First Look: Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall, Old Fourth Ward

Billed as “a base camp for the urban explorer,” Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall evokes something of the quirky film world of Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.” But whatever its hip conceits, owner and managing partner Michael Lennox can lay claim to the first bar/restaurant concept specifically designed with Atlanta’s Beltline in mind.

The look: Situated in a long space with soaring ceilings that was once home to a couple of art galleries, Ladybird backs up to John Wesley Dobbs Avenue, and looks out on the Beltline at mile marker 9.25. Decks with railing perches and a screen porch with picnic tables offer plenty of outdoor seating. Inside, a bark-lined bar and a woodsy mural with a grand grizzly bear continue the theme.

The scene: On a recent Thursday evening, the crowd stood three-deep at the bar, while there was a wait for a coveted table outside. Lennox worked the room, and chef Kyle Schmidt, formerly of King + Duke and No. 246, worked the pass — showing off dishes such as a whole spatchcock chicken ($36), which serves four and comes with sides and accompaniments such as grilled tortillas and salsas.

The food: The menu is folded like a map that first opens to reveal drinks, then dinner on the next page. The campfire-inspired cooking ranges from Navajo-style fry bread ($7) with Benton’s country ham and honey to chicken and dumplings ($13) with biscuits. A cheeseburger ($10) is made with a house beef and bacon grind and comes with pickled veggies. Schmidt recently added a shellfish roast ($19), served in a cast iron skillet with peel and eat shrimp, mussels, lamb sausage, cabbage, potatoes and grilled bread.

The drinks: The rotating Georgia-dedicated draft beer selection recently included Three Taverns Single Intent ($6), Terrapin Golden Ale ($5) and Creature Comforts Rye Amber ($6). The sizable canned beer list ranges from old-school Schlitz ($2.50) to Westbrook White Thai ($6). Classic cocktails include a Sazerac with Old Overholt rye ($10). Draft wine ($8-$34) is served by the glass or jug.

The extras: Desserts favor campfire fun, too, with peanut s’mores pie ($5) and caramel apple funnel cake ($6).

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