By Rachel Marshall
“We don’t really have a manager,” Rebecca the bartender said, offering a silly, sly, unapologetic grin. See, I had asked if I could speak to a manager about their experiences within a bar called The Righteous Room. That moment when it becomes clear that the inmates run the asylum is the moment you realize, as someone who just wants a good drink and a good bite to eat, you’ve come to the right place.
The Righteous Room is located on Ponce De Leon Ave., right next to the glorious gloom and clattering 35mm projectors of The Plaza Theatre, which to me has never been crowned just by a glorious marquis, but by the parted lips of an old ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW poster. So, let that be your landmark. Just a jump to the left of a theatre in a perpetual state of doing the Time Warp again, The Righteous Room has been intriguing newcomers and keeping regulars hooked for about 17 years.
You are, essentially, entering a dive bar. Rugged brick and exposed vents bathe in the mingling hues of electric yellow chandeliers and blue Christmas lights that framework dusty chalkboards displaying the latest beer specials. Purchasable works of local artists adorn the walls, and the bathrooms need no decoration, only the whims of drunken occupants armed with Sharpies and wits hopped up on shots. Similar whims will often pump quarters and dollars into a nearby jukebox in a bid to hear that one perfect song before they either wander off into the Atlanta night, or trudge into The Plaza (a step to the right).
So, I settled in for a drink and a meal. What’s great about the service at The Righteous Room is there is very little pomp or circumstance when it comes to service, and frankly, in a dive, that’s all I want. I want someone with metal piercing their faces and ink intricacy staining their arms to hand me a frosty beverage and a juicy burger. No flourish, no stage-show, just a grin that says: “This will mess you up. See you on the other side!”
I enjoyed a Mamma’s Lil Yella Pils and a New Belgium “Snow Day” under the gaze of a local artist’s portrait of Mardi Gras. In time, a pulled pork sandwich arrived between two gargantuan slices of grilled bread. With house-made horseradish sauce at my side, I tore into my meal without hesitation.
That’s right. House-made. With a couple of exceptions here and there, everything is made within The Righteous Room. Not only that, but if you’re not as carnivorous as me and prefer the leafier side of things, The Righteous Room has a menu that flatters the herbivores out there. The peppery whisper of dandelion greens within a fresh salad, the cool, creamy indulgence of hummus and a fire-good veggie chili are just a few things on the menu that will cater to those of you that aren’t meat-feeders like me.
So, sure, these dishes may help keep you on your feet after that third or fourth shot, but before those kick in, it dawns on you; this is not your typical dive. Rebecca approaches to see how the meal is going, and soon we’re talking about the heart of the bar. Behind the scenes, the owners work close with the staff. Everyone is interested in each other’s goals, and seeing what everyone can bring to the table. Literally! The owners love meeting with their staff for open forums on the industry and what shapes not only their company, but their own experiences. This approach doesn’t just mean a restaurant or a bar does well, it resonates.
Yes, even if it’s just a small bar next to a movie theater.
Overall, The Righteous Room is an excellent meet-up before and after Plaza viewings. Frankly, it’s a good hang-out even if you aren’t taking in a movie. Now, if you’re looking for a fast bite and some quick table turnover, The Righteous Room may not be for you. No, this is where you go to hang-out, unwind, get messed up and really touch base with friends and regulars before moving on with the rest of your evening plans. The chefs take their time with your meal, devoting a lot of attention and care to the plating and the flavor. Don’t get restless, just order yourself a drink! The bartenders and servers are attentive, quick and efficient with potent, cool drinks. Stick around long enough, come back enough and before you know it, you’ll feel like a regular on CHEERS where everybody knows your name.
Check out The Righteous Room on 1051 Ponce De Leon Ave., N.E., Atlanta, GA 30306.