Decatur is some bucolic, magical place, where the schools are great, the residents always seem happy, the artists show their creations in droves and the streets are filled with cheese. Okay, so that last part isn’t true, but the city of Decatur is a truly special place every Atlantan should visit. Though the area technically only encompasses about four square miles, Decatur is bursting at the seams with cool, independent businesses, noteworthy restaurants and a lot of awesome stuff in between.
Since Decatur is brimming with amazing people, places and things throughout the area, and I have a word count, I decided to hone in on the downtown area — focusing on the Decatur MARTA stop and expanding outward toward Decatur Square, following the transit lifeblood that is Ponce de Leon Avenue. Just the historic Dekalb Courthouse is enough to write about, as it’s home to some amazing weddings (for one of which I even served as a bridesmaid). Let’s take a tour through downtown Decatur, where there’s a festival or public event pretty much every weekend, and make sure to Keep It Indie-Catur!
Downtown Decatur: Shops
As evidenced by the area’s “Keep It Indie-Catur” mantra, it’s all about the cool, independent boutiques and retailers who supply some amazing wares to residents and tourists alike. Here are a few of our favorites from the downtown area.
356 W. Ponce de Leon Ave. • (404) 371-9090
Hours: Sunday, 12 to 6 p.m.; Monday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Whether you like vinyl, CDs or cassette tapes, as long as you like music, you’ll love Decatur CD. Located on West Ponce de Leon, this music mecca has new releases, collectibles and associated memorabilia that music lovers flock to. C’mon, their exterior has CDs hanging among the shrubbery outside!
And besides all the supremely awesome finds you’ll scoop up in Decatur CD & Vinyl, this is so much more than a shop. The business and its staff promotes local, small, you guessed it, independent musicians and bands by offering tickets to nearby concerts, mentioning you-should-know-about acts on their social media feeds and staying involved with the local music scene.
113 E. Court Square • (404) 373-1864
Hours: Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
We know you should never judge a book by its cover, but the store itself just has a super chill vibe, with a gigantic indoor tree highlighting the massive skylight right in the center of the shop. I mean, even the dressing rooms are cool! Whether you need a new outfit for work or some lovely hand creams and new perfumes, Squash Blossom has a huge inventory of very chic, eclectic pieces that will bring a smile to your face. You may have seen some of the fabulous items available at Squash Blossom in our December “What to Wear” piece. Since we obviously LOVE the clothing at this Decatur boutique, we had to mention it in an article about downtown Decatur. The eclectic mix of dresses, blouses, tops and jeans, as well as a robust shoe department and killer accessories, make this one of our favorites to stop by.
149 Sycamore St. • (404) 373-6607
Hours: Monday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cool gifts and awesome items for the man, woman and child in your life await at Sq/Ft, located right by the Decatur MARTA stop and the wonderfully aromatic Cakes & Ale Café (the little sister to hugely popular and next-door restaurant Cakes & Ale). There are nifty tote bags and purses, fabulous paper products and books, tongue-in-cheek socks (you’ll understand once you make a trip there) and lovely jewelry. But even better, Sq/Ft actually has some really cool clothes for him and her.
Now, you don’t have to relegate your husband or boyfriend to those infamous dressing room couches, while you try on everything in the store — he can actually select some really cool items for himself, too (or you can select it and tell him what to wear). The variety of jeans and shoes, for both men and women, were pretty dope, and after shopping, you both can have a date night walking around the area and having a great meal at any one of the many, many amazing restaurants in the area.
Honorable mentions: Tres Jolie, Collage Boutique, Boogaloos, Worthmore Jewelers, HomeGrown Decatur, Vivid Boutique, and so many more …
Downtown Decatur: Art & Literature
If we used some type of throwback term for downtown Decatur, the area reminds us of an artist colony from the ’70s. Some of Atlanta’s most popular artists reside in Decatur, show their work in Decatur galleries and shops, or just hang out in the area for inspiration. And the enlightened minds don’t stop with the fine arts — the area is home to colleges like Agnes Scott, Art Institute of Atlanta and just a shuttle away for Emory University students. All that creative juice spills out through the streets of downtown Decatur.
133A E. Court Square • (404) 373-6300
Hours: Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Okay, so we know we’re not supposed to pick favorites when it comes to boutiques, but I gotta be honest — hands down, Little Shop of Stories is my go-to shop. My daughter had her birthday party at this children’s bookshop and we literally stop here every single time we hang out in Decatur. No exceptions.
You might be thinking, “Hey, I don’t have kids. Why should I stop in?!” If you love/loved books, if you appreciate the fine art of illustration, if you valued your childhood (if you had a childhood), visit Little Shop of Stories. This independent bookstore keeps the magic of reading alive, both for kids and adults, from their story hours (including some with pretty big visiting authors) to book club meetings, Harry Potter trivia nights, costume contests, and of course, literary-themed birthday parties, and so much more. It’s a special place that will reconnect you to your childhood with the power of a good book.
112 E. Ponce de Leon Ave. • (404) 378-4088
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m.
If you want to see what Atlanta, Georgia and Southeastern artists are up to, Wild Oats & Billy Goats is THE place to visit. Opened in 2010, the gallery sells everything from pottery, sculptures (just check out those tin goats outside), paintings and jewelry to children’s wares and lots more. It seems the only real prerequisite is that the artists are regionally based (many of which work and live right in the Decatur neighborhood). According to Wild Oats’ employee Stacie Reid, the gallery has a board of curators which goes through the daily submissions and makes sure the work will be a good fit.
“Our stuff is inspirational,” says Stacie. “Even if you, the customer, aren’t creative, walking in here makes you happy. I’ve never had someone come in and not leave smiling.”
Honorable Mentions: Decatur Square Framing & Gallery
Downtown Decatur: Hair & Beauty
You can’t stroll Decatur Square without looking, and feeling, your best. The downtown area has some great salons, spas and nail shops to impress even the hardest to please (ahem, we’re talking the rugrat set).
123 E. Ponce de Leon Ave. • (404) 377-6230
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Closed Mondays
After the success of the first Salon Red in Candler Park, the salon expanded its reach with the opening of the downtown Decatur location. With its exposed concrete floor, laid-back staff and zen vibe, Salon Red has a welcoming spirit that a lot of salons in Atlanta, especially Buckhead, seem to lack. Want to know the best part? You can bring your kids next door!
That’s right, the bright walls of Salon Red Kids next door (actually one storefront away, as Café Alsace is sandwiched between) is a great place to schlep the kids in when they need haircuts, as well. And besides the adorable mini cars and truck chairs for the kids to sit still in, the salon is a huge retail space full of toys, clothes, games and other snazzy products to keep you and your child entertained until your name is called.
335 W. Ponce De Leon Ave., Ste. E • (404) 377-6363
Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fabu is pretty fabu — anything and everything that your face requires to be tight and right can be found here, on West Ponce de Leon Avenue. Customers can book appointments for facials, massages, waxings, lashes, body treatments and more. And once their refreshing treatment has ended, Fabu clients can purchase amazing skin and body products from the shop’s retail section.
“We love being in Decatur because it’s a great little city,” says Jennifer Goltz, a manager at Fabu Face Spa. “There’s great walkability, food and shops.”
Honorable Mentions: Ms. Lisa’s Cuts for Kids, Terra Mater Salon
Downtown Decatur: Food
There’s just no way to cover the number of delicious downtown Decatur restaurants within the breadth of this article. We don’t want to receive hate mail for leaving off Cakes & Ale or a nasty comment because Chai Pani didn’t get a shoutout. It’s literally impossible to include every scrumptious eatery without making this article go to 10,000 words. So everyone just relax, take a lick of your King of Pops popsicle and just go with the flow with a highlight of only SOME of our favorite Decatur restaurants.
125 E. Court Square • (404) 687-0990
Hours: Monday, 11 to 1 a.m.; Tuesday through Saturday, 11 to 2 a.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Like beer? Check. Like good food? Yep. Like to people watch in a restaurant that is reminiscent of the tavern from Beauty and the Beast? Then it’s the Brick Store Pub for you! With about 30 draught beers, 75 bottled beers and a lot of pleasantly surprising entrees to match (seriously the sweet onion tart with whipped cauliflower is delish), you will go home stuffed, happy and ready to return.
Though Brick Store Pub might seem like beer man’s paradise (which it is), the delectable menu will get your foodie friends excited, too. For example, the bratwurst is housemade, the burgers are ground on-site, and there’s a surprising number of delicious options for those noncarnivorous eaters in the group. Ask your server to recommend an artisanal beer, load up on the Bavarian pretzels and have a great time socializing with friends.
121 Sycamore St. • (404) 371-8800
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m.
The Iberian Pig is a modern Spanish restaurant with a flair for the delicious. The restaurant, which opened in late 2009, has been serving hungry eaters almost every night. Just take a look at the tapas menu and you’ll know why — choose from truffle pear salad, rabbit empanadas, albondigas (Spanish meatballs), B.W.D. (bacon-wrapped dates) and lots more special small plates.
The Iberian Pig is set up European-style, with large tables promoting a shared experience for all diners. In fact, if you’re lucky, you may become friends with the group sitting to your right or share Champagne toasts with the couple to your left. However, this culinary hot spot is always busy, so make a reservation if you’re planning on dining here, especially on the weekend.
131 E. Ponce de Leon Ave. • (404) 687-0500
Monday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 to 1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 to 2 a.m.; Sunday, 11:30 to 1 a.m.
Filling up on good food and even better cocktails is easy at Leon’s Full Service. This yummy establishment, which was in the top 10 best bars in Atlanta, as ranked by Atlanta Magazine, serves some amazing, boozy concoctions — some served year-round, while others are part of Leon’s seasonal list. For example, during the colder months, try Heard It Through the Grape Vine (a sweet mix of grapes (of course), port, bitters and lots of other tasty ingredients) or How ‘Bout Them Apples? (first guess is apple brandy among others). The list of clever drinks, with even more clever titles, is reason enough to come to Leon’s.
In order to keep down all those alcoholic beverages, take a gander at the food menu, with yummy bites like the deviled eggs, bacon in a glass, Brussels sprouts hash or handcut pomme frites with your choice of sauces, like peppercorn gravy or massaman curry. Seriously, I’m writing this on an empty stomach and am longing to take a drive out to Leon’s right now.
Honorable Mentions: Raging Burrito, Victory, Cakes & Ale, Café Alsace, Café Lily, Square Pub, Sweet Melissa’s, Colbeh Persian Kitchen & Bar, Chai Pani, The Marlay House, No. 246, Parker’s On Ponce, The Pinewood, Revival, Twains, Thumbs Up, Fresh To Order, Noodle and on and on …
Downtown Decatur: Coffee/Hangouts
Downtown Decatur is a place to shop, dine and just relax. There are some great people-watching spots to wet your whistle and meet up with the inner circle.
425 Church St. • (404) 378-5002
Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 to 12 a.m.
I love a good hybrid, and Java Monkey is a coffee shop/wine bar/poetry venue all rolled into one sweet establishment. Located on very busy Church Street, across from the MARTA stop, Java Monkey has a cool vibe that offers so much more than tasty drinks. Stop by almost any night, from 8 to 11 p.m. and you’ll see a performance or event of some kind — Sundays feature spoken word poetry (you can sign up a half hour before the show begins), Wednesdays are Funny Monkey Comedy Carnival, some Thursdays offer themed wine tastings, and so on.
358 W. Ponce de Leon • (404) 330-8502
Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Juicing is the health habit to follow these days, but Kale Me Crazy is no fad, due to its consistent juicy goodness and menu that features actual food that you can chew. There are a few locations throughout Atlanta, and many under construction, but we love the Decatur location for its friendly staff and hip décor.
Whether you like juice (I like Revive — kale, cucumber, pineapple and ginger), smoothies (I like Recovery — banana, cherries, cashews, coconut yogurt, almond milk and vegan protein) or just a good old salad (I like Beet Salad — greens with beets, walnuts, sunflower sprouts, goat cheese and other ingredients), Kale Me Crazy is a great place to eat a little healthier. As you can tell, I like a lot of Kale Me Crazy’s menu.
Honorable Mention: Dancing Goats Coffee Bar
Downtown Decatur: Sweets
Remember just a few seconds ago when I recommended those juice and smoothies to keep you feeling healthy? Well, here’s an idea for your cheat day (or week). If a city can have a collective sweet tooth, then downtown Decatur must be spending a lot of money at the dentist. This neighborhood is bursting with delicious, sugary treats you need to try.
419 Church St. • (404) 373-6090
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Everyone loves a family-owned, family-operated yogurt shoppe (so much more preferable to the ordinary “shop”), so rejoice in the Yogurt Tap. This delicious sweet stop is run by Decatur residents Lindsey and Stanford Phillips, and features flavors made from fresh, all-natural ingredients. Though the yogurt taps change on a regular basis, I fell in love with Honey Rosemary and Banana (sweetened with agave). And don’t get me started on the toppings — it’s a smorgasbord of indulgences with fresh fruit (yeah, there’s pomegranate) and classic goodies like candy, nuts and cereal.
141 E. Trinity Place • (404) 378-2001
Hours: Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 12 to 6 p.m.
Warning: Don’t visit Greene’s Fine Foods on an empty stomach. And even if you do have something in your belly, be prepared to find something delicious to stash and snack on during the drive home. Greene’s specializes in Georgia pecans, and they make fabulous mixes of nuts and chocolate nut clusters that will impress any hostess, boss or your own stomach. Besides the nutty mixes, the bags and tins of chocolates (seriously, try the chocolate-covered Oreos) and other candies are sure to kick anyone off their diets.
So here’s the newest, cool thing about Greene’s Fine Foods — they’ve expanded beyond “foods!” If you’re over 21, walk down a magical hallway and you’re transported to Greene’s bar, featuring their exceptional growlers. Call Greene’s and find out what’s on tap, much of which is local brews, like that of Sweetwater. The combination of fine nuts, strong beers and a few chocolates on the side is like what my idea of heaven should be.
Honorable Mentions: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Butter and Cream, Revolution Doughnuts, New Orleans Snoball Café, Pastries A Gogo, King of Pops cart
So if that hasn’t enticed you to make a visit to downtown Decatur, I’m not sure what will. (Seriously, just those honorable mentions alone include some fantastic stops along the way.) Whether you stop by during one of Decatur’s many festivals or want to make a beeline today for this beloved neighborhood, don’t forget to tell them StyleBlueprint sent you!