You see, Oakhurst, an enclave just south of downtown Decatur, is a neighborhood of quiet charm. The restaurants and small markets that cluster around the intersection of East Lake Drive and Oakview Road are not the product of some kind of mixed-use development master plan situated off an interstate exit, as it sometimes feels that all of Atlanta is becoming. Rather, Oakhurst is a walkable, livable neighborhood that seems to have grown organically.
While waiting for the Oak Brewpub to reopen in Oakhurst, try Double Dragon’s Chongqing chicken wings garnished with cilantro and scallions. CONTRIBUTED BY WYATT WILLIAMS
On almost any night, one can find within a few steps a handful of writers talking shop over wings and whiskey at Steinbeck's Ale House, families digging into chips and dip at Mezcalito's, plates of General Tso's chicken being passed around Double Dragon, or fresh-baked bread and a decent bottle of wine to take home at Oakhurst Market. It is a neighborhood of decidedly casual options, less of a destination for people outside of it and more of a nice, unfussy balance for the people within it.
Oak Brewpub seems like a good fit for the area. The handful of stainless steel tanks that greet you as you walk in the restaurant’s front hallway are of decidedly modest size. This place won’t be cranking out a nationally distributed beer in the near future, but brewmaster Barron Sluder has been putting out more than a handful of pleasantly drinkable house beers.
Those include Bird Person, a fruity West Coast-style IPA that packs hoppy flavor into the dark golden ale without overpowering bitterness. On the other end of the spectrum is the OOG Stout, a smooth, dark, lightly sweet oatmeal stout that pairs pretty well with the cool fall weather.
There are some lesser options, like a Belgian golden called A Speakeasy in Brussels, a beer so easy-drinking it verges on bland. On the whole, though, this sort of brewing seems suited to the area.
Of course, it doesn’t help you much to tell you the beers brewed at Oak Brewpub are pretty good if the doors are locked and no one will sell one to you.
It probably doesn’t help, either, that I want to tell you that when McKinney was running the kitchen, he had a pretty nice riff on Spanish patatas bravas, roasted potatoes drenched in spicy aioli and topped with a runny sunny-side-up egg. The $12 duck breast he served was a steal. Even better was a bowl of General Tso’s broccoli, which held an impressively crunchy, thin crust under a salty, spicy-sweet sauce.
Instead, as you wait for Oak Brewpub to get back on its feet, enjoy the charm of Oakhurst, part of which is that you can just walk down the block and find a pretty smart draft list at Steinbeck’s Ale House. You can find a friendly bartender at Universal Joint, where the mood is always as laid-back and casual as the tree-lined sidewalks of East Lake Drive.
Wander a hundred yards over to Double Dragon, where the General Tso's chicken is pretty good and a cocktail called the Formidable Dragon is as strong as it sounds. Even better, amble a couple of more blocks to Scout and get one of Nate Shuman's smart drinks, like the Nitro Toronto, and a plate of fried cauliflower.
The options for grabbing a drink and a bite in Oakhurst are plenty.
I’d like to think Oak Brewpub will come back better. A neighborhood like Oakhurst seems just right for a place with a comfortable patio and a pretty good house-brewed IPA. But you might never get a chance to have a bowl of that General Tso’s broccoli. The restaurant business is tough. Sometimes that’s how it goes.
RESTAURANTS IN OAKHURST
Oak Brewpub. TEMPORARILY CLOSED. 630 East Lake Drive, Decatur. 470-305-7527, oakbrewpub.com.
Double Dragon. 4-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 4-10 p.m. Fridays; noon-10 p.m. Saturdays; noon-9 p.m. Sundays. 350 Mead Road, Decatur. 404-832-0016,doubledragonoakhurst.com.
Mezcalito's Cantina. 4-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays. 653 East Lake Drive, Decatur. 404-687-0007, mezcalitoscantina.com.
Scout. 4 p.m.-midnight Tuesdays-Fridays; 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.-midnight Saturdays; 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4-10 p.m. Sundays. 321 W. Hill St., Decatur. 404-496-6863,scoutoakhurst.com.
Steinbeck's Ale House. 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Mondays-Wednesdays; 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Thursdays-Sundays. 659 East Lake Drive, Decatur. 404-373-1116,steinbecksbar.com.
Universal Joint. 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Mondays-Sundays. 906 Oakview Road, Decatur. 404-373-6260,ujointbar.com.