decatur city guide

Illustration by Julia Rothman

Today’s Decatur City Guide is brought to us by Carla Schwartz, a native of Decatur and writer for the interior design blog decorativity. She has graciously shared with us a wonderful guide to eating, shopping and enjoying this Georgian city. Thanks, Carla, for a wonderful peek into this Southern gem of a town! — Stephanie

CLICK HERE for the full guide after the jump!

This gem of a small town grown into an urban city has long been a favorite destination for Southerners, and a place for Georgians who want a relaxed but metropolitan atmosphere to call home. Decatur has maintained its earthy, organic charm but offers hip and exciting options for a variety of tastes. Downtown Decatur, the center of the city, is built around a historic courthouse. This hub, Decatur Square, is a great place to listen to the seasonal music offerings in the gazebo and to picnic on the lawn. It’s also the center of year-round events and festivals for locals and visitors alike. The downtown is the site of many businesses, the modern courthouse, Decatur High School and picturesque Agnes Scott College (my mom’s alma mater!), a popular site for movies filmed in Atlanta. But the shops, restaurants and entertainment venues are what make Decatur “greater.” They are the city’s strong heartbeat and what make this area with a small-town sensibility such a big-city destination.

One of Decatur’s biggest draws is that it’s walkable and family friendly. In fact, Decatur was just named “most walkable city in Georgia” by the website, based on its proximity to surrounding amenities. Because Decatur is so accessible and friendly, I have been able to explore its city life from the time I was a young child. From eating burgers at the Brick Store (long before I was old enough to sample their famous beer menu) to checking out the sophisticated clothing in Squash Blossom to falling in love with music at Eddie’s Attic’s all-ages shows, Decatur has had my heart. Downtown Decatur is worth spending a whole day exploring. If you want to spend the day there, here are the places to go and things to see from morning until night!

Wake Up

Dancing Goats: Newer to Decatur within the last few years, Dancing Goats serves up Batdorf & Bronson coffee in a hip, clean space with an industrial feel.

Java Monkey: 425 Church St.; (404) 378-5002. A Decatur classic, and a laid-back spot to study or catch up with friends. Grab a seat on a couch while you read the morning paper. This is not just an AM java spot, though. Later in the day, enjoy a glass of wine at the bar, or listen to live music on the covered patio.

Pastries A Go Go: A fun and delicious restaurant and bakery with a mouth-watering selection of pastries and brunch food to get you going.


Blue Elephant Book Shop: A cozy new independent bookstore in a bungalow with lots of nooks and crannies and a great selection around every corner.

Decatur CD: Indie record stores are a dying breed. You know the type: local concert posters on the walls, a mix of obscure and popular bands, classics on vinyl, a staff that hand-picked the selection and knows it by heart. Decatur CD has kept the concept alive and maintained its grungy charm for years.

Decatur Public Library: Nestled in a tree-lined street, this is one of the largest and most beautiful libraries in DeKalb County. The library offers really great author talks and events through its sponsorship of the Georgia Center for the Book, the state affiliate of the Library of Congress.

Little Shop of Stories: An adorable and dreamy children’s bookstore with bright colors and high ceilings, quality selection and lots of spaces to explore and curl up with a book. The shop sponsors lively community events like summer camps, book clubs, classes and weekly story times.


Alexia Gallery: This gallery houses unique handmade jewelry and crafts. The gallery features over 100 artists, both local and global, and there’s a gemologist on staff. They love showcasing their artists’ works and acquainting them with the buyer.

Decatur Market and Gallery: The co-op concept is growing in Decatur. This gallery and shop has 20 artists working and sharing space together. It’s a fun place to visit — it’s great to see painters, jewelers, sculptors and more supporting each other to help their businesses thrive.

HomeGrown Decatur: Another creative co-op, this funky and fun shop currently features handmade works from 70 local artists.

The Seen Gallery: A unique variety of fine art, glass, sculpture, ceramics and photography. Bright, vivid colors and interesting shapes and angles are on display at every turn.

Wild Oats and Billy Goats: A perfect new addition to Downtown Decatur, this gallery features eclectic folk art, jewelry, pottery and sculptures. Decatur is a combination of folksy and organic and urban and modern, and these fresh offerings will serve the city well.

Worthmore Jewelry: Jewelry and metal works in a warm environment that features local art on the gallery walls.


Agilest Collections: Agilest carries an extensive catalog of elegant modern furniture from the best brands like Knoll and Vitra. This is a cool new concept shop with a variety of home goods and furniture samples, sharing space with an eco-friendly boutique. In this new shared space, you’ll also find design consultation services and community classes in a variety of creative subjects.

Blue Moon Designs: 418 Church St.; (404) 378-1114. The rambling old house will draw you in with its huge front porch and crystal doorknobs. Inside, a jam-packed selection of tasteful gifts and antique goods for your home and garden are tucked into each room.

Boogaloos: A chic and fresh clothing and accessories boutique for modern professional women.

Collage: 114 E. Ponce de Leon Ave.; (404) 377-1280. A great source for beautiful Indian garments, accessories and home goods.

The Cook’s Warehouse and Sherlock’s Wine Merchant: A wide array of kitchen tools and a vast selection of wines will turn anyone into a top chef or sommelier. Seeing all the supplies here makes me want to cook more frequently, and trust me, that’s saying something.

Feather Baby: An adorable store for organic baby clothes and accessories and eco-chic nursery decor. This is a great place to find a gift for a baby shower or a new mom.

Heliotrope: A personal favorite boutique with modern furnishings, stylish home accessories and irreverent gifts. Heliotrope stocks selections from amazing designers and artists such as Jonathan Adler, Xenia Taler, Orla Kiely, Charley Harper and Sukie. This is a design-lover’s haven, so make sure you stop in and explore.

Melrose on Ponce: A charming cottage gift shop with a mix of antique and contemporary items. Melrose also offers monogramming services for a personalized touch. I love coming here to hunt for the prettiest flea-market-style finds I know I won’t see anywhere else.

Mingei World Arts: Home to vibrant ethnic products from Asia and Mexico. You’re sure to find an unusual gift or piece of art from a faraway culture.

The Seventeen Steps: 235 W. Ponce de Leon Ave. Suite M; (404) 377-7564. Lovely traditional gifts and stationery in a welcoming and friendly environment. Staff will help you pick out just the right gift for anyone on your list.

Sheepish: Choose from a large selection of yarn and knitting supplies, then pull up a chair and work on your creations.

Squash Blossom Boutique: Another Decatur classic. Clothing and accessories infused with the city’s signature hippie-chic.

Taste: A well-curated selection of kitchenware and dining decor. These finds are ahead of the curve on style and originality.

Vivid Boutique: Another personal favorite; an affordable, Anthropologie-esque vintage treat. Enjoy beautiful, romantic gifts and decor, and watch the owner create handmade jewelry while you shop.


Core Performance Company: A contemporary dance and performance studio in the heart of Decatur Square. This studio reaches out to the public with live performances, dance education and community involvement.

DeKalb History Center: Housed in the Old Courthouse on the Square, the History Center offers a small museum with local exhibits, educational programs for adults, children’s programs held throughout the year, and the DeKalb County Archives. The Old Courthouse is also a popular event facility, available for weddings, meetings and other special occasions.

Eddie’s Attic: This can’t-miss Decatur jewel is one of the premier music venues in the nation. The Attic has launched the careers of John Mayer, Sugarland and the Indigo Girls. Known for its warm atmosphere with twinkling lights, wood floors and great food, manager Eddie Owen has cultivated a “listening environment” where the artist is truly highlighted and respected.

Eat and Drink

Brick Store Pub: Always loved among locals, and now one of the most popular pubs around. It’s worth the wait to get to the impressively extensive beer list and enjoy the atmosphere. Streetlamps, wooden barrels and leather-bound menus make you feel like you may have stumbled into a Hobbit watering hole in Middle Earth — in the hippest possible way.

Café Alsace: Authentic French food with a quaint and romantic atmosphere. It’s perfect for a date night!

Café Lily: A swanky tapas lounge offering food with a Mediterranean flair.

Cakes and Ale: A conceptual, refined restaurant and bar with an adventurous but sophisticated menu sourced from local and sustainable ingredients.

Carpe Diem: A cool and cozy space tucked away just a few blocks from the Decatur Square. Friendly service and a warm, inviting atmosphere complement the continental fare. The large patio is perfect for a relaxed lunch, and the lounge for after-work cocktails. Two private dining rooms are available for meetings and parties.

El Tesoro: Fresh Mexican food in a cool old house with a wonderful front lawn for lazy outdoor lounging.

Eurasia Bistro: Serene, refined Pan-Asian cuisine in an elegant setting.

Farm Burger: A sustainable, farm-to-table burger joint. Grassfed beef burgers come with a great variety of toppings and sides. This is a fun new addition to the Decatur community, deliciously capitalizing on the burger trend with an organic spin.

Farmstead 303: Located in the historic Decatur Depot — a former train station over 100 years old — this restaurant works closely with local farms and houses their own garden on the property.

The Iberian Pig: This restaurant and bar is getting rave reviews from locals for creating delicious Spanish dishes using extremely high-quality ham and pork. It’s definitely a unique and exciting new addition to Decatur’s restaurant scene.

Leon’s Full Service: The Brick Store’s hip younger sibling, this former gas station is now a modern restaurant with bocce ball courts on the lawn to entertain you while you wait and sophisticated pub food.

Mac McGee Irish Pub: A cozy but lively pub; a great place to catch up on sports and drink fine whiskeys.

The Marlay House: Less crowded than other pubs, it’s a great option for catching up with friends around a roaring fire. I love the elegant and traditional Irish decor.

Parker’s on Ponce: Sleek and sophisticated, this steakhouse is a great place for a business lunch, rehearsal dinner or any special occasion.

Raging Burrito and Raging Taco: This creative and delicious burrito joint has one of the prettiest patios in all of Decatur. It’s my favorite spot for a leisurely lunch with chips and salsa on a sunny day. For the late-night crowd, Raging Taco opened just next door with a fun selection of drinks.

Sweet Melissa’s: A longstanding restaurant and catering company in the heart of the Square. Come for brunch — the homefries are not to be missed.

Sushi Avenue: 308 C W Ponce de Leon Ave.; (404) 378-8488. Sushi and more — according to a friend who lived in Japan, this restaurant offers the best and most authentic Japanese food in metro Atlanta. Pleasant atmosphere and friendly, efficient wait staff. Sushi Avenue is tucked away but well worth looking for.

Taqueria del Sol: Locals are always willing to wait in a fast-moving line for fresh tacos, homemade guacamole and yummy frozen margaritas.

Twain’s: A fun bar and restaurant and a great place to bring a crowd of friends. Reserve your place to play shuffleboard, darts or pool.

Watershed: Owned by Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls, this well-known restaurant excels at producing elegant and sophisticated Southern soul food. Try the fried chicken!


The Chocolate Bar: Chocolate appetizers, chocolate cocktails, chocolate for dessert. Sound good? I thought so.

Greene’s Fine Foods: An old-fashioned candy shop that could make childhood dreams come true. The store itself is large and whimsical with a huge selection of fudge, candy, nuts and other delectable snacks.

The Yogurt Tap: Enjoy just as much of the good stuff and toppings as you want in this fun self-serve yogurt shop. Yes, you get to pull the machine handles yourself and create your tasty treat.


The Garden House Bed and Breakfast: Five minutes from Downtown Decatur, The Garden House offers a quiet and peaceful retreat. It’s run by lifelong Decatur residents, and you’re sure to feel pampered by the personable service.

Holiday Inn Select Decatur: In the heart of the city, this is a great hotel for conferences and special events or if you want to stay close to the action.

The University Inn at Emory: Just 10 minutes from downtown Decatur, Emory University and its programs attract scholars from all over the world. The University Inn is quaint, charming and hospitable.


Fabu Face Spa and Boutique: Part Zen spa, part clothing and accessories boutique. They also carry a great line of organic cosmetics and body care.

Salon Red and Salon Red Kids: Salon Red is known for friendly and talented hair stylists, colorists, makeup artists and estheticians in an eclectic space. The kid’s salon is also stocked with cute toys and children’s products.

Terra Mater Salon: Earthy, artsy and environmentally friendly. Come here for a unique and indulgent salon and spa experience.

  1. Kelly K says:

    Stellar review. I lived in Cabbagetown for 2 years not far from Decatur before leaving for Baltimore (which I now love too) – the review makes me miss it.

    Is Victory Vintage not there anymore? I could’ve missed a mention of it in my excitement to read the post/comments. The shop is small but has a concise collection of post modern furniture and vintage school supplies and charts – at reasonable rates.

    Also vote for Dekalb Farmer’s Market and a drive by of Paste mag HQ.

  2. Courtney says:

    Don’t forget to check out Sun in My Belly for breakfast and lunch. Seriously, the best bacon ever. (Though I’ve never had anything there that wasn’t amazing!)

    It’s technically about 1 block into Atlanta, but it’s right down the street from Agnes Scott so I still consider it Decatur.

    Great post!

  3. Wallis says:

    A long time resident of Decatur, I have to add a few wonderful places that are not right downtown, but are in the city and deserve a mention.
    1. The Corner Pub just down Dekalb Ave, a cozy, everyone-knows-everyone and-drinks-together atmosphere, with a terrific menu
    2. MudFire Gallery is a fine gallery, gift shop and school for all things pottery and clay related. I go here for handmade wedding and holiday gifts and have gotten a lot of very nice pieces for my house. Super knowledgeable and friendly gallery staff
    3. Finders Keepers consignment store – two separate shops, one for very nice clothes and the other for lightly used furniture. Definitely worth a visit. High quality.


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