48 HOURS IN…Atlanta

July 30th, 2013

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A four hour drive south from Nashville, Atlanta is the South’s “big city”. As a teenager we made pilgrimages in search of prom dresses, to see concerts that had bypassed Nashville and once upon a time there was even a shop in Little Five Points where you could buy fake IDs (Sorry, Dad!). I moved to Atlanta in 2005 and my first daughter was born there. I had a little white house on the edge of Buckhead and midtown. Right in the middle of a metropolitan city but on a quiet, pretty tree-lined street with a half acre. I loved living there. Today I go back 6 times a year on buying trips, antique hunting and inevitably end up eating and shopping (for myself) way too much. Here are a few of my favorite {Atlanta} things…

SLEEP

While a conspicuous absence of a true boutique hotel is a factor in Atlanta (though a little birdie told us there is a one opening in midtown next year!), there’s no shortage of great accomodations. While there, I prefer to stay in Buckhead as it’s a mere stones throw from Neiman Marcus and that gives me great sense of solace. My priorities are a mess. I usually stay at the W Buckhead or the Intercontinental. The W Buckhead is perfect for people watching, one of my favorite past times. They actually send out an email 2 days prior to your arrival telling you that if you have children they will relocate you to a more family friendly property as it gets crazy there on the weekends. I am incapable of staying up past 11 pm and I have not gotten “crazy” since my mid-twenties, but when I am traveling without my children, I love the idea of being in a kid-free environment, those moments being so scarce in my life these days. However, if you are traveling with kids, the Intercontinental is beautiful and quiet and everyone will love it.
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EAT

I’ll admit, I Google image restaurants before I go to them. I wouldn’t say that chairs and tables and an open kitchen layout are first on my list of prerequisites, but the interiors certainly matter to me. New Southern dining is farm to table, fresh seasonal ingredients, lingering over dinner with a great bourbon. With so many great restaurants in Atlanta spear heading this new direction in southern cuisine, it’s taken a number of visits to get to each one on my ever-growing list. Here are a few of the stand outs. All beautifully designed of course.

THE OPTIMIST

A relative new comer, The Optimist is not without pedigree. Chef-Owner Ford Fry has a few other easily recognizable names under his belt, JCT Kitchen and No. 246. The Optimist offers Atlanta the experience of coastal dining in the land-locked state of Georgia where genuinely amazing sea food is hard to come by. I have never been an oyster eater but on a recent trip I decided to really go for it and give them a try (accompanied by plenty of cocktail sauce and a handful of their too-delicious house made saltines) and I was sold immediately. The beautifully done interior with its nautical touches reminiscent of Surf Lodge or Sunset Beach and a bustling bar scene (ever the people watcher) is icing on the cake for me.
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TOMO

I could eat sushi seven days a week. Sadly, Nashville desperately lacks anything resembling fresh, authentic sushi. When in Atlanta I always make a point to get to one of my favorite sushi spots, Tomo. Located at the ground level of the Ritz Carlton Residences (take out every night please), Tomo is a study in consistently wonderful, simple sushi. On one such visit, we were mistaken for local restauranteurs and seated at the chefs tasting table. If you ever have the good fortune to experience this, order Omakase. You won’t regret it. And watch out for the small, older, sweet as can be server as she is fairly liberal in the pouring of sake. I have had a rough go of it the next morning on more than one occasion. Well worth it.
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EMPIRE STATE SOUTH

If you’re at all familiar with Top Chef or its spin off, Top Chef Masters, then you are surely familiar with Hugh Acheson. In fact, Atlanta seems to be a hot bed of either judge or former contestant-opened restaurants. Empire State South is Acheson’s third restaurant after Five and Ten and The National in Athens. It’s a must on any foodie’s tour of the city.
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Chef Ryan Smith of Empire State South - Atlanta, GA

MILLER UNION

Miller Union is another wonderful example of the New Southern cookeries. The farm egg is not to something I would normally order, but oh my G*d! Not to be missed!
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ABATTOIR

Located in the West Side Provisions District, upstairs from Steven Alan and Billy Reid, Abbatoir (french for “slaughterhouse”) is a mainstay. Opened in 2009 and with a focus on locally raised animals, this chop house scores big for always serving up some of the freshest and tastiest meals. The menu is so well balanced and even includes a octopus hotdog. I have yet to try this but do find it to be endlessly intriguing.
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KING + DUKE

The latest venture from chef Ford Fry (remember his name? Up there…The Optimist. That’s him.), with King + Duke he outdoes himself yet again. With a knowledgeable and friendly staff and beautifully done inside and out, it was a serendipity that we stumbled upon this one evening when Umi (another wonderful sushi spot) was closed. Unbelievably good cocktails (which come listed in a tome of a drink list bound in old hardback covers of the classics). Wonderful food. Great bar to perch at. King + Duke, the most recently opened on this list, already feels like an old favorite.
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SHOP

WEST SIDE PROVISIONS DISTRICT

When I lived in Atlanta the Westside Provisions District had not yet become what it is today. I use to go all the time to shop at the Star Provisions and as an expecting mother I ate A LOT of their delicious sandwiches and pastries. Today WPD has expanded to include some of my favorite shops including Steven Alan, a new J Crew, Seed factory (if you have kids, this is a must), Calypso, Jonathan Adler and Billy Reed, and my favorite by far, Anne Mashburn.
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STAR PROVISIONS

I always make a trip to Ann Mashburn and Star Provisions is just the right lunch stop while spending a few hours at the style epicenter of the West Side Provisions District.
Delicious lunch, pastries, kitchen and home goods all in one. Perfect.
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ANN MASHBURN

My first stop in Atlanta is usually Ann Mashburn. I love everything about this store. It is beautifully done (they have a gold custom made chandelier I absolutely covet) and be it her own designs or the designs of others, she has a perfectly curated selection of pieces. Her “boyfriend shirts” are by far my favorite. I have them in several colors and wear them constantly from October to May. They fit so perfectly I have actually been stopped by women wanting to know who makes them. Eventually I will have one in every color in hopes of the unsolicited flattery continuing.
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SID MASHBURN

Sid Mashburn (yes, married to Ann) is the men’s store adjacent to Ann Mashburn. I always stroll through as it is so well done and constantly filled with well dressed, dashing men. I am sure I have lingered a litte too long from time to time.
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STEVEN ALAN

I was so thrilled to find a Steven Alan had opened in WPD. I really love his clothes and they fit so nicely. His shoes as well. And with the line of baby clothes, it almost makes me want to have another.
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NEIMANS

I am not a mall shopper. They feel so claustrophobic and institutional to me. That said, I actually love going to the Lenox Mall when in Atlanta. There are several reasons but primarily because my beloved Neiman Marcus is there. I have my “secret parking spot” near the cafe. The shoe salon is like heaven on earth. I love the CUSP department and I always visit the Stella McCartney and Chloe bags promising them that one day I will take one home. Clearly, I have a problem.
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RICHARDS VARIETY

I have established a routine -any child behavioral expert would say is ruining my children- but I never go away without bringing them back a small, happy present. I always go to Richard’s Variety Store in Peachtree Battle for a little token to express the guilt I feel for leaving them for the long weekend. This store is perhaps one of my favorite places in Atlanta. I could spend hours in here (and have on occasion) looking through their hilarious greeting cards, the endless kitchen supplies, the kitchy gifts and their wonderful children’s section. While they have the usual Barbies and Playmobil, they also have a huge selection of decidedly more analog items; puzzles, retro board games (we bought Yahtzee last time in its proper, originally-designed box) and with a book section comprised of Caldecott and Newberry award winners this is a place after my own heart.
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DESIGN

ADAC

Built over 50 years ago by John Portman, the ADAC (Atlanta Decorative Arts Center) building is 550,000 square feet of furniture, fabric, wallpaper, rugs, lighting, tiles, antiques and so much more. Paradise is what I am saying. Only open to the trade, you must be or take a designer with you to experience the beauty of this building. Even if that is not an option when visiting, just drive by the building because it’s gorgeous.
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SOUTH of MARKET

SOM is located next door to the ADAC building and open to the public. Filled with French and Belgium antiques as well as a beautiful selection of upholstered pieces, lighting and re-purposed objects this is one of my favorite stores in Atlanta and one I constantly look to when working with clients. One of my favorite pieces I have ever bought here was this old Hotel sign from a Parisian Hotel.
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CHAMBLEE’S ANTIQUE ROW DISTRICT

Chamblee Antiques row is just filled with store after store with so many treasures to find. You really have to go well rested, well fed and ready to hunt.
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HIGHLAND HARDWARE

Once I put together an entire bookcase with a dime because I did not own a screwdriver and was too lazy to get back in the car and go purchase one. So it might seem odd that I would include a woodworking shop on this list. But I love this store. I have such an appreciation for things well-made and if I were so inclined, it would be from Highland Hardware I would get everything I needed from a hand plane to a band saw.
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SCOTT ANTIQUE MALL

With 366,000 square feet of Antiques, collectables and just about everything you could every imagine, I try to get to Scott at least twice a year. Sometimes I find everything I am looking for and more. Other times, I am hard pressed to leave with one thing. Hit or miss, it’s definitely worth a visit.
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SEE

HIGH MUSEUM

Designed by architects Richard Meier and Renzo Piano, the High Museum is the leading art museum in the southeast. It is the only major museum in North America to have a curatorial department specifically devoted to the field of folk and self-taught art. Centrally located in midtown, I would high-ly recommend visiting the High. The building alone is a work of art.
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JACKSON FINE ART

In my former life I was the director of a photography gallery in San Diego so I was long aware of Jackson Fine Art prior to moving to Atlanta. Located in Buckhead in a little bungalow, it houses a beautiful collection of vintage and contemporary photography as well as playing host to a number of rotating exhibitions. I bought a Jack Spencer photograph from them years ago and will certainly make a trip to see the exhibit of his they have coming up in September.
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ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDENS

The Atlanta Botanical Garden is located in the middle of town by Piedmont Park and I don’t know what to say other than it is beyond beautiful. Breathtaking really. The orchid center, butterfly sanctuary, edible garden, Japanese garden… every inch of it. This was actually the first place I ever took my daughter when she was just a week old, forever endearing it to me.
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GEORGIA AQUARIUM

Last April I made he mistake of taking my eldest daughter back to Atlanta (where she was born) for a mother-daughter trip on the same weekend that the Final Four was in town. It was MADNESS. Seeing as how I had promised her we would go to the aquarium, we just had to brave it. Even with 900,000 others also visiting the aquarium that same day (an exaggeration perhaps), it was still a great moment with my daughter. The jellyfish are beautiful and the glass tunnel where the sharks swim above you is amazing. With the Children’s Museum a block away you can make a day of it. Just have the foresight I did not and plan your trip when March Madness has not taken over the city.
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Okay, so maybe it’s more like 72 hours…

P.S.

Adeline on our aforementioned Atlanta trip last Spring to see where she was born…
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