The Vortex, Atlanta GA

You know that saying about how I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it? And how sometimes, people say and do things obnoxious enough to give you a little bit of pause and make you wonder whether you really mean it? I’m not necessarily talking about politics, though heaven knows certain BP apologists in Texas really make a man wish that “gag orders” actually entailed the use of ballgags.

The Vortex is an example of what happens when you stick by that rule. It’s democracy in action. You can praise a restaurant for having the greatest, most lovable, take-no-prisoners attitude about stupid customers in the city, if not anywhere. You can cheer when a business stands up and says that, actually, the customer is not always right, and lets you know that in their house, you will follow their rules or get lost. You can shout from the rooftops that finally, there’s a place that gets it, that won’t compromise principles and will not allow idiots to waste their time when they have a business to run. When their business involves selling the best hamburgers that I’ve found in Atlanta, it’s even easier to say “Damn right, the Vortex is exactly the place for me.”

Then you get to stop cheering with your fists in the air when they enforce a rule that you don’t like at all. Hey, mac, you’re the one who demanded that freedom in the first place.

Some years back, the state of Georgia enacted one of the few laws that our legislature has ever come up with that was worth a damn when they restricted smoking in restaurants. Basically, they told restaurants that if they insisted on allowing idiots to smoke, then they couldn’t allow anybody under 18 in their place. The Vortex was one of those places which figured they’d handle the loss of family customers by becoming a haven for smokers, and really didn’t appreciate the government telling them how to conduct their business.

It annoys me that of all the weird predictions that the Judge Dredd comic has made about our society that have come true, we’re stuck with riot foam and constantly expanding waistlines and artificial food, while the best future invention of all has yet to appear. In Dredd’s Mega-City One, smoking is only allowed in buildings called smokatoriums, and nowhere else. They don’t sell the best hamburgers in the city in a smokatorium and they don’t have the best bartender in the city there, either. Her name is Carla and on those very rare occasions I visit the Vortex, it’s an absolute pleasure to sit at the bar and be served by somebody so damn perfect at her job as she is.

It’s not just that I object to smelling cigarette smoke. Heck, I dated a smoker for a few months in 2004, but, as I’ve mentioned a few times previously, that was something of a mistake-filled year. No, it’s not just my own objection to smoking, though I remain convinced that the best burger I’ve found in the city would be even better without that stench in the air, but that I can’t take my family. Marie gave it a try one early evening a couple of years back before the haze got thick, concluded that their burgers are indeed amazing and left in a flash, blinking in the sunlight and breathing with her head between her knees. The kids? They’re not welcome. The signs in the front lobby restating that no, seriously, they really will not seat you if you’re under 18, and that if you have a problem, take it up with your congressmen are hilariously worded, but they’re also a little saddening.

One day last week, I sat at the bar and enjoyed the living daylights out of a Spanish Fly, which is an amazing hamburger served with ground chorizo and Monterrey jack cheese. On this occasion, I had some fries as a side. I only visit maybe once a year, and usually I can’t help myself and order some tater tots. I think the Vortex is principally responsible for the citywide trend of offering the darn things. I don’t know why I ordered them for so many years. It’s not like you’re getting anything from tots other than the nostalgia factor of saying “Hey! I had these in public school,” so heaven knows what the appeal might be. I need to quit that and try the potato salad or something next time.

The Vortex offers a huge list of burgers, and gleefully emphasizes the ones that just aren’t good for anybody. Bacon, fried bananas, eggs, habanero relish, peanut butter… it really is a remarkable menu full of delicious, dangerous things. I’ll really enjoy taking my son in about five years’ time.

I’ve thought about placing a carry-out order for burgers and having a picnic with my family over in Freedom Park. That way, everybody gets to experience how good the food is, but we miss out on the thrill of being in the place. The interior is a trip, a wild, loud, dark, bric-a-brac filled mess that’s somewhere between a dive bar and a very weird diner. So by mixing such a fun design with incredible service, excellent food and their uncompromising attitude, this should be the best restaurant in town.

If only if it wasn’t for that “allowing smoking” business…

Vortex Bar & Grill (Little 5 Points) on Urbanspoon

The Vortex has a second location in midtown:

Vortex Bar & Grill (Midtown) on Urbanspoon

Other blog posts about the Vortex:

Atlanta Foodies (Aug. 28 2007)
Food Near Snellville (June 25 2009)
The Food Abides (Sep. 18 2009)
A Hamburger Today (Mar. 29 2011)
Chopped Onion (2012)

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