Some bars make you wish you had stayed home and drank that cider you’ve had in your fridge since someone left it at your housewarming party. Other times, you leave and vow to never mix the random ingredients from your fridge into a drink again, if you can just have something or be somewhere this great every time. We want to make sure you don’t end up at the former, which is why we put together this list of our favorite places to drink in Atlanta. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but this is a good starting point for checking out some of the best bars in the city.
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Going out sometimes means standing around while you nod and pretend that you can hear what your friends are saying over the music. But when you want a bar with activities that don’t involve losing your voice, there’s Joystick. It’s a divey bar in Edgewood that has cheap beer, well drinks, and a ton of old school arcade games that will make you feel like you’re at your best friend’s ninth birthday party again. If you’re looking for a group game instead, there’s another room with Jenga, foosball, and board games, along with big coffee tables and couches.
This brewery and restaurant right off of Moreland in L5P is housed in what looks like the home of a Southern aristocrat, but inside it’s basically just a nice neighborhood bar. Wrecking Bar is a great spot to come with a big group and try a bunch of beers, but they also have a pretty diverse menu, with everything from pretzels and fondue to beef cheeks, once you get hungry.
Johnny’s Hideaway is somewhere you keep meaning to go to, but haven’t yet because, well, it’s in Buckhead. It’s far, and also has the kind of bar-scene reputation that might scare you away if you didn’t rush during college. Luckily, the bar leans more alumni reunion than frat party, with nightly live music and plenty of people looking to dance, which makes it a good option for a birthday or girls’ night out.
There are restaurants that serve great drinks, and bars that serve great food, but it’s hard to find somewhere that’s both. 8Arm manages to find that balance. You can show up at 9am for breakfast, or 2am for drinks, and you’ll be happy either way. It’s down the street from Ponce City Market and near a couple other bars, so it’s a great stop when you’re bar hopping, or for when you want a post-dinner nightcap. Get a cocktail, along with something from their late night menu, like the burger or oysters, and sit out on their neon-lit outdoor patio if there’s room.
If you’re someone whose jerky consumption is limited to driving cross country and post-workout, Biltong Bar will change that. They offer a wide assortment of South African beef jerky (or biltong), hand pies, and other South African-inspired snacks, along with some very good cocktails. One of them, the aptly named frozen “Un-Fu*k Your Day,” is always a favorite. Bring a date or your parents and order the biltong sample board and a few drinks before planning your next road trip.
There aren’t many places that do karaoke with a live band, much less one that specializes in heavy metal, but that’s why 10 High Club exists. Located in the dark, smoky, and windowless basement of Darkhorse Tavern in the Highlands, it’s exactly the kind of atmosphere you want when you’re singing Metallica in front of 50 strangers. They only have one bar for the whole room, so getting a drink can sometimes be a challenge, but at least you can lip sync to “Enter Sandman” while you wait.
Little Trouble looks like where Harrison Ford’s Blade Runner character was hiding out between movies wondering, “Am I human or am I replicant?” It’s dark with plenty of neon and makes you feel like you’re in a future where people pay for things by just blinking at each other. Try a sake juice box or one of the yuzu cocktails, and order some Thai-style wings and pork buns.
There are a lot of rooftop spots in Atlanta, but if you’re looking for one where you can actually meet people, rather than deal with distraught six-year-olds, head to Hotel Clermont. It’s a little more difficult to get into than their lobby bar or the one in Tiny Lou’s, but you’ll be glad you waited when you finally see the view. Head here for a date, when you want to impress clients, or for a pre-dinner drink that happens to coincide with golden hour.
From the palm trees and flamingos to the frozen cocktails served in coconuts and pineapples, S.O.S. is one of the best places you can go for tiki drinks in the city. This popular Decatur spot is a great pre- or post-dinner stop if you’re hitting up The Iberian Pig or No. 246 nearby. They’re always throwing luaus or rum-themed parties and while we’re not sure what they’re celebrating, you don’t really need an excuse to enjoy a drink served out of a skull mug.
If you’re bar hopping around East Atlanta Village, it’s almost guaranteed you’re going to end up at Argosy. It’s a large brewpub with plenty of seating, and more than 30 different beers on the menu, which gives you plenty to try while you play skee-ball or shuffleboard in the back area. It’s a fun spot where you can bring a big group of friends, or your cousin from out of town that you’d actually like to talk to, and as far as East Atlanta Village is concerned, it’s one of the best bars around.
Finding Sweetwater beer outside the state gives every Atlantan a twinge of pride, but there’s still nothing better than going straight to the source. Sweetwater Brewery is in the back of Armour Yards, a more industrial area between Buckhead and Midtown, but it’s relatively easy to find, probably because of the giant fish mural on the front of the building. Get here early to snag a table since it’s usually crowded on the weekends, especially in the warmer months when they have bands play on the outdoor patio.
Whether you’re planning a girls’ night and everyone wants to dance, or your college roommate is in town and you want to pretend that you’re still cool, MJQ is where you should go. It’s one of the best places to dance in the city and while it’s dark, underground, and you might not have cell service, it’s better that no drunk photos get sent anyway. There are two different rooms - one for pop and one for hip hop - but this place still fill up fast, so get here on the earlier side (and make sure to bring cash for cover) to avoid the line.
Last time you and six friends wanted to go out, you went to and immediately left three different tiny bars before giving up. Next time, head to Ormsby’s. This spot on the Westside was made for big groups, whether it’s a Happy Hour with coworkers or a bunch of people looking for late-night drinks after dinner at Miller Union. There’s a big bar upstairs with plenty of tables to sit and drink, while downstairs there’s an equally large bar where you can play things like bocce or darts.
Northside Tavern has been around since 1972, which makes it a classic by default, and it hasn’t changed much over the years, which is why we like it. It’s the definition of a dive bar, with cheap beers and strong well drinks, but it’s also maybe the only place on the Westside with live music seven nights a week.
Ticonderoga Club has a lot going for it. It somehow feels both like a club house and your cool uncle’s basement, and while they’re known for serving really great food, this place would do just as well as just a cocktail bar. Each of their drinks tastes like something that would’ve been served at a pirate-themed party that your grandparents hosted in the early 60s, using a lot of spirits you probably don’t order too often (brandy, port, etc). This place is small, so try to come with only one or two people, and make some friends while you’re there - preferably the bartenders.
When the weather’s nice, we’ll find any excuse to drink outside as often as possible, and that’s exactly why we like Georgia Beer Garden. They have over 100 different local beers, along with sandwiches, tacos, and wings for when you get hungry after your second or third pint. And their big patio space with tables out back makesit the perfect place to spend any night when the humidity is bearable.
Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium
Every good night out needs a last stop, and Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium (better known as “Church”) is the perfect one. If the name didn’t already tip you off, this bar in Edgewood is a little different, like the fact that $2 PBRs are the go-to drink here, or that they have clergy robes that you can wear. It’s packed on the weekends, so if you aren’t able to grab a couch upstairs by the ping pong tables, try your luck on the patio outside.