Destinations: The Vortex Bar and Grill, Atlanta, Georgia

Destinations

Destinations

Bikes, bikes, bikes and The Vortex's 20-ft high "Laughing Skull."

Photo by Landon Hall

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Though bike night at the local bar is almost an institution for motorcyclists in cities across the U.S., some places do it better than others. Atlanta does it very, very well.

The Vortex, located in the Little Five Points area just a few miles east of downtown Atlanta, is always home to a good time. But any Thursday night when the weather is good (and occasionally when it isn’t), The Vortex plays host to a couple hundred motorcycles and the great people who ride them. Though more newer sportbikes show up than anything else, there is a solid core of classic bike lovers who keep things interesting. Everything from a Ural sidecar rig to a few classic BMWs, a smattering of Harleys, new and old Ducati sportbikes, and a full showing of the latest and greatest from Japan fill the parking lot while riders mill about checking out each other’s cycles and generally having a good time.

Inside, it’s a completely different vibe. Although the constant sounds of motorcycles coming and going outside is anything but quiet, walking through the front door leads you to another world of sounds. Busy but not overwhelming, music and conversation fill the air in The Vortex. And while motorcyclists are everywhere, they’re not the only type of people you’ll find here, even on a busy Thursday bike night. As a USA Today review said, “The clientele here is part of the attraction. You’ve got your body piercers, your Tech types, the white-collar business crowd, middle-class bikers … ” Everyone’s welcome (except kids, it is a bar, after all), but political correctness has no place here. That said, try not to stare.

The atmosphere is fun and never quiet, and the decor is the strangest mix of garage-sale-art-fair-circus-tchotchke you’ve ever seen. Alternative weekly newspaper Creative Loafing called the place “ ... a kind of Mad Max’s lair for the politically incorrect.” That just cements it as our kind of place.

Next time you’re in Atlanta, stop by for a burger and see if it’s yours. Do it on a Thursday night and you’re sure to see why riders from all over Atlanta visit every week.

The Skinny

Where: Approximately 3 miles east of the center of downtown Atlanta in the “Little Five Points” area, at 438 Moreland Ave. A second Vortex Bar & Grill is located in Midtown at 878 Peachtree St.

Why: Cool bikes, neat people, great burgers, a huge selection of libations, and a decor as eclectic as the mix of customers and staff.

Best kept secret: The burgers are no secret, but with more than 20 varieties, they’ve been named the best in Atlanta by nearly every magazine and newspaper that’s ever visited the place. Spend an extra $1.75 and get it with a side of fried zucchini instead of fries. It’s worth every penny.

Scenic routes: We won’t lie. Atlanta traffic can suck, and if you’re downtown anytime when normal people are awake, there’s a good chance you’ll get stuck in it. The good riding is at least an hour out of town, and our favorite way out is to blitz northeast on Highway 85. When it splits about 25 miles out of downtown, go left and follow Highway 985. This eventually becomes Route 23, which will lead you through the Blue Ridge Mountains and all the way into North Carolina if you stay on it long enough. Deals Gap, The Cherohala Skyway and more are all within a few hours ride.

Avoid: Making a fool of yourself. Although the crowd and the staff at The Vortex are more than hospitable, neither will put up with much crap. Relax, kick back and enjoy.

More info: www.thevortexbarandgrill.com