Bradley’s Four Day Weekend
A Four Day Weekend Tour of Our City
I really value any time off I get. I keep a busy schedule and it is important to me to fully appreciate the times when I get to slow down. Recently I found an opportunity to take a four day weekend, thanks to a friend of mine coming to visit. He had been to Atlanta before, but always briefly and never with time to really explore. It was important to me to show him all of my favorite spots, so I made the requisite reservations to make sure we had tables, and I was ready for an activity-filled four days by the time he landed on Thursday morning.
I’ve been in Atlanta for 18 years and for 10 of those years I traveled very frequently for work. During that time, Atlanta was the place where I could relax before my next trip, getting rest and sleeping in my own bed. It wasn’t until the last three years since I opened Dixon Rye that I really got to get into living here, exploring the city and finding the places that are important to me. These are the places I love to show the people that I care about, and I was really excited about it.
Our first stop was going to be Community Barbecue. This stop isn’t about aesthetic or atmosphere, it is just about food. They have my favorite barbecue in town, but make sure you call in advance if you are going to make the trip, because there have been many times I have arrived to a cardboard sign in the window saying they closed because they were out of food, when all I wanted was that half-chicken, mac and cheese, and collard greens. If they still have food, make sure you go. It is worth the trip to Decatur, and I am never disappointed. Well, when they have food. Again, make sure they have food.
Next I took him to see my favorite building in town, the Norfolk Southern Railways building. I am a self-proclaimed architecture nerd, and this building is it for me in Atlanta. The base floors were built in 1912, and they added the rest of the floors in 1928, it was an integral part of making Atlanta the rail hub that it became. It’s now part of a large renovation project turning it into multi-use space for living and working, and I am glad the building will be preserved. The building is a little hard to define, the clean lines and utilitarian symmetry really appeal to me and the five-story bridge that connects the buildings has always piqued my interest. It feels very commercial, an office space, and the juxtaposition of the original use and the renovation project is really exciting.
Having shared my favorite architecture fix, we drove over to my place to drop off his stuff and freshen up before heading to the rooftop bar at the recently renovated Hotel Clermont. The rooftop in the heart of the city provides great vistas, and the frosė mixed with the late summer sunset is a wonderful way to start an evening. The crowd is a little intense for my taste once the night gets going, but it’s a great place to grab a drink and unwind earlier in the evening.
I thought a casual dinner would be best after such a busy day, so we strolled across the street to 8Arm. There is an indoor/outdoor feel here that flows really well, but I like to sit in the dining room at a high-top, as I think I get more personal service than I do outside. I usually like to come here on Sundays during the summer, when they have there Chaka Khan Hacienda nights. They have DJs and different themes week to week, with different pop-ups providing the food. It’s always a great time and a great atmosphere, even on a Thursday night.
We took our time getting up and around on Friday before walking from my building to Empire State South for brunch. James Beard award-winning chef Hugh Acheson opened this Midtown eatery in 2010. I always sit at the bar, think they have the best coffee in town, and, although I tend to eat pretty healthy (these days, wink), am helpless when it comes to the fried chicken biscuit with pimento cheese, bacon marmalade, fried egg, and grits. You can take the boy out of Mississippi, but you can’t take the deep South out of the boy.
We swung by Westside Provisions so we could visit Perrine’s Wine Shop. Perrine’s is great, as you can call ahead and they will do all of the work for you. It doesn’t matter if you know a lot about wine or nothing at all, any and every person there will take the time to make sure you walk out of there with a bottle (or many bottles) of wine you will enjoy. You can trust their entire staff to take care of you, and they will chill bottles for you if you call in advance. We picked up enough for the weekend, and were off to the High Museum. The beautiful building is what drew me in, the exhibits they have keep bringing me back. Make sure and check the calendar for all of the different visiting exhibits. The Infinity Mirrors exhibit by Yayoi Kusama that is coming in October is one I am very excited about.
Dinner that night was at Canoe, where I have dinner every year on my birthday.
Located in Vinings on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, the beautiful gardens provide a charming place to take in a sunset. We started with cocktails at the outdoor bar before moving inside for dinner. Every fish dish they have on the menu is fantastic, and the bread pudding is my absolute favorite. There’s a very old-school service philosophy here that makes it easy to just settle into what will be an incredible meal. The bounty of the nature outside is reflected in the menu and the restaurant really embraces its surroundings in a way that is very memorable.
Saturday morning for me means a trip to Freedom Farmers Market, located at the Carter Center. I love this market for a few reasons. First, it’s open year-round. That may not seem like that big of a deal, but a lot of good farmers markets are seasonal. Second, 3 Porch Farm from Athens has the best fresh flowers, and as I always say, “no home is complete without fresh flowers”. Their selection is always impressive, I’m always able to find what I want. We also needed to stop for cheese, as we would be going to the park later and would need snacks, and we made a few selections before heading out.
One of my favorite things about living in Midtown is being within walking distance to Piedmont Park and other great restaurants. In a city filled with cars and traffic, being able to just stroll to any number of great spots in my free time is a real relief to me.
We spent a couple of hours that afternoon at Piedmont Park having a picnic with the wine from Perrine’s and the cheese from Freedom Farmer’s Market. The park was re-designed in the early 20th century by the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, who was the architect responsible for designing Central Park in New York City. I’m a huge fan of the landscape architecture there, and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon. The people watching is great here, you never know who or what you will run into. There may be a jazz quartet around one corner, and kids playing sports around another. It’s also one of my favorite places to go for a morning run before heading to work.
We had reservations at Staplehouse for dinner but they weren’t for several hours, so we went by Ticonderoga Club for cocktails before. We were lucky enough to get seats at the bar, which was voted one of the best in America by Esquire Magazine earlier this year. The cocktail menu changes seasonally, and is helmed by cocktail wizards Greg Best, Regan Smith, and Paul Calvert, so you can trust that each and every one is delicious. That being said, I love the Ticonderoga Cup, their spin on a julep. If you have time for dinner, definitely stay for that. The atmosphere is friendly and comfortable, and don’t miss the wallpaper in what has been called one of the best restaurant bathrooms in Atlanta.
Having been well taken care of at Ticonderoga Club, we headed to Staplehouse. It continues to turn out food that is as technically sound as it is delicious. I fell in love with the building first, to be honest, but the food shortly followed and cemented its importance in my mind. The effect is multiplied when you learn that all after-tax profits from the restaurant benefit The Giving Kitchen, an organization that provides emergency assistance to restaurant workers in times of need. It’s a wonderful experience every time and I am always looking forward to coming back.
Sunday came sooner than I wanted it to and I was determined to make it as easy as possible. I didn’t really have a plan other than that. So I decided we would go to Folk Art for brunch.
Folk Art is insanely easy. It has a real “come as you are” atmosphere. There is no pretense about it, just comforting food (I know this sounds like a lot, and I promise I focus on eating healthy most of the time, but I LOVE the fried chicken and fried egg with sausage gravy) and great service. It is wonderful. Even the parking is easy, which can not be understated in Atlanta.
I couldn’t let him leave without showing him my favorite neighborhood, so we spent the rest of our time together driving through Adair Park and Morningside. They were founded in 1923, and today it is a slow and steady breath of fresh air. In a city where we are constantly building bigger and bigger, this neighborhood is full of small cottages, stressing quality over quantity. One of the main principles of Dixon Rye is to buy better and fewer things, and that is on display here. It is a walkable neighborhood near good bars and restaurants and I love driving through it on an afternoon.
Having finished our tour of the neighborhood, we headed to the airport. It was really great to be able to take some time off, and to host an old friend, getting to show someone the Atlanta that matters to me. As I dropped him at the airport and drove away, I took a deep breath and realized that, having taken in so much of the city, I couldn’t wait to get back to work, back to trying to make my own personal mark on the city I love.