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Beer Town: Wild Things at The Porter in L5P

Nick Rutherford and Molly Gunn, the exuberant young owners of The Porter Beer Bar in Little Five Points, took some guff from beer geeks when they first opened their labor of love pub in Sept. 2008.

Nick at The Porter

Nick at The Porter

I’ll admit, I was among those who raised an eyebrow, writing this in Draft magazine: “If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, The Porter is the greatest admirer of Atlanta’s Brick Store Pub. It’s sort of like a cover band, right down to the lip-synching design of its beer menu.”

For the record, I also noted: “It’s hard to argue with the first-class selection, which includes 27 offerings on draft and another 130 in the bottle. And the food menu, which features suggested beer pairings, ups the ante for beer bars in the city.”

Honestly, a year-plus on, it’s Rutherford’s cooking that’s made The Porter such a go-to place for me. His weekly specials have always reflected a background working at some of Atlanta’s best restaurants, including Seeger’s and Quinones at Bacchanalia.

But Rutherford’s mix of updated pub grub and dishes that employ local vegetables and proteins has become even more impressive over time. And Gunn’s ever-perky presence, meeting and greeting guests at the front of the house, casts a warm glow over the hip, and sometimes hectic atmosphere.

Molly at The Porter

Molly at The Porter

I caught up with Rutherford and Gunn on a freezing evening during the kickoff of the 2010 Where the Wild Beers Are tasting series — which featured an exciting ten-beer Allagash Brewing Co. “tap takeover,” including big Belgian-style treats, such as Fluxus, Odyssey, and Interlude, plus the new, decidedly not Belgian-style, Burnham Road smoked beer.

Asked to reflect on their first year in business, and look to the future, here’s a bit of what Rutherford and Gunn had to say.

Molly on the first year: It really has been excellent. We definitely learned a lot, and we have gotten a lot better at what we do.

Nick on what they learned: The Porter has it’s own clear identity. Some people just come for the food, some just for the beer, but most of our regulars come to enjoy them both, together.

Molly on nice surprises: We were surprised by how quickly the surrounding neighborhoods embraced us. Apparently beer really is recession proof!

Nick on the menu: Our food menu, at least our specials menu, is constantly evolving. We are always finding new things that go well with beer, which is our only rule for menu items. Right now, we have rabbit from a small North Carolina farm on the menu, and when I eat it, I can just imagine Flemish peasants eating rabbit stew on a cold winter day and sipping a delicious dark beer.

Molly on the future: We are very lucky to be down the street from what is considered the second best beer bar in the world. It gives us something to aspire to. Our next focus is improving our staff’s knowledge about beer. And we dream of a roof deck, some day.

Event: Where the Wild Beers Are continues through the end of January, with a different firkin every day this week through Saturday [Jan. 23]. This year’s finale is a B. United distributors tap takeover on Jan. 29, with special beers from Hitachino, Mikkeller, and many other wild things.

9 comments Add your comment

Mark

January 18th, 2010
11:27 am

I really have come to love the Porter, even more than the Brick Store, to be honest. The beer selection seems larger (about 30 vs. 25) and more adventurous, I love the weekly specials and events, and the food is much more interesting a step above pub grub. Molly is super sweet and attentive and Nick’s food gets better and better.

It does get cramped at times, esp. up front by the bar when squeezing through to get to the rear tables feels like a mouse being passed down a snake’s alimentary tract. And the back can get very noisy and crowded, but such is the price of success.

I’ve taken friends and family there on many occasions and, barring the occasional mis-order or food letdown, they’ve come away impressed. Count me as a fan.

Carl Perkins

January 18th, 2010
11:28 am

I agree with the writer – I too was skeptical, but aside from a few minor bumps I’d say they’ve done a good job overall. Can’t say I’m as impressed with the food though, but I’ll keep trying the specials. Location is a big plus for me, since I live in Inman Park. BSP seems far from home after a few big beers…

Angela and Nick

January 19th, 2010
10:30 am

We have been fans of The Porter since it opened. We knew it was gonna be big when they kept running out of beer and had hit or miss hours in the beginning! It’s our #1 destination when we go out.

We adore the food and the specials are NOT to be missed. Nick is fearless with putting what I call “weird food” on the menu. Yesterday I had pork lengua tacos that were awesome. They also have veal tongue terrine on right now. They’ve had sweetbreads and brains as specials, too. Nick does a lot of pickling as well, so you’ll have lovely homemade pickles, onions and other veg to add some zing to your plate. It’s always an adventure to explore the specials and we love the beer pairings. Justin at the bar is awesome at bringing us new beers that he knows we’ll like.

Everyone we’ve taken to The Porter has loved it as much as we do, I’m happy to say. We consider ourselves ‘regulars’ and we’ll continue to be. Of all the new restaurants we’ve tried in the past year, The Porter is the only one we still love (I’m looking at YOU, Decatur!!).

So, if you’ve not tried The Porter yet, get thee to the bar! Go during the week if you want to avoid the crowds and park behind the building. And try some of the weird food! You’ll LOVE IT!

Covert Hops

January 20th, 2010
2:51 pm

Thanks for writing about great beer and great beer bars in this city. Places like the Porter help propel Atlanta to being a great beer city.

Lance Deen

January 22nd, 2010
8:14 am

The Porter is certainly a welcomed addition to Intown Atlanta. As others have indicated, the daily specials are truly special. A few weeks ago, I went in craving their burger and ended up with an awesome place of Springer fried chicken, garlic mashed potatoes with greens.

The Other Matt

January 22nd, 2010
1:24 pm

This is my local bar- it is awesome to be able to walk there and get some great beer and good food. The recent pot roast they had on the menu was to die for, their Belgian fries are awesome and I love all the special events/kegs they have regularly. Molly and Nick are extra nice folks. and we always chat when I come in and I can usually get a free taste of what is new and exciting. The staff is pretty knowledgeable overall as well. The crowds can be a bit of a problem, but I can usually get a seat at the bar and I love how it is smoke-free before 9 PM. A great addition to the Atlanta beer scene. long may they pour!

Ed H.

January 22nd, 2010
2:00 pm

The Porter is great! Great food and great beer! Now if they would just go Non Smoking, all the time, I would go there more often! How does the Brickstore, the Five Seasons and even the many locations of Taco Mac survive and thrive with a No Smoking policy? Nothing is worse than sitting at the Porter bar savouring a great beer, enjoying the aroma and the Doomsday Clock hits 9PM and in comes a flood of youthful patrons, who must believe themselves to be immortal, with a lit cigarette in each hand. Their accompaning smoke cloud obliterates any vestige of the aroma of the beer and actually effect the flavor also. Ditto for the food! Plus, I do not care to share their second hand smoke. Even sitting at the tables in the back gives you no immunity to the onslaught of smoke! The last time I ate there, people at the ajoining table fired up right in the middle of our meal! Do Molly and Nick really think that these smokers will not continue to patronize the place if they have to go outside to smoke? Just, look at the equally self destructive crowd right outside the Brickstore’s front door on most any night!

Darren

January 22nd, 2010
2:01 pm

Nick and Molly are doing a tremendous job running both the beer and food side of the business. It is always a pleasure to go by and enjoy a tremendous beer selection and delicious food to go along with it. Keep up the great work.

Darren

kp

January 22nd, 2010
2:08 pm

I love The Porter. I’d go there much more often if I thought I had any hope of finding a place to park.