Ted and Kim were our Airbnb hosts for our weekend in Atlanta. Their spacious double bedded guest room was perfect for Taylor, Megan, Katie, and myself. We were able to come in late at night without quarrel and were enthusiastically offered advice of places to go, things to see, and where to eat.
The location near Grant Park makes for a stellar ‘base camp’ and returning to an absolutely gorgeous house never hurts. We had access to the kitchen, wifi, television, and a private bathroom stocked with towels. We couldn’t have asked for much more from Ted and Kim.
Late into Saturday night, Taylor, Megan, and I weren’t ready to Uber back to our Airbnb without a meal. R-Thomas was recommended by our waiter at Pasta Da Pulcinella, and it did not disappoint.
As we exited our Uber, the eccentric appearance of the late-night Atlanta staple couldn’t be ignored. Painted pumpkins, flowers, and grasses surrounded American flags and a uniquely decorated Statue of Liberty. The inside of the restaurant featured a pink and green color scheme accented by beaded blinds portraying tropical scenes of palm trees and cockatoos.
Our intrigue of the place was quickly and politely interrupted by a busy waitress. Several bystanders had recommended the wings as we made our way to the table, and we couldn't resist. A delightful order of raw hummus later, our wings arrived. They were absolutely mouth watering. Coupled with a coconut delight smoothie, this may have been the best food we could’ve ordered at three in the morning.
A group of our friends joined Taylor and I for a short walk to PBR Atlanta just outside of the new Atlanta Braves stadium, Suntrust Park. As we stood in a short line outside of the door, I had no idea how large this establishment would be.
One band played inside of the bar, another band played on the bar’s balcony, and another room blasted club music, all while the downstairs area was rented by a private party.
The bar was packed all night long and most people there seemed to be having just as great of a time as we were. PBR Atlanta is an ultra convenient spot to hang out while the baseball crowd disperses. It's also a fun place to dance and laugh the night away after a win.
The Varsity downtown is one of the oldest restaurant in Atlanta therefore it's one of the biggest tourist attractions. Several expansions have been added to the Varsity since 1928, making it the largest drive-in the world! But despite it's cosmetic upgrades, the food and slogan have remained virtually unchanged.
Donning the classic paper hats like children, Taylor, Megan, and I devoured our greasy chili dogs, chili burgers, fries, and milkshakes. We knew exactly what to expect from the Varsity, but had to go for the novelty of hearing, “What’ll ya have?” before making our way to watch the Atlanta Braves earn a win in the new Suntrust Park.
As Taylor, Megan, and I walked The Atlanta BeltLine we stopped at the Ponce City Market to cool off and grab a drink. We found The Mercury and couldn’t resist the 'drinks to go' sign and a menu full of craft cocktails.
Taylor savored her Mai Tai while Megan praised her Margarita. I just wanted my Rob Roy to last all evening. After a round of cocktails, and a round of water, we hit the Beltline again still talking about how satisfying our cocktails were.
After a filling meal from Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall Taylor, Megan, and I walked from the Krog Street Market to Piedmont Park on the busy Atlanta Beltline trail. This trail was full of interesting artwork, musicians, and shops for us to marvel at and wander around.
The Krog Street Market was a great place to start our walk. We explored several shops and would’ve been tempted by the food had we not just eaten such a large brunch. If it were a touch hotter outside, I have a feeling we would’ve all enjoyed a King Pop for dessert as we walked the trail.
Several metallic sculptures populated the walk between graffiti covered bridges that sheltered guitar and piano players from the midday sun. We finally made it to Piedmont Park after stopping in for a refreshing drink at The Mercury in the Ponce City Market.
Piedmont Park was much larger than I had imagined it would be. The small portion of the park’s trail that we walked included a couple of dog parks, a garden complete with honey bees, and The Legacy Fountain.
All in all, the walk along the Atlanta Beltline was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable things we did that weekend. We could’ve spent an entire day along the Beltline, and I wouldn’t have levied a single complaint.
Saturday morning found Taylor, Katie, Megan, and I enjoying a unique brunch experience at Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall right off The Beltline. The camping inspired menu is anything but limited to simple and quick meals like the one's that Taylor and I enjoy by our campfires.
Megan and Katie had the bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich, while Taylor and I split the huge Woodman’s Breakfast. Large biscuits, patty sausage, maple glazed bacon, eggs cooked to order, crunchy baked sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, and a spicy curry sauce were laid out onto a large wooden board for our enjoyment. Building such large biscuits proved a challenge, but that didn't detract from the delectable taste of it all.
We all ordered a signature Ladybird cocktail with our meals. A once skeptical Megan offered praise for her 'Redneck Mimosa'; Katie and Taylor enjoyed their seasonal spritzer; but I was a bit disappointed with my Bloody Mary. The overall excellence of Ladybird's food, atmosphere, and theme quickly erased that slight disappointment.
Big Sky is in the Buckhead area of town, just north of the city. Other than PBR, Big Sky was the most crowded bar we patronized during our weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. Large outdoor and indoor areas of the bar were filled mostly with college aged people and scarce groups of young professionals. Televisions littered the bar and live music resounded through the first floor, while the second level of the bar was home to an upbeat, nightclub soundtrack.
We enjoyed our time there and stayed until the bar closed around 3am. After the lights came on, and we were told last call, we ordered an Uber and headed to our Airbnb in Grant Park.
After enjoying a meal at Pasta Da Pulcinella, Taylor, Katie, Megan, and I were looking for a place to enjoy one another’s company as our food settled. Our waiter recommended we head closer to Georgia Tech and Georgia State to hit the bars over there. We found a table at the Georgia Beer Garden after passing a few one-in-one-out lines along Edgewood Avenue.
A dimly lit atmosphere was perfect for the jubilant conversation that would follow a round of ice cold drafts. We didn’t take the time to explore the large outdoor area of the bar, but it seemed to be as relaxed and casual as the indoor bar we enjoyed.
Taylor’s friends Katie and Megan joined us for a Friday night dinner at Pasta Da Pulcinella in Atlanta's Midtown area. Shortly after the complimentary bread had been devoured and our bottles of wine has been poured, our appetizer of Pulcinella’s signature Tortelli di Mele arrived. These succulent sausage and green apple stuffed ravioli set the tone for the incredible entrees to come.
The table was soon host to my large and tender T-bone ribeye, Taylor and Megan’s plates of lobster ravioli, and Katie’s prosciutto wrapped asparagus. The juicy T-bone came with fluffy mashed potatoes and assorted greens; the lobster ravioli was drizzled with a delightfully flavorful cream sauce; and the asparagus were grilled to perfection. Everyone raved about the ritzy restaurant as we laughed and savored our meals before hitting up the bars our extremely friendly waiter had recommended.
I drove to Pokey’s Cafe the morning of the 2017 solar eclipse to have a bite for breakfast. I took a table as soon as the doors opened and ordered biscuits and gravy with a side of patty sausage. A tall glass of orange juice and a cup of bold coffee later, my work there was finished.
This quaint service station turned bistro offers a good meal, bait and tackle, and golf cart rentals. It’s a small establishment, but it fits the town of Grand Rivers perfectly.
Land Between the Lakes
The last meal of my great Labor Day food adventure through New York City ended with Las Esquina. The restaurant is located in a fork where two roads seperate. The building has huge light up signs displaying “The Corner”.
We walked up to the counter and ordered our meals to go. The eclectic array of decorations were great entertainment as we stood in line to order. I got a corn on the cob, a carnitas taco, and a bistec con queso taco. Lain and I also ordered chips and guacamole. The greasy street tacos were a great meal to take home and enjoy with the warmth of a blanket.
After leaving Nashville bright and early, we arrived in Bowling Green at the perfect time to stop by Home Café and grab ourselves breakfast that would fill us up and give us enough energy to last us through hiking and kayaking that day.
John had the blueberry banana waffles while I had the cinnamon toast crunch waffles. We both washed them down with large glasses of milk. It might have been the sugar talking, but John and I couldn’t stop talking about how good the waffles were all day.
After walking around Central Park and walking to Washington Square, Laine and I had worked up a bit of a craving for ice cream. Laine knew the perfect, trendy place to fill our craving.
This ice cream is laid out and flash frozen before it is rolled up and served in a 'monster' bowl. I ordered The New Yorka which is cheesecake ice cream, strawberries, and whipped cream. It usually comes with Nilla wafers, but they were out. I got waffle cone bites instead. The toppings paired perfectly with the light, flavorful ice cream.
The texture of the ice cream was very interesting; it's light and fluffy – like a snow cone – but creamy and filling like ice cream. Thank goodness I only ordered the regular size, because I had to struggle to finish it!
Sunday morning brunch is an absolute necessity in New York City. My friend Laine insisted we go to Grey Dog Café, because they were voted to have the best french fries in Manhattan. We were a little taken aback by the line, but Laine insisted it was worth the 30 minute wait. She was right.
The restaurant is very hip and you start by ordering at the counter. The hostess gives you a colorful handkerchief that corresponds to your table. I ordered a large café au lait to go with my Grey Dog Breakfast, which I ordered with scrambled eggs and chocolate chip pancakes. Laine and her friend ordered vegan options. Laine had the avocado toast, and her friend had a quinoa bowl.
The food took a minute to come out, because the restaurant was packed. We didn’t care because the cups of coffee and conversation kept flowing. We all enjoyed every bite of our meals and were fully prepared for the walking that was in our future.
My friend Laine raved about the tacos at this cute, boutique Mexican restaurant. Her praise actually undersold the flavors that the chefs were able to pack into these little corn tortilla tacos.
We started off with an order of guacamole and chips and a pitcher of their house-made margaritas. I ordered the barbacoa, carnitas, and black bean & sweet potato tacos. As Laine had said earlier, the sweet potato and black bean taco was definitely the best one.
Once our meals and margaritas were gone, we wandered back into the freezing New York City rain.
After a long afternoon of walking The Brooklyn Bridge, my friend Laine and I were searching for a solid meal to keep us going for the rest of the day. We wandered into China Town and found a perfect restaurant to visit.
We started off our lunch with scallion pancakes and an order of steamed vegetable dumplings. The dumplings with soy based dipping sauce were the highlight of the meal, until our entrees came out.
I ordered the spicy orange chicken and Laine ordered the General Tso’s tofu. Both of us also ordered steamed rice. We were both so impressed with the food and how satisfying it was that we couldn’t stop raving the entire weekend.
Inside the eclectic Chelsea Market is a great Israeli restaurant serving up what might be the best hummus in Manhattan. It took us three pieces of pita to finish the entire spread of wonderful flavors. Ordering the mystery sauce was by far the best decision we could have made. It added a whole new level of flavor to the "classic tehina" hummus.
We sat at the bar, as we licked the bowl clean. It was so good that we actually debated getting a second order, but we refrained so we could try a different restaurant for dinner. It was a great appetizer or snack to go with a day full of wandering through the city.
After a great lunch at Stone Street Tavern, my cousin and I went looking for a new bar and found this great happy hour spot. Connected to The Standard Hotel, right under The High Line, is a cute and ivy covered outdoor bar.
When you arrive at the Biergarten, you purchase tickets from an outside booth. One ticket is good for a small beer and two tickets get you a larger sized, das boot styled beer chalice. Two tickets also get you a larger-than-your-face pretzel, which I truly regret not ordering. We chose to go with the smaller beers to try and pace ourselves.
.We walked up to the bar and asked for the best beer they had. My cousin got their homebrew pale ale, and I got the lighter, fruitier styled beer. We drank our beers while watching men in suits get extremely into their ping pong games. It was quite a scene to watch with the giant mugs of beer everyone around them was holding.
We finished our beers and walked around the High Line to let the beer settle. It was a great ending to a day with my cousin who I don’t get to see nearly enough.
Labor Day in New York City
City Acres Market
The Corner: Las Esquina
Stone Street is a blocked off cobblestone street full of picnic benches and tables. We found an open table out-front of Stone Street Tavern, because it was promised to have the best burger on Stone Street.
While looking over the menu, we ordered a round of drinks. I cheered my strawberry sangria with my cousin’s cucumber-jalapeno margarita. While we waited for our main eats, we had a great conversation and caught up on family matters. When our waiter came back, my cousin ordered the Tavern Burger with sweet potato fires, and I chose the Kobe Beef Sliders with regular fries.
Once we got our fill of the juicy hamburgers, we decided to find another spot to keep the afternoon going. We ended up at The Standard Biergarten.
City Acres Market is a cute little grocery shop that has artisan food stands in the back of the store. My friend Laine and I made our way to the Cinnamon Snail to try the much-hyped vegan doughnuts. Laine is vegan and had only heard great things about their doughnuts. She had never tried them, so she insisted we stop.
Unfortunately, they didn’t quite live up to the hype for Laine, but I really enjoyed my raspberry bomb, which is a glazed doughnut covered in chocolate cookie crumbs with raspberry icing dribbled on top. We ate these as we walked down the street and struggled not to make a mess as we laughed at one other.