Choosing between the hangover and the rehab is the real difficulty here.
The Atlanta dive bar scene offers stark contrasts, from the insane atmosphere of the Clermont Lounge to the well-worn appeal of The Rusty Nail. Somehow, Jack’s Pizza & Wings seems to embody all of that diverse dive bar appeal in one location, the space feeling like a pizza food truck decided to settle down at the corner location of its last gig. The combination of some truly amazing pizza varieties, intense exterior artwork and an absolute explosion of stickers makes Jack’s Pizza & Wings one of Atlanta’s most interesting dive bars in one of its most historic areas.
Located in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr., the space gives off immediate dive bar appeal with its painted brick façade, a mixed media experience in the shape of a pizza mouth devouring those who enter. The windows are large and caked with graffiti, stickers, flyers and anything else that’ll attach itself to glass, the painted bricks dotted here and there with more of the same. The neighborhood is active, fresh apartments and condos nearby with a collection of other drinking and dining options along the same street. But this is the clear winner for character, a siren song for those who love an Atlanta dive bar.
The doors, just as caked with adhesive material as the windows, open up into a space that is well-lit by dive bar standards, an open skylight above the kitchen matching the warmth provided by the large windows on either side of the entrance. Stickers or not, the light creeps in, creating a feeling of sitting on a street corner rather than inside a pizza joint. Every inch of the black-painted walls inside feature some kind of sticker, scrawl, message or menu item, Jack’s Pizza & Wings inscribing a selection of its specials on the wall just above the bar.
The drink options here are wide, but the presence of an always-on, dedicated $2 Miller High Life tap is one of the finest dive bar features this reviewer has seen in a long time. And that kind of refreshment is a requirement with a menu as varied and immense as the selection at Jack’s Pizza & Wings. The menu is dominated by, you guessed it, pizza and wings, and while the wings have glowing reviews, the pizza game is where the menu starts to differentiate itself. This reviewer sampled a slice of the Rehab variety, a glorious confluence of mac & cheese, chili, hot dogs and sausage links. It was glorious. Specialty tater tots, stomboli, pizza burgers and more provide ample opportunity for exploration, but it’s unclear how anything could top a chili and mac & cheese pizza slice.
Eating options aside, the seating options are just as diverse. Just inside the front door, a small alcove on a raised platform to the left offers some sticker-obstructed views of the street outside with bench seating for a small group. Alcoves can be found throughout the space, including opposite the front door where the L-shaped bar begins its run before angling back toward the kitchen. A handful of wooden, built-in booths line the far wall with a few low tables scattered throughout the space. This place is much bigger than it seems from the angry pizza eating mural out front, offering room to pair off and chat or jump in with the crowd.
The path to the bathrooms in back includes a trip under a brick-lined arch into a space in back that includes a handful of arcade games and an out-of-commission fireplace, creating yet another area to explore inside Jack’s Pizza & Wings. Graffiti explodes inside and around the bathrooms themselves, every served scrawled with expansive text a collection that no doubt shifts and changes over time.
There are many pizza spots that “try” the dive bar look. They’ll invest in some rustic furniture, throw a few stickers on the fridge behind the bar, allow a little graffiti here and there. But Jack’s Pizza & Wings is the real deal with the menu to back it all up. An authentic and vibrant part of a deeply historic part of Atlanta, Jack’s Pizza & Wings can take credit for some of the upswing the area has seen over the past handful of years and provides an authentic, pizza-lined dive bar anchor as the neighborhood continues its upward trajectory.