Atlanta Orders In: Porter Beer Bar abides in Little Five Points

The Porter Beer Bar’s fish and chips comes with beer-battered cod, Belgian fries, pickled green tomato tartar sauce and malt vinegar. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Porter Beer Bar’s fish and chips comes with beer-battered cod, Belgian fries, pickled green tomato tartar sauce and malt vinegar. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

When Nick Rutherford and Molly Gunn opened the Porter Beer Bar in Little Five Points in 2008, the Brick Store Pub in Decatur was just about the only competition. Now, craft beer is ubiquitous, even in fine-dining settings.

But, the Porter remains an Atlanta fixture. Twice nominated as a James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist for best bar program, it enjoys a loyal following of beer and whiskey connoisseurs and neighborhood regulars who come to sample Rutherford’s imaginative cooking, as well as to drink.

Often described as “food that goes well with beer,” Rutherford’s menu features pub grub classics, such as a pull-apart pretzel, fish and chips, and a variety of smashed burgers. But, his fine-dining background shows up in dishes with unexpected, deftly executed flavors.

Recent offerings include a salad with vanilla-poached quince, Gorgonzola, pecans and ice wine vinaigrette, and a crunchy bar snack, dubbed Animal Crackers, with puffed beef tendon, charred onion dip and pho herbs.

Sadly, the pandemic has limited the number of items on the menu, and has done away with most daily specials. Still, the Porter is open for indoor and outdoor dining and takeout seven days a week.

ExploreMore Atlanta Orders In

The Porter Beer Bar’s fall salad includes mixed greens, vanilla-poached quince, Gorgonzola cheese, pecans and ice wine vinaigrette. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Porter Beer Bar’s fall salad includes mixed greens, vanilla-poached quince, Gorgonzola cheese, pecans and ice wine vinaigrette. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

When I talked with Gunn in April for a story about how beer bars were responding to the pandemic, she and Rutherford were running the Porter by themselves, as a takeout-only operation. They were “doing OK,” she said. But, when I checked in last week, Gunn was a bit more upbeat.

“In June we brought back two full-time employees,” she said. “Since August, we’ve had four full-time employees, and sometimes a prep cook.”

While things still are difficult as far as the bottom line, for the most part Gunn feels like she’s been able to navigate the business side with some sense of certainty, and a touch of black humor.

“We’re extremely lucky that our landlady has continued to work with us,” she said. “She doesn’t have a mortgage on the building, and she’s in touch with reality. That’s our biggest fixed cost, and she’s made it scalable. Nick and I were able to start paying ourselves in the fall, which is huge. And, at this point, I feel fairly confident that everyone in Georgia will die before our governor will shut us down.”

ExploreIntown Atlanta dining news
The Porter Beer Bar’s double smashed patty melt is made with two beef patties, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese and rye bread. It comes with a side of sweet potato waffle fries. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Porter Beer Bar’s double smashed patty melt is made with two beef patties, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese and rye bread. It comes with a side of sweet potato waffle fries. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

That aside, Gunn realizes that, whatever happens, customers will decide the future of the Porter.

“My customer base is very nervous,” she said. “When the numbers go up, it doesn’t matter if there’s not a shutdown. If I have no customers, I’m essentially shut down. At some point, when you lose enough customers, you just have to readjust to the level of the business again. But, fortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. We haven’t had to go back to takeout-only, or anything like that.”

ExploreBeer and cocktail news

Gunn is hoping things may return to some sense of normalcy by summer 2021. And, like so many people, she’s looking forward to the return of live music and theater at venues like Variety Playhouse and Seven Stages.

“It’s the reason to deal with the insane parking situation we have, and all the irritations of Little Five Points,” she said. “People are willing to put up with all that for that experience. I want it to be like it was, when there was a sold-out Variety Playhouse show.”

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

THE PORTER BEER BAR

Menu: pub grub classics

Alcohol: full bar with beer, wine and cocktails; beer and wine to go, including cellar selections

What I ordered: fall salad with mixed greens, vanilla-poached quince, Gorgonzola cheese, pecans and ice wine vinaigrette; fish and chips with beer-battered cod, Belgian fries, pickled green tomato tartar sauce and malt vinegar; double smashed patty melt with two Painted Hills beef patties, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, rye bread and a big side of sticky, spicy sweet potato waffle fries. Everything was excellent, and well-packaged in individual containers. I was surprised by how well the fish and chips traveled.

Service options: indoor or outdoor dining; takeout; order takeout online or by phone

Outdoor dining: sidewalk patio with up to 30 seats

Mask policy: employees wear masks

Address, phone: 156 Euclid Ave., Atlanta; 404-223-0393

Hours: 4 p.m.-midnight Mondays-Thursdays, noon-midnight Fridays-Saturdays, noon-10 p.m. Sundays; open 4 p.m.-1a.m. New Year’s Eve and 5 p.m.-midnight New Year’s Day

Website: theporterbeerbar.com

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.

About the Author

In Other News