It’s all happening in Poncey-Highland

Poncey Highland MapPoncey–Highland (PoHi) is a neighborhood near and dear to the Environs Team’s hearts. Both Dawn and John spent plenty of late nights in the 90s in the local bars, ending up eating “breakfast” at the Majestic Diner at 3am. Just down the road is Manuel’s Tavern – the meeting place for local liberals and, which, famously hosted a huge inauguration party when President Obama first took office back in Jan 2009. Manuel’s was recently taken apart and reassembled to allow for future development options. John has more to say about this Atlanta icon in his review. We have friends and clients who have lived in PoHi for years. It’s exciting to have so much to write about in this fabulous community!

The Majestic DinerGeographically, PoHi is a neighborhood heading towards the east of Atlanta, located south of Virginia–Highland. So named because it is near the intersection of east/west Ponce de Leon Avenue and north/southwest North Highland Avenue, this Atlanta neighborhood was established between 1905 and 1930.

Poncey–Highland is home to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, established in 1982. The Carter Center occupies an area of land that was originally the neighborhood of Copenhill, and which was razed to build an interchange between eight-lane highways: Interstate 485 (now Stone Mountain Freeway) east and west, and Georgia 400 and Interstate 675 north and south. The development was successfully stopped by the surrounding neighborhoods, leaving Freedom Parkway in the area where GDOT had already demolished over 500 homes.  You can learn more about the Citizens Against Unnecessary Thoroughfares in Older Neighborhoods (CAUTION) at the Freedom Park website.

Poncey–Highland has numerous historic buildings, including:

  • Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant (c. 1916) – now Ford Factory Lofts (and soon to be neighbor to the new fancy Kroger)
  • Western Electric Company building at 820 Ralph McGill – now Telephone Factory Lofts
  • Briarcliff Plaza, containing the Majestic Diner (c. 1929), the Plaza Theatre (1939), an art-deco cinema hosting numerous film events and the focal point of independent cinema in Atlanta. This property was just place on a temporary protected status by the City of Atlanta pending application for historic designation preventing its demolition. The recent sale of the property for $18M prompted the action (learn more).
  • The Clermont Hotel, currently empty except for the basement Clermont Lounge, “Atlanta’s oldest strip club”. It is currently under construction to become a new boutique hotel after spending years as a SRO (single room occupancy) eyesore. Read more about the history of the Clermont building.  Didn’t we say, “it’s all happening”?

The newest Poncey-Highland development at 675 N Highland is just opening, offering luxury apartment and townhouse rentals as well as street level retail. The development is on a parcel once owned by the Druid Hills Baptist Church on Ponce de Leon Ave. It is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, housing restaurants such as Rize Artisan Pizza and the upcoming Co, which will offer “Modern Southeast Asian” fare.

The Poncey-Highland Neighborhood Association site has much more info on this “little hidden gem” of a neighborhood.

Now… on to our reviews:

La FondaLa Fonda

By Briana Holmes

lafonda1Living on Ponce means living in the middle of everything, but that also means there are so many things you’d like to eat or do that you may or may not get to. That’s why I’m extremely happy I got to visit La Fonda in the Poncey-Highland area. With five locations, this restaurant provides authentic Latin vibes to the ATL. La Fonda is a place of vibrant tastes. Not only is the location pretty decent, but the food is a notch above restaurants like it. My friends decided to celebrate their birthday here because of those very reasons. Trust me, having a group of 15 people all craving tacos and margaritas is a tough crowd to impress. Nevertheless, they didn’t disappoint.

Yum chicken tacos!The chicken tacos are amazing and easily one of the best things of the menu. Add the amount of quality food for the price and there really isn’t a comparison. It’s a place where you can unwind after a long day of work with a margarita or beverage of your choice (let’s be honest–margaritas will probably be somewhere on the table), take a cute date there to enjoy the vibe and music of the outdoor patio, or just grab something yummy to-go! All this and more! Make sure you visit today! And here’s their website so you can check out their menu.

 

babettes-logoBabette’s Cafe

By Dawn Landau

BabettesWhat fun we had visiting an old favorite in Poncey-Highland this month! Terry and I did a combo “date night” and newsletter review dinner at Babette’s Café, an Intown classic that is celebrating 25 years this year.  To prepare you my dear readers…this could be my longest review thus far.

Cocktails and warm breadWe were greeted by David and promptly seated at a cozy, corner table which was a great start. After the requisite intro to our server, Stephen,  we ordered cocktails. I had a gin/vodka concoction that was delish. It was so good I forgot to write down the name 😊 Terry had his usual Greyhound with fresh grapefruit juice and was happy. While perusing the menu, Marla came by the table to chat and asked about working with KW. Hmmmm…..I didn’t recall mentioning my brokerage when we told Stephen that we were there doing a review for our newsletter. After a minute I couldn’t help but ask “How did you know I was with KW”. “Oh, we Googled you” she politely replied. And we were off….

Grapefruit Marinated Asparagus, with Tomatoes, Olives and FetaWe chatted about the old days when Babette’s was closer to Inman Park (where Wisteria is now) and I was opening the Dark Horse Tavern and all that fun-crazy we now enjoy at Highland Ave, Lake Ave and the Beltline, wasn’t even a vision. Ryan Gravel (Beltline inventor) was probably a toddler 😊 We chatted gardening, common acquaintances and kids. AND, we ate FANTASTIC food. I was in heaven.

Grilled Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola Sauce, Spicy Onion RingsTo start, we tried a newer dish, Grapefruit Marinated Asparagus, with Tomatoes, Olives and Feta. Terry was hesitant at first (those pesky olives) but was fighting me for the last bite. DO NOT MISS THIS DISH (done). For his entrée, Terry had the Grilled Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola Sauce, Spicy Onion Rings. Not a bleu cheese fan, he requested it “sans sauce”. The server quickly suggested the red wine reduction…sold. The beef was perfection and the sides even better. They serve the best onion rings I’ve had in quite some time. I think they had a hint of sugar or honey in them.

Pan Seared Alaskan Halibut with a Mustard Vinaigrette, Braised LeeksI tried the Pan Seared Alaskan Halibut with a Mustard Vinaigrette, Braised Leeks. Frankly, I cannot think of a word exceptional enough to describe this dish. It was slightly crispy, delicate and flakey with a nice hint of mustard. THEN, you get to the leeks (and I think some very thin potatoes), underneath the fish that you can’t seem to get enough of….wow. We enjoyed a lovely Pinot Noir by Trisaetum which had nice acidity for the fish dish and the depth to take on the beef.  It was value-priced at $56 we thought.

The classic Crème BruleeFinally, even though we were stuffed to the gills, Marla offered to treat us to dessert. We sacrificed our waistlines to try just one more thing, classic Crème Brulee. To make it thru the last course, we order double espressos 😊 and it worked. Terry makes a mean Brulee but there the pro expertise won out. He was liking the dish…

We will not wait so long to return….thank you so much Marla and team Babette’s for a glorious evening. See ya around the neighborhood!

For more information, don’t miss the Babette’s Cafe website.

Manuel'sManuel’s Tavern

By John Powell

Photo from manuelstavern.com

Among my favorite things is a good dive bar! And, in Atlanta few compare in longevity and historical significance to Manuel’s Tavern. Since 1958 this bar has been a fixture in the area now known (at least by Realtors) as the Poncey-Highland. For more on its history check out this link on their website.

When I moved to the area in the late 80s there were a lot fewer options than today. Sure, there was the Clermont Lounge, Dugans and a few others. But, it was Manuel’s that drew not just locals to the watering hole, but the movers and shakers of Atlanta thanks to owners involvement and commitment to GA Politics and the Democratic party serving Dekalb County as Chairman &/or CEO from 1974-1992. The list of “who’s who” that have frequented this bar is too long to even attempt but includes local politicians, behind the scenes players and even Presidents.

I suspect that I was not alone in my concern over the plans to close the establishment, even temporarily – but that’s progress right!? From Jan-Aug 2016 the bar underwent renovations to include a small loss of interior dining space, new retail space, along with some additional much needed parking. When Manuel’s reopened later that summer, I was happy to see that renovations did not remove the charm and welcoming dive bar feel that I’d come to enjoy!

Earlier this week, I met with one of my clients there for a quick bite and a few beers. While we discussed his properties and options, we enjoyed a few items off the current, revamped & eclectic menu.  I selected the Wild Salmon salad – not your typical dive bar food! My entree arrived overflowing the plate and prepared to perfection! Crisp greens and fresh tomatoes topped by a generous and delicious portion of salmon then washed down with not 1 but 3 Creature Comfort Cosmik Debris – yum!  (Editor’s note – hence why he forgot to take photos!)

Mark opted for their homemade Chili & the Cobb salad which he described as “very, very good!” But due to his current workload and a rehab project at one of his rental properties chose to wash it down with a Coke. We, both, thoroughly enjoyed our drop into the historic dive bar and can easily recommend that you do too! Check out the Manuel’s website for more information.

Sweet AuburnSweet Water BBQ

By Terry Kitts

Sweet Auburn BBQI am one of those guys who loves good BBQ and typically order what I can’t make well on my grill… brisket. My brisket turns out like a football so when I find a good Q-joint that’s what I choose. One of my favorite BBQ places in town is Sweet Auburn BBQ.

I would call Sweet Auburn “Sophisticated BBQ”. Lots of BBQ joints do good meat but these guys have great sides, and more options than most. I love the green beans, which are sautéed in garlic, onion and spices. Check out the menu online you’ll see what I mean.

Although you can be quite comfortable with their beer selection,  they do have some awesome signature cocktails. I think the most popular is the “Don’t Burn the House Down”. I typically sit at the bar and see the care the talented mixologists take in preparing their concoctions.

The atmosphere is casual and comfortable. There are a few tables outside so you can sit with your dog too, which is quite fine! Be prepare to find parking as there is no designated parking for Sweet Auburn BBQ but there is metered parking nearby. Enjoy!

 

carter-center-logoThe Carter Center and walking the surrounding trails

By Amanda Chappell

Freedom Park

Pointing at squirrels in Freedom Park

I live in Poncey Highland. My favorite places here are the Freedom Park trails and the Carter Center.  Every day, 3-4 times a day (I work from home), I take my little pooch out in the park to chase squirrels and point at chipmunks and cardinals (she’s a bird dog, I’m not the one pointing).

Come Saturday, we walk up through the low-level park (the one behind Moe’s and bordered by Freedom Parkway and North Ave) and up to the next level, where there is a wonderful little kid’s play park, past the community garden (currently loaded up with veggies for the summer) and then up to the Carter Center.  Saturday, as mentioned in last month’s article on Atlanta farmers’ markets, there is a brilliant market at the Carter Center.  I stroll through, listen to the live music, check out the fresh vegetables, amazing flowers, and other local delicacies before heading over the main Carter Center building itself.

The Carter Center

The Carter Center as seen from behind the lower lake

The Carter Center is an amazing complex of rotunda-esque buildings, surrounded by some stunning landscaping.  I walk down the main entrance walkway (after the roundabout decorated with all the state flags), pausing to watch a squirrel running up a tree, or a child playing in one of the fountain ponds, then cut off to the left.  I pass the rose garden, which pretty much always has an older couple having their photos taken with the statues and amazing variety of flowers.  Then when it looks like I’m just strolling through a parking lot, I cut up to the right, behind one of the buildings (it is all public access, it’s just not very obvious), and soon I’m behind the buildings looking at a beautiful meadow of lush green grass (literally, Ireland, eat your heart out).

I like to stand here for a moment.  To the left, there are the busy bee hives, directly in front, the American chestnut orchard (aimed at helping the species breed and re-establish itself) and to right, the lower and upper lakes.  There’s rarely anyone back here at this time, just me, my bird dog and the Canadian Geese who eye my girl up suspiciously.  Note – if you decide to head on over, there are baby geese (goslings) right now on the lakes. View Carter Center Map.

Carter Center lakes

View of Atlanta skyline from the Carter Center in Winter

The 2 lakes are beautiful.  If you walk to the far side of one, you can look back and see the Carter Center, in its 80’s architectural glory reflecting in the lakes.  Then if you spin 180, you’ll see the midtown Atlanta skyline and all without seeing another human or a car.

From the Carter Center you can cut over to the other side of the Freedom Park trail, join the BeltLine and loop back to your starting point or roam to a whole new neighbourhood. I, however, like to head to Fellini’s and get a slice of their ridiculously tasty vegetable pizza (don’t worry it’s not healthy) and pair it with a wine (generous pour) and massive side salad (they have 2 dressings, I go with the balsamic).

Then its nap time.