It’s always a good idea to ask a local where to go – especially if they’re as friendly as DJ, who has come all the way from LA to “Transplanta” in order to study medicine. We were working out in Piedmont Park and had started chatting.
“Go to Li’l Five Points”, he said while doing pull-ups with no shirt on.
“It’s kinda a cool place with lots of bars, shops and hipsters.” I don’t know why, but I instinctively trusted him.
When I ran this past my airbnb host, who studies Management Science or something similarly clued up, he seemed hesitant. “It’s the sort of places where people wear no deodorant”, he cautioned me.
“But if you want a good burger, you should try The Vortex.”
The same night, I was ubering over. With still an hour or two to go until sunset, the light had started to mellow, bathing everything in a gentle glow. There’s nothing gentle about the Vortex though. Everything about it is in yer face; the entrance is a massive skull. Walking into the dim bar, I made out all kinds of bric-a-brac – street signs, shark heads, motorbikes and skulls – which gave the place some atmosphere and made me feel quite daring and rebellious. I got myself a table on the first floor verandah and opted for the Ragin’ Cajun burger, slightly worried by the menu, which has been written by a ginormous cock:
“Topped with our zesty Cajun sauce and pepper jack cheese. If you show your titties when it comes to the table, you’ll feel just like you’re in N’awlins.”
Still, when my charming and refreshingly unpretentious waitress brought my food, it was truly scrumptious. Note to management: tone down your menu and let the burger do the talking.
As I was munching on my delectable chow, I mused how right DJ had been. Little Five Points is shopping heaven. For shoes, there’s Wish right across from the Vortex – sadly already closed by the time I had finished my meal. If rummaging in piles of vintage clothes is your thing, try the Clothing Warehouse, the Junkman’s Daughter, Psycho Sisters or my favourite, Ragorama. On its huge shopfloor, there’s an endless supply of cool stuff to browse: vintage tees, unusual jeans, trendy jackets and all manner of jewellery and accessories. I picked up two pairs of jeans at ten bucks apiece (one a light petrol blue I’ve never seen before), a pair of very stylish shades (just a tenner) and a handful of T-shirts at $3.99 each.
Vinyl lovers will feel right at home at Criminal Records and Wax ‘n’ Facts, which has been going since 1976. And finally, if you want some body art, the Southern Star (“Atlanta’s Newest and Finest Tattoo Shop”) looks impressive – as does decorative glass emporium Crystal Blue.
With my new purchases crammed into my backpack, I skated up and down the street for a bit, checking out the vibe. My host and even the Vortex waitress had warned me to be cautious; there were “bums panhandling”, she said. Worried about my laptop, I was, perhaps, hyper-vigilant and not very approachable. Later I thought how well-mannered the area really was. Maybe Americans are easily scared, driving around, as they do, in air-conditioned cars from point to point. Or maybe I just missed a robbery at gunpoint by five minutes.
I finished up the night with a Zesto’s artificial ice cream, sterilised with atomic rays. While waiting for the gooey cone, a local favelado came in wearing indoor sandals on his feet and a girl on his arm. Soon the nuzzling started.
Outside was parked a white convertible the size of a small yacht – a 1970s Eldorado. The owner was a dude in his forties with a small Black Power fist in his fro. Still, he didn’t mind me taking his picture. I left at midnight, determined to come back another time, when all the shops are open.