Recently an opportunity arose to travel to Atlanta to watch an Elite 8 Regional basketball as part of the NCAA tourney. I had traveled to Atlanta several times previous on business, but never for just pure pleasure. As this city regularly competes for convention business, it ends up being a destination many of us go to but rarely get a chance to spend significant personal time exploring. Enter the regional. With an opportunity to see my team in the Elite 8, I could not pass a chance to go.
Atlanta is a true southern city with the southern charm, if you are into that sort of thing. The city is serviced by a strong public transportation system which even feeds all the way to Hartsfield International Airport. Very convenient if you are not looking to rent or save on taxi fees. Sure, the stations can get a little creepy at night, espeically the underground ones, but all in all, they seem fairly safe and for the most part, well used. Atlanta has several distinct districts in the city. The older of these entertainment district is the Atlanta Underground, basically under central city. This was developed as an entertainment district, but in the later years has lost a lot of its popularity to more trendy destinations like Mid Town. Another district I had been previously was Buckhead. This is further north of central Atlanta and severla years back had many nice restaurants and clubs. Some of the clubs could be a bit wild as well. While I did not get out to Buckhead this trip, I am told that the clubs are largely gone. They had been run out with rents in an attempt to cater more the the higher end restaurants in the area.
The area we stayed was Mid Town. This is become a trendy part of Atlanta more recently. Looking to avoid the standard hotel chain, we choose the independent Artmore Hotel. Upon first impression, I was a bit concerned with the clientele as it looked like it may turn into a hip hop party. Not the case. The Artmore is well appointed and anchored by a great bar where the bartender knows how to mix a great martini. The Artmore also has a great court yard where you can take your drink and smoke a cigar. Rooms are well appointed, fairly spacious and for the most part quiet.
One of the noticeable things about Atlanta and it being in the deep south is the number of restaurants with grits on the menu. All kinds. A normally bland dish, the Highland Bakery in mid Town dresses them up with various tastes offering them with several of the interesting breakfasts at the small establishment. Hard to find, it is a small walk up service eatery at the base of a professional building. There are a few tables outside that make this pet friendly, if you are not in the middle of summer anyway. Great unique breakfast offerings.
Another great eatery just down the street from Highland Bakery is South City Kitchen. Also serving breakfast, but here, you will want to struggle through the waits for their fried chicken. This is marinated in a buttermilk concoction for over 24 hours, then fried with a tasty crust, but leaving the chicken inside tender and moist. This eatery brands itself as new southern cuisines. Not sure what that means, but what I found off of the menu was very creative fare that I would like to come back again and again to try. I had the crab cakes in hollandaise sauce. Excellent. Tender and tasty fresh crab served over cheese grits and hollandaise…….absolutely wonderful. This will be a must for a return trip to Atlanta (who hosts the final four next year)
As for the basketball……it was held in the Georgia Dome. A decent venue, again, served by the rail line. I was not impressed with the facility or the surroundings due to lack of good places to eat immediate within walking distance. It too is in a neighborhood that you must be careful after dark.
Overall, Atlanta was pleasant. It was March Madness, and spring. It may be a little different visiting in the summer, as it is hot and humid in this southern city