First Look: Braves All Star Grill
The Atlanta baseball-themed sports bar serves up stadium-inspired grub DowntownMonday June 22, 2015 04:00 am EDT
Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" automatically plays in my head upon entering the Braves All Star Grill located Downtown on Peachtree Street. Near the entrance there's a glassed display re-creating the locker stalls of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. It's all there: jerseys, cleats, gloves, caps, all neatly arranged and artfully lit for an optimal photo op. The interior feels like an old ballpark with red brick and steel girders. It is packed with plenty of Braves memorabilia, most of it celebrating that extraordinary 1990s stretch — a Javy Lopez ball, a Ryan Klesko jersey, Fred McGriff's '94 All-Star MVP trophy!
Though just two months old, the restaurant hearkens back to those World Series days. It puts on a glitzy show for out-of-towners, just like neighboring Hooters and Hard Rock Cafe. The menu is full of stadium-inspired grub, many featuring a chef-y twist like caramelized peaches tossed in a salad or a fried egg on the burger. A roster of more refined but easy-going entrées such as cedar plank salmon and smoked beef brisket, plus an extensive spirits and beer selection complement all the sports bar classics and ballpark snacks.
Inside, the baseball theme is driven home throughout. There are tableside pails of caramel popcorn. There's a gift shop for foam tomahawk purchases and museum-caliber artwork on the walls amid the 27 TVs airing every sport imaginable. There's even a pitching cage where five bucks buys five balls to hurl past the radar gun.
Three different staffers recommended the Ultimate Cheese Burger ($15) as the kitchen's signature item. The perfectly fine Angus patty is topped with blue cheese, cheddar, candied bacon, fried onion straws, and the house sweet-meets-heat Hotlanta sauce, all served on a brioche bun that has the restaurant logo actually branded into the bread.
The humble ballpark hot dog also gets an upgrade. The foot-long Braves dog ($12) is the top seller both Downtown and at the restaurant's original location on Hartsfield-Jackson's Concourse D. The beef frank is loaded with cheese, onions, relish, slaw, and jalapeños — like you'd find at the Ted — but also doused with homemade brisket chili. The jalapeño corn dog, a cheese-studded sausage encased in spicy cornbread and fried, was tasty, but has since been removed from the menu as the restaurant continues to tweak its lineup.
Longtime locals will note the influence of parent company Goldbergs Group, you know, of Goldbergs Deli. The menu is peppered with favorites like a New York Reuben and grilled cheese on challah, as well as mashups like a smoked salmon/potato pancake appetizer and egg rolls stuffed with corned beef.
The entrées can be hit and miss. Beer can chicken ($17) was overly smoky and had rubbery skin. On the other hand, the al dente orecchiette mac and cheese ($19) tossed with Asiago cheese and meaty hunks of Maine lobster was delightful.
The bar menu features a dozen drafts plus a wide variety of bottled brews, wines, baseball-themed cocktails, and even a $79 bottle of champagne. For a unique beer experience, try the 96-ounce pour-your-own beer tower full of Tomahawk Ale, a draft you can only get here or inside Turner Field.
Seating can be tricky during sports games, Braves or otherwise, as the Hawks' recent playoff run proved. And there's often a lunch rush, thanks to the influx of nearby office workers and Downtown tourists. If Braves All Star Grill is your destination, consider making reservations or visiting on a slow sports night. There is an $8.99 express lunch menu Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-3 p.m., and weekend brunch is also an option 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Expect standards like wings and pulled pork sandwiches with the former, classic eggs Benedict, aka Braves Benedict ($10), buttermilk pancakes ($6), and bottomless mimosas or Bloody Marys ($10) at the latter. Because it's Downtown, parking can be a headache. The restaurant offers $5 validation, but only if you park in one specific lot between Fairlie and Cone streets.
Between families on their way to a game, weekday lunchers, and game-watchers filling the quirky, stadium-seat barstools, the Braves All Star Grill is exactly what it needs to be: festive and approachable. Come 2017, this will be the team's only presence left in Atlanta proper. The prices feel a tad elevated, but they're on par with the other restaurants along that stretch of Peachtree. For a party of four to dine and drink, plan on surpassing $100 with tip, and that's before shelling out some dough at the pitching cage. Hey, a fun night at the ballpark doesn't come cheap.