Food & Drink » Bar Review

Meeting Up at Manuel's Tavern

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Genre: Blue-collar bar for intowners

Where to?: Poncey-Highland, at the corner of North and N. Highland avenues

The scene: Several rooms cobbled together offer a variety of spaces for groups of any size. The busy walls, with their numerous advertising signs, portraits of family, friends and well-known Democrats, and other odds and ends provide no end of visual stimulation. Additional entertainment is found on the many TVs tuned primarily to Atlanta sports.

The Clientele: Fraternity brothers, buddies, families, middle-agers, men's men, good ol' girls, proud Southerners, politicos, journalists and anyone who just wants a beer and a bite, but not a lot of fuss. Taking a look down the long antique bar -- the centerpiece of the main barroom -- one could see blue jeans on every butt. The idea of dressing up to go to Manuel's is just plain silly.

Drinks: The drink menu lists 22 draughts (pints $2.50-$4) and 20 bottled beers ($3.25-$4.75). Options include the usual domestic, European and British brews. Special attractions on draught include the "602 N. Highland Lager," created by a custom microbrewery in Wisconsin; and the Leinenkugel creamy dark -- which Maloof calls "the most underrated beer in the city." Of course, there is the usual variety of spirits, including at least five single malts, and 13 wines by the glass ($4.75-$6.75), also available by bottle. And the menu offers a selection of cigars ($3.75-$9.25).

Munchies: All your typical bar food, but much more of it, and for maybe a couple of dollars more. Appetizers range from $5-$7.50, and there are wings, fried bites, soups ($3) and salads (most around $7), sandwiches ($6-$8), burgers ($7), and a selection of house specialties including lasagne, pork chops, chicken, fish, steaks and ribs ($8-$14). Vegetarians have a few choices, but nothing very exciting. We're talking basic belly-fillers.

Few menu items are so good that you want to come here for the food alone. But no matter how large the group, everyone can find something to munch on at a reasonable price.

a historic joint: Over the years, I've been to Manuel's dozens of times, whether for formal meetings or informal meet-ups. It's very easy to get to from just about anywhere in town, and the abundant free parking is nice. Manuel's has been operating this classic neighborhood meeting spot since 1956 and it's a beloved Atlanta institution. If you're looking to hang out with friends in an environment where the staff doesn't care how long you sit, how much you spend or how loud y'all are, this is a great choice.

Manuel's Tavern. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.- 2 a.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-midnight. 602 N. Highland Ave., 404-525-3447. manuelstavern.com

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