Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dark Horse Tavern

816 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta, GA

Last Friday night my friend Erin and I had dinner at the Dark Horse Tavern. The Tavern is located in the heart of Virginia Highlands, always a pleasant and popular area. Except for the parking, which will either cost you $5 at one of several lots or will be free if you choose to park down a residential street, likely far, far away from the restaurant.

Some people like to enjoy their summer meals on bright, cheerful patios with frou-frou cocktails and loud, laughing conversations. This is me in the early spring (although I'm not usually loud), before the temperature rises above 80 degrees. Other people like to take cover in a cool, dark tavern alongside drunks who sing Bon Jovi tunes at the top of their lungs (which I find oddly amusing, as long as the crooner is brief). If you find this scenario appealing, the Dark Horse Tavern is the place for you.

Erin and I began with the loaded tavern tots appetizer ($6.99). This was sinfully delicious. Golden fried tater tots topped with crispy bacon, cheese, green onions and a side of sour cream. Not a diet food, but a great menu item. I'd happily return to the Tavern for more of this.

For our entrees, Erin and I both elected to build our own burgers, which starts at $6.95. The patty itself can be your choice of beef, buffalo, chicken, portabella mushroom, or black-bean chipotle veggie. You'll also get a choice of 5 breads. From there you add however little or much you like of toppings ranging from queso to Kalamata olives to chili, which vary in price. Of course, I want all the expensive additional toppings, like guacamole ($1.50). Another cool topping at this price point is fried green tomatoes.

Both Erin and I really liked our burgers, although I ordered mine medium and received sort of a medium rare. This wasn't enough to prevent me from eating it though, and I give it a thumbs up. Just keep in mind when you're building that you may end up with a $10 burger.

Along with the build burgers, Dark Horse Tavern offers common pub choices like wings, specialty burgers, fish n' chips, chicken tenders and sandwiches. There's a country fried steak on the menu I'd like to try in the future.

The beer menu is so-so. You'll find all the boring regulars (Amstel, Bud, Coors), along with a better category which includes Guinness, Smithwick's, Edison Light and a few local brews from Sweetwater and Terrapin. Nothing too "out there", which means that the Tavern won't be on my short list of pub favorites.

My only real complaint? It's smoky, like so many bars where 75% of the patrons light up at the stroke of 10pm. The whole restaurant has that ingrained smoke smell that will transfer itself onto your clothes, hair, lungs, etc.

My best advice is to have dinner at the Dark Horse Tavern and then walk a couple of doors down to Blind Willie's for a few beers and some great blues. Sandra Hall and the Shadows brought the house down when we saw them last Friday.

Verdict: Great loaded tater tots, unexciting beer selection.


  1. I think the people who associate al fresco dining with summer are yankees.

  2. I think people who associate al fresco dining with summer secretly like bugs in their food.

    The only place I actually like to eat out doors is at a bar in Geneva, New York because you can watch the local skateboard punks bloody their shins going down the steep incline of the street outside.

  3. Y'know --- I've lived in Atlanta a quarter of a century and I don't know that I've ever been to the Dark Horse tavern -- I usually don't go that far down North Highland.

    On the other hand, I would pay money to see Southern Foodie drink a frou-frou cocktail. I'm having a hard time imagining it.

  4. Southern Foodie does in fact drink frou-frou cocktails on occasion. In fact, last night Kyle and I made bellinis. They were good, but a far cry from the original served at Harry's Bar, Venice.

    Of course, I proudly admit to being a "beer gal".

  5. I don't know if I'd call bellinis "frou-frou." I'm thinking more along the lines of drinks that have silly names and come in day-glo colors.

    As for me and mine, beer and gin (with tonic or a suspicion of vermouth) will sustain us.