Exploring Atlanta’s college neighborhoods

Agnes Scott College sits on 100-acres of wooded grounds and is known for its Gothic and Victorian architecture. The neighborhood is filled with great dining, entertainment and shopping. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED.

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Agnes Scott College sits on 100-acres of wooded grounds and is known for its Gothic and Victorian architecture. The neighborhood is filled with great dining, entertainment and shopping. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED.

There’s a lot of hustle, bustle and things to do near the metro area’s many campuses

Novelist Sheri Webber once said that “College towns [are] all the same in that way: same burger. different wrapper”. In my case, that was true: Jack in the Box in Troy, New York. Luckily, Atlanta is blessed with several “college towns” within the metro area, and they are anything but a “one-burger” place. They’re bursting with great shops, culture, parks and things to do. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution provides an overview of life in the area’s college neighborhoods, although some spots are temporarily on hold due to COVID-19.

Agnes Scott College

Agnes Scott College, located in an idyllic setting in Decatur, is within walking distance of downtown Decatur and all its boutiques and restaurants, as well as places close to campus. Charis Books & More (184 S. Candler St. Decatur. 404-524-0304, charisbooksandmore.com), a feminist bookstore, recently moved from Little Five Points to the campus.

Tanya Coventry-Strader grew up near the campus and lives near it now. “The campus is so pretty. I walk there every day, which is a big plus. In the summer, even as a child, we would go and have picnics. There’s a vibrant neighborhood around it and, of course, there’s a lot to do on the campus. I’ve seen a lot of fantastic poets and writers and my parents loved their choral concerts. There’s also a lot of wonderful public art and sculpture.”

Another fun and educational adventure (again pre-COVID) is to visit the Bradley Observatory (141 E. College Ave., Decatur. 404-471-6000, agnesscott.edu/bradleyobservatory), which contains a 70-seat Delafield Planetarium and its 30-inch Lewis H. Beck telescope.

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Platter of oysters, half grilled and half raw, at Kimball House in Decatur. CONTRIBUTED BY: Kimball House

Platter of oysters, half grilled and half raw, at Kimball House in Decatur. CONTRIBUTED BY: Kimball House

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Platter of oysters, half grilled and half raw, at Kimball House in Decatur. CONTRIBUTED BY: Kimball House

Some of Coventry-Strader’s favorite neighborhood haunts include the famed Kimball House (303 E. Howard Ave, Decatur. 404-378-3502, kimball-house.com), for cocktails and oysters, and Trackside Tavern (313 E. College Ave., Decatur. 404-378-0504, trackside-tavern.com). “The legendary Indigo Girls used to play there early on and I used to play pool there, back in the day,” she says.

Other favorites include the Universal Joint (906 Oakview Road Decatur. 404-373-6260, ujointbar.com), a former gas station turned neighborhood pub that offers rotating beers on tap. After eating all the good local food, why not try FitWit (630 East Lake Drive, Decatur. 888-534-8948, fitwit.com), a group fitness program? “I would do that if I were more into self-love,” Coventry-Strader jokes.

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Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Ed.D Academic Center: Houses the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. The same Cosby gift of $20 million that founded the endowed professorship in 1988 helped build the center, which opened in 1996. (AJC file)

Credit: KIMBERLY SMITH

Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Ed.D Academic Center: Houses the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. The same Cosby gift of $20 million that founded the endowed professorship in 1988 helped build the center, which opened in 1996. (AJC file)

Credit: KIMBERLY SMITH

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Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Ed.D Academic Center: Houses the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. The same Cosby gift of $20 million that founded the endowed professorship in 1988 helped build the center, which opened in 1996. (AJC file)

Credit: KIMBERLY SMITH

Credit: KIMBERLY SMITH

Atlanta University Center

The neighborhood around the Atlanta University Center (Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Morris Brown College and Morehouse College) is vibrant, diverse and changing. Much to the chagrin of some, the neighborhood is becoming a bit more “gentrified” with national stores and restaurants taking over the small mom-and-pop shops.

Let’s start with the center itself. Both Spelman (440 Westview Drive, Atlanta. 404-270-5607, museum.spelman.edu) and Clark Atlanta (223 James P. Brawley Drive SW, Atlanta. 404-880-8000, cau.edu/art-galleries) have art museums and there are several musical groups, ensembles and orchestras that provide stirring musical performances for students and neighbors alike. Morehouse maintains an extensive collection of the papers of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (111 James P. Brawley Drive SW, Atlanta. 404-978-2000, mcmlk.auctr.edu), a Morehouse graduate.

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Johnny Scott, a regular at The Busy Bee Cafe, orders a Ox Tails to go at the restaurnt on Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. NE. The historic soul food restaurant opened in 1947. (Jenni Girtman/ Atlanta Event Photography)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Johnny Scott, a regular at The Busy Bee Cafe, orders a Ox Tails to go at the restaurnt on Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. NE.  The historic soul food restaurant opened in 1947.   (Jenni Girtman/ Atlanta Event Photography)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Johnny Scott, a regular at The Busy Bee Cafe, orders a Ox Tails to go at the restaurnt on Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. NE. The historic soul food restaurant opened in 1947. (Jenni Girtman/ Atlanta Event Photography)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

The neighborhood is diverse with Caribbean, soul and vegetarian places dotting the landscape as well as popular nationally known restaurants such as Busy Bee Cafe (810 Martin Luther King Jr Drive SW, Atlanta. 404-525-9212, thebusybeecafe.com), which may just have the best fried chicken in town, and Paschal’s Restaurant (180 Northside Drive SW, Atlanta. 404-525-2023, paschalsatlanta.com), where civil rights leaders ate and strategized the movement.

Among local favorites are the American Deli West (840 Oak St. SW, Atlanta. 404-753-1416, americandeli.com) in the nearby West End Mall and the Slutty Vegan (1542 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. SW, Atlanta. 855-439-7588, sluttyveganatl.com).

The area boasts a large Muslim population, which has over the years, fostered a number of vegetarian restaurants, whether they serve Caribbean, African, seafood or soul foods. Among the ones to try are the venerable Soul Vegetarian Restaurant (879 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. SW, Atlanta. 404-752-5194, soulvegsouth.com) and Healthfull Essence, (875 York Ave. SW, Atlanta. 404-806-0830, healthfullessence.com) a Caribbean vegan and vegetarian restaurant.

Around campus there are a number of boutiques, such as Afro Centric Network (576-D Lee St., Atlanta, 404-753-0047, iamafrocentric.com) and Axum Culture (1065 Ralph D. Abernathy Blvd., Atlanta. 470-225-7235, facebook.com/AxumCulture).

Emory University

Ellen Weaver Hartman, president of Hartman Public Relations, grew up in Starkville, Mississippi, the home of Mississippi State University. “I love college towns. I love the diversity of my neighbors because it is a university area. I think every nationality is represented,” says Hartman, who has lived near Emory University for more than 20 years and enjoys the cultural events at places such as the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts (1700 North Decatur Road, Atlanta. 404-727-5050, schwartz.emory.edu). “As a senior citizen I can audit classes for free and I did take beginning German, which was a hoot. The students looked at me like I had a contagious disease, but eventually a student from South Korea befriended me. We’re still friends.”

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Cars drive through a traffic circle, shops and restaurants in Emory Village near an entrance to Emory University in Atlanta in this 2014 file photo. Traffic is a major concern in the university’s master plan. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Cars drive through a traffic circle, shops and restaurants in Emory Village near an entrance to Emory University in Atlanta in this 2014 file photo. Traffic is a major concern in the university’s master plan. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

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Cars drive through a traffic circle, shops and restaurants in Emory Village near an entrance to Emory University in Atlanta in this 2014 file photo. Traffic is a major concern in the university’s master plan. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Hartman loves the hustle and bustle around the campus in places like Emory Village (surrounding the intersection of North Decatur and Oxford roads. emoryvillage.org), where the “CVS manager knows everyone by name and you can get the best and freshest meats at Shields Meat Market where you can get everything from goat meat to Kobe beef to all sorts of interesting things to eat.”

Her favorite casual restaurants are the General Muir (Emory Point, 1540 Avenue Place, Suite B-230, Atlanta. 678-927-9131, thegeneralmuir.com), an upscale New York-style deli, and Double Zero (1577 N. Decatur Road, Atlanta. 404-991-3666, doublezeroatl.com) which features southern Italian cuisine and Neapolitan pizza, but she points out that there is a variety of Korean, Asian, Mediterranean and barbecue all within walking distance.

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A flock of mallards takes flight over a partially frozen Murphey Candler Lake as the sun sets Wednesday evening January 8, 2014. BEN GRAY

A flock of mallards takes flight over a partially frozen Murphey Candler Lake as the sun sets Wednesday evening January 8, 2014.  BEN GRAY

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A flock of mallards takes flight over a partially frozen Murphey Candler Lake as the sun sets Wednesday evening January 8, 2014. BEN GRAY

Oglethorpe University

Development is bursting around the campus with strip centers popping up next to large parks such as Murphey Candler Park (1551 West Nancy Creek Drive, Brookhaven. murpheycandlerpark.org) In fact, Brookhaven has 14 parks that are perfect for walking and playing. Some, such as Ashford Park (2980 Redding Road, Brookhaven. brookhavenga.gov), have tons of kid-friendly structures. Of course, the university has a variety of activities and cultural events taking place, although the Georgia Shakespeare’s Summer Festival, which took place on the school’s campus, closed years ago.

Kaleidoscope Bistro and Pub (Village Place Brookhaven, 1410 Dresden Drive, Suite 100, Atlanta. 404-474-9600, k-pub.com) is a local favorite for its roomy neighborhood vibe and international menu including pork schnitzel, steak frites and Thai basil and fried rice. The perfect place to celebrate is Haven Restaurant and Bar (1441 Dresden Drive NE, Suite 160, Brookhaven. 404-969-0700, havenrestaurant.com), which has one of the the area’s most popular patios. If you’re a college kid, and even if you’re not, who doesn’t love a good dive? The Righteous Room, (2142 Johnson Ferry Road NE, Brookhaven. 770-559-5678, facebook.com/RighteousNE) located on Johnson Ferry Road, is the perfect spot for good eats, booze and a jukebox that keeps the hits playing.

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The Silver Skillet restaurant has been a breakfast staple in Midtown since 1956.

Credit: JOEY IVANSCO

The Silver Skillet restaurant has been a breakfast staple in Midtown since 1956.

Credit: JOEY IVANSCO

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The Silver Skillet restaurant has been a breakfast staple in Midtown since 1956.

Credit: JOEY IVANSCO

Credit: JOEY IVANSCO

Georgia Tech

To some, living near Georgia Tech means football and Varsity hot dogs (61 North Ave., Atlanta. 404-881-1706, thevarsity.com) and we’re fine with that, but there is a lot more. One of the benefits of being in the neighborhood is the Ferst Center for the Arts (349 Ferst Drive, Atlanta. 404-894-2787, arts.gatech.edu/ferst-center), a theater and arts center.

Georgia Tech is on the Westside, which also is experiencing a rejuvenation boom. Thankfully, the Silver Skillet (200 14th St., Atlanta. 404-874-1388, thesilverskillet.com), which has been whipping up country-fried fare and eggs since 1956, is still open. Don’t be surprised if some of those patrons are movie stars, famous chefs and sports figures. Dave Chappelle, Hugh Jackman, Samuel L. Jackson and Clint Eastwood have frequented the diner and enjoyed the down-home cooking.

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Photo credit: A variety of specialty doughnuts at Sublime Doughnuts. Facebook photo.

Credit: Carolyn Desalu

Photo credit: A variety of specialty doughnuts at Sublime Doughnuts. Facebook photo.

Credit: Carolyn Desalu

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Photo credit: A variety of specialty doughnuts at Sublime Doughnuts. Facebook photo.

Credit: Carolyn Desalu

Credit: Carolyn Desalu

There are newer places to discover, too, such as Sublime Doughnuts (535 10th St. NW, Atlanta. 404-897-1801, sublimedoughnuts.com), which serves everything from maple-bacon-cheddar doughnuts to more traditional such as fresh strawberries ‘n cream. It’s worth going to the Price Gilbert Memorial Library just for the coffee at the Blue Donkey Coffee Co. (260 4th St. NW, Atlanta. bluedonkeycoffee.com/georgia-tech), which specializes in craft iced coffee. Another great restaurant is Pijiu Belly (678 10th St. NW, Atlanta. 404-343-6828, pijiubelly.com), a hip place for gastropub-meets-Asian cuisine.

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The crew at Burnt Hickory Brewery in Kennesaw bottles the Didjits Blood Orange IPA, with owner-brewmaster Scott Hedeen (right). Contributed.

The crew at Burnt Hickory Brewery in Kennesaw bottles the Didjits Blood Orange IPA, with owner-brewmaster Scott Hedeen (right). Contributed.

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The crew at Burnt Hickory Brewery in Kennesaw bottles the Didjits Blood Orange IPA, with owner-brewmaster Scott Hedeen (right). Contributed.

Kennesaw State University

There is definitely a hip sort of vibe growing up around Kennesaw State University, says Jessica Forkel, a radio producer. “There’s a lot of new places to go, grab a drink and hang. There are some cool breweries and there is something for everyone.”

Burnt Hickory Brewery (2260 Moon Station Court, Suite 210, Kennesaw. 770-514-8812, burnthickorybrewery.com) features 20 rotating tap beers as well as an outdoor beer garden, while Dry County Brewing Company (1500 Lockhart Drive NW, Kennesaw. drycountybrewco.com) also offers craft beer. Lazy Guy Distillery (2950 Moon Station Road, Kennesaw. 770-485-0081, lazyguydistillery.com) is a craft whiskey distillery that produces local bourbon, vodka, gin, rye whiskey and corn whiskey.

Among Forkel’s favorite places is Bernie’s (2825 S. Main St., Kennesaw. 770-627-2297, meetatbernies.com), a rustic-industrial eatery with shrimp and oysters and, her favorite, steak & frites, and Trackside Grill (2840 S. Main St., Kennesaw. 770-499-0874, tracksidegrill.com), which has “some of the best creme brûlée in Atlanta.”

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The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History is home to "the General" locomotive, made famous during the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862.

Credit: Bob Andres

The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History is home to "the General" locomotive, made famous during the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862.

Credit: Bob Andres

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The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History is home to "the General" locomotive, made famous during the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862.

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Two favorite museums located on campus are the Museum of History and Holocaust Education (3333 Busbee Drive, Kennesaw. 470-578-2083, historymuseum.kennesaw.edu) and the Zuckerman Museum of Art (492 Prillaman WayKennesaw. 470-578-3223, arts.kennesaw.edu/zuckerman). Nearby is the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History (2829 Cherokee St. NW, Kennesaw. 770-427-2117, southernmuseum.org) which houses the General locomotive that participated in the Great Locomotive Chase in 1862. The Smith-Gilbert Gardens (2382 Pine Mountain Road, Kennesaw. 770-919-0248, smithgilbertgardens.com) is Kennesaw’s botanical garden and features 15 themed garden spaces as well as more than 4,000 curated plant species.