Where To Go When You Don’t Want To Make A Big Deal About Your Birthday, But You Actually Kinda Do
11 places for when you tell everyone you don’t want to make your birthday “a whole thing,” but you’re low-key lying.
You’re really trying to downplay your birthday this year. The hangovers keep getting worse and so do the gifts. Let’s be honest—you’ll never beat your sixth-grade birthday when you had a hot fudge sundae-filled bathtub inside a bounce house. Although come to think of it, the aftermath from that night wasn’t pretty either.
On the other hand, your only interaction with 90% of your friends this month has been by text thread or DM, and this would be a decent excuse to see some people in real life (besides the weird neighbor you keep passing on the street). Here are some spots that are good for groups and balance casual and celebratory well enough that forcing your friends to serenade you won’t be entirely out of place.
If you’re unsure about how you want your birthday to end up, Hotel Clermont in the Old Fourth Ward gives you options. Start downstairs at Tiny Lou’s with a dinner of things like steak tartare and duck confit. As you’re finishing up, you’ll have to choose from the elaborate dessert cart they wheel to the table before making an even more important decision: upstairs or downstairs? You could keep things casual with a final drink on the rooftop bar. Or, if you’re ready to give in to your friends that keep insisting that birthdays are meant for bad decisions, go downstairs to the legendary Clermont Lounge.
photo credit: Courtesy of Politan Row
The Politan Row food hall at Colony Square is an easy way to scale your birthday dinner in either direction. Want to feel extra special? Book the Tasting Table, which gives you reserved seating, a dedicated waiter for bar and table service, and a prix fixe tasting menu of courses from different food vendors, from Caribbean and Indian to Italian and Vietnamese cuisines. You can also make it a booze-heavy bash with early reservations to JoJo’s Beloved Cocktail Lounge, a ’70s-themed cocktail bar at the back of Politan, then head to the food hall for more drinks and a few bites. End the evening at one of Colony Square’s neighboring restaurants with a bottle of bubbly and dessert.
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The James Room
Open late on weekdays and until 2am on Friday and Saturday, The James Room on the Eastside BeltLine is the place to head when you want to prolong your birthday but feel like you might have finally outgrown tabletop dancing. Bypass the cafe's front entrance and head straight to the dimly-lit, hidden speakeasy. Go ahead and lounge on big, fancy leather chairs while choosing from a list of classic cocktails like daiquiris, Manhattans, and sidecars, and revel in the whole "grown and sexy" energy as opposed to the worn and tired reality that you’ve been dodging all week. Then get dessert. We think their Oreo cheesecake makes the perfect sweet ending to celebrate another year around the sun.
Eclipse di Luna
For your birthday last year, your sister-in-law got a little too creative and bought you a gift certificate for salsa lessons that you never got around to using. Your lack of dance skills aside, maybe you still kind of like the idea of being able to do more than the Cha Cha Slide when you get on the dance floor. Get a table at Eclipse di Luna in Buckhead, order a few rounds of tapas and, if you picked a Thursday night, take a free salsa lesson before the live band takes the stage. Or you can skip the lesson, get a pitcher of sangria, and hope one of the regulars will give you a few pointers after you step on their feet one too many times.
One time you hired a Journey cover band to follow your friend around all night singing “Don’t Stop Believin’” every time someone bought them a shot. Instead of losing another friend this year, spend a night at Venkman’s. This restaurant and concert hall in Old Fourth Ward is owned by the members of Yacht Rock Revue, a local ’70s and ’80s soft rock cover band. So, order a pastrami sandwich or pork cheek tacos before giving your full attention to belting out the lyrics to those Steely Dan, Toto, and Doobie Brothers songs.
Georgia Beer Garden
You’re not looking to repeat last year’s birthday dinner when the place wouldn’t seat your party because one person was 30 minutes late. This year, you’d like to avoid everyone starting the night with three rounds of drinks on an empty stomach. Post up at a picnic table on the enclosed outdoor patio at Georgia Beer Garden on Edgewood for a whole afternoon, and even your super late friends can slide in without getting hangry side-eyes from the rest of the crew. The beers here are exclusively from Georgia breweries, and the food includes German drinking staples like soft pretzels, bratwurst, and schnitzel sandwiches.
Nakato Japanese Restaurant
These days, everyone else seems like they've come into Diddy-money for elaborate overseas birthday parties. If you're sad you're stuck here with the rest of us, the flames and tricks of a hibachi dinner are a good way to distract, keeping you in the moment and off The Socials. Nakato on Cheshire Bridge is a Japanese spot with everything from fresh sushi and unique small plates to a dinner that manages to strike a balance between cheesy and delicious. And while you’re still mad that no one surprised you with a face cake, the onion volcano and beating heart fried rice should make up for it.
photo credit: Amy Sinclair
Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours
All great gatherings begin with good spirit. Let's keep it real. Spirits. With creative cocktails like The Green-Eyed Bandit, a tasty tequila-based matcha and pineapple cocktail, any birthday meal at this cozy Westside restaurant will immediately feel more festive when the drinks arrive at the table. Twisted Soul's casual setting is great for a multi-gen gathering or for your rowdy friends who you only see on birthdays, so share a few small plates with the bday crew (we like the fried green tomatoes and moonshine mussels) before revisiting stories about the group's outrageous back-in-the-day celebrations. Then make a toast to making it through another year.
Cooks & Soldiers
Tapas usually promotes sharing, but we’ve too often seen it turn into a no-holds-barred scramble to get a third of toast. Cooks & Soldiers on the Westside doesn’t want anyone leaving dinner with a sprained thumb, so they’ve made their portions large enough to make it all the way around the table. You’re still going to want to put in at least three orders of the Bikini though—because a grilled cheese with jamon iberico and black truffle is always going to be hard to get enough of. The massive bone-in ribeye is amazing too and, as the birthday rockstar, you could justifiably keep it all for yourself. But you’re with your friends, so do the mature thing and give everyone a very, very small piece.
Gio's Chicken Amalfitano
Bring a case of wine and every one of your friends to this BYOB, family-style Italian spot on the Westside. With a small menu of choices, you can order everything, but we'd say place an order for the Al Forno pasta or Sorrento Lemon chicken at the counter before settling in at one of the large tables. Also, Antico, their sister restaurant next door, serves some of the best pizza in the city and will fully support you putting a few candles in one of their pies and bringing it along for the party. Cake’s usually overrated anyway.
The Painted Pin
You might associate bowling alley food with the uncomfortable one-two punch of eating chicken fingers followed by jamming your greasy fingers into a bowling ball. The Painted Pin in Buckhead offers a different experience. Between turns and decorative Lebowski quotes, you can relax on a couch and eat some of our favorite items like the soy ginger-glazed edamame, smoked ribs, and wood-fired pizzas. You can always embody the Dude and do a deep dive into White Russians, but the Moscow Mule slushies go down smoothly and, probably, too quickly.