Classic dive bar look with live music on top.
The long history of gar stations turned into dive bars is illustrious, playing right into the hand of a small footprint, an out-of-the-way location and probably a pretty thick layer of history on top. Northside Tavern is one such specimen, a location so scenic that the Atlanta dive bar’s web site includes a full page on the building’s use as filming backdrop for movies ranging from Fast & Furious 8 to Anchorman 2 (try to find the connection there).
The building was erected in the 1940s, a fact that likely won’t shock anyone driving up to see the short, squat structure just northwest of downtown Atlanta. Over time, what started as a gas station and convenience store morphed into the corner music and drinks stop that it is today, a single family operating Northside Tavern since 1975. Even better, the history here can certainly be seen but even better felt through the nightly music that takes the stage that has long been a staple of the Atlanta dive bar.
Outside, the presentation is about as pure as a dive bar presentation can be. The sign, the murals out front, the neon, the bars on the windows, this is a total package when it comes to visual dive bar appeal. As with quite a few Atlanta dive bars (looking at you, Moe’s & Joe’s), the sign shapes the name of the bar in the style of the PBR logo. A pair of fresh-looking murals span each of the bar’s front-facing exterior walls, one proclaiming the virtues of Fireball, the other the patriotic glory of, you guessed it, PBR. But it is the slightly cloudy, colorfully-illuminated front windows and accompanying crisscross barred windows that provides that signature dive bar look.
Passing through the green front door set into cinder block, the space is deceptively large, a main bar area including the well-used stage in front paired with a second room dominated by a pair of pool tables through a series of painted arches at left. The stage is slender, to be sure, enough room for a jazz group but not much else, the backdrop filled with framed art depicting performers of years past. The series of arches down the center of the space runs right into the bar itself, creating a bit of separation between sides of drinkers. The colors are deep and dark. Red painted cinder block, black arches, red neon paired with green, the hue feels almost purple.
If the front room is the spot for catching live music and doing a little impromptu dancing in the cleared out space, the second room is the place to grab a game of pool and a seat. A series of tables dot this area, providing a bit of a yin to the dance floor-dominated yang on the opposite end of Northside Tavern. Not to be outdone, it is here where Ms. Pac-Man, a jukebox, a couple of candy machines and cigarette vending can be found, rounding out the classic set of dive bar offerings. A small patio area extends from Northside Tavern’s footprint, providing a little bit of open-air drinking when the Atlanta weather cools to the point of making the space inviting.
Visually, Northside Tavern is the ultimate Atlanta dive bar, the mix of neon, paint, cinder block and location that makes it obvious why the site has crept into a handful of movies over the years. Though drink prices have crept up a little bit over the years, the steady diet of live music, the clear appeal of the space and the comforting dim lighting within make Northside Tavern a worthy Atlanta dive bar entry.