In Atlanta, we’re a social breed, preferring to gather over food and bev with friends and fam in lieu of dining out solo. I’d argue there’s something to be said for being on no one’s time but your own though — nobody to argue with over where to go, no schedule but yours and, best of all, the easiest last-minute reservation you can score. Singles at the bar, right? Right. In that spirit, we rounded up a few of our favorite casual bites and their cocktail counterparts for the next time it’s just you, a book and a bar stool.
King + Duke
Speaking of reading, at King + Duke, the literary-leaning brainchild of James Beard-nominated restaurateur Ford Fry, Executive Chef E.J. Hodgkinson has been busy dunking dough in hot oil — and doubling down on the “happy” in happy hour. Every weekday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., King + Duke hosts Hush Puppy Happy Hour, which means the Southern favorite (finished with aioli and sweet chili jam) is on the house with your adult beverage.
Lead bartender Ronnie LeClair II recommends the Saint with a Six Gun to go with, a citrusy shaken cocktail with Solbeso, Aperol, Amaro, lime and ginger kiwi sugar. Bring a classic to read while you eat; the restaurant is named after characters in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Hailing from some of the same hare-brains as Buckhead’s gangbuster hit restaurant Seven Lamps is Grain, a new-to-Midtown, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-sized bar. Don’t sleep on the inconspicuous spot — from small kitchens come great things. Kevin Bragg’s the mad chemist behind the stick, and he really, really likes to play with liquid nitrogen.
The gin-based Blooming Hill is the spot’s most popular drink, and it comes with a show: Bragg muddles the basil with nitro right in front of you. True to its Midtown roots, the cocktail is named for the historic Tenth Street neighborhood just behind where Grain stands today. Such nods to the past are mixed into a thoroughly modern menu. The circus continues with addictive nitro popcorn, which eats like an ice-cold Cracker Jack. Don’t miss Bragg’s inventive edible cocktails either — this is the only place in town we know of where you can bite into the booze that would normally bite you first.
The Optimist’s well-appointed bar has dollar oysters on the half shell. Every day for one golden hour, five varieties selected by Chef Adam Evans are shucked on the spot and served with a crisp libation. Bartender James Letendre made us his Hunger Walktail, a drink with a conscience, as it turns out, since all proceeds go to the Atlanta Hunger Walk. Its clean tequila and celery salt pair perfectly with briny oysters. Happy hour runs from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday … perfect for a predinner pit stop. Or maybe I should say (wince) putt-stop, since there’s mini golf on the front lawn.
Photos: Caroline Fontenot