Playtime: Three Restaurants Tailored To Grown-Up Fun 1

Date Night Spots in South Fulton 
and Downtown Atlanta

“Get out of the house free” cards are hard to come by. With work and kids, along with community and family responsibilities, there’s very little time to let loose. Still there are moments when being grown is totally worth it, when a night or even day on the town can do wonders. And nothing re-energizes like a fantastic restaurant. Great ambiance, food and drinks go a long way. Below are three options, near and far, worth cashing in those cards.

The Pecan

3725 Main Street
College Park, GA 30337


On the Southside, The Pecan is hardly a secret. For ten years now, Chef Tony Morrow has filled a much-needed void with this casual fine dining institution located across the train depot on Main Street in College Park. Though mere minutes away from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, The Pecan is an oasis of calm and serenity. Downhome yet elegant, the main dining area is distinguished by the 1917 “Drink Coca-Cola” advertisement on exposed brick on the restaurant’s main wall. There is also theatrical red drapery that is a throwback many would argue is a good carryover from the Old South. Because it’s an intimate space roughly seating 85, The Pecan is ideal for date night. Live music, usually a saxophonist, amps up the romance.

As for food, the shrimp and grits is a crowd pleasing entrée, dinner and brunch, or more precisely, blackened shrimp with Cajun crème sauce over pepper jack grits. The Tybee Island Crab Cake is a staple appetizer, but makes for an even heartier entrée when it is twinned.  True carnivores will love the Rib Eye. And to get the best of both worlds, the Surf and Turf with the rib eye and fried lobster tail might just do the trick.

When it comes to libations, the wine list is quite varied among Pinot Noir, Riesling, Champagne and more, with many by the glass options. Bottomless mimosas enhance Sunday brunch, which leans toward more family-oriented, than romance. For a non-alcoholic option, the peach iced tea is an especially sweet treat. For true sweetness though, desserts like peach cobbler and, of course, the pecan pie should not be denied.

For special occasions like Valentine’s Day, secure reservations as early as possible. Some folks even started back in December. Weekend nights can get very busy as well. But, in general, securing reservations is quite easy and walking in can work as well for those who like to be spontaneous. All in all what Tuskegee alum Chef Tony Morrow has created is very special.  Keeping it close to home never fails when The Pecan is handling the meal.

Negril Village

30 North Avenue NE

Atlanta, GA 30308


Located in a former firehouse dating back to the early 1900s, this New York transport, a welcomed edition to Midtown Atlanta for nearly two years now, is beautifully upscale yet refreshingly laid back. With its distinctive and elegant wood moldings set off by mirrors, the 30-foot marble bar, which grounds the space, conjures a colonial vibe that harkens back to the very early United States and the islands too where the English influence was unmistakable. It’s also very spacious. In addition to a patio that is truly a slice of heaven on a fantastic day, there’s the main dining room and an eclectically decorated vintage upstairs that gets quite festive.

As the name suggests, Jamaica is the anchor but Negril Village serves as a united Caribbean of flavors as well. Codfish Fritters served with avocado puree, as well as the Ackee Tostones, Empanadas (choice of oxtail or chicken) and Jerk Wings are trusted starters. Popular entrée choices include the Ginger-Lime Brick Chicken, Negril’s Oxtails, Jerk Chicken N’ Waffles, Lobster Shrimp N’ Grits and, of course, the Jerk Chicken. When it comes to sides, the Mac and Cheese is a consistent winner.

Drinks is another area in which Negril shines. Its rum bar, with roughly 60 rums, is especially noteworthy. Standouts in the dark rum category include Plantation Rum from Barbados, Diplomatico Reserva Exclusivo from Venezuela and Zafra 21-Year-Old Master’s Reserve Panama Rum. Avua Prata is one of the cachaças, a sugarcane-based spirit that is rum-esque and has been Brazil’s national spirit for centuries, Negril also stocks regularly. The cocktail menu is impressive as well. The Village Island Rum Punch, which is truly something special, is house-made from a proprietary family recipe. Red Stripe from Jamaica, Prestige from Haiti and Presidente from the Dominican Republic are a sampling of the Caribbean beer offerings. And, of course, there is also a wine list.

Live entertainment upstairs, where food is also served, typically adds extra spice to weekends and it is not unheard of for gifted singers like Phillipia to be among the featured artists. DJs spinning reggae, along with R&B and hip-hop, are also in regular rotation. Speaking of music, brunch is especially popular at Negril, with even Usher dropping in. Reservations are always good of course but there is almost always room for an unexpected two more.

White Oak Kitchen and Cocktails

270 Peachtree Street NW

Atlanta, GA 30303


Since celebrated Atlanta chef Todd Richards, of Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, The Shed at Glenwood and The Pig and the Pearl fame, became executive chef, White Oak Kitchen and Cocktails is one of the best hidden gems in Downtown Atlanta. Located on the corner of Baker and Peachtree, right across from the Hyatt Regency, White Oak is an understated pleasure. The spaciousness and country chic interior catch most off guard. Floor-to-ceiling windows outline the main dining area, allowing for sunshine in the day and moonlight in the night. Accents of the South are felt through the wood tables, wooded walls, assorted wooden barrels and oversized honeycomb-esque light fixtures. And, most of all, the food.

Unlike a lot of chefs of his caliber, Richards doesn’t run away from the flavors of the South. He instead looks for more innovative ways to infuse new life into traditional dishes. For example, the catfish entrée takes some cues from a Japanese dish and the result is an elegant experience, with hush puppies to boot, that encourages foodie exploration. The Cornish hen, made with an eggplant puree, is another standout, as is the crab cake. Dessert isn’t complete without the house-made butter pecan ice cream and sweet potato cheesecake. Also

Cocktails are indeed a craft here; hence its important inclusion in the title. The Jolene, made with Tito’s Vodka, Aperol, grapefruit, lime and orange blossom water, is noteworthy, and so is My Neighbor’s Mule, made with Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, muscadine juice and Q Ginger Beer. The non-alcoholic staple is the WOKC Seasonal Lemonade in a Jar, made with muddled seasonal fruit, lemon juice, WOKC simple syrup and splash of sparkling water. In other words, White Oak keeps spirits high in all arenas.