In September of 1996, I was living and working in Dallas, Texas when I found out I was being transferred to Atlanta. As much as I loved Dallas, I must admit it felt really good to be going back to the "true" South. Before actually moving here, though, I took a weekend to visit Atlanta and figure out where I wanted to live. It was late afternoon on a Friday when I was driving down Peachtree Road and passed by a Mexican joint called Rio Grande. The place itself wasn't much to look at, but the patio was unbelievable. It extended out all the way to Peachtree Road, and it was packed with people. Not just your typical happy hour bar crowd, either. There were families, kids, regulars, you name it...all having a great time on the patio, enjoying an amazing Atlanta fall evening. I was immediately sold. For the next 8 or 9 years, Rio Grande was my favorite place to sit on a patio, throw back margaritas and bring the week to a close.
A few years ago, however, Rio Grande shut its doors and was completely torn down. Ironically, where it used to be now sits one of my favorite places in town -- Holeman & Finch Public House. I love this place for two reasons: it has some of the best
bartenders mixologists in town, and, in my opinion, it has the best hamburger in town...or maybe the country...depending on who you ask.
Whereas I most certainly appreciate anyone that can make a good drink, it's not the "mixologist" aspect of H & F that I admire the most. There are plenty of places in Atlanta that are known for their drinks or the people that serve them. And, I should point out, there are also just as many places that are known to have the best burger. But H & F does it a little differently...
Each night at 10 o'clock, a portable bullhorn is held up by one of the staff and "It's burger time!!" comes screaming out. At this time, 24 double cheeseburgers are available and served to the lucky customers that placed orders in time. But when those 24 are gone, that's it. That's why on almost any night of the week, if you're in there around 9 o'clock or so, you'll definitely notice the atmosphere shift from cool and calm to crazy and chaotic...but with style.
Every time I sit on a barstool at Holeman & Finch, the irony slowly sets in...especially as the clock approaches 10 o'clock. A decade ago, Rio Grande would be wiping its brows at that time, ready to close its doors for the night after slinging its fair share of margaritas. But not Holeman & Finch. Things don't truly get started until the clock strikes 10. That's when people cram in to witness pure heaven on buns with hand-cut fries and homemade ketchup on the side.