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One is the yummiest number

Bartender Jeff Hagley at the bar inside Bacchanalia. AJC Staff

For this week’s Restaurant Stories column, I wrote a satirical (i.e., stooopid) piece about why eating dinner alone in a restaurant can make you feel awkward.

In fact, I love eating at the bar, even if I do get a pitying look from the hostess when I walk into the restaurant with a rolled-up copy of the New Yorker. (”Just one?” she invariably asks.) I find that you do a better job of figuring out what you want to eat, you order the right amount, and you get better service when you dine solo.

For the past few months I’ve been eating at bars a lot as I’ve had to pick up my daughter from a lesson that ends at 8:30 p.m., all the way across town from where we live. In fact, I’ve gotten to know pretty much every dining bar on the west side of Atlanta. I love eating at Bacchanalia (above), where I can order any item off the four-course menu. If I can stick to just one item and a glass of wine, eat all my bread and count on the staff to throw in the evening’s amuse bouche, I can usually get out of there well fed for about $35-$40. Not bad for Bacchanalia.

That said, I can usually score a great meal for $20 or $25 at Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison’s newest restaurant next door, Abattoir. The kitchen makes an awesome burger with a mixture of ground beef and pork. While I love the crisp frites that come on the side, the staff is more than willing to sub out one of the evening’s salads, making for a healthier meal that sits better in the stomach. Add in a good draft beer, and I’m eating pretty.

Where else? Flip Burger Boutique is still a mosh pit, but I can score a seat at the bar easily and count on much faster service than folks at tables get.

Elsewhere around town, I love dining at the bars at Cakes & Ale in Decatur, Fritti and Shaun’s in Inman Park and Holeman & Finch in South Buckhead. What makes them stand out. Generally this: great bartenders, enough space for my magazine to get a beachhead,  and menus that offer dishes of different sizes so I can put together a piecemeal meal. One appetizer + a half pasta+ a glass of decent wine = meal perfection.

What other places have good dining bars. I’m definitely open to suggestions….

11 comments Add your comment

Michael Erickson

July 8th, 2009
5:51 pm

I’m a little biased since I work for the company, but I love to sit at the bar at Ecco.


July 8th, 2009
7:27 pm

John, I also enjoy bar dining @ H&F and Shaun’s. I’ll add Agave to the list for good bar dining. Dynamic Dish is great solo or with groups.


July 9th, 2009
8:09 am

The Monday-Thursday night deal at repast is great. The 3 course meal is $15, then add an app for $6-12 to make it 4 courses.


July 9th, 2009
9:34 am

My favorite place for solo bar dining is Social downtown. Great staff and food and I don’t feel too weird reading the NY Times on my iPod while I wait for my order. They make some really good cocktails there.

I agree that H&F is a great place for dining at the bar, too. I think I even prefer the bar there to a table — though the food is great either way.

One more: the food is only good not great, but I’ve really enjoyed eating at the bar at Cypress Street Pint & Plate. Nice beer selection and I like the feel and look of the space.


July 9th, 2009
9:41 am

SCK- Vinnings; Muss and Turners


July 9th, 2009
11:04 am

Social downtown has a nice bar for dining. Great food and service too.

I also like the bar at Holeman & Finch, though it gets crowded quickly. Cypress Street Pint & Plate certainly doesn’t have food of the same quality as those two, but I love the feel and look of that place and have enjoyed eating at the bar.


July 9th, 2009
12:25 pm

Kevin Rathbun Steak has a great bar area where you can almost always get a table when the restaurant is booked. It’s a comfortable way to dine there. You’ll quickly become uncomfortable if you eat the entire portion of any of their sides, which are meant for sharing. But who can keep from devouring their fantastic jalapeno creamed corn?


July 10th, 2009
11:06 am

I just hopped over from Mara Davis’ blog. I’m a huge foodie and love many of the places you mention (Cakes & Ale in particular). I’m new to ATL (about 7 months), a transplant from Athens (which has all of 5 good restaurants), so let me know if you’d like to dine sometime. I’m still checking out all the great places–mostly get referrals from a colleague or if it’s mentioned in Food & Wine (like Watershed). Not been to Flip yet…like Richard Blaise but unsure of the concept. Anyway, bon appetit!


July 14th, 2009
10:11 am

I love nothing better in the world than sitting at a bar, reading a book, and ordering whatever I like without my husband scowling at me for having a pricey cocktail, appetizer, entree, and dessert if that is the direction my stomach leads me. The bar at Veni Vedi Vichi and Valenza in Brookhaven are two of my favorites. Fabulous food and bartenders that do the right blend of chatting to make me feel welcome but leave me alone to read my book. I also love the service at Craftbar although I have been boycotting since they took the savory bread pudding off the menu.

Betsy D.

July 27th, 2009
2:55 pm

The only place I sit at Nancy G’s is the bar. My boyfriend and I LOVE to sit at the bar whereever we go. Great service, usually a friendly bartender, can watch the goings on.

[...] Stories with John Kessler | Food and More with John Kessler Syndicated from Restaurant Stories with John Kessler | Food and More with John Kessler.That said, I can usually score a great meal for $20 or $25 at Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison’s [...]