NFT Atlanta Downtown / Sweet Auburn / Old Fourth Ward

Downtown / Sweet Auburn / Old Fourth Ward

Going from ghetto to gentrified, this part of town is a mixed bag of urban life. Between Grady Hospital and the dilapidated King Memorial, panhandlers are on the prowl while developers are moving in with condos, lofts, and coffee shops—caffeine (or any addiction) seems to rule over groceries. Renaissance usually refers to the park with the druggies, while Sweet Auburn’s face-lift is underway, for better or worse.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Josh Green
Photo:  Josh Green

The Pool at Tribute Lofts
The rooftop pool at the Tribute Lofts offers that rarest of downtown Atlanta views--looking west from the Eastside, the skyline like an outstretched hand. Perhaps you know someone who smartly grabbed one of these units last fall, the first among a wave in the city to hit the auction block. The pool (it's actually a highfalutin "European mineral spa") nearly sold me, but I wasn't reading to pull the trigger. What the watering hole lacks in size it more than compensates with atmosphere. A prominent local news personality sipped wine at tables resembling Jetson furniture the day of my last visit. The Atlanta Urban Design Commission popped a stiffy for this place, naming it tops in new construction for 2008. Here's to hoping the surrounding neighborhood catches up soon.

Posted By:  Josh Green
Photo:  Josh Green

Rolling Bones Premium Pit BBQ
Rolling Bones renders a fresh take on a ubiquitous trend: the conversion of derelict gas stations into sit-down eateries. I've seen former petro stations flipped from College Park to Lawrenceville, but none this smoothly done. The Art Deco interior, combined with what's retro-modern outside, hardly feels like a typical Dixie 'que shack. One gets the feeling a sock hop could spontaneously break out here. But the sweet-smoke aroma tells patrons that's what inside is delectable. The meats are prepared how they do in Central Texas, over mesquite. Order a BBQ beef brisket sandwich ($6.50)--it's heaping, no side offered or required--and they chop it in front of you, like Subway dudes with cleavers. The beef tacos (at $1.95) will knock your socks off. The drive-thru was a clever touch, somehow befitting the quick-service efficiency of the business that is, and the one that was.

Posted By:  Katherine Dean
Photo:  J.E. Kemp

Dynamic Dish
From time to time I have this wonderful food fantasy: On a rainy Saturday afternoon, I enter a newish hole-in-the-wall, where I am greeted with a warm smile. Upon a countertop, luscious little bits of cake sit, free for the taking. Precisely the dish I want to eat is displayed up on the chalkboard alongside the etching of a most reasonable price. It is prepared using only the freshest local, organic ingredients in a manner that is eco-friendly. As I wait for my meal, I make friends with the waitstaff. We laugh. The owner pops in carrying a fresh bunch of produce that I suspect will appear on my plate. It does. When my meal arrives, it is perfectly portioned, scrumptious and feels—but doesn’t taste—healthy. A fellow cracks out his guitar and plays my favorite Simon and Garfunkel song while everyone in the dining room hums along. The sun comes out. I leave feeling rejuvenated, tranquil, and exuding a tremendous sense of inner peace. Minus the happy hippie sing-along, dining at Dynamic Dish is just like my fantasy. It’s Shangri-La on Edgewood. So get there quick, friends. Because even with a microscopic menu, Dynamic Dish is a dream come true.

Posted By:  Sheronda Gipson
Photo:  none

What’s the best way to praise the Lord and give thanks for his wonderful bounty? By spending Sunday morning at Thumbs up Diner, of course! Now they serve breakfast everyday of the week but for me, there’s something special about Sunday. Initially opened in Decatur this staple in the metro area was re-opened just past downtown Atlanta on Edgewood Ave. The second location is in East Point followed by the recent opening of the Avondale Estates location. Fish and grits, chicken and waffles, fluffy cloud-like pancakes are all on the menu, and for the healthy eaters in the crew, Thumbs Ups serves the most decadent buckwheat pancakes and waffles that have ever touched my lips. Now be prepared. If you go during peak hours (which are often on Sunday mornings!), you will experience at least a 2-hour wait. But once you’re seated, it doesn’t take long for the food to come. And Thumbs Up does not take credit or debit cards; this is a cash only establishment. But no need to fret, they have an ATM in the building just in case you forget. Which is great because would you really want a credit card reminder of the glutton you made of yourself? I think not!

Posted By:  Beth Linder
Photo:  Beth Linder

High Velocity Sports Bar
Don’t let the location fool you. This isn’t your average I’m-stranded-at-the-airport-and-I-need-a-place-to-stay hotel. This is Atlanta’s 138 million-dollar-makeover Marriott Marquis, and the uber-modern High Velocity Sports Bar will make you want to purify yourself of every Red Roof offering of complimentary continental breakfasts. While I didn’t wander in for the food (despite the flirtatious call of the crisp, golden french fries sending off wisps of pheromones from the next table), my Amaretto Sour was just the right bits sweet and tart. For a night out with friends, your plus one, or someone else’s plus one, the cozy leather booths keep the conversation intimate, while sports fans can curse at their pick of 21 plasma screens from the comfort of their recliner in an adjacent room. It’s the best way to score high energy and high class at low maintenance.

Posted By:  Carla Kaiser
Photo:  Carla Kaiser

Sister Louisa Gallery
You may have seen the bumper stickers around town that say “The Higher the Hair, the Closer to God.” That’s from Atlanta’s fabulously successful local artist Sister Louisa, aka Grant Henry. From now through September, Sister Louisa’s paintings can be seen at Stone Soup Kitchen. Most of the paintings are paint by numbers of stuff like the Last Supper, or Jesus, or clowns. And then Sister Louisa adds special inspirational messages like “Fuck Fear!” or “Nothing Harder than a Preacher’s dick.” But what I am most excited about is that Sister Louisa has recently expanded her horizons and is now officiating weddings at her Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium. The “wedding in a box” is complete with a photographer, florist, caterer, and campy Vegas style fun with a twist of Jesus. Pre-nup not included. Know any hot rich guys looking for a wife?

Posted By:  Beth Malone
Photo:  Beth Malone

Georgia State University
When she walked into the lecture hall I was completely star struck. I’m not usually impressed by celeb sightings. When I saw Maya at the airport; I walked right on by. Angela Landsbury at a broadway show—boring. Andrew McCartney in New York...ok I flipped out a little and followed him for three blocks. I love Weekend at Bernie’s. When Mayor Franklin walked into GSU’s School of Policy Studies, I was surprised by my heart flutter. She’s the first female mayor of Atlanta, and ranked among the world’s top 10! Considering our last mayor is still in prison for racketeering; she’s been busy. She implemented programs for higher education funding for under-privileged youth, continues working to raise minimum wage, and has just signed off on the Peachtree Corridor (we’re hoping it doesn’t replicate Boston’s lengthy Big Dig project) that will eventually solve some of our traffic problems. She emphasizes a need for younger generations to step up and take action for others in our communities. Good places in Atlanta to do this are: Café 458, The Samaritan House, or the MLK Center. For mentoring opportunities go to I love Shirley.

Posted By:  Carla Kaiser
Photo:  Carla Kaiser

MSG Graffiti Mural
Yeah. So I attended the Nighttime Vultures art show at Village Pizza Co. in Cabbagetown last Monday, featuring paintings by Miami’s “notorious” MSG crew. I absolutely loved the show and bought three paintings, but that’s beside the point. The point is that the artists had spray paint all over the fingers. All because they were busy painting a fresh new mural at the corner of Freedom Parkway and Boulevard, which is now officially my favorite intersection. We got the awesome statue of Dr. Martin Luther King. We got that amazing view of our glorious skyline. And as of Monday, February 5, 2007, we got some new art to look at. Enjoy!

Posted By:  T. Murray
Photo:  Courtesy Verve

Nestled in the newly named SoNo District, located between Downtown and Midtown Atlanta, you will find the hottest new destination for the urban chic crowd. Enjoy three levels of entertainment, including a rooftop loft with a breathtaking Atlanta skyline view. On the second level enjoy succulent meals prepared by the in-house chef, and after dinner drop in on the ground floor to groove to the sounds provided by several resident DJs. VIP seating is available. For private affairs book one of the floors for your special event. Verve is in a class by itself offering exclusivity and luxury to its patrons.

Posted By:  Beth Malone
Photo:  Beth Malone

Drew Van Atten is moving to New York—we’re losing one of our great, local DJ’s. There was a party last night at Django—the place next to Inserection (gross) and Shakespeare’s Tavern (wonderful) on Peachtree. Ice cream, live painting, and photographers created the mood as Drew spun. Django is a sexy place. The gypsy kitchen is cozy with soft, red, and yellow lighting. A sweet patio, with loads of foliage, overlooks Juniper allowing you to see the green spaces that fill Atlanta despite all the new developments. Under the main restaurant is The Belly. There’s a dance floor, booths, several benches lining the wall, and a bar that sells reasonably priced drinks. The crowd can get a bit pretentious for my taste. The topless chick was too comfortable in nipple buttons, and the guy who threw the party couldn’t pull off the Andy Warhol vibe he was going for. Regardless, Django is a badass place—go to impress pals with your hip taste or to pick up one of the scenesters that hang out there. At least stop by once to watch the pervs creep into the Sex Shop next door.

Posted By:  T. Murray
Photo:  Courtesy of Harlem Bar

Though Atlanta is sometimes coined the apple of the south, the culture of New York is difficult to imitate. There's only one New York. And there's only one neighborhood that is home to a renaissance that served as a rebirth for African Americans—Harlem. However when you step up to Atlanta’s Harlem Bar, located just under a highway overpass, you will be transported to the sites, sounds, and suspicious smells of New York’s most well known borough. Once inside your time travel begins with a glimpse of 1970s films such as The Wiz, Foxy Brown, and Shaft playing against a bare wall next to the bar. Where else in the city can you get Affirmative Action and Kama Sutra in a martini glass? Come with an empty stomach, because the menu will make any true country cuisine connoisseur’s mouth water. Shrimp and grits, catfish fingers, and of course macaroni and cheese, greens, and red velvet cake all served at a palate pleasing price. With a décor and location that live up to the name, it’s a place where the servers will learn your name, and southerners can get a little northern exposure.

Posted By:  Sara Cheshire

Café 458 is your unique, urban brunch spot if you don’t mind being in the panhandler triangle of downtown on the weekend. Part restaurant and part fundraiser, proceeds support the Samaritan House of Atlanta, allowing the no-frills venue to be open during the week to provide meals to the homeless. Volunteers compose the serving and kitchen staff, but thankfully the chef is a professional. The menu changes on a regular basis, but eggs, parmesan grits, and meat ala carte are always staples, along with sweet pancake creations and distinctly southern dishes like Cajun crawfish bruschetta and Carolina pulled pork eggs benedict. There is an all-you-can-eat buffet, but it looked a little sad by 1 pm and contained food I could have easily cooked at home. I’d stick with the menu. I recommend street parking to avoid the small risk of getting towed in the lot next to the building. For those interested in volunteering, contact Christy Johnson, Brunch Volunteer Coordinator, at

Posted By:  Jessica Harbour
Photo:  none

The New American Shakespeare Tavern
There are fine, well-crafted beers, and then there are beers you really don’t like yourself for having drunk the next morning. Similarly, there are Shakespeare plays that can leave you overwhelmed, or near tears—not that I’ve ever cried at Lear’s death scene; that was an allergy, really—and some whose plot or jokes don’t translate well to modern times. (See two-thirds of Much Ado About Nothing and nine-tenths of The Merchant of Venice.) The other similarity between beer and Shakespeare is that both can be found, year-round, at the New American Shakespeare Tavern. While waiting for the show to begin you can have a drink, or even a full meal, at your table. The Tavern only seats 230, so bad seats are hard to come by, and artistic director Jeff Watkins and his acting crew are experienced performers with good material to work with for the rest of the season—the Shakespeare comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream (through April 9th), Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (April 14th to May 7th), and the musical The Fantasticks (May 12th to June 25th).

Posted By:  Ben Bowlin
Photo:  Ben Bowlin

Dr Martin Luther King Home
I know, I know; isn’t the birthplace of Martin L. King a bit of a ‘touristy’ thing to do”? Hold your horses, dear reader, because you’re thinking of the King Center about two blocks away. This tour is more or less above the radar because tourists generally don’t plan ahead to take it, and if you live in the city of Atlanta, you owe it to yourself to go. The king center itself could be ranked as ‘tourist’ material, but the home of Dr. King is altogether different. Park Rangers conduct guided tours with no more than 15 people through the home, while giving information about the history of the house and Dr. King’s childhood. Get there early on weekends as Saturdays sell out quickly! Especially during Black History Month (and all through the year, really), I feel that each Atlanta citizen should be cognizant of the role Dr. King played in the history of our city, African-American history, and human rights worldwide. This is a formative experience and time well spent. Go in a group of about four people, carpool, and pay the fee for a nearby lot. You don’t want to risk illegal ‘free’ parking in this area, because you will be ticketed, booted, or towed. Entry to the house is free.

Posted By:  Beth Malone
Photo:  Tak Masuda

Royal Peacock
In my quest for great dance spots, I found a diamond in the rough. The Royal Peacock is a reggae club hidden downtown. There are crowds of people (bums) who linger outside the neon stairwell as patrons make their way between the two massive security guards with frisking wands. Where am I taking you? You’ll see. Once inside, you smell pungent odors…cigarettes, cloves, and a little something else. Giant posters of Bob Marley decorate the walls; not the ones you find at a Kappa Kappa Beta house, but authentic, lovely pictures. The dancing’s amazing and the DJ’s are phenomenal. I’m a horrible dancer, but I just kept swinging my hips and fit right in…sort of. I even learned how to “wine”. “Wining” is what we in the reggae world call dancing. The Peacock is only ten bucks at the door and you’ll want to stay all night. When we left I felt more rhythm in my body than I ever thought possible. In the car on the way home I even had to continue faking the Jamaican accent…until I was told to give it a rest or get out. I love this city.

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