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decatur city guide

by Stephanie

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 Walkscore.com, 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.

Suggested For You


  • Wow, I live in Atlanta and have never heard of Little Shop of Stories. I know where my daughter’s next birthday party will be now. Thanks Carla!

  • YAY! I’m so glad that our little city has gotten it’s day in the sun. I would also love to add Kudzu (thanks Rachael) and The DeKalb Farmers Market (my favorite place in the entire greater Atlanta area.

  • This is great! And don’t forget all the great places in the Oakhurst Village section of Decatur, a hidden treasure!

  • I interned in Decatur for a semester and have to say that this guide is spot-on! You guys did wonderfully :) I can’t wait to try a few of these restaurants thatI’d never been to. I also want to offer a few of my other Decatur favourites, which are a little closer to Emory than the downtown area: Saba (pasta joint) and Eagle Eye Bookshop! Great job, Carla!

  • Thanks for the shout out for all of us Decaturians (and Atlantians, since it really is all so close together!).

    I have one addition: the Universal Joint is one of my favorites. It’s an old converted gas station in the Oakhurst neighborhood of Decatur that is now a cute bar with lots of yummy bar food. It was a beacon of hope for me during the week-long “ice and snow storm” earlier this month. I could easily walk there, and they were open before anyone else!

  • Wow! What a delight it was to see this. I grew up in Atlanta but my mom moved to Decatur a few years ago and I’ve fallen in love with it. Thanks so much for this! Decatur! Holla!

  • This is amazing. Decatur is such a fun, walkable, livable town.

    Did you know indie music lover Paste Magazine is based here? And awesome fashion bloggers http://www.asiancajuns.com? And so many more creative people.

    And the beer scene is legendary. In addition to the Brick Store Pub and Leons, I’d nominate craft beer + supply shopt Ale Yeah Beer [http://www.aleyeahbeer.com] to be added to the list. And DO NOT miss the epic yearly Decatur Beer Fest held every October.

  • Well, what do you know! I visit my favorite blog, and there’s one of my favorite spots in my big city front and center! What a nice surprise. :o)

  • I love this! I moved to Atlanta last summer and haven’t had a chance to check out Decatur yet. This guide has definitely inspired me to make a trip there soon and explore! Thanks for all the great suggestions!

  • Thanks everyone for your sweet comments and support so far~they mean so much to me! I just love Decatur so much and I know anyone who has lived or visited there feels the same. I kept the guide basically walkable from the downtown area because Decatur is SO dense with places to see, but I definitely love Oakhurst, Emory Village and the Farmer’s Market area!

  • Pretty sure that El Tesoro is closing this week, and Eurasia Bistro closed within the past year.

    Also, visit Agnes Scott! We’re consistently ranked at the top of those most beautiful college campuses lists. And another vote for Kudzu! So, so, so cool.

    This guide seems like somebody just went through the Wikipedia entry for businesses in Decatur, without incorporating much fact-checking or personal flair. :( It’s a shame — Decatur is an awesome place and deserves a more interesting guide.

  • How nice to go to my favorite website and see my town featured. Two additional points:
    Decatur is at least as dog-friendly as it is family-friendly. Nice and walkable with plenty of parks for kids and pets.

    My very favorite place around here is Your Dekalb Farmers Market. Which, of course, is not actually a farmers market. And it’s not walkable. But it is AMAZING, worth renting a car to visit and shop and buy unbelievable produce and spices that you’ve never seen, and at ridiculously reasonably prices. Yum yum.

  • Just subscribed to the blog-love what you have been putting out! It gets my morning off to a creative start.
    kc-in the Mile High

  • I live in Decatur and love the write up! You forgot my new favorite watering hole – The Square Pub opened about 3 months ago. Its located between MacMcgee’s and the Iberian Pig. You’ll have to check it out.

  • I feel like I’ve discovered I have a half-sister I never knew of – (sorry Oprah I couldn’t resist.) I mean of course, its comforting to see how many followers of my favorite blog live nearby. Maybe we should start wearing Design Sponge buttons so we can know each other in public. I am not in love with living in ATL, but if I have to be here, I am grateful I live in Decatur/ Oakhurst.

  • Yay! Another hometown shoutout! Atlanta/Decatur in two days! Although I have to say, I remember back in the day (1982ish) the Indigo Girls were also doing lotsa gigs at The Point in L5P –

  • Have to give a second mention to Your Dekalb International Farmers Market. We live 3 hours away from Decatur now but still shop at YDIFM. Make sure you bring your debit card, they don’t take credit. Didn’t see By Hand South listed. Wondering if they’ve gone out of business.

  • Ohhhh—this is wonderful. I grew up in Decatur (from birth through high school) and have sweet memories of the area. It was so long ago that none of the places mentioned sound familiar, but I’m glad the town has maintained its appeal and grown with the times to keep it. I’m a girl of the West (SF, Seattle, Rocky Mtns.) now, but would sure love to go back for a visit! Thank you for this. My little hometown heart is warmed. :o)

  • Oh I’m so glad to see this guide come out! I recently moved BACK to Decatur since growing up there. Carla, I want to commend you on such a great list of places! So wonderful to see all the fellow Decaturites that read design*sponge… I’m talking to you Judy!

  • Wonderful guide, Carla! Decatur will always have a piece of my heart: I bought my first piece of real estate there because I loved the cozy, college-town feel.

    I see that you’ve listed my fave Sweet Melissa’s, their pancakes give me life.

    I would also suggest Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market if only to stroll for samples!

  • Glad to see Decatur on the ‘map’ :)
    I like the variety, but I agree with Emily above that the list could be edited a bit.

    Cakes & Ale is a nationally recognized and James Beard nominated restaurant, it deserves better! Some restaurants, while interesting, I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. Others are about the best ever (read: Steinbeck’s in Oakhurst).

    And, I would add the farmer’s market. It’s an institution!

  • I saw the header and was wondering what other city in the US was also called Decatur but nope, it’s the one in Georgia! Cool!

    I LOVE Iberian Pig!!! Delicious! Must-try the meatballs and sangria.

  • Thanks for sharing this! I moved away from Decatur a few years ago for school and I miss it, so this guide was lovely to see. I love that this followed the Seoul city guide: another place I want to revisit!

  • Ha! when I first looked, I thought, “Decatur? Who would go to Decatur? Might want to add, GA to the post so no one’s confused with the less cool Decatur, IL.

  • yay, so happy to see my city in the guides!!!

    i agree that kudzu antiques should absolutely be listed in shopping + the dekalb farmers market is definitely a must-see. also, steinbeck’s in oakhurst has amazing shrimp + grits : ) something to possibly add to the ‘do’ listings would be try out a class at decatur yoga & pilates- i’ve been to a ton of yoga studios around the country and it’s one of my very favorites!

    the city of decatur hosts a ton of events throughout the year (beer festival, wine tasting, book festival, garden tour of homes, free concerts on the square every saturday in may + september, etc) so check out this website link ( http://www.decaturga.com/events.aspx ) before you visit to see what’s going on!

  • I think this is fabulous! You definitely hit many of my faves and others I’ve never experienced before. Looking forward to delving into some of these new places for me!

    I can definitely tell that this guide involved so much personal attention and a true, in-depth native’s perspective! LOVE IT!

  • I grew up in Decatur, now live in the Atlanta ‘burbs … I’d love to move back there and this post makes me want to move even more! Thanks for posting this :)

  • Thank you to Grace and Stephanie for this amazing opportunity to share the city I love! Thanks also to everyone for taking the time to comment and give feedback and suggestions– I read each of them. I hope this guide helps newbies and visitors fall in love with Decatur! A stamp of approval from locals also means the world to me. Thanks for sharing with me.

  • Love this! I’m a decatur-ite myself and I haven’t even thought of some of these cute little spots! Thanks carla! I’m going to try Terra Mater salon, looking for a new place and just may have found it!

  • I’m relatively new to Decatur so this is great for me. One area I’ve already learned to really love is Oakhurst, so all the cool places there would make a great addition from restaurants to the dog bakery and coffee shop plus their annual festivals.

  • Just hope the guide is updated often. Things change here a lot (such as Eurasia closing and reopening under a new chef and El Tersoro closing it’s doors and The Burnt Fork opening soon and the new bakery!): just don’t want the visitors to not be informed.

  • OMG….I have visited Decatur twice now (from Australia) though many years ago. Evening spent at Eddies Attic, a music festival in the square, met some extraordinary people who are still friends, and I stayed at the Garden House B & B! So glad to hear it is still going. Reading this was a beautiful trip down memory lane

  • Thank you for featuring my favorite city in Georgia! Decatur is full of charming sights, friendly people, and great food. I also love all the festivals and how family friendly it is. It’s the kind of place where everyone feels welcome.

  • When I first saw this post, I thought…why in the world would someone post a city guide to Decatur?? Of course, being from Illinois, I was thinking of a very different city.

    This Decatur looks like a wonderful place to visit!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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 http://www.pubalicious.com/
    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 http://www.mudfire.com
    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. http://www.fkconsign.com/

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