Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Manuel's Tavern - Poncey Highlands - Atlanta Georgia

You can find Manuel's Tavern at 602 N Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307 at the corner of North Ave and N Highland Ave NE. This is a largish building with large ad murals of Manuel's and Coca-Cola painted on the side (recreations of original murals). Parking can be found behind the building or in the lot across North Ave.

I had a chance to visit Manuel's Tavern several nights ago - first time in a few years. A bit auspicious as I've heard the building is being remodeled to make adjustments to conform to the new housing development soon to occupy the adjacent parking lots. I tend to forget my old stomping grounds and take them for granted. I used to live a bit further South on N Highland Ave near Elisabeth St, so Manuel's was an old favorite and regular hangout for me. It's also the place I took she who became my wife on our first "date" after work from Indigo Coastal Grill (the last restaurant where I worked and where I decided to hang up my chef's hat). So this place is a bit special to me and it's with heartfelt gratitude that I was able to attend a meeting of my ProductCamp Atlanta group, for perhaps the final exposure to the original space.

Manuel's was opened in 1956 by Manuel Maloof transforming the previous Harry's Delicatessen into an Atlanta institution. Manuel's had more of the charm and character exemplified in the old sitcom "Cheers" than any any bar I've ever visited,with regulars that appear as if by magic once the sun went down to sit at the bar or attend one of the many meetings that Manuel's fully supported. You'll find the likes of Atlanta Science Tavern and various political organizations calling Manuel's home over the years. I've seen many arguments start, continue or finish there while watchers-on enjoy a pint of bitters and the abundant bar fare.

The inside of the building is deceptively large, with a large meeting area served by a back-bar and an additional meeting area behind that! This has always been a great centralized location to meet, especially for those of us who worked (or used to work) in town. It saddens me to no end that all that will soon be no more (not that Manuel's is going away for good, but what will remain of all the character that has built up over the last half century?).

Besides the rambling interior spaces, the menu is fairly straightforward (although there are two different versions that I've seen and photographed for your enjoyment below). Manuel's is first and foremost a bar so the food fulfills the promise of your best of bars - burgers, sandwiches, and a great hot dog which all can come accompanied by fries or other fried sundries. This isn't your basic weight-watcher food so don't come here expecting to eat a salad (well, you might intend to eat a salad, but once you smell and see this stuff you'll probably loose your resolve and succumb to the inevitable).

This most recent night I forewent my usual hot dog or wings and went for the J.J.'s Special. This is a1/2 lb Angus burger on grilled wheat toasted bread with sauteed onions. It also comes with both Swiss and American cheese and of course both fries and onion rings (I sometimes call it the heart-attack special). It's delicious and not your typical burger.

I also enjoyed a nice pint of Bell's Two Hearted IPA which Manuel's fortunately provides on tap. This is a delicious IPA and one of my favorite to find "loose" and not restrained by the confines of a bottle.

Other items I recommend: the chile cheese fries, the nachos, the wings, any of burgers, the chicken sandwich, the club, the house pork chops, and the hot dogs if you're a fan (I am!). 

The service was fantastic - our party had about 20 people and we were all served quietly (there was a meeting going of after all) and efficiently - it's always top notch here whether you're seated at the bar (my favorite) or at a table or booth. I spent slightly less than $20 with the tip.

-- John

(shorter version of this review also posted to Yelp)
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