Just Peachy

March 1, 2003 By    

Before we begin our look at the town called “Hot-lanta,” here are a couple of no-no’s for visiting the city during the National Propane Gas Association’s Southeastern show.

First, don’t you dare be caught in public with a Pepsi product, as Atlanta is the world headquarters of Coca-Cola and the city has long been a Coke town. Second, it’s probably not best to mention anything about “The Civil War,” or as some there may say, “The War of Northern Aggression.” Those a bit rusty on their history may do well to recall that in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman torched the railroads, all businesses and two-thirds of Atlanta’s homes on his infamous “March to the Sea.” Atlanta remains the only major American city ever destroyed in a war.

Those Yankees among you might not know this either, but in the last two decades Atlanta has risen to an extremely cosmopolitan city with an international reputation. In fact, foreign businesspeople rank Atlanta the best American city in which to do business, and in the 1990s no place in America created more jobs than the 6,126 square miles that is home to the Atlanta metro area. The place houses more than 4 million souls, its airport is the busiest in the world and the good folks down there love their golf, their Braves, their real estate and their food and manage to bundle it all together with trademark Southern charm.

Although the boom in Atlanta has brought about the worst traffic in the country, it has also carried with it an influx of insanely good cuisine, an embarrassment of cultural riches and more than a cartful of shopping opportunities for folks of all stripes.

Arrival and transportation:
Atlanta’s William B. Hartsfield International Airport is gargantuan and extremely busy. In 2001, more than 75.9 million folks passed through the place, and the airport features one of the most advanced security screening systems in the world. It’s about a 30- to 45-minute  cab ride downtown, depending on the traffic. If you ride solo, it’s a flat rate of $25, but if you double ($26) or triple up ($30), you’ll save bucks. Once settled in near the Georgia World Congress Center, cab rides within the downtown district are a flat $6 ($1 extra for each passenger), or you may opt for the clean, easy-to-use subway called the MARTA, which runs $1.75. And, no, your eyes do not deceive you, there are 100 streets in Atlanta containing the name Peachtree.

Crash-course in the neighborhoods:
Buckhead: Can get rowdy at night with the drinking crowd downtown (intersection of Peachtree and Paces Ferry Roads), but it’s a clean, safe, incredibly ritzy area with outstanding eats. Visit Chops (70 W Paces 404-262-2675) for steak, and Atlanta Fish Market (265 Pharr Rd., 404-262-3165) for seafood.

Little Five Points: Atlanta’s answer to Greenwich Village. Young and edgy, filled with taverns, second-hand shops and music venues. Also home to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center and Library (441 Freedom Pkwy., 404-331-3942) To blend in, call the neighborhood “L5P.”

Virginia Highland: More quiet than Buckhead or L5P, but still hip. Lots of art galleries, quirky shops,  and Blind Willie’s Tavern (828 N Highland Ave NE, 404-873-2583), the place to hear deep-fried Southern Blues. Also home to Fernbank Natural History Museum (767 Clifton Road, N.E), which has an amazing collection of dinosaur bones.

Midtown: The spot for late-night clubbing, and home to the enormous and beautiful Piedmont Park, and the equally grand Woodruff Arts Center (1280 Peachtree Street NE, 404-733-4200), which features the High Museum of Art. Tragically hip. North of downtown, south of Buckhead.

Groovy things happening on NPGA weekend:
Now, the National Pastime starts on March 31 (seems early, I know), but the beloved Braves finish their spring training with an afternoon tilt with the Boston Red Sox at the gorgeous Turner Field at 1:05 p.m. on March 29th. The Braves host the Montreal Expos on Opening Day, March 31st at 1:05 p.m. For tickets and a chance to see the ace arms of Atlanta, call

The nice thing about a big sports town is the wonderful occurrence of a baseball-basketball double-header. The night of the 29th, at 7 p.m. at Philips Arena, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks will battle Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Hawks may be a year away from the playoffs, but the Sixers are not. For more information and tickets call 404-827-3865.

Those in the mood for a night of jaw-dropping wonder and surreal stunts may do well to take in the fabulous Cirque du Soleil’s “Varekai” at the Grand Chapiteau at Cumberland Galleria (I-75 and Cumberland Blvd.). The famous collection of performers will dazzle and shock in this production that honors the nomadic soul of the circus tradition. It may strike some as very weird at first, but the performances are truly amazing. There are two performances each day of the weekend, and tickets can be had by dialing: 1-800-678-5440.

If you are craving a little more traditional performance, check out the New American Shakespeare Tavern’s production of that classic of political intrigue, “Julius Caesar.” Unlike a stuffy theater, the venue offers live music, great costumes, a full menu of pub food and, of course, several ales. At this 499 Peachtree Street NE location, music really is the food of love. There are performances Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 and one at 6:30 on Sunday. For reservations, call 404-874-5299.

Ken Mangum, the director of golf courses and grounds at the Atlanta Athletic Club, likes to dine in the bustle of Buckhead. For kicking back and scoping a sporting event, Mangum recommends Three Dollar Café (3002 Peachtree Rd. NW, 404-266-8667), a casual, lively place offers some of the best wings in the city. While the food may be sophisticated — Veal Meatloaf with Wild Mushrooms and Celery Mashed Potatoes and Homemade Potato Chips with Warm Maytag Blue Cheese — the Buckhead Diner (3073 Piedmont Rd., 404-262-3336) has all the charms of a casual “joint” and no dress code.

For a bit more tony dining, Mangum recommends the southwestern cuisine and Prickly Pear Margaritas of Nava (3060 Peachtree Rd., 404-240-1984); the bustle and seafood of The Atlanta Fish Market (265 Pharr Rd., 404-262-3165);
the steaks at the luxurious splendor of Bones (3130 Piedmont Rd., 404-237-2663); the nice views of the Chattahoochee River and the nicer New American cuisine of Canoe (4199 West Paces Ferry Road SE, 770-432-2663); the gargantuan portions of Italian bliss at Maggiano’s (3368 Peachtree Rd. NE,404-816-9650); and the Brazilian, upscale carnivore haven of Fogo de Chao (3101 Piedmont Rd., 404-995-9982).

Locals such as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s book editor Teresa Weaver swear by Chef Eddie Hernandez’s flavorful Southwestern cuisine at The Sundown Café (2165 Cheshire Bridge Rd., 404-321-1118). It’s tucked in a boring strip-mall, but with items such as The Memphis (barbecued pork & jalapeno slaw on a taco), a variety of chowders and a seafood
burrito jammed with shrimp and crawfish who cares about the décor? Fast, cheap and casual dress. Weaver also recommends Baraonda (710 Peachtree St., at Third Street, 404-879-9962), a casual-hip Euro bistro that she says serves the best Neapolitan pizza in town; and Weaver loves the wine list and upscale American cuisine of the new One Midtown Kitchen (559 Dutch Valley Road N.E., 404-892-4111).

Please keep in mind, Atlanta is a food-mad town and restaurant-hopping remains a social sport ­ making your reservations before you even leave for the convention are a very good idea.

What to avoid 

There is not much in the mega-shopping complex known as Underground Atlanta that you wouldn’t find at any mall in the country. It is routinely stuffed with tourists. Remember, you are a professional.

As in all large urban areas, crime is a threat in Atlanta. The key, if you don’t know the city, is to stay on the main thoroughfares of the districts you are visiting. If you stray, you could find serious trouble…quickly. Please note: Downtown after dark is not a place to make new friends and stand around gawking at the architecture; Buckhead does attract some very unsavory characters, so watch yourself late at night, especially if you are leaving a bar; Midtown, too, can be very dicey in the wee hours. Be smart – don’t flash a wad of cash, know where you are going and take cabs. Instead of shoving your wallet in your back pocket, just put your ID, money and plastic in a clip and use your front pocket.

Last words

Pack wisely, be smart, have fun.

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