gastropub from the crew behind MJQ and the Bookhouse Pub, featuring classic American cuisine and craft beer. 470 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-577-0407. www.argosy-east.com.
Locally owned coffee shop in the heart of East Atlanta, Joe's serves iced and blended coffee drinks, espresso drinks, teas, pastries, and more. It boasts a friendly staff, homey atmosphere with exposed brick and local art, and back patio. 510 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-521-1122.