As anyone who lives in Reynoldstown, Cabbagetown or Grant Park will tell you, the section of Memorial Drive that borders those three neighborhoods is booming with new developments.
But beyond the hassles of construction detours and traffic jams, there’s an enticing new wave of bars and restaurants to discover along a roughly mile-and-a-half stretch between Bill Kennedy Way and Hill Street.
Here’s a glimpse of five to try:
From Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall owner Michael Lennox, this tidy counter service space at the edge of the Beltline opened in October 2017 in the front of a former railroad depot. Serving up coffee and “California cuisine,” and sporting a sunny Los Angeles look that stirred up a bit of controversy, it’s quickly become an all-day destination.
Scene: In a place that’s bright and kitschy, evoking a hip bodega, young people with laptops occupy most of the communal tables during the day, and spill out onto the gardenlike patio during the busy lunch hour.
Eat: The simple menu includes tacos, toast, and grain and poke bowls. For $2.50, the egg-cheese-potato breakfast taco is a deal. But don’t miss the cases at the counter, where you’ll find a variety of sweets, pastries and even savory items, such as a mini Media Noche sandwich.
Drink: Coffee is cool, of course. But there are also bottled Mexican sodas, reasonably priced beer and wine, plus spiked aqua fresca, a bloody mary and a mimosa.
904 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta. 404-748-9254, muchachoatl.com.
Right behind the back wall of Muchacho, Lennox opened a second, more ambitious concept, Golden Eagle Diner’s Club, serving a retro menu focused on cocktails and “throwback continental classics.” The room itself may be the biggest draw, with the dark and comfy ambiance of the kind of 1960s supper club the Rat Pack might have enjoyed.
Scene: Hip music emanating from a reel-to-reel tape machine sets the tone for cocktails at the plush horseshoe bar, where couples congregate from happy hour until late, but the tables stay crowded, too.
Eat: Tavern steak au poivre with onion rings served on thrift store china is the de facto signature dish. But the likes of garlic knots, crab Rangoon, charbroiled oysters, and duck confit are go-to, too. And the 5-7 p.m. “Golden Hour” menu offers $5 bar snacks such as the “fancy cheese plate.”
Drink: Cocktails are de rigueur and tend to be boozy, running the gamut from a respectable rye Old Pal to a tall rum Blue Hawaiian. Golden Hour $7 drinks include a daiquiri and a Manhattan.
904 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta. 404-963-1703, goldeneagleatl.com.
Some eight years ago, Alex Brounstein opened the first of his retro burger bars inside the historic Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Since then, Grindhouse has become a fixture on the Atlanta dining scene, with locations on Piedmont Avenue and in Decatur and Athens, plus two franchise locations at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Scene: The newest on Memorial Drive opened in April, and has been packed since, with crowds lining up to order, then filling up the dining room, indoor-outdoor bar, and patio areas that include games and dog-friendly AstroTurf.
Eat: The thing at all Grindhouse locations is the burger. It’s available with fresh ground beef, turkey or veggie patties, in single quarter-pound or double half-pound sizes that can be loaded with an assortment of toppings. New to the menu, the meat-substitute Impossible Burger is a hit.
Drink: There’s a good selection of local and seasonal beer on draft by the pint or pitcher, plus classics in cans, and cocktails such as Putin’s Pony, with vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice.
701 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta. 404-228-3722, grindhouseburgers.com.
Billed as “French Southern Style,” Petit Chou opened at the edge of Cabbagetown in March 2017. The coffee shop and breakfast-to-lunch bistro has a distinctive neighborhood vibe. The dining room is centered on a see and be seen rectangular bar, where busy baristas work the espresso machine, and servers stir up botanical-tinged house-made sodas.
Scene: Early mornings, locals drift in for a caffeine fix, while breakfast and lunch bring on commuters and guests from surrounding neighborhoods. Thursday night pop-up dinners are 6-10 p.m., no reservations required.
Eat: At breakfast, the Cabbagetown bowl is grits with Tillamook sharp cheddar, meat or veggie toppings, poached egg, dressed arugula and tomato concasse. At lunch, the Sarah-Witch is a baguette with Brie, seasonal fruit, shaved ham, arugula, and house preserves.
Drink: Savannah’s PERC Coffee Roasters supply the beans for a variety of brews. Add a $6 shot of well liquor to a house-made lavender lemonade or turmeric strawberry limeade.
662 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta. 470-270-8996, petitchouatl.com.
Opened in early June by chef Leslie Cohen, an Atlanta native and winner of the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” Firepit Pizza Tavern is part of the still-growing the Larkin mixed-use development. The menu is built around brick oven pizza, but as the name implies, the casual atmosphere and hearty food favor good times spent with friends and family.
Scene: The contemporary build-out offers plenty of room at the bar, which is often the most crowded destination, and especially lively in the evening. It’s also a stop for a steady stream of people waiting for takeout pizzas.
Eat: There are 10 house pizzas, or you can build your own from a long list of toppings. Either way, the pies are sliced into bar-style squares for easy sharing. Sandwiches include pressed porchetta and a Philly-style grilled steak, and come with sides such as Parmesan fries or mac n’ cheese.
Drink: There’s a solid beer selection, with a half-dozen rotating local offerings on tap, some 20 wines by the glass or bottle, and a changing list of house cocktails.
519 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta. 404-495-4777, firepitatl.com.