Downtown, the onetime railroad hub where Atlanta literally began, has come a long way since its days as a vertical office park that turned into a ghost town after the sun set. Though still overrun by government buildings and nine-to-fivers, the area is continuing to grow into a community where young singles and small families have converged to be near the joys of urban life: the entertainment, the walkable streets, and, yes, the chaos. And thanks to Georgia State University’s decision to concentrate its students and faculty in Downtown, the streets are a little more bustling. Yes, parts can be touristy. But the heart of the city boasts history, density, and, if the city doesn’t turn its back on the area, seemingly unlimited potential.
The tiny, shacklike entrance reveals an eclectic and loyal late-night crowd. Music at this underground clubber’s club ranges from hip-hop and Brit-pop to downtempo and rare grooves. The dim basement space feels like the most happenin’ speakeasy in town.
It's rare for a place to be so hip and so comfortable. This one has an industrial vibe, a cool-but-not-too-cool staff, locally produced art on the walls, pastries and cookies from Alon's and, of course, well-crafted coffee drinks and high-quality teas. Of particular note: Octane's French press coffees and award-winning baristas.
Jeff Varasano, software engineer, Rubik’s cube champion, and self-made pizza guru, has a lot to live up to when his restaurant opened. Previously, Varasano had been holding pizza parties in his Buckhead home that attracted hoards of foodies, as well as the New York Times. His pizza is, for the most part, blatantly delicious. The crust is thin — crispy but not cracker-like. The bottom is kissed by a mottled black patina, which makes the chewy-to-crispy ratio just right.
Originally a cotton-gin manufacturer, the Goat Farm is a Westside haven for working artists and performance companies, a frequent location for movie shoots (cough cough, Hunger Games, cough cough), and a great live music venue.
Holeman and Finch Public House has changed the face of Atlanta's dining scene since opening in 2008. From the outset, H&F's cocktail program set off a citywide race to blend obscure spirits into crowd-pleasing tipples. The 10 p.m. off-menu cheeseburger established a widely imitated gold standard. The house charcuterie program, once a unique feature, has inspired a whole league of competitors. The menu is unapologetically meat-centric with an extra focus on offal dishes and Southern-inspired small plates. Even after all these years, H&F's carefully crafted cocktails continue to be destination-worthy on their own.