by Jonathan Baker - 319 Reviews - 185 List
We think the best bars are ones that have a specific vision, bars that are simple and know their identity and place. While 2008 brought us the overuse of ?lounges,? thankfully the best bars in 2009 made super-strong statements and accomplished exactly what they were going for. Be it a super-club (Gold Room, pictured) or a dive bar/venue truly worthy of its East Atlanta address, here are our top 5 watering holes from 2009.
Updated: December 16, 2009
Opened at the start of 2009, Drinkshop is not only our pick for the best bar of the year, but it's our choice for the best bar in Atlanta. A sibling of Sasha Petraske's Milk & Honey in NYC, Drinkshop takes the same classic philosophy. There are a set of rules for bar patrons, there are no soda guns or flavored vodkas and all the ice is hand-carved from a giant block of ice. The decor is more LA scene than NY underground, but the drinks make you feel like you're living in another decade. Cheers to that.
Ri Ra got our attention the second they said they were importing an entire pub, piece by piece, from Ireland. (That certainly fixed the would-be stone-cold feel of its mixed-development location.) Very ornate and old wood parquet floors, bar, partitions and doors in beautiful dark wood create the perfect atmosphere for putting down pints of Harp or Smithwicks or saying "slainte" and downing a Jameson shot.
Get ready, club-happy party people. Once home to the Gold Club (famous Atlanta strip club that was notorious for its, er, outlandish behavior), the Gold Room has emerged as a classed-up super-club that, before even an official opening, had already hosted the likes of Lenny Kravitz. While it just opened weeks ago, it's already made quite the splash, complete with signature cocktails, eye candy and, yes, an homage-paying gold pole.
We make it no secret that we're all about swilling cheap beer at seedy dive bars. So, you can imagine our excitement when this jewel opened in East Atlanta Village. 529 is exactly what a dive bar should be: small, smoky and boasts underground bands that you've never heard of but will immediately love. Major points are earned for not only an outdoor patio but one that has a cool walk-up window where you can order from the bar inside.
We wanted to hate this bar, but if you're going to open a business, be bold. So we have to give props when they are deserved. This tropical joint in Midtown is like spring break all year long. Sure, it's a watering hole for the recently graduated popped-collar set, but down a few of their booze-laced slush puppies and you'll quickly forget you aren't supposed to have fun here.