Name Your Favorites
By Doc Lawrence
ATLANTA-The call from a big media editor triggered memories of delicious meals, gregarious hosts and terrifically interesting venues. “What do you remember about Atlanta’s older restaurants? Were any in Atlanta truly distinctive?” she asked. I remembered enough to start a conversation and even surprised myself that some were still around. The idea was to produce a retrospective: Good places to dine in an earlier version of Atlanta, making the case that the city has a rich dining background long before today’s boom with the revolving door of restaurant openings and closings.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room is still serving to packed houses with a clientele that on occasion includes Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama. The Colonnade on Cheshire Bridge holds strong with roots going back several generations. And Petite Auberge near Emory University is still serving French and German cuisine, adding performances by the Capital City Opera Company each month
But who remembers Dale’s Cellar, a first-rate gourmet restaurant in the basement of the Imperial Hotel? The Paradise Room in the state-owned Henry Grady Hotel. Jim Sanders’ Top of Peachtree? Leb's, Herren’s, Emile’s, or Ship Ahoy, all within two blocks of the Rialto and the Balzar Theatre? I can almost taste the chicken pot pie at Rich’s Magnolia Room, which featured a Nathalie Dupree-inspired menu.
The Coach and Six was always packed and you could eat your weight in broiled lobster tails at The Crossroads in Midtown. Downtown had standard bearers like The Diplomat, a true supper club. The 70’s were the heyday of Joe Dale’s Cajun House. Sorrento’s served Italian cuisine with live Atlanta jazz by the legendary Roy Mays and the All Stars. Harry’s Steakhouse on Spring Street was just around the corner from Johnny Reb’s.
Black-owned restaurants were wonderful and thrived even during the sad days of racial segregation. Paschal’s and Shepherd’s come to mind, but there were many others.
These restaurants were almost exclusively locally owned and words like fresh or local sourced weren’t needed. Customers assumed this.
My memory has its limits. Many recall places where families enjoyed Sunday dinners, birthday and anniversary celebrations or a good place to have a meal with cocktails and wines. Share these recollections and I’ll use them. Photographs and old menus are invaluable. I have several and the prices for entrees are a far cry from today’s 40 bucks for previously frozen salmon served with mysterious lines of liquids.
This will be the major part of a feature story with television on the horizon. Join the fun with your memories, menus and photos.
Doc Lawrence: firstname.lastname@example.org .