Is Decatur All Growed Up?

The AJC’s John Kessler – a long time Decatur resident – writes lovingly about the evolution of the city’s restaurant scene from “a moribund and borderline-sketchy square” to sporting the “ground zero, Mecca and Valhalla with a foamy head and appropriate glassware” for U.S. beer culture (I love that line), in his latest column.

But an observant Kessler notes that ground-breakers like Watershed and the Brick Store were just the jumping-off point of the restaurant revolution in business-friendly Decatur.

Now these pioneers have, in their way, given birth to the generation that will remake Decatur. The Brick Store begat Leon’s Full Service, a pub with a gorgeously curated beer list, edgy menu and lively patio spilling onto the street. Three’s company: Mac McGee’s, an Irish pub, draws its own crowd to the square for proper Guinness, encyclopedic whiskeys and a sophisticated, surprising menu. It is next to the always-packed Iberian Pig.

Former Watershed chef de cuisine Billy Allin has had success with Cakes & Ale and has announced plans to move his business this summer to a row of eyesore retail spaces on the southeast corner of the square. The expansion will allow his talented pastry chef, Cynthia Wong, to open a bakery.

There’s definitely more to come.  While the city has seen its fair share of business closings over the past couple years, new tenants, both restaurant and non-restaurant alike, continue to come from an impressive stock.

What’s next?  I’d like to tell you, but the people that know won’t give me any hints!

19 thoughts on “Is Decatur All Growed Up?”


  1. I never knew Kessler was a food critic. I thought he just looked at the food, name dropped Tom Colicchio, then drove to Charleston to review their food.

  2. Our little Decatur won’t be all growed up until that 24-hour diner opens up and I can jump up on one of its tables and do pelvic thrusts.

  3. Nice article. But the picture he used…Ruby Tuesday?? Not that it’s a bad picture, but a Decatur food article with a picture of Ruby Tuesday. Come on now.

  4. we had Claudettes ….and Conversations. The Judge’s Bench…and Southern Star diner …Pickles deli with the sour grapes manager who said that Decatur didn’t appreciate a good deli …and the very first Thumbs Up. And then came Mick’s. Seriously, it was Micks that started it all, not Watershed. They took a chance on Decatur. Everyone else followed suit.

      1. I remember my friend Ashley worked at Buck’s in 1989 and we used to go see her and get oreo cheesecake. It was the best thing ever.

  5. And does anyone remember the forerunner to the Brick Store during the Olympics? A great little Irish style pub….

    1. Cranky –
      Yes! I keep forgetting that it wasn’t the Brick Store then. As I recall, the Irish Olympic team was in or around town and the Polish team were set up in Avondale. Excellent drinking companions, Poles and Irish. 😉

      Somebody please remind us of the name of that place.

  6. It was Ya Ya’s with it’s 3 hour waits ( when Watershed was still a specialty market) that started the rush of the late 90’s – early 00’s in my opinion.This caught the eye of George Rorhig ( Cartel ) who bought the old camper place and started developing. They caused alot of people to take notice. Also the resturant ( before Birdis- the owners of Metro Market) were really starting to hop on the square at that time.

    1. Food schmood, if I had just half of what George made on his Buckhead properties right before the market went bust…well, I guess then I’d be his ex-wife! Still too bad Little Azio didn’t make it in Decatur. Actually like that place a lot…

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