Tuesday, July 27, 2010

ATL loves!

Why hello again! I've been out exploring a new city, and let me tell you - Atlanta is far more fun than it might seem from the outside - what a pleasant surprise!  My MBA summer internship has taken me to the largest city in the Southeast, and at first, I'll be honest, I was a little terrified.  Not of big cities, mind you - just of the overgrown urban sprawl, bad public transportation, daily panic-inducing traffic, and an unreasonable expectation that "all-the-best-restaurants-and-pubs-are-owned-by-a-big-corporation-and-have-no-personality."

Well folks, I was wrong about that last item.  (The rest is true, but I manage to avoid 'em by living in one of the most awesome close-to-everything neighborhoods around!)  Atlanta is chock-full of some really cool, off-beat, and fun places that you just have to check out the next time "y'all" venture down south.  Here are a few of my favorite unique places that I've already visited.  I have a "must-see-before-leaving" list which is rapidly filling up, so send me your recommendations!

1. Cacao
Kristen Hard, Founder & Chocolate Maker
This absolute gem of a chocolate shop boasts not only some of the finest chocolates around, but they are all handmade in-house, and it is one of only a small handful (think around 10 or so) bean-to-bar artisan chocolate makers in the entire country.

This is beyond mere infatuation or sugar-lust.  I'm convinced that the chocolate from Cacao actually loves me back.  It's a very decadent relationship.  You may catch more bees with honey, but who wants to catch bees?  

"Each piece of chocolate made in our laboratoire is hand crafted with you, the customer, in mind. Not only do we use the highest quality organic ingredients while employing time-honored chocolate making processes, but also, every bite of Cacao chocolate is made with personal care and attention, creating a conscious chocolate experience for all those who taste it. Cacao Laboratoire firmly espouses that chocolate does more than provide physical sustenance; it takes the extra step to provide the soul with spiritual nourishment as well.

In doing so, we hope our message of love is translated through our product; because at Cacao Laboratoire, it is our mission to compose a product inspiring you to give love, give chocolate."

2. Arden's Garden

Who is Arden?  She's the lady who owns this cool place - some people think she's crazy (they might be right) - but who cares!  All I know is that she makes some darn good locally-produced, freshly-squeezed fruit & vegetable juices.  She has some incredible combinations that look absolutely vile, but believe it or not, taste quite fabulous!  In addition to her juice shops in town, the products are sold in my local Whole Foods (score!)  Over-processed too-salty V8 juice can take a hike - I'll take an Arden's Garden, please.

3. Bark ATL
I simply MUST give an awesome shout-out to the folks at the best doggy-day-care in the world, Bark ATL.  They have one of the cleanest, most fun, and pleasant pet facilities I've ever seen (that doesn't cost an arm, leg, and first-born child).  It is also a 100% cage-free facility.  Fo' real.  There's none of this "I'm sorry we will have to conduct a month-long 'trial' to learn your pup's personality" nonsense before letting them romp with the rest of the pack.

On her first day, my little munchkin (75 lbs is little, right?) was having a total blast with the other Big Dogs, which I secretly watched on the webcam, and she came home with an adorable first-day-of-school photo with a magnet for the fridge.  In addition, the staff takes lots of fun pics to post on Facebook, so you can make your friends jealous too that the doggies have more pool-time in one workday than we get all summer.  If only my cubicle were half as much fun...

4. Everybody's Pizza
Everybody loves pizza, and in my opinion, everybody needs a local pizza place where you can get wonderful, unique, delicious REAL pizza that you know won't be a rubber disc stamped "Made in China."  In Atlanta, this is the place.  While they will deliver anything on the menu, if you swing by to eat-in, you'll be impressed by the well-chosen beer selection and outstanding people-watching (grab a seat by the window). Check out the menu and take special note of something called a "pizza salad."  Yep, really.  It exists.  Awesome.

5. Chastain Park Amphitheater
This is not really "under-the-radar" but it is one of the coolest things about Atlanta.  Last weekend, on my birthday, I was surprised by my date with a picnic dinner and tickets to see a concert with Chris Isaak (the next Simon Cowell? please comment, I want to hear your thoughts!)

The venue is awesome - it's an outdoor amphitheater, but not a typical one.  It was nice and shady in the evening, and there are wide comfortable seats so you aren't forced to sit on the grass.  They allow you to bring in your own cooler of food and drinks (including beer or wine) which makes an ideal date spot, or simply a perfect way to catch some good music with great friends.  I highly recommend getting to see to a show if you can!