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How to Wreck Your Head

Somehow, in spite of 18th-century blue laws and some of the most uncrossable streets in the country, Atlanta is a really good town to get smashed in.

by Julie Hines
Jan 1 2000, 12:00am

Photo by Julie Hines

Somehow, in spite of 18th-century blue laws and some of the most uncrossable streets in the country, Atlanta is a really good town to get smashed in. A lot of bars are situated in little clusters so you can park the car and go from place to place without being forced to play Frogger with your life or someone else’s. Here are some of our favorite sets.


Obnoxiously well named. This is a good bar to start off your night, although if you’ve lived in Atlanta for any longer than a month, be prepared to run into at least three people you’ve slept with. 758 Ponce de Leon Ave NE.

Most good shows are either here or at the Earl. There’s also a nice dark dancefloor in the bar area for you to go crazy on and carpeted risers for you to smash your teeth into. 736 Ponce de Leon Ave NE.

This is connected to the Drunken Unicorn by a little magic corridor next to the bar and looks like the underage disco in Christiane F. Don’t go on the weekends unless you like ordering drinks through a solid wall of gel-haired Buckhead dropouts. 736 Ponce de Leon Ave NE.

Originally a black speakeasy in the basement of a Mexican restaurant (see the HOW TO EAT FOOD section, pg 32) that wouldn’t let anybody in. At some point it got bought by a legitimate owner, and now everyone goes there at 1 AM to do drugs in the little tile booths and dance like insane people. 939 Ponce de Leon Ave NE.

If you’ve already picked up on the reference, we won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Yes, Virginia, this is a Twin Peaks-themed bar with a bunch of different beers and pretty decent pub food (you may have noticed that almost every drinkery in town either serves food or has a tiny concert stage—this is the only way they can legally stay open on Sundays). It also shares a parking lot with the Drunken Unicorn/MJQ and is generally about 200 decibels more chill. 736 Ponce de Leon Ave NE.

This place is about a million years old and right next to the theater that plays Rocky Horror on Fridays. Good stop for a one-drink breather between neighborhoods. 1051 Ponce de Leon Ave NE.


This is a grimy little box with two bars and generally somebody either amazing or absolutely terrible playing music in the middle. Don’t miss the exhaustive shrine to Elvis Presley in the corner with his mother’s portrait as the centerpiece. One of our favorite places to black out in. 437 Moreland Ave NE.

If you have to take some of your parents' friends out for a drink or entertain a foreign dignitary, this is your best option. Homey neighborhood bar with decent food and a long, rich history with the city’s political establishment that we aren’t going to bore you with. PS: For the record, it’s pronounced like “Emmanuel.” People get pissed when you call it “Man-well’s,” so please always do that. 602 N Highland Ave NE.

Huge patio and you can almost always lock down a couple tables, but otherwise fratty as all hell. Keep a wide berth on any sort of sports day. 401 Moreland Ave NE.


This is a lot like the Earl or Local where it’s a really large, solid bar that most people in Cabbagetown go to. It can get a little cafeteriaesque if you don’t grab some of the seats up in the corner. 727 Wylie St SE.

Each is a couple blocks out of actual Cabbagetown, but they're still the best places for punk shows and BYOB experimental instrument jams/puppetry classes, respectively. Lenny’s: 486 Decatur St, Eyedrum: 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr S.

Photo by Matt Miller


Excellent burgers, bar staff, and stage area; murderously crowded anytime someone good is playing. 488 Flat Shoals Ave SE.

This is a good place to go when the Earl is full of retards. They used to have a basement with its own jukebox and a bunch of weird sex-dungeon shit like a gynecologist’s chair next to a pinball machine, but it got shut down. The upstairs is still great. If you sit at the table on the stage you have to act like you and your buddies are putting on a play for the entire bar. 1257 Glenwood Ave SE.

This place just opened and it’s already giving the Earl a run for its money. When bands aren’t playing, the stage opens and this insane hydraulic DJ booth rises up like some scene from The Wiz. They probably spent thousands of dollars on that thing. 529 Flat Shoals Rd.

A little too “rawk” for our likings, this is where all the kids with Johnny Thunders hair go to listen to the entire Sex Pistols oeuvre in one sitting and stare down all the kids spilling out of 529. Wait, are we just making this up? Do they even go here? Are they even still around? Someone get back to us on this please. 520 Flat Shoals Rd NE.


The only reason to venture into Downtown after dusk is this tiki bar at the bottom of the Hyatt. They’ve got OK Polynesian food, but what you do is, you get a bunch of friends together and order yourselves a couple of those sugary island drinks that come in a big bowl with a bunch of superlong straws. Then you ride the glass elevators up and down in the enormous hotel lobby until one of you pukes. An Atlanta tradition on par with the Pink Pig and watching angry white home-owners leave town during Freaknik. 255 Courtland St NE


I know we told you to steer clear of this neighborhood, and that definitely holds true at night. But if you’re looking for a nice quiet spot to drink or get stoned in the middle of day without having to deal with Atlanta’s world-famous police or shouting bums, head to the train tracks running through this park. Collier Rd between Peachtree Rd NE and Northside Dr NW.


Thanks to the Baptists, last call in Atlanta is 2:30. Some bars will fudge it a little on the weekends, but if you want to keep going you have to head east across into Decatur, where the bars can stay open to 4. Really, you should just pick up a case and head to a friend’s house, but if no one’s willing to host or you forgot it’s Sunday (no beer sales after midnight) there’s always the option of last resort…

If shit could walk this is where it would come to throw up. The crowd is such a surreal hodgepodge of mutants it’s like being in a Ralph Bakshi cartoon. The last time we were here there were literally two Nazi skinheads with huge swastika backpieces sharing a booth with two dudes who looked like Lil Jon. They’ve got a big room in back with pool tables and darts and whatnot. If that’s not your scene, you can always go out to the parking lot and watch some 50-year-old divorcee getting head in the back of her Chevy Suburban. 313 E College Ave.