As coffee types from around the world prepare to descend on Atlanta, Georgia for the 2016 Specialty Coffee Association of America Event, we're proud to bring you the latest in a long-standing tradition here at Sprudge: a guide to the best places to eat, drink, and have a nice coffee time during SCAA.
This year's guide comes to us from Elizabeth Chai, a Sprudge contributor and 13-year Atlanta veteran who recently relocated to Portland, Oregon. In addition to being a capable guide, Chai is also a talented graphic designer, resulting in the very helpful letter-coded map you see up above corresponding to the guide below. Use this map to guide your way to gastronomic and booze-atorial success across the ATL, and tell 'em Sprudge sent you.
Your Atlanta Coffee Crawl
A) Spiller Park Coffee
Spiller Park Coffee is the vintage baseball inspired coffee kiosk that rose from the ashes of Steady Hand Pour House (RIP). Helmed by Dale Donchey and backed by Chef Hugh Acheson’s decadent toast menu, Spiller Park is rather new to the scene, but already hitting homers with a strong team of coffee players. Spiller Park is a multi-roaster (George Howell Coffee, Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, Intelligentsia Coffee) and the only good cup of coffee you’ll find within the walls of Ponce City Market.
Pro Tip: If you’re into milk alternatives, don’t miss Spiller’s offering of #NutMilk—a locally made pecan milk sweetened with dates and honey. If you like coconut and unique froufrou drinks, order the Coconut Sipper, made with steamed coconut cream.
B) Octane Coffee
While Octane Coffee on the Westside is recognized as Atlanta’s longstanding hometown hero, we’re sending you to their Grant Park location first. With its roll-up windows, 25-foot ceilings, and industrial seating, Octane Grant Park is breathable and refreshing (and even more so when you catch it on a sunny day). Octane GP offers filter coffee as V60 pour-over, while Westside continues to serve a clientele-specific French Press. Octane Westside is ATL’s OG, and absolutely worth a visit as well.
Pro Tip: Octane Grant Park shares a space with Little Tart Bakeshop. Little Tart’s French-inspired pastries are the best in Atlanta, hands down. If you can’t get one of everything, just make sure to get a perfectly-laminated flakey, buttery croissant, and a slice of Brown Butter Almond Cake, and a kouign amann, and a seasonal fruit galette. Oh, and one of each flavor of sablé cookie. Little Tart also serves perfect Cheddar Waffles with sorghum and local (Pine Street Market) bacon, weekends only.
C) Taproom Coffee
Climbing one step at a time, Taproom Coffee has moved from being a spark of an idea, to a Kickstarter campaign, to a fully-functioning and always-filled neighborhood cafe. Tucked into the miniature stretch of retail shops known as “Downtown” Kirkwood, you’ll find a pleasant variety of Counter Culture Coffee single origins as options for pour-over and the library of CCC blends in retail. Taproom is not only a coffeeshop—they’ve gutted a La Marzocco Linea Classic and turned it into a 12-tap [all craft] beer tower. Taproom is friendly and welcoming, and the overall vibe is a bit calmer than the pace of higher-volume cafes on this list.
Pro Tip: Give the Taproom “Nitro Beerspresso” a try. It isn’t beer, and it isn’t espresso—it’s non-alcoholic dry-hopped nitro-infused Japanese-style iced coffee. If you’re an extrovert, sit at the two-seat bar and have a neighborly chat with owner Jonathan Pasqual.
D) Chattahoochee Coffee Company
Named for its original location that sits just steps away from the Chattahoochee River, Chattahoochee Coffee Company opened a second location on the ground level of Walton Westside’s chic apartment residences. The cafe is both classy and rustic with whitewashed plank wood tabletops, guarded by taxidermy and vintage coffee tins. Chattahoochee serves Counter Culture Coffee via Kalita Wave and as espresso. Fall into a comfy leather armchair or step outside onto the massive covered patio seating area that overlooks the Atlanta city skyline.
Pro Tip: Hit up Chattahoochee Coffee by day for the full experience, but make sure to come back Saturday night, April 16 (7–11 p.m.) for the U.S. AeroPress Championship which will be held in the outdoor covered seating area. Make an extra note of the secret pathway which leads to Westside Provisions District where you can find many delightful edibles such as Jeni’s Ice Cream and Star Provisions Market.
E) Dancing Goats at Ponce City Market
Even though they got their start in Olympia, Washington, Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters has a second home on the East Coast as well. B&B is a key player in the small list of Atlanta-based coffee roasters, and has two cafes in Atlanta which go by the name Dancing Goats Coffee Bars. One location is in downtown Decatur, but our favorite is Ponce City Market for its perfect, breezy covered patio. Go on a warm day, park yourself on one of the cushioned porch swings (each the size of a twin bed), relax to the sounds of the wooden-barrel fountain and sip on the cafe's Arancio signature drink: espresso shaken with ice and fresh orange peel, lightly sweetened with cane syrup. It's off-menu, so ask for it by name.
Pro Tip: Walk towards Old Fourth Ward Park and you’ll find the Atlanta Beltline—a walking/bike path, which winds through area neighborhoods and showcases the work of many of ATL’s favorite muralists and street artists.
Your Foodie Hit List
F) Bocado ($$)
You’ll find Bocado directly across the street from Octane Westside. The establishment is refined yet comfortable, perfect for dining with a large or small group, or alone. Take a seat at the marble-top bar to watch their seasoned bartenders mix drinks, or get a comfy table on the all-weather patio. Bocado has received endless attention for the famed Burger Stack (designed by Chef and Restaurateur Todd Ginsberg, who has since moved on to open The General Muir and other restaurants). Trust us, the burger is one of the best you’ll find in Atlanta, especially when paired with herb fries…but you can order literally anything else on the menu and it will be memorably delicious. Helmed by Chef Adam Waller, the current menu is continually abundant with fresh, seasonal produce-focused dishes, beautifully prepared and presented, and all incredibly affordable.
Pro Tip: Make a few visits (lunch and dinner), because you don’t want to miss The Burger. But you also don’t want to miss the deviled eggs, steak tartare, quinoa salad, beet salad, black rice, seared trout, or the other famed Bocado sandwich: the lobster roll. After eating, look-both-ways (seriously) and cross the street to Octane for a cappuccino or a cocktail.
G) Victory Sandwich Bar ($)
Victory Sandwich Bar is just one of those perfect spots. Totally comfy, affordable, fun (there’s ping pong), and oh-so-delicious. It’s a wee bit hipster, but I don't care, because it’s just so good. Victory has two fantastic locations which share the same food menu: nine mini sandwiches at mini prices ($4–$5 apiece), so you can get two or even three and not break the bank. Some menu favorites include The Hambo (prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula, apple, balsamic reduction), the Mile High Club (smoked chicken, bacon, ham, avocado, fontina, dijon), and the Victory At Sea (white anchovies, frisée, lemon mayo). A favorite bar snack is the pimento jar with bacon jam, and locals favor the Jack-and-Coke Slushie, served in little mason jars.
Pro Tip: Try the cold brew coffee! Made in-house [currently] with coffee roasted by Atlanta's micro Radio Roasters. Victory is slated to open a cold brew coffee pod in their forthcoming outdoor shipping container bar, under the name SleepKiller Coffee.
H) Empire State South ($$$)
We’ve already expressed our love for Chef Hugh Acheson and his numerous projects, so we’ll just reiterate here how perfect Empire State South is, and on so many levels. It’s a taste of Southern cuisine, but with a modern and polished twist. It’s business-casual enough for client lunch meetings, yet delectable enough for a chill brunch with friends. By night, bring your team or wholesale customers for a fine dining setting that won’t obliterate your budget. ESS gives special attention to its coffee program, and you can order table-side Chemex service with options like Four Barrel Coffee, Heart Coffee Roasters, George Howell, and Counter Culture.
Pro Tip: Sit outside and enjoy your meal and coffee in the courtyard, and play a round of Bocce. Park in the deck (10th Street and Peachtree Place), and make sure to get your ticket validated for free parking.
I) Hajime ($)
Atlanta has been grounds for some intense “Ramen Drama” chef wars for the last few years, but the general consensus on the best Japanese ramen available to Atlantan’s is Umaido, which isn’t in Atlanta at all—it requires a 45–60-minute OTP (Outside the Perimeter) trek to the north suburb of Lawrenceville. While many are willing to make that trek, there was much celebration when Umaido announced an in-town noodle bar, Hajime. Take advantage of this new addition and head to Hajime for ramen made with delicious, creamy tonkotsu broth, and perfect house-made noodles.
Pro Tip: The basic Tonkotsu is delicious, but give the Honey Miso, Spicy Miso, and Curry Ramen bowls a chance too. Consider adding kakuni (braised pork belly) to your bowl, which already comes with chasyu (roasted pork). If you have broth left over, you can order an additional helping of noodles.
J) So Many Delicious Cheap Eats ($):
Farm Burger, build a burger with all-local produce and meats (410B West Ponce De Leon).
Hankook Taqueria, Korean BBQ Tacos (1341 Collier Road Northwest).
Hop’s Chicken, Chicken Sandwiches—order it “Nashville Style” (Ponce City Market).
Antico Pizza, authentic Italian brick-oven pizzas, adored by locals (Westside).
Taqueria del Sol, tacos a la carte, also adored by locals (Westside Provisions District and Downtown Decatur)
Your Nightcap Bar Hop
Atlanta bars are generally open until 11 p.m. on weeknights, and between 12 a.m.–2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.
K) Kimball House
Frequently explained as “The Maison Premiere of the South” Kimball House covers all the bases: cocktails, absinthe service, single-origin oysters, delicious dinner options, lavish atmosphere, gorgeous interior design—all encased in a historic railway depot. Cocktail Mix-Master Miles Macquarrie’s bar program has been twice nominated for a James Beard Award.
Pro Tip: Kimball House is now accepting reservations, which can be made by phone at 404.378.3502. If you don't have a booking, go early (5–7 p.m.) for oyster happy hour. Stay late to hear the bartenders announce last call with a toy xylophone and join them in their special closing song.
L) The Mercury
After comfortably sailing through recent years as one of Atlanta’s most respected bartenders, Pinewood Tippling Room owner, Julian Goglia, recently joined the roster of Ponce City Market tenants on the upper level PCM with The Mercury—his swanky yet approachable cocktail bar and eatery. Dappled with retro mid-century seating in teak and cornflower blues, The Mercury sparkles with a certain boozy Don Draper charm, and is the ideal spot to blend business with pleasure. Bring your future wholesale customers here.
Pro Tip: Julian Goglia’s first venture, the Pinewood Tippling Room is also worth a visit. The Pinewood is cozy with family-style wooden tables and a long get-to-know-your-neighbor bar. Don’t pass up the opportunity to get the Grit Tots or the Crispy Chicken and Waffles.
M) The S.O.S. Tiki Bar
Atlanta was crushed to lose its beloved Paper Plane, a tiny speakeasy tucked into an alley behind Decatur’s Victory Sandwich Bar, but tears were wiped away with the announcement of its replacement—The S.O.S. Tiki Bar. With both establishments being owned and operated by the team behind Victory, only a few minor changes were made (the drink menu concept, the name and logo, the addition of authentic vintage tikis for barware) but one major change: the loss of well-loved bartender Paul Calvert to his new digs at Ticonderoga Club.
Pro Tip: The S.O.S. is seriously tiny, so don’t bring a large group (or bring a group of six for the lovely horseshoe booth seating—but expect a long wait). Kill some time by sneaking over to Victory Sandwich Bar and playing a round of ping pong in their back room.
N) Leon’s Full Service
Much of the hype from its early years has quieted, but Leon’s Full Service remains a favorite bar and go-to for Atlanta locals. Planted within a former old gas station, Leon’s provides “Full Service” hospitality with bartenders and servers all sharing each others tables. Boasting a massive list of craft beers on draught and in cans/bottles as well as classic cocktails, Leon’s is known primarily for drink—but the food menu is also thoroughly impressive. Go for dinner or snacks (the infamous Bacon In a Glass served with peanut butter, or a bucket of pommes frites) and stay for a few drinks.
Pro Tip: Leon’s is open late (1 a.m. weekdays, 2 a.m. Friday–Saturday), page to the back of the menu for the Late Night Menu and order the PBJB, trust us.
*) Honorable Mentions
Brick Store Pub, longtime Atlanta classic pub (Downtown Decatur).
Ticonderoga Club, newly launched with ATL-prized bartender Paul Calvert behind the bar program (Krog Street Market).
The Porter Beer Bar, immense hard-to-find craft beer selection (Little 5 Points).
Trader Vics, the national tiki chain has a cozy spot on the basement level of the Hilton Hotel (Downtown).
Little Trouble, go, even if just to Instagram the neon signage at this TRON-style cocktail bar (Westside).
Elizabeth Chai is a Sprudge contributor based in Portland, Oregon. Read more Elizabeth Chai on Sprudge.