Nostalgia Burns in the Hearts of the Bulldogs

I gave in to an absurdly nostalgic day in the Classic City a couple of Fridays back, revisiting old haunts, walking around, having some beer and reading. I did not eat as much as I might have; my trip coincided with a social media-led lunch at Weaver D’s, the world-famous meat-n-three that has been having some financial difficulties. When word got out that Dexter Weaver needed his guests to come on back, they did so in droves. I don’t know whether it sparked enough of a reminder to get people back here regularly; time will tell. It didn’t for Harold’s Barbecue in Atlanta. Nevertheless, there was enough of a mob and parking was impractical, so I wished him well and moved on. Continue reading “Nostalgia Burns in the Hearts of the Bulldogs”

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Your Pie and The Royal Peasant, Athens GA

A growing little pizza business that started in Athens has been on my radar for ages, since they started getting lots of press and regular notices from one of that city’s best food writers, the wonderful Hillary Brown of Flagpole. Unfortunately, at the time that I’m writing this, that newspaper’s web site archive is unavailable, thanks to an alleged attack of “spam monkey trolls,” so I can’t look back and refresh my memory about anything, but if I remember correctly, Your Pie sort of arrived fully-formed, corporate and ready for franchising in 2008. There are already eight stores in Georgia – it was spotting the lone Atlanta-area location, in Roswell, that reminded me to try these guys out – along with two stores each in Florida and South Carolina. There’s a thirteenth coming to Murfreesboro, near the MTSU campus, pretty soon. Continue reading “Your Pie and The Royal Peasant, Athens GA”

Trappeze Pub, Athens GA

My older son has been largely absent from this blog lately, on account of him, miserably, choosing to live with his mother in the end. But before he went up to Kentucky the first time, he and I had a very neat visit to Trappeze Pub on Washington Street in Athens. The wonderful artist Sergio Aragonés, best known for his work in Mad and his lovable character Groo the Wanderer, was in town to receive an award from UGA’s art school, and our friend Patrick gave us a heads-up that he and some of the other local comic artists and cartoonists were hoping to have a beer with him before the ceremony. So my son and I went to Athens early and were at Bizarro Wuxtry when the call came, and, after getting turned around and not knowing where the heck Trappeze was, we found the group, met some new acquaintances and enjoyed Sergio’s company. I had a beer and asked for a Sprite for my son, joking that he was my designated driver. Continue reading “Trappeze Pub, Athens GA”

The Black Cow and The Cannon, Columbus GA

So, finishing up our little jaunt down to Columbus, we returned from Phenix City with a late sack of lunch for Maggi, who felt much better after a little longer rest and recuperation. I’m sure seeing Auburn get routed in Death Valley helped on that front. (The Clemson Death Valley, that is, and not the LSU one, not that it matters overmuch who routs Auburn.) The four of us gossiped and caught up and let the baby show off his mighty lung power, and our hosts persuaded us to reconsider our dinner plans. Continue reading “The Black Cow and The Cannon, Columbus GA”

Brick Store Pub, Decatur GA

For lunch a few Thursdays back, I treated myself with a little trip over to Decatur to finally check out Brick Store, a really nice pub that quietly boasts one of the most remarkable beer menus in the southeast. Well, the restaurant itself boasts quietly, and beer lovers rave from the rooftops. Between what’s on tap and what’s in bottles, there are something like 200 or more available here at any given time, rotating regularly. Even a lightweight like me who rarely drinks is in heaven here. There’s something at Brick Store for everybody.

When I lived in Athens, I would often drink at the downtown Mellow Mushroom, which was famous in town for its “Hundred Bottle Beer Club.” I was well on the way to making that century mark when one evening, a server decided to play a particularly ill-judged practical joke on our friend Matt that left him fuming. Electing solidarity with a justifiably outraged friend, I didn’t go back, but I had some fine evenings before then. I understand that Brick Store was opened by some former employees of that Mellow Mushroom who loved their place’s beer selection, although, in a pleasant surprise, the Athens pub that it most resembles is the lovely Globe. There are no TVs and no bad mass-produced beers. It opened in the summer of 1997 and has been racking up awards for its beer selection ever since.

The service here is genuinely first-rate. I was lucky to have an excellent server who settled my inability to choose between two beers by bringing me a taste of each. The imperial stout from Denver’s Great Divide Brewing that I sampled was indeed lovely, but I went with a Highlands oatmeal porter, from Asheville, as I had never had an oatmeal porter before. (My all-time favorite beer, incidentally, is Samuel Smith’s oatmeal stout.) The porter was completely delicious, and it went really well with my meal.

I enjoyed a simple burger, named “The Brick Burger” on the menu, and it was incredibly juicy and delicious. It came with some house-cut wedge fries, and I followed the suggestion of Dine With Dani, who advised getting a little cup of red pepper mayo on the side as a fry dip. It was so good.

For real beer aficionados, Brick Store is a definite destination. If you live anywhere in the southeast, you need to come see this place. For lightweights like me who’ve spent most of the last eleven or twelve years sober and start to get a little goofy after just one pint, it might not be quite so imperative to get down here, but with food this good and beer this wonderful, it is definitely worth a visit for a snack and something to drink whenever I’m around Decatur. I’ll definitely be back sometime soon.


Other blog posts about Brick Store:

Food Near Snellville (June 29 2009)
Atlanta Food Critic (Sep. 20 2010)
Dine With Dani (Dec. 14 2010)
Bacon Wrapped Rob (May 2 2011)
Iron Stef’s Dishes Delicious (May 1 2012)

Manuel’s Tavern, Atlanta GA

Good grief, this place is a breath of fresh air. I visited Manuel’s Tavern maybe twice, many, many years back, and never made it a habit. More fool me. The venerable neighborhood bar, which will celebrate its 55th birthday next Saturday, is an absolute joy to visit. It’s a site absolutely radiant with Atlanta’s history, where extremely good pub food, locally-brewed beer, and, surprisingly, some of the best burgers in the city are available. I was pleased when Roadfood.com added it to their list of Georgia-reviewed restaurants, knowing that I would need to return. I was even more pleased after my visit.

Also worth smiling about: as often as I’ve had to complain about the unpleasant, paranoid propaganda of Fox News being broadcast unwelcomely at regional restaurants, Manuel’s Tavern is where Democrats eat and drink. Politics are not necessarily part and parcel of meals in the dining rooms, but of course, in the bar, guests will be drinking under photos of FDR and JFK.

Anyway, my boss, Krista, who loves this place, said that she’d like to join me when I made my way to Manuel’s. We were not able to sync schedules, so she asked me to go without her, just so long as I had her favorite burger, prepped her way.

Manuel’s was originally the site of a delicatessen called Harry’s. Manuel Maloof bought it in 1956, brought his brother Robert on board to help run it, expanded it into the businesses on either side and created one of Atlanta’s most beloved neighborhood joints. There seems to be room inside for hundreds, with teeny little corridors leading into rooms that guests might never know were there.

The walls are a living history lesson of the city. In 1956, the Braves had not yet relocated from Milwaukee. You can see the lineups of the 1956 and 1958 AAA Crackers on one wall instead. Newspaper stories by Ron Hudspeth relate the days when Manuel spent as CEO of DeKalb County. Any guest could spend hours studying all the memorabilia and writings posted along the dark wood paneling.

Manuel’s two best-selling burgers are the McCloskey Burger – a half-pound patty with lettuce and tomatoes – and the J.J. Special, served with two cheeses and onions along with a heap of wonderful steak fries and some onion rings. Normally, J.J. Specials are served on wheat toast, but I was instructed to have one on a Kaiser roll. It was terrific. That these burgers fly under everybody’s radar is criminal; they are, flatly, among the very best burgers in the city. Along with a pint of Athens’ wonderful Terrapin pale ale, it was a really nice lunch.

While families are welcome in Manuel’s, the clientele tends to skew older and the conversations flesh out the remarkable sense found here of the city’s stories in a nutshell. Even as Atlanta razes and wrecks its history and old, beloved businesses fail – the Atlanta Book Company, right across the street, shuttered earlier this month – the oral history of the city is being retold at Manuel’s tables. I raised my eyes from my novel – Gregory Mcdonald again – as four older men talked about the days when Paul Newman would race at Road Atlanta. If you’re a local, then as your eyes read that line, you probably remembered the old Road Atlanta logo from T-shirts you had not seen in three decades.

This is a place where stories are told, and as new customers and families find the place, where new ones will be written. I was too drunk, too young and too stupid to enjoy Manuel’s when I was 22. Today, I love it more than I can express. Fellows, we all need to meet here soon and plan to spend a long and wonderful happy evening.


Update (3/11/13): Heard the good word last week that Manuel’s is going smoke-free in 2014. That’s terrific news.

The Terminal Brewhouse, Chattanooga TN

As I took a nice sip of the root beer at Chattanooga’s Terminal Brewhouse, I kind of had that feeling that I sometimes get that Marie would be a little envious of me once she knew what I was drinking. The thought had occurred to me that I could very well have enjoyed six or seven more pints of their oatmeal stout – it had been a bad week, I was in a lousy mood, and the stout was very, very good – but I decided to be sensible and just follow up the beer with a house-brewed soda. It was magical. Continue reading “The Terminal Brewhouse, Chattanooga TN”