There’s a beloved little corner in Atlanta called Virginia-Highland. It’s where Josh and I spent our last year in Atlanta, and it’s what we immediately associate with when we miss that city.
So named because it’s at the corner of Virginia and North Highland Avenues, it was first developed as a streetcar suburb. (There are plenty of Atlantans, even residents of this neighborhood who erroneously call it “the Virginia Highlands” — including myself for a while… though technically it’s “Viriginia-Highland. ” Whatever.)
Though the streetcars are long gone, the streets are still lined with the beautiful homes from that time period, including grand Victorians and fabulous Craftsman style bungalows.
Josh and I actually lived in one of these old houses (built in 1929), and it was our favorite apartment that we lived in while in metro Atlanta.
What’s nice about Virginia-Highland, aside from the architecture smorgasbord, is how pedestrian friendly it is. If you live in this nabe, all of the restaurants and shops, including a lot of great boutiques, are within walking distance. And this is especially exciting because there are more Zagat rated restaurants per square mile than in most places I’ve seen (not a verified fact — but probably not too far from the truth), not to mention dozens of shops and boutiques, which feature the work of local artisans and designers.
While Virginia-Highland is not on a typical tourism itinerary for those visiting Atlanta, it’s certainly a great way to spend an afternoon or evening, not to mention it’s just a couple of miles from some of the bigger attractions, like the Georgia Aquarium, Turner Field, the World of Coke, and Centennial Olympic Park.
Here’s a list of some of our faves from VaHi:
George’s — This place looks like just another hole-in-the-wall, but they have some of the best burgers around. (Zagat and lots of other important people say so, including Josh Donahue, so it must be true.) Aaaand they’ve been around since 1961, so they must be doing something right.
Fontaine’s Oyster House — We only visited this place a couple of times, so we didn’t exactly sample the menu, but their New Orleans-influenced food is fantastic. (And fabulous decor, too!)
Highland Woodworking — This place makes me wish I had carpentry skills every time I walk in. They carry a lot of what you’d expect the big box retailers to carry, and then some! Even better, their staff is very knowledgable about their products and they even offer classes and workshops.
Doc Chey’s Noodle House — Yes, they have noodle bowls, and they are excellent (as you’d expect from a noodle house). However, my personal favorites on the menu are the fish tacos. They are… well, perfect. (And I’m picky about this sort of thing.)
Yeah! Burger — Think of the personalized experience you get at Five Guys, then add words like “veggie,” “grass fed, ” and “free range,” and you have Yeah! Burger (oh yeah, and add a couple of bucks to the price tag). They also have their own special recipe sauces for you to choose from (including something sinful called bacon jam) , and they are about as green as a business can be.
Paolo’s Gelato– An award winning Italian gelato shop! Everything is made fresh daily, and aside from their daily standards, they have a few varieties that change daily (you’re lucky if you show up on a day when they have avocado gelato — surprisingly delicious).
Rosebud — Comfort food with a gourmet twist. Located in nearby Morningside, this place is great for brunch, lunch, or dinner.
El Taco — Tacos and booze, what more could you ask for? They have an excellent fish taco (some people say it’s the best in town), free fresh chips and salsa, and lots of drink specials, including an hourly free drink giveaway. And their salsa bar has a salsa that literally hurt my tastebuds… so proceed with caution.
The Paper Source — This is a chain that some of you may already be familiar with, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this particular location (and with authentic tin ceilings and original details, it’s gorgeous inside as well as out!). Aside from a rainbow of stationery and papers, they also sell wrapping sheets in some of the most beautiful and unique papers, many of which are only available at Paper Source.
Half Moon Outfitters — This is the go-to outdoorsy store for VaHi (and much of midtown Atlanta). With two levels of shopping, they have bikes, tents, gear, clothing… and honestly, lots of other things that I know nothing about seeing as I’m not the outdoorsy type. But Josh likes this place, and no VaHi walkeroo shopping trip is complete without a stop here. (And they allow dogs to come in to the store!)
Armour & Co. — It’s a home emporium of dreams and delights. But mostly dreams, as their prices are something that I could never afford, oh but how nice it is to window shop and pretend! (And steal ideas…)
Alon’s — This is a market and restaurant, with super-duper fresh food, baked breads, and pastries. Walking by this place is an olfactory experience unto itself.
Yogli Mogli Frozen Yogurt – Yes, a chain, but since it’s addition to the VaHi strip, the lines haven’t slowed down. And c’mon, it’s the hot South — we require frozen delights.
Taco Mac — Yeah, I know, you’ve probably already heard of this place before, but this is the original location — where the magic all began! Aside from excellent pub food, they have the Brewniversity program, a frequent diners’ beer-of-the-month club. #joshfavorite #watchoutforthefratboys #totallyworthit
Noche — This is one of a few locations in the metro area, though each locations’ menu varies slightly. Delicious tapas, appetizers, and entrees, and I know I sound like a broken record, but they also have really good fish tacos.
Festivity — This is a chain boutique, but I especially love the VaHi location
Dakota J’s — Another fun boutique! And unlike most boutiques, their prices are pretty darn reasonable in my opinion! (My favorite cocktail dress of all time came from this store.)
Technically, a couple of these restaurants and shops are in the Morningside neighborhood, but it’s so close to Virginia-Highland (like a five minute walk) that I had to include these as well. And believe it or not, there are still many more restaurants, many of which Josh and I never got a chance to try (we’re bad about sticking to a couple of favorites and not branching out). What’s great about VaHi is that the “worst” restaurant (there are none), would be the best most anywhere else.
As far as the shops go, I’ve just listed those that I have browsed through (or been a customer of). The last time Josh and I drove through in April, a couple of places had closed and new shops had opened in their place. So, don’t take my word for it — things are constantly evolving — for the better — and these changes tend to keep with the unique, one-of-kind tradition that is Virginia-Highland.
For more info, you can check out their website.
To see where exactly VaHi is on a map, go here: Google maps: Virginia-Highland
Back to crafty-crafty good times tomorrow… I’ll show you what I did with my Michaels’ $1.00 stationery!