Visiting CRÜ Urban Lounge is less like drinking in a bar and more like hanging out at your hippest friend's ultra-trendy loft, largely thanks to founder Chetan Goud's keenly upscale and eclectic sensibilities. Goud drew from his extensive travels through Europe, New York, and California in the creation of his hyper-modern yet intimate restaurant and cocktail lounge. With its high ceilings, luxurious black leather furniture, two-story layout, and unabashed use of umlauts, CRÜ Urban Lounge exudes a cosmopolitan, European-tinged vibe, matched to a T by its food and drink offerings.
The menu swings effortlessly from udon noodles and chicken tacos to hot dogs, as well as grass-fed burgers culled from local and seasonal ingredients, mirroring an international selection of wines and craft beers. Weekend brunches ply guests with hearty smoked-salmon frittatas and sweet apple-bourbon pancakes, and creative cocktails bring classic drinks to the 21st century—adding apple bourbon to a shandy or creamy egg white to a whiskey-amaretto sour.
From behind three black granite bars—the longest of which extends 36 feet—bartenders decant imported and domestic beer and shake up specialty cocktails. The posh bars, along with gold-accented black-velvet banquet seating, flank a dark-wood dance floor packed with grooving patrons perfecting dance moves and trying to pretend like they're not incredibly out of breath. Overhead, a 5-foot disco ball and a floating DJ booth lord over the raucous party, which is fueled by a premium sound system blasting popular tunes and Top 40 hits on Saturday night.
Upstairs, a horseshoe-shaped enclosed lounge with private tables, separates private parties from the dancing masses below, which VIP guests can view from a glass room that accommodates up to 125 patrons silently holding up scorecards to rate their moves.
After its original location disappeared, then mysteriously reppeared in an Idaho cornfield, Tongue & Groove relocated into its current two-floor, 8,600-square-foot facility in 2007, quickly becoming the orange-upholstered nerve center of Atlanta nightlife. Since the original location's opening in 1994, Nightlife wizards Michael Krohngold and Scott Strumlauf have meticulously crafted Tongue & Groove into a club that is simultaneously classy and wild. By offering complimentary valet service, patrons are left feeling as pampered as a C-list sitcom star, or, at the very least, a celebrity magician with an abrasive haircut.
There is always a lively spirit of creativity at The Sound Table, but it changes throughout the night. The upstairs dining room boasts a menu that "zigzags through global influences: Belgian-style frites, Oaxacan hanger steak with salsa verde, Chinese grilled ribs redolent of soy and chile," says Atlanta magazine, which placed restaurant on its list of the area's 50 Best Restaurants. However, the menu's capricious nature doesn't stop at the recipes, it also affects the availability. The selection changes frequently as the chefs incorporate new, seasonal ingredients. On the downstairs level, the bar is a bit more consistent, although still inventive. In addition to the international assortment of wine and beer, the bartenders mix drinks that Creative Loafing Atlanta hailed as "some of the best cocktails in the city." These shaken and stirred concoctions are separated into categories that range from bright & dry to strong, rich & strange, and they occasionally feature nontraditional ingredients such as pine liqueur or garam masala. Although the food and drinks help keep spirits high, it's the live music that transforms the two stories of exposed brickwork, booths made of wooden slats, and soft industrial lighting into a lively neighborhood dwelling. Typically starting around 11 p.m., an ever-rotating lineup of DJs and bands performs throughout the week, energizing the crowds with anything from the raw, percussive fusion of African and Latin jazz-funk to globally-influenced psychedelic.
Nabbing the top spot in Jezebel Magazine’s Best of 2013 contest for best night club, Opera Nightclub presents old-fashioned red-curtain glamour. After cracking the dress code, VIPs can romp freely through all areas under the club’s 100-foot ceilings, including a VIP-only upstairs area with cozy private nooks. Cash in two drink tickets for a beer or a cocktail to delicately balance while finally perfecting the Super Bowl Shuffle, or take in the deck’s panoramic view of the city and its galactic ceiling. Opera’s crowd-charming DJs spin top 40 hits alongside genre-specific jams, catering to hip-hop hankerings and salsa appetites alike.
Divan Restaurant & Hookah Lounge serves Persian-influenced Mediterranean feasts amid exotic artwork, plush pillows, and flowing curtains. Hooded lanterns cast a warm glow on murals depicting a sultan's court, colorful modern canvases, and tucked-away corners where diners share mezzes amid crimson cushions or chairs wrapped in silver cloth. As they dine upon dishes such as duck confit with black-currant relish and grilled lamb with pomegranate-mint demi-glace, guests enjoy the comforts of the hookah⎯a traditional water pipe that relaxes users with smoke that combines a touch of tobacco, sweet notes from fruit molasses, and a dash of wispy ghost.
As wispy tendrils of hookah haze dissipate overhead, diners clink glasses filled with drinks such as fruit-flavored martinis and sup on plates of blackened salmon, garlic-butter grilled shrimp, and molten chocolate cakes with hints of tarragon and raspberry sauce.
Situated just steps from the historic Fox Theatre, Churchill Grounds tantalizes patrons with nightly live-jazz sessions and a menu of eclectic entrees and thirst-quenchers. During a scotch tasting, diners can sip, slurp, and dab their inner wrists with a quintet of mini whiskeys poured by laser-shrunken Scotsmen. Churchill Grounds' proprietor highlights different scotches frequently, though a flight might include Glenlivet 12, Glenmorangie 10, or Cragganmore. For patrons seeking more solid fuel, chefs slow-roast boneless beef ribs before dousing them in soy-garlic sauce ($18.95), and wild mushroom ravioli with a light garlic cream sauce ($10.95) fills empty stomachs. The hummus dip arrives with warm pita wedges ($7.95), stir-fried calamari rings ($14.95) inspire fork-diving into a pool of spicy red-pepper sauce, and spinach-artichoke dip begins meals with light fare ($7.95). Cure parched pouts with red or white wine ($5.50–$9/glass) complemented by artisanal cheese plates (market price), or a selection of beers from around the world, including Pilsner Urquell ($4.50) and La Fin du Monde ($6.25).