Finding the right combination of great beer and great food


Justin sent us an interesting NY Times article about how bars have stepped up their game when it comes to craft beer, but many haven’t stepped up the rest of their game accordingly. The article is more about NY bars, but it’s an interesting case study nonetheless.

Great beer abounds today in New York, and the choices keep getting better. Nowadays, almost every neighborhood bar has at least a few craft beers. The better beer bars offer an expanded selection, scouring the world for unknown brewers and new beers. And the mark of a top-flight spot is one or two cask beers, served unpasteurized and unfiltered with natural carbonation, rather than from a pressurized keg.

Yet an imbalance exists that threatens to undercut the pleasure to be found in a perfectly drawn pint. While aficionados yearn to have beer taken as seriously as wine, too often beer is presented in a context that diminishes the respect it deserves.

What kinds of things contribute to this diminished respect for the beer? It could be mediocre food or clueless staff. One of my pet peeves is when beers are served in the wrong glassware at establishments that should carry the correct glassware. Wow, as I type that I realize that makes me sound like a tool. Fortunately you and I both know that I’m not a tool. No need to revise it.

I admit I judge the beer menu first, the food second. I don’t think many would claim that Taco Mac serves food that fully complements their amazing beer list, but I still love Taco Mac. And the marriage of beer and good food is admittedly a tough one to manage.

?Running a beer bar is really tough,? said Mr. Brodrick of Blind Tiger. ?You add into that a good kitchen, it costs more in terms of labor and it?s a little more frantic.?


That said, I think Atlanta has made some major strides in recent years. Some of my favorite places to grab a good beer and a good meal are:

What are some of your favorites? Any other thoughts on the matter? Is Atlanta there yet?

Image source: eye3cee

21 thoughts on “Finding the right combination of great beer and great food

  1. Merely defending your comment on not being a tool, I believe by definition makes you a tool.

  2. Nice try Glenn. I’m a card-carrying member of the “Not a Tool” club. Last I checked your application for membership was rejected again?

  3. What kills me about Taco Mac is how bad they pour. I can only imagine how much beer is wasted in a month as they get too much head and keep pouring til it bubbles out. Don’t be wasting my beer when you only order one keg of it!!

    I also don’t like when bars put my IPA/porter/stout/etc in a cold glass. Or you get that eat-shit-and-die look for requesting a warm glass.

    The Midway in EAV has a good selection although I’ve found that their draft beers are sometimes flat. They have great bar food and tatertots, which is a definite bonus while drinking.

  4. Taco Mac has the widest gap between great beer and sad food I’ve seen in a really long time. Fantastic beer list, crap ambiance and menu.

    Why run a place that’s exactly like every other sports bar in America?

  5. Yeah I usually eat before I go.

    But you do have to admit Taco Mac’s passport club gets a lot of crappy beer drinkers to step out of their box and try the craft beers. Who knew that the only incentive people need is free tshirts?

  6. Summitts has twice as many beers on draft and bottle than Taco Mac and the food is just as good, but nothing to write home about.

  7. I remember a pizza joint in college that had a “Tour the World” beer card. 100 craft/import beers + most of my sad college salary over 2 years = 1 plaque on the wall.

    Just Google’d the place – looks like the plaque is now in the dump (location is GONE).


    At least I found out first-hand what a Welsh Bitter Ale tastes like instead of drinking a Bud, Coors or Miller, right?

  8. The clear solution here is to have Tree House serving a full line of MNB brews as soon as possible. Great food, great patio, outstanding beers.

  9. I have to second the nod for 5 Seasons. Pairing local food and local beer is always a winner, especially with a menu that is diverse and creative.

    What I see lacking are passionate bartenders that take their craft seriously. Either not hip enough for a PBR or too hip for a Belgium. I just want a friendly and knowledgable bar-keep… please.

    And the glass matters.

  10. Favorites? Falling Rock Tap House in Denver is my all-time fave — best beer bar I’ve ever been to, and while it’s no gastropub, the food pairs well with beer. Goat Hill Tavern in Costa Mesa, CA. And the Yard House is always a good option.

    Oh, you mean in GA? Well, I recommend checking out Wild Wing Cafe if you’re in Marietta. Good beer, and the wings/food are FAR better than Taco Mac.

    Plus, my neighbor and I won their inaugural homebrew competition

    I’m sure you guys would like to be Georgia’s Premier Homebrewer of 2007, but I have to tell you that honor went to me :-)

  11. Upstairs at the Brickstore. The fish and chips are outstanding, and they always have interesting Belgians on tap, and a very knowledgeable staff.

  12. Can someone please explain to me why there isn’t a place in Buckhead that is on par with any of the 5 mentioned by Baker?

    Fado’s doesn’t count (i.e. a $6 pint of Hoegaarden is not craft beer)

  13. Also, best place I’ve ever been is Pizza Port in Carlsbad/Solana Beach, California. Same guys that brew the Lost Abbey brands.

  14. West, I share your frustrations about Buckhead. The only thing I can think of is that the people interested in starting a place like that don’t live in Buckhead. That’s not to say there isn’t room for a magical beer/food location there. It would just have to be done in a way that made it popular for taking out clients as well. In my opinion. As a businessman.

  15. West,

    That’s a good suggestion — maybe I’ll go to Pizza Port this weekend!

    For anyone else traveling to SoCal, Stone Brewing Company has a pretty unique bistro & garden at the brewpub. The food is definitely interesting (very unique, very big bold flavors, but some of the dishes don’t quite do it for me), and they have a very extensive lineup of guest beers in addition to their own.

    Both Pizza Port and Stone are kid-friendly, so it’s actually a nice family event. Take the kids out to Carlsbad to go to LegoLand, and either Stone or Pizza Port are a very short drive away :-)

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