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Manuel's Tavern

602 North Highland Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA - (404) 525-3447
Posted By Mike Stroud on 5/19/2011 11:00:00 AM
"Anybody don't like this life is crazy." That was the motto of Manuel Maloof, an Atlanta-area politician and owner of Manuel's Tavern, a landmark in the Ponce de Leon area of east Atlanta and possibly the city's oldest bar. The watering hole and eatery has long served as a gathering place for white-collar professionals, journalists, public service workers, and the like, due to its traditional, dark-paneled interior, plenteous beer, and all-around good vibes. The management makes sure patrons know that this is not a "fern bar" faux, chain nightclub that has roots no deeper than the 1980s. This is the real deal: there have been few if any changes in the appearance, although the menu and beer selection have both certainly expanded over time.

Manuel's calling card is probably their burgers. Its standard is the "McCloskey," with a half pound of beef and fixings. Variations on the theme include rye bread, grilled onions and Swiss, and a black bean veggie burger. The sandwiches run the gamut from the classic BLT to portobello mushrooms to pork chops to crab cakes. More substantial fare includes ribeye, prime rib, barbecue ribs, jerk chicken, tuna steak, and (yes) meatloaf. Bar food munchies are available as well, of course.

Teetotalers (which describes me most of the time) should be ashamed if they miss out on the brews. I chose to sip on the house ale, named "602 North Highland," for the establishment's address. If I were a regular beer drinker, I would make a special trip; I found it very light and refreshing.

The decor is not only eclectic, but quite original in spots. Hanging on the centerpiece mantle over the bar is a portrait of John F. Kennedy (as you might guess, Maloof was a Democrat), as well as pennants of Atlanta's major league sports team and those of nearby colleges. Bumper stickers from political campaigns past and present adorn an entire wall. The place even has pinball machines, if one can believe that anyone plays those anymore (I did).

The clientele is decidedly urban and somewhat older-skewing, but people of all races and ages can be found in this place. One gets the sense that the Manuel's has seen its ups and downs, but is presently on the upswing, as newer in-town residents discover it, alongside a group of old-line regulars. This is no "Cheers." It's a whale of a lot better and truly authentic.

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Scorecard

3 - Overall: Excellent - Worth a Detour
Overall: Excellent - Worth a Detour
McCloskey burger
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The Manuel's Burger is a juicy third-pounder. The sauteed mushrooms are a slight extra charge. I also switched out the regular fries for the delicious sweet potato tots.
"The Manuel's Burger is a juicy third-pounder. The sauteed mushrooms are a slight extra charge. I also switched out the regular fries for the delicious sweet potato tots."
Cliff Strutz





The excellent Brunswick stew is listed on the menu as Big Stan's Brunswick Stew. When I told my waitress how much I enjoyed it, she told me, ''I will tell Stan, he takes a lot of pride in it.''
"The excellent Brunswick stew is listed on the menu as Big Stan's Brunswick Stew. When I told my waitress how much I enjoyed it, she told me, ''I will tell Stan, he takes a lot of pride in it.''"
Cliff Strutz


The McCloskey burger is incredibly juicy, and you get a choice of cheese to top it. The fries taste like real potatoes to boot.
"The McCloskey burger is incredibly juicy, and you get a choice of cheese to top it. The fries taste like real potatoes to boot."
Mike Stroud


A pint of Manuel's house beer, an ale named after the place's address, 602 North Highland.  Refreshing; ask for it by name.
"A pint of Manuel's house beer, an ale named after the place's address, 602 North Highland. Refreshing; ask for it by name."
Mike Stroud


A classic bar, lined with stools, beer mats, beer and distilled spirits... and thirsty (and hungry, sometimes) patrons.
"A classic bar, lined with stools, beer mats, beer and distilled spirits... and thirsty (and hungry, sometimes) patrons."
Mike Stroud


Political bumper stickers galore.  The late owner Manuel Maloof set his bar and restaurant on the course of being a magnet for politicos decades ago.
"Political bumper stickers galore. The late owner Manuel Maloof set his bar and restaurant on the course of being a magnet for politicos decades ago."
Mike Stroud


Side of Manuel's Tavern building.  The cobblestone front is authentic, and no Atlanta eatery would be complete without a sign brandishing the local beverage of choice, Coca-Cola.
"Side of Manuel's Tavern building. The cobblestone front is authentic, and no Atlanta eatery would be complete without a sign brandishing the local beverage of choice, Coca-Cola."
Mike Stroud



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