Party underground: 5 of Atlanta's best basement bars

Starboard or port? The Den at Beetlecat will never tell.

Credit: via

Credit: via

Starboard or port? The Den at Beetlecat will never tell.

There's something special about basement bars.

Maybe it's the muggy climate, or the dark and windowless rooms. Or perhaps it's the safety they offer, in case of above ground warfare.

Whatever it is, they bring out a different side of us. A wilder, freer, more dance-ready and uninhibited side. All summer long, we read articles about the best patio bars and the best rooftop bars and so on and so on. But the fact is, there are pretty impressive bars underground, too. And they serve your party purposes year-round, Atlanta.

Where would this city be, for instance, without the Clermont Lounge? It's a question we've had to face for far too many months. (Though the temporary and seemingly ceaseless end is finally nigh.)

Though Clermont isn’t open just yet, these five basement bars can carry our collective torch down those cellar stairs and into the darkest yet most lit corners of our heart.

Things get rowdy at The Drunken Unicorn.

Credit: via Flickr

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Credit: via Flickr

1. The Drunken Unicorn

736 Ponce De Leon Place NE, Atlanta

Located in the basement beneath Friends on Ponce, connected underground to MJQ Concourse, and accessible via parking lot garage door, Drunken Unicorn is known for its rowdy underground (figurative, literal) shows delivered at eardrum rupturing volumes. Gaze upon their music schedule, then place the show that interests you onto your calendar. Perhaps add yourself a note with a little circled exclamation point to remind the drunken unicorn in you that this bar is cash only.

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939 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta

Smaller than most apartments, El Bar is the Poncey-Highland institution known for "wild, sweaty dance parties" on weekend nights (and Thursdays, too) in the basement behind and beneath El Ponce. Some of the city's best DJ's play at El Bar, and on any given night the close-quarters bar feels more like a house party than a bar. The party’s so good that you’ll forget the humid conditions and cover charges by the time the clock strikes  2:45 a.m. in the morning.

Party goer dancing to music at The Basement.

Credit: The Basement

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Credit: The Basement

3. The Basement

1245 Glenwood Ave. SE, Atlanta

The Basement − the subterranean club in East Atlanta Village known for hosting indie rock bands, the occasional hip-hop show but mostly themed night dance parties − is situated beneath Graveyard Tavern. On theme nights, by the time your flip-flop sticks to the dance floor, there shall be 1980s or 1990s music and the dance party shall not be the EDM and trap-heavy gnosh so familiar elsewhere in East Atlanta Village, but shall instead be a bastion of pure retro gold glory, and indeed the funk shall be within you.

4. The 51

51 Elliott St. SW, Atlanta

In Castleberry Hill, among the artists and musicians who tend to hang around the neighborhood, Elliott Street Deli & Pub retains a solid reputation for its jazz and funk jam sessions. For the last eleven years, brothers Peter and Mike Jakob have brought as much to the jazz scene in the city as a deli reasonably can. The 51 -- the name of the basement venue where all the jazzing goes down -- is authentic and artful, connected, local and by every measure of the jazz, so is it jazzy.

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5. The Den at Beetlecat

299 North Highland Avenue

Ford Fry's Beetlecat invites visitors to "step aboard, and be served from an ever-fresh menu of oysters, clams, and other sea-fare" in a restaurant of nautical theme and fare. Deep in the bowels of Frye's imagination ship, at port along those Inman Park coastlines, lays The Den. Like all things Beetlecat, The Den is mid-century modern and sexy in its atmosphere, but where the upstairs dining area offers some semblance of a white-walled east coast yacht club, the Den is more like the height of Brady Bunch wood paneling with a dash of west-coast surf for good measure. Unlike many of the others on this list, the Den keeps its wits about its basement self, and does not throttle into an underground all-night party spot. Better to visit here for a donut brunch, or for (crowded!) drinks with a group of friends in a stellar throwback environment over a well-made cocktail.

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