Atlanta Then and Now

Atlanta Then and Now

March 21, 2014.  I’m sipping on a beer as we go from truck to truck and cart to cart on a Friday around noon. We’re set to have lunch at the Atlanta Food Truck Park. It’s early spring, but the weather is quite nice compared to home. We finally decide on our first bite and head for that truck. The guy sticks his head out of the window and asks “are you day drinking?” I glanced down at my beer and then back to him, shrugging my shoulders I say “well, I’m on vacation.” He asks incredulously “and you chose Atlanta?”

 

This was one of the first real trips Shellie and I took. How we chose Atlanta is a little convoluted, but basically we had a week to travel. We decided to go to New Orleans, then we wisely thought maybe we didn’t need an entire week in New Orleans. So, where else could we go? Flights between MSY and ATL were cheap, so it was settled. Three and a half days in each.

Going in we didn’t really know much about Atlanta. I had been there years before with the band, but not really to see anything other than a stage and, like, 12 people nodding along to our music. And certainly not as a person with any sort of money. Punk rock didn’t exactly pay the bills, and it sure as hell didn’t get me any fine dining.

Fast forward to May 2018 and we’re back in Atlanta. Why? you might ask. Why go back? Why go in the first place? I think a better question is what’s changed? Is it still the same?

View from the Westin.

The why is easy. First, it’s the most convenient airport to fly into to get to the Town of Spectre from my last post. But more importantly, we really loved Atlanta. We were a little apprehensive heading into this trip. OK, we loved it last time, but that was before a lot of our travels. Maybe it wouldn’t stack up anymore. It was also when our relationship as still pretty new. Maybe anywhere would look good when you’re wearing the rose colored glasses of new love.

We did a few things that we did last time, and I’ll get into those, but we don’t do a whole lot of tourist things when we travel. For instance, we didn’t stay in a downtown hotel.  We chose a place near our favorite neighborhood, Little Five Points. We did go to Centennial Olympic Park both trips, but we didn’t go to CNN, World of Coca-Cola, or the aquarium on either trip. Our travels are heavily weighted towards food and beer. I truly believe that’s how you get to really see a place. What do the people eat? Where do they eat? Gift shops and museums don’t make a city. Food is the real culture.

Street art in ATL

While ATL may not be known for its barbecue, you simply can’t go wrong with Fox Bros. This was our very first stop back in 2014 and we knew we had to go back this year. Could it possibly live up to the hype we created in our own minds? I mean, it’s been four years and we still talk about it. The answer is pretty simple. Yes. Last time I was a little let down by the pulled pork, so we skipped it this time. But we raved about the brisket (the brothers are from Texas, after all) and the ribs. The ribs! I’ve been chasing that dragon for years now. Shellie and I split the three meat plate. Ribs, brisket, ribs. That was her idea. And that’s why I love her. They’re still the best ribs out there. They are so tender and juicy. And the brisket has so much smoky, beefy flavor. We also got the pork belly burnt ends. This is something I’ve since stole and made at home on my own smoker. The greens were a little spicy and quite tasty. Coleslaw, potato salad, Frito pie all of them really good and hit the spot. And after stuffing myself I still couldn’t turn down the banana pudding. Damn, I love southern food.

Last time we were in Atlanta there weren’t a whole lot of breweries around. And actually, they’ve only just recently started popping up since a law was changed. Back then there was the Wrecking Bar and we stopped in for a couple pints. Unfortunately we weren’t able to make it there this trip, but if you need beer the place to go to is Porter Beer Bar. This is a completely unverified statement but, they have the biggest draft/cans and bottles/vintage bottle list of any bar in Atlanta. There are so many good beers to try here. We dug into the vintage list and got bottles of Drie Fonteinen and Jester King. Plus a few draft pours of local stuff. The place is loud, dark, and a little dirty. I was also told that, other than the ends, they don’t have exterior walls. The bar is actually built on what used to be an alley and the walls along the sides are the neighboring building’s. This place is also exactly as I remember it, and well worth the stop if you’re into beer.

Shellie and I with the man, Kevin Gillespie, at Gunshow in 2014.

If you’re in need of a unique restaurant experience while in Atlanta, then you’ve got to get a reservation for chef Kevin Gillespie’s Gunshow. Here the team of chefs each create a dish for the night, served small plate style. The chefs make their way through the dining room and present their dish to each table, dim sum style. You can take it or pass on it. Not everything makes it to every table, but they try their best. The food is pretty innovative, but maybe a bit more gimmicky than it was four years ago. It seems like last time the plates were just smaller portions of something you might order at a more foodie place. Say, a slice of beef wellington or a small portion of pasta. This time we had the Elvis Rib. Fried ribs with peanut, bacon, banana, and chiles…a bit of a gimmick, but absolutely delicious nonetheless. We also had a molecular gastronomy version of shrimp tacos. The shrimp was cooked perfectly and was surrounded by different gels. The white gel was the tortilla. It really tasted like tacos and was cool to try. The cocktails are also really delicious and served from a roving cart. We tried several of them. My favorite being the Lost in Translation with rum, absinthe, shiso, Thai basil, lime, pineapple, madras curry, and macadamia. Super tasty.

The Lost In Translation at Gunshow

One final thing that, I think, no trip to Atlanta would be complete without is King of Pops. While researching for our first trip one of the top restaurants on all of the lists was King of Pops. We couldn’t believe it. Popsicles? Popsicles are one of the top things to eat in ATL? Well, we knew we had to try it out. Luckily for us we were staying at the Highland Inn, less than a block from the original corner where they set up a cart every day. We tried several flavors last time, and even more this trip since KoP is everywhere now. The even have a space at the Ponce CIty Market where they make cocktails with popsicles in them. I got the strawberry margarita.

King of Pops cocktail

So what’s changed? The most changed thing is…traffic. With a caveat. Our first trip to ATL the traffic was terrible. You couldn’t get anywhere at any time of the day. This time? No problem. We had a couple slow patches, but nothing like last time. Why? Well, that’s where the caveat comes in. Our first trip was over week days, this one was over the weekend. The worst traffic we saw this trip was Friday around five pm when we got back from Alabama. Another big change are the breweries. We didn’t have time this trip to get to a bunch of them, but we did go to New Realm. Cool space and good beer.

Actually, I take it back. The biggest change is that the Masquerade moved! What the hell? It sounds like it’s less of a fire hazard now. So that’s good. And the Clermont. What a change there.

We love Atlanta. Even if it isn’t at the top of most traveler’s bucket lists. There were a lot of cranes and a lot of construction going on. So I’m sure it will change even more by the next time we make it there. We’ll be back Atlanta. It may be another four years, but we’ll be back. Just leave Little Five Points alone.

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