During a Facebook exchange with East Atlanta Patch editor Péralte Paul, I both welcomed the new burrito restaurant that was moving into the former Wachovia building across from the Graveyard Tavern on Glenwood Avenue, and bemoaned yet another restaurant coming into the Village.
East Atlanta Village has carved a funky, eclectic and charming niche over the years, certainly in the five years I’ve been near and in the neighborhood. But in the exchange, both Péralte and I realized there’s a healthy discussion to be had about what would be ideal and perhaps what should be prioritized, when it comes to the EAV’s needs.
So Péralte asked me to write a column about what I would love to see in the Village and I agreed, but only if it could serve as a jumping-off point for everyone to write what they would love to see added to a neighborhood that already is considered one of Atlanta’s rising areas.
That said, here’s a top 10 of things I wish we had, with a concerted effort to avoid more bars and restaurants. (I said concerted, not perfect.)
- Reopening the historic Madison Theatre. For years, reports vary on the possibility of bringing the humble but historic theater back to code, and therefore to life. You could argue that with the Earl and the rising Club 529, EAV’s already a great hub for live music. True. But, restoring and reopening the theater could provide the neighborhood with a multidisciplinary performance space along the lines of 7 Stages in Little Five Points (which already is crammed with programming). Imagine an Out of Hand or Blast-off Burlesque performance there, along with classic and avant-garde film programming to along with more live music that could take EAV to the next level.
- Gourmet deli/bakery. I’m trying hard to avoid a bar/restaurant choice, but it’s possible that a gourmet deli with a strong selection of wines, artisanal cheeses and deli/pre-prepared food to go could add a modest dash of bougie sophistication to the neighborhood. That, and/or a bakery, would create incredible foot traffic during the day, before the nightlife scene takes over. Think the downstairs at Parish. I’d slap that right in the former space that housed the consignment vintage, thrift and furniture store.
- Yoga/pilates studio. OK, now that the deli/bakery opened up the bougie floodgates, we might as well talk yoga. How is it not available around here? You could argue that Dance 411’s move up Moreland Avenue satisfies that need; I’m not so sure. But for those practitioners who have to truck over to places like Yoga Samadhi over in Inman Park would love an authentic yoga class in EAV.
- Friday night acoustic music. Not that I’m a hippie or another, but I’ll never forget the charm of the Friday night drum circle in downtown Asheville, N.C., which attracted more non-hippies than you might think. But considering the nature of EAV, it would be fitting to get the weekend off on a musical note with some kind of acoustic music played outdoors.
- East Atlanta Music Festival. Failing a return from Corndograma, East Atlanta deserves a music festival to celebrate its burgeoning scene and focus totally on music, with stages in Brownwood Park, up and down the streets, and in the music venues as well. It would be a music celebration to rival the culinary fun of Taste of East Atlanta, but would be more focused than East Atlanta Strut.
- A salon, with the happy ending and everything. EAV has its share of hair and nail salons, but what one with the full monty, complete with massage. My kingdom for Key Lime Pie Salon and Wellness Spa over in Virginia Highland to discover our neck of the woods.
- A real bicycle shop. For the record, the Sopo Bicycle Co-op is one of the coolest things about EAV, and reflective of the D.I.Y. sense of community. Regardless, considering the bikability of the neighborhood, it only makes sense to actually a bicycle shop in the neighborhood that actually sells bicycles. (I dream of a scooter shop, too, but let’s do baby steps first, OK?)
- Art gallery. Sometimes it boggles the mind that we don’t have a street-level, feisty art gallery along the lines of a Young Blood or Get This! Gallery. Well, we almost did, if you count the fact that Young Blood was housed over in Grant Park before it’s move. But considering the artistic vibe of the neighborhood, an art gallery could help diversify the creative spectrum of the EAV scene.
- Improve on the restaurants already there. We can all appreciate the scrappiness of the pizza offered at Grand Central Café, the sushi at Thai & Sushi, the fried chicken at Chazz, and the burgers at the Earl. But when you consider how much Atlanta has stepped up its gourmet game with all of these food items, and you wish the neighborhood’s restaurants stepped up their game. I frankly hesitate to include the Earl on this list, because its burgers remain my favorite in town even after the gourmet renaissance, but people do seem to crave the fancier burger these days. I just wish Grant Central were more consistent, and Thai & Sushi more inventive, and Chazz more open to a wider selection We deserve it.
- Bring back what we lost! Péralte disagrees with me on this one, but I’m still bummed the Wachovia bank location closed, and essentially moved down Glenwood to sit out near the East Lake Publix. That’s fine for East Lake, but I want my Wach- … I mean, Wells Fargo back! Or more to the point, more banking options in the neighborhood than SunTrust. I’d also beg and plead for the return of Thread Zeppelin (vintage/thrift) and the Ace Hardware store. (With all due respect to the fitness center opening up in the old Ace building.) And I could SWEAR we did have an Urban Gardener, but I blinked my eye and it was gone. Bring all these back! And finally, I’m not sure where the drama currently stands, but it would be beneficial for the neighborhood for everyone to mend fences and bring Corndogorama back to its rightful home.