Heat rises, but it’s always cooler on the top. As warm springtime weather returns, turn it up a notch by hitting the great outdoors on a roof. New places are on the scene and well-loved spots have emerged from hibernation for a new round of alfresco drinking and dining. We searched high and low (mostly high) for the best rooftop bars to enjoy a cocktail and take in brilliant vistas.
Meaning "star," Estrella twinkles above the Beltline's Eastside Trail in the former facility for Western Electric Co. Fitting. It feels like oceanfront 1950s Miami, with cerulean tiles and plush seating. Shaken and thrown in a chilled glass, a Hemingway daiquiri feels right at home here. Chef Roberto Solis' Yucatan dishes complement Latin cocktails like pisco sours and caipirinhas. Light dishes of ceviche and tempura oyster tacos pair well with the brightness of a gin and tonic. Here, you can have one crafted from a tableside gin cart (before 7 p.m.) while watching Beltline revelers skate, run, bike and stroll. And yes, the tequila and mezcal selection is vast.
550 Somerset Terrace, Atlanta. 404-795-8341, estrellarooftop.com.
A restored radio tower is your neon beacon leading the way to the stylishly revamped Hotel Clermont. Take the dedicated elevator to the sixth floor of the 1920s landmark building, and you'll find yourself on an artificial turf oasis with picnic tables, a DJ, giant Jenga, food carts and a beckoning bar. "We're going for a backyard Tiki vibe this year," says beverage director Daniel Keith. Draft beer, batched cocktails, frosé and zero-proof drinks come in takeaway plastic cups that can be seen in many Instagram photos of jaw-dropping city views. This perch is highly coveted. Hotel guests always have a spot. Those waiting their turn have the option of a text message, allowing time to visit the swanky Lobby Bar or perhaps where the ladies dance downstairs at the iconic Clermont Lounge.
789 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 470-485-0485, hotelclermont.com.
Why be perched above one hotel when you can straddle two? The new High Note is positioned between AC Hotel and Moxy Midtown six floors up with city views. There is an energy here of both rooftop refinery and coziness. The surroundings are chic and modern — shades of gray, a rectangular bar at the center and dangling light bulbs overhead. The menu is chock-full of comfort food like pimento grilled cheese, Korean-style chicken wings, tuna poke with chips and guacamole (although they call it "smashed avocado" for fanciness). A light and bright WCW made with vodka, cantaloupe shrub, lemon and mint is topped with sparkling Topo Chico and a floral garnish.
53 14th St. NW, Atlanta. 470-225-8300, highnoteatl.com.
Soak in the skyline in style atop Buckhead's W Hotel. A glass elevator soars 125 feet to the newly renovated all-weather space with two patios and sweeping views of Atlanta's skyline. A well-heeled crowd dresses to impress, backlit by Midtown lights, sitting in plush leather couches or vibrant blue sectionals, twinkling strings of light overhead. The bar is modern and sleek, edged in shiny gray subway tiles. A menu of both classic and house cocktails suits the spaces — a GG Manhattan in a leather chair or a Buckhead Spritz while strolling to see Chris Veal's 66-foot mural. The menu is concise, with pleasers like crispy duck tacos and grass-fed beef sliders.
3377 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta. 678-500-3190, gerberbars.com.
The view of Midtown's skyline from Westside's O-Ku patio is a well-kept secret. A recent roof renovation turned the 1,500-square-foot space into a hidden retreat with a retractable roof and clear vinyl panels for all-weather access. Island-inspired cocktails complement a menu of sushi and small plates on the pared-down patio menu. Bartenders stir and shake Asian ingredients like sake, soju, lemongrass and green tea into cocktails like the popular Lychee Caipirinha. Summertime ushers in frosé to go with nigiri, dragon rolls, rock shrimp tempura and vista selfies.
1085 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-500-2383, o-kusushiatl.com.
This view may not tower above the world, but it is a Mexican-flavored, open-aired oasis. Newly opened, the rooftop at Nacho Daddy overlooks the buzzy Parsons Alley outdoor amphitheater in downtown Duluth. There is a menu of nachos from appetizer size to entrees and the requisite margaritas and beers to accompany the heaping trays and flaming food. A tangy/sweet Spicy Cucumber Margarita comes in a chalice-sized glass. Note the "#gotstung" neon signage, for their signature Scorpion Shot of Cenote Reposado tequila and a whole scorpion. There is a lot of celebration when one is ordered.
3095 Main St., Duluth. 770-417-8700, nachodaddy.com.
9 Mile Station
The name is a nod to 9 Mile Circle, the trolley circuit that brought people to Ponce de Leon Avenue a century ago. While people come to 9 Mile Station for many reasons — a well-rounded cocktail menu, beer garden-style food, 12 rotating taps of beer, and nearby carnival games — they stay for the postcard-worthy view. A ride up the East freight elevator to the top of Ponce City Market presents an unobstructed panoramic view of beautiful Atlanta. Whether you are feeling smoked chicken wings or foie gras pate, the European small plates are meant to go with beer and cocktails. Gather with a meat and cheese plate, sample a beer flight, or try one of the three variations of an Old-Fashioned. On cool evenings, the experience is heightened with fire pits and fuzzy blankets while watching the sun set.
675 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 770-999-1532, 9milestation.com.
The Rooftop at Kimpton Overland
There is much more than skyline to see on the rooftop of the Kimpton Overland boutique hotel. While you sip craft cocktails and share small plates, there are views in the sky from nearby runways at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Peering down, catch all the car action from Porsche Experience Center's driver development track with 2.4 miles and 16 turns. Sriracha pimento cheese beignets and a Georgia Mule made with local Old Fourth Distillery vodka, Lawn Dart liqueur and a splash of ginger ale are big hits. Flights of bourbon, whiskey or Scotch are just right for watching runways. (Rooftop opens April 5.)
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