401 Broadway, Downtown
Merchants has been taking up prime Downtown real estate (perfectly situated for dinner and drinks before a night of honky-tonk at Robert’s Western World), in what used to be Merchants Hotel, since 1988 but has only recently gained culinary notoriety thanks to a top-to-bottom overhaul in 2010. It’s split into two distinct dining concepts: On the ground floor, it’s Southern comfort food (green fried tomatoes, blackened catfish, smoked brisket) and cozy leather booths. Upstairs, it's a formal dining room with a fancier menu to match (seafood towers and filet mignon).
33 Peabody St., Downtown
Pinewood Social calls itself "a place to meet," which is really the most accurate description of this hybrid between bar, restaurant, coffee shop, and (dare we say) rec center. It's open from early in the morning when you can camp out with a coffee and enjoy the free WiFi, until late in the evening, when groups congregate with cocktails around the bocce courts and bowling lanes. There are two pools in the back, alongside an airstream trailer that actually has its own menu, and a wide patio that makes a great spot for pre-dinner drinks. The menu is surprisingly good for a place with so much going on—you'll find an excellent fried chicken along with cheeky small plates like PB&J toast, broken yolk tacos, and jalapeño mac and cheese.
The Patterson House
1711 Division St., Midtown
Here’s a real old-fashioned speakeasy—a part of the New York/LA throwback-to-prohibition bar trend, where getting into the bar requires some work and house rules dictate you must stay seated once in. It’s well worth it. The prim and proper mixologists, in their old-fashioned uniforms, make miracles happen with the ingredients.
150 3rd Ave. S., Downtown
A central gathering place in the busting SoBro neighborhood downtown, the Southern occupies the first floor of the Pinnacle at Symphony Place, a new skyscraper that (impressively) is LEED-certified. The restuarant itself also takes sustainability seriously, serving locally-grown produce and fueling their wood-fired grill with salvaged hickory on top of the requisite non-toxic cleaning products and ambitious recycling program. Food-wise, the specialties are freshly shucked oysters, which you can order at the oyster bar, and an old-school steak menu. Also good to know in this parking-sparse area: Valet is on the house.
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