By the time we arrived in Atlanta, I had fully crafted a life plan that started with cancelling my flight back to England, moving to Savannah, starting a quaint neighbourhood bistro and never looking back. Suffice to say I hadn’t really thought about what Atlanta would be like at all. Turns out, Atlanta is kind of lovely too.
We were staying with our friend Mary, her lovely parents, and their two miniature schnauzers; Peggy Sue and Bob Dylan. Our first night was a blur of real home comfort. Homemade gluten free sourdough bruschetta inspired by Mary’s recent trip to Italy, deceptively strong thyme infused cocktails and home smoked salmon. It really was a promising start.
Our first day in Atlanta began with a walk up Stone Mountain. Of course when I say this, I mean George walked while I stumbled and sweated behind her. The view from the top threw me at first in its sheer greenness (is that a word? I’m going with it). If Mary hadn’t insisted that yes, Atlanta was right below us, I wouldn’t have guessed it. Other than the few downtown high-rises in the distance the whole city seemed to be made up of leafy cul-de-sacs and cute suburbs. Having made it off the mountain considerably faster than we climbed it, we decided to reward ourselves with brunch. Side note: Literally any activity completed pre 10am deserves to be rewarded with brunch.
With Mary as our leader, we headed over to DeKalb Avenue and to Radial Cafe. Radial was, in their own words, ‘farm-to-table before farm-to-table was cool’ and their experience shows. They have a huge selection catering to vegans/carnivores and coeliacs/gluten lovers alike. Suitably full of cheese grits, gluten free pancakes and supercharged veggie burgers we passed the afternoon exploring the vintage shops of Peachtree Street and watching more Shark Week than was strictly necessary.
Eventually we tore ourselves away from the sharks to check out happy hour at Kimball House and christ am I glad we did. Although it only opened in 2013, Kimball House feels like it has been there forever; helped in no small part by its home in a beautifully restored old railway station. The guys who work there have a positively encyclopaedic knowledge of everything booze which was invaluable to a terminally indecisive yet particular person like myself. I finally settled on a Sunset Boulevard – basically the best boulevardier I have ever had with the addition of rhubarb vermouth, raspberry brandy and citrus bitters. One of the major draws of Kimball House is its raw bar, so I was planning on sitting back and working my way through the cocktail menu while George and Mary ate oysters. After a quick glance over the dinner menu I decided to try their leek hushpuppies while the others sucked on molluscs. Just in the name of research of course. Oh the hushpuppies. Essentially buttery leeky deep fried cornbread, draped with lardo, strips of tart ramps and whipped maple butter. I just had to stop typing for a moment and be sad that I’m not eating it right now. Spurred on by the hushpuppies and (apparently) wonderful oysters, we abandoned plans of leaving, made ourselves comfortable, ordered another round of cocktails and more food.
Being in Georgia, of course we had to order the peach salad. Perfectly ripe peaches, arugula (sorry, rocket) pesto, mushroom conserve, pecan oil and lime combined to elevate this simple looking plate of food to extreme levels of deliciousness. The star however was undoubtedly the smoked bass. Nestled on a bed of heirloom tomatoes, fresh sweet corn, charred greens, bamboo, chanterelles and swimming in a pool of smokey corn fumet. It is a testament to the manners of the waiters that they didn’t judge me for licking the plate, because lick the plate I did.
Next on the list was Leon’s Full Service. Things start to get a little blurry round the edges at this point but I know we drank delicious Gruner Veltliner and ate devilled eggs (what, thats not what you order when you’re drunk?) and an actual bucket of fries with smoked tomato aoli. Leon’s is actually owned by the same people at Kimball House and it showed in their immaculate service and attention to detail in the food. Two bottles of wine later it was only a short stagger found the corner to the Brick Store Pub, completing our hatrick of joints owned by the same guys. Upstairs in the Belgian bar Mary and I drank cider while George had a little snooze. It had been a long day after all.
Not wanting to sober up and realise how hungover we were, the next day we went to check out the Old Fourth distillery. The first distillery in Atlanta since before prohibition, the guys at Old Fourth are clearly very passionate about that they do. They run free tours on Thursday afternoons which we gladly jumped on, where you can sample their small batch vodka, whiskey and even their first trial batches of gin. The vodka especially was utterly delicious – so much so that I currently have a bottle of it in the glove compartment of the car to swig when George isn’t entertaining me enough. We actually learned that Kimball House uses their spirits so we knew we were in good hands. The building itself is beautifully designed and clearly a real labour of love, from the copper stills to the salvaged school furniture in the tasting room to the huge collection of pre prohibition stoneware whiskey jugs from previous Atlanta distilleries. Talking to Justin, one of the owners, after the tour it was obvious that they have big plans for the business and really see it as part of the evolving community. I just wish it was round the corner from my house; though my liver is probably glad it isn’t.
It was with real sadness that we left Mary and Atlanta the next morning. Georgia had been an unexpected delight, but Nashville was calling.
Written by Laura.