In the heart of Atlanta, an unassuming little place called Midtown Tavern has its share of regulars. Out-of-towners might miss it as they drive past after a concert or game at the Civic Center, which is just up the road on Piedmont Avenue. The regulars show up to hang out at the bar, shoot pool and compete in a corn hole tournament on the deck. This is a place where everybody knows your name. Midtown Tavern looks like an average neighborhood bar. But it is not average at all. The patrons show up for one other very important reason, and that is the glorious food prepared by Executive Chef Hunter Keels.
Chef Keels offered me and fellow writer and food advocate, Michael Nolan, a sampling of the daily menu specials: Fried green tomatoes with house-cured bacon, goat cheese and fennel fronds, drizzled with honey; wood-grilled breakfast pizza topped with house-cured ham, grilled onions, a fresh egg and basil leaves; and whole grilled snapper with herbs, lemon, mushrooms and fennel, served on a bed of coconut rice and black beans. Dessert was a taste of Hunter’s homemade beet ice cream with an incredibly delicious whipped chevre and honey topping. Not to be missed on the everyday menu are the grilled edamame, pork belly BLT, gouda mac and cheese, and the ridiculously delicious warm salad of hanger steak, arugula, house pickled beets, tomatoes, goat cheese, grilled onion, and chili oil.
After enchanting us with his sampling menu, Hunter took a few minutes out of his very busy day to talk with us. Formally educated in the fine arts, he worked in kitchens to help pay his school bills. But he found his true passion in the kitchen. Hunter brings the dedication and attention-to-detail of a fine arts major to food. He sources as much as possible from local purveyors, like H&F Bread Company, Meyer all Natural Angus, Springer Mountain Chicken, Grafton Village Cheese Co., and Brasstown Beef & Pork. Hunter prepares everything else himself, from the mustard and ketchup he serves with his hand-ground burgers, to house-cured meats like the bacon, ham and kielbasa we sampled.
Midtown Tavern has an excellent selection of craft beers and a sophisticated menu of cocktails, from the Kick Ass Margarita made with house-infused pepper tequila, triple sec, fresh lime juice and sour mix to a Basil-Gin Mojito made with Aviation gin with muddled local basil, sugar and lime topped off with a splash of sparkling water.
Next time you are in Atlanta, don’t miss this outstanding little gastropub.
554 Piedmont Avenue, N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30308
For Michael Nolan’s perspective on Midtown Tavern, check out his blog: