Kids, Booze and the Baby Boom of Oakhurst
Before we popped out our braxton-hicks, my wife and I used to single-handedly keep new restaurants in business. We often joke that the Universal Joint would never have made it were it not for our dutiful patronage, and any new place within six miles of the Gold Dome could count on at least another week in business after we rang up our bar tab and food bill. But a baby modified that quite a bit.
While we still go out to eat more than we should, our dining requirements have steered us toward kid friendly establishments in our neighborhood. Thankfully,we live in the city and don’t have to go to Shoneys or Outback Steakhouse! You see, Intown restaurants know the magical combination that will keep parents coming back for more: good food, kid-friendly environment, and plenty of booze.
The neighborhood we live in is particularly well-suited for our needs. East Lake is adjacent to Oakhurst Village, a small area of Decatur with rapidly-shifting demographics. We’ve lived here since ’99 (moved from Ormewood Park after we were priced out), and while many people have been “in the know” about East Lake and Oakhurst, this past winter and spring, “the shift” happened. Babies are literally *everywhere* as new families snatch up the last few remaining affordable homes. We have met people from all over the country who have moved to Atlanta — specifically targeting Oakhurst and East Lake — because of the buzz. The jump in prices has brought in the Yuppie contingent (I say that without a sneer because, well, even if I write for Metblogs and drink at the Earl, I’m still a formerly-Young, urban professional). The Universal Joint is almost always completely full. The latin-hip Full Devil Moon is a jumpin’ joint. Billie Goat’s Cantina packs them in for strong margaritas on the weekend. And while all of this is good for the affluent, unattached and transient, it can also be far from ideal for children. In the case of the UJ, the bar can be quite smoked-out, and Full Devil Moon & Billie Goat’s Cantina, while very kid friendly in the spirit and deed of the staff, can sometimes give off a very chilled vibe from the Date Night clientelle when your kid throws a chunk of tortilla across the room. Fortunately, a new breed of restaurant and a new set of traditions has taken hold in our neighborhood.
On Fridays, Mojo Pizza is the unofficial KidsNight of Decatur. Families from all around bring in their little terrorist, who proceed to run around the restaurant as maniacs while the parents partake in pitchers of draft beer. For the non-kid-aligned, the environment could best be summarized as hell. But to the breeders and adopters, it’s heaven: parents help keep even other peoples’ children from climbing into the pizza oven, video games occupy the bored pre-teens, and the staff, well-aware that a strand of spaghetti thrown in their general direction is not a threat, but a treat, are patient and friendly.
The Oakhurst Grill, which occupies the seemingly-cursed spot that once purveyed total crap like the Heaping Bowl (want parmesan for your pasta? $1.50, please!) and excellent, but before-its-time Beaufain’s, has finally managed to get it together and now seems to be the strangest of blends: a date-friendly restaurant that retains its total family vibe.
On Mondays from 5-7, kids eat free at the Oakhurst Grill. Beyond that, parents can purchase a bottomless glass of wine during the same period for a mere $8.00. The combination, while a bit odd-seeming, is a hit. I’m not sure if the restaurant likes the result or not, but parents certainly seem to enjoy the buzz (from the wine) and atmosphere (kids and couples). I’ve definitely seen couples stop dead in their tracks on their way in the door. In fact, I engaged one in conversation, and the woman commented: “the combination of kids and unlimited wine seems dangerous to me.”