If you have been to Little 5 Points, then it is hard to miss the Vortex Bar and Grill. The flashy colors, the skull surrounding the entrance, the huge sign proclaiming the bar to be the home of “Atlanta’s Best Burger”, all come into play. And if you take the hype a little too seriously, it would seem as if you would be stepping into a Raider’s Nation on steroids. The truth is both a little calmer and a lot more pleasing to the senses.
Once inside, almost every surface that isn’t brick is painted in black, true. Then that surface is covered with .. stuff. Stuff like old vintage posters and photos, tee shirts, license plates, old toys, plastic sharks, alligator snouts, road signs, a skeleton riding a motorcycle. I was a bit fond of Maxwell, the .. cat (you have to be there to understand the context).
But otherwise what you have is a very functional bar (with around 20 beers on tap), lots of tables, a lot of room. I’m 6 feet tall, and I felt I could stretch out here and not bump into staff or neighbors. The bartender was efficient and friendly, and staff dressed informally. There was live music this day, and rather than being a Spinal Tap clone with amp hiked to 11, he was playing a far more ordinary guitar.
The patronage seemed to be of every race, creed, and color. People were friendly, chatty. There was a man, Chris, walking around, talking up the company he works for, New Belgium Brewing, offering samples. I ended up with a bottle of Fat Tire Amber Ale, and yes, a little lighter than my usual drink, but very good. A hat tip to New Belgium and Chris for promoting their product.
To the food: I ordered a Red Brick brown ale, some fried zucchini and a Ragin’ Cajun burger. Burgers are reasonably priced, given that they are half pound burgers. They also cook to order. If you ask for a medium rare burger, that’s what you get. The zucchini chips were thin sliced, covered in a brown batter and crisp. They tasted good plain or dipped into ranch dressing. The Ragin’ Cajun had a spicy pepper sauce on it. I threw on some Gulden’s brown mustard.. I thought it needed a bit more of a hit. The burgers are tall, by the way, close to four inches high once you stack it all together. It was a fine juicy burger. It’s easy to see how they contend for “best burger” in this city.
I didn’t have the nachos, but the couple next to me did. It’s an enormous plate of food.
Verdict: Informal and irreverent, Vortex does well with their signature burgers. Highly recommended, if you’re over 18 and a moderately sane adult.
Vortex Bar and Grill
438 Moreland Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30307
To get to the Vortex from Snellville, take Highway 78 to Scott, take Scott until it merges with Ponde De Leon, take Ponce to Moreland Avenue (please note it will be Moreland on the left, and Briarcliff on the right). Turn left at Moreland. When the stores turn psychedelic, start looking for the Vortex on the right. Please note on weekends you may have to pay to park in that part of the world.
The blog cinco2seis has a nice review of the Vortex’s largest and most heart stopping burger, the Double Coronary.