Mastery of the dollars-to-square-foot ratio and sandwiches too.
Usually when a fresh stadium is erected, the surrounding real estate is quickly gobbled up or gentrified into high-end sports bars, impractical apartments and enough parking to temporarily house the state of Rhode Island. Elliott Street Deli & Pub, despite its close, and I mean close, proximity to Mercedes Benz Stadium has so far survived that phenomenon. Opened in 2006, this isn’t exactly a Prohibition-era Atlanta dive bar, but it does predate the stadium by a little more than a decade, time enough to grow some roots before the monstrosity arrived.
As the Atlanta dive bar’s web site details, though this particular business dates to 2006, the husk of the building traces back to an 1870-ish fire that burned out the building. Notably, the location served as tour stop to Gladys Knight, Isaac Hayes and other during its stint as a jazz club for a handful of decades, running to the early 1980’s. And given the scant square footage inside (600 square feet), it’s east to envision a loud, hot, amazing jazz atmosphere within the space. The brothers that now own the building and opened Elliott Street Deli & Pub did so after a long renovation, transforming a declining building into what is now a stadium-adjacent staple.
Driving up to Elliott Street Deli & Pub feels like happening upon a beer & sandwich oasis among downtown surface streets and the stadium across the street. In fact, surprisingly little borders the dive bar itself, a surface lot surrounding it before giving way to a nearby fire station to the south, more parking and some railroad tracks (for character) to the east. The sign is an immediate siren song, styled in the comforting depiction of the PBR logo and resting above a mermaid leaning perilously over the street below.
Inside, the dollar bill game is strong at this Atlanta dive bar, thick layers covering the walls above and around the bar. And where the dollar bills begin to fade away, stickers start to take over, dotting the liquor-lined surfaces behind and around the service area behind the bar. The open-air nature of the bar orientation makes for some conducive PBR-fueled shouting, sound that echoes in a small room that might seem a bit larger from the outside.
The footprint of the building extends to a few layers of outdoor patio, taking advantage of the weather friendly to Atlanta dive bars. Out back, a metal gate separates the fire station-adjacent street from a short patio with a handful of chairs. In front, a covered porch provides a first layer of drinking opportunity adjacent to another outdoor seating area. During busy times (there’s a stadium across the street after all), outdoor taps serve not only the patio but the parking lot spillover that surrounds the bar, providing ample tailgating real estate.
The bathroom is intense, perhaps punctuated by a painting of the Three Wise Men that has been both written on and, shall we say, augmented. It sits along a deep red wall opposite a mirror caked with beer, band and who-know-what-for stickers. A handful of let’s say burlesque polaroids complete the dizzying array of bathroom visual stimulation, making for an entertaining story for every first visit to the restroom in back.
The word deli in the title of the bar is, of course, no accident, and a full menu includes just the kinds of sandwiches to either lay a great foundation for a little Atlanta dive bar drinking, or recovery from a long day of doing just that. The Mad Italian and its symphony of Italian meats looks particularly inviting, the robust menu certainly setting this stop apart from some of the more divey offerings in Atlanta.
Elliott Street Deli & Pub is a great example of a downtown dive bar that benefits from historical roots without having to serve sandwiches continuously since before the Great Depression. And though this incarnation of the space is relatively new in Atlanta dive bar standards, the authenticity and story and yes, amazing location, all there to create something both new and historically comforting.