One of the many streetcar suburbs established around Atlanta in the early 1900′s, Virginia-Highland (named for the area’s prominent intersection) still feels like a charming neighborhood with a notable history — one that almost was lost to time.
Before the trolleys strolled down Virginia Avenue, this area was mostly farmland and country homes. In the late 1880′s the Georgia Railroad built the Nine Mile Trolley that extended from downtown Atlanta to circle the neighborhood along Monroe Drive, Virginia Avenue, North Highland, and Ponce de Leon Avenue. Thanks to this innovation, many of the historic bungalows and commercial strips the area is now known for were developed during the following decades. Atkins Park pub, Inman School (now Virginia Highland Elementary), and the fire station all date back to this period.
But once the streetcars went away and city residents flocked to the suburbs, the neighborhood became a target for redevelopment. The Georgia Department of Transportation was set to build a highway connecting GA-400 with I-20 that would have cut straight through Virginia-Highland. The neighborhood joined forces with other affected neighborhoods to defeat the plan, and in 1972, scores of homes and businesses were saved.
Avoiding the fate of paving over paradise and putting in a parking lot, Virginia-Highland survives to the present day. It is experiencing a revival thanks in part to its proximity to the BeltLine and a new wave of small businesses setting up shop along its corridors. You can feel the excitement every July during the annual Virginia-Highland Summerfest — where Virginia Avenue is shut down for music, art, a 5K race, and other festivities — or when visiting some of the following great venues and eateries.
What can I do for fun in Virginia-Highland?
Paint the town red at the Splatter Studio. Tap into your inner Jackson Pollack at this interactive art studio. Grab up to 12 of your friends and unleash chaos upon your canvas as you spray and splash paint in a giant room. After an hour, your new work of art is yours to keep! They also have collaborative sessions, acrylic painting, and a monthly black light painting event. Protective gear and a take home box are included. Art school degree is not.
Become a singing sensation at Dark Horse Tavern’s karaoke nights. This Virginia Highland pub is an unassuming bar most evenings, but after 9pm, head down to the basement for an intimate, energetic karaoke night. Become the star of the show as you belt out tunes with a live band! The original Metalsome Karaoke night — featuring metal and hard rock music — is on Monday night, but they also have “mellowsome” karaoke showcasing rock, country, and soul, and Mettlesome Rock Band nights with rock songs from the 80′s, 90′s and 2000′s.
Find your next literary obsession at Virginia Highland Books. Tucked away in a retail strip, this indie bookstore fills a much-needed gap in the neighborhood in the age of Kindles. With two levels of books that span children’s books, fiction, coffee table books, and more, you’re bound to find something to read here. The helpful staff and charming decor make the vibe even more inviting, and you may stumble upon an author signing or book club event.
Where are the best places to eat and drink in Virginia-Highland?
Start your day off with a coffee and some fresh provisions at this family-owned shop. Grab a drink at the bar, featuring Academy Coffee, then browse the shelves for fresh produce, condiments, and drinks. Before you go, grab a slab of meat at the whole animal butcher counter. If you’d prefer your meals already cooked, Kinship offers high-quality, flavorful breakfast sandwiches every day until 5 p.m.
Location: 1019 Virginia Ave; Hours: Every day, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Website: kinshipbutcheratl.com
This decades-old staple at the corner of Virginia and Highland is the area’s go-to modern American diner. Popular with families and coworkers alike, try standout appetizers like their flash fried calamari or popular main courses that include a Guinness-braised brisket or a seared salmon over succotash. Weekends bring a brunch menu that regularly tops “Best Of” lists with favorites like eggs Benedict, crab cakes, frittatas, and more. If you’re short on time, they’ve added a wine shop and dessert counter for a quick happy hour snack as well.
Location: 997 Virginia Ave; Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays: lunch, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and dinner, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday: brunch 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday: brunch 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Website: murphysatlanta.com
Recently spared the bulldozer from developers, this beloved dive bar is infamous for its wings, which many say are the best in the city. (Fair warning: they frequently sell out early!) Available soaked in a selection of tangy sauces or dry rubbed, The Local’s wings are baked for that extra smoky crisp. Pair with one of many local beers or a giant basket of tater tots and you have a great place to hang with friends or satisfy a craving.
Location: 758 Ponce de Leon Ave; Hours: Wednesday through Monday, 5 p.m. to midnight, (Open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday); Website: Menu available here
Another neighborhood staple, DBA Barbecue has more meats than letters in its name. Their casual Southern barbecue includes plates of smoked pork, brisket, and freshly ground andouille sausages, alongside traditional sides of Brunswick stew, mac and cheese, and more. If you still have room after all that, try some classic banana pudding for dessert. Thirsty? DBA’s bar has over twenty local brews on tap, and mimosas for weekend brunch.
Location: 1190 North Highland Ave NE; Hours: Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Weekend brunch runs 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Website: dbabbq-vahi.com
La Tavola Trattoria
Fifth Group’s classical Italian diner tucked along Virginia Avenue is perfect for date nights. Its rustic façade gives way to a homely, modern dining room, or grab a seat on their open-air balcony out back. Start off the evening browsing their extensive wine list while you nibble from a salami and veggie board. Then dive into a simple rigatoni dish or a seafood-infused spaghetti. (Pastas can be ordered in appetizer sizes as well as entrees.) If you want something meatier, nothing goes better with that wine than a New York strip steak topped with mushrooms and salsa verde.
Location: 992 Virginia Ave NE; Hours: Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Website: latavolatrattoria.com
Brand new to Virginia Highlands, this Japanese izakaya takes over a prominent corner, ready to serve small plates and big flavors. Their focus is a Japanese-style yakitori grill, with meat or vegetable skewers served a la carte. Nibble on those alongside appetizers such as seaweed salad, takoyaki, or assorted pickles. A Kona box that packages skewers with soup, rice, and a salad is also available. On the drink front, choose from domestic and imported beers, plenty of sake, or creative cocktails like a lychee-infused shochu.
Location: 1004 Virginia Ave; Hours: Lunch: Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner: Sundays, Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Website: yakitorikona.com