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Five Atlanta Neighborhoods With Southern Charm

Virginia-Highland
Dining al fresco in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood of Atlanta. (Kevin C. Rose)
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Info: http://www.eastatlantavillage.net.

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Little Five Points

The telltale signs of a hip territory: The neighborhood's name is reduced to an acronym (L5P) and the denizens' body parts display an explosion of ink. Often compared to New York's Greenwich Village, the district exudes a similar subculture ethos. "You'll find guys sitting on the street making jewelry, or trying to make music and wanting you to listen to it," said Andy Anderson, manager of Rag-O-Rama (1111 Euclid Ave., 404-658-1988), a used-clothing store spanning many fashion eras. "People here are trying to make a living doing what they want to do."

Copper John, for one, creates wire bracelets and necklaces at his outdoor studio, a curb by a parking lot. His pieces go for $15 to $20, and if you have a design in mind, he can twist it on the spot. On the same block, a dreadlocked musician named Evangelical was selling rope necklaces adorned with glass beads. The charms contain small pictures of performers: Bob Marley was still available, but the one of Evangelical on a spaceship spinning records had been sold.

The stores and restaurants echo the edgy street life. To get a snack at the burger joint Vortex (438 Moreland Ave., 404-688-1828), I had to pass through a giant skull, then sit next to a skeleton riding a motorbike.

Info: http://www.l5p.com.

Poncey-Highland/Virginia-Highland

Highland Avenue may be only one street, but it comes with two personalities. The lower portion, sometimes referred to as Poncey-Highland, is the outlier sister to the more mainstream Virginia-Highland. The Young Blood Gallery and Boutique (636 N. Highland Ave., 404-254-4127), for instance, carries works by local agitator R. Land, who uses his art to protest the mall- and condo-ification of Atlanta. The nearby Highland Inn (644 N. Highland Ave., 404-874-5756, http://www.thehighlandinn.com; nightly rates from $87) had a sordid past but has since cleaned up for overnight guests and local social bees drawn to its Ballroom Lounge, a basement bar that stages jazz bands, movie nights and recently a $2 comedy show.

On the other side of Ponce de Leon, the avenue that splits the personalities, the demographic widens, adding years and khaki to the mix. "In the morning, we get older retirees; for lunch, young professionals and students; and in evening for happy hour, groups of friends," said Gerald Tyler, general manager of Neighbor's Pub (752-C N. Highland Ave., 404-872-5440). "Then late night, we get the hard-core drinkers and partyers."

There is no buffer between the manicured homes and the boisterous businesses; I felt for the residents who lived next door to Neighbor's, which was broadcasting its weekly NC-17-rated trivia game over a loudspeaker. During the day, the scene is much mellower, with shoppers picking up post-prep-school threads at Strivers Row (774 N. Highland Ave., 678-973-0045) and cupcakes and artisanal cheeses at Belly General Store (772 N. Highland Ave., 404-872-1003). After dark, though, the girls in short skirts and the boys in long shorts come out for cocktails. Even "Gene Simmons" made an appearance, soliciting passersby to enter the 10 High Club (816 N. Highland Ave., 404-873-3607) and karaoke the night away.

Info: http://www.ponceyhighland.com and http://www.virginiahighland.com.


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