Mid-Town Atlanta’s Iconic Watering Hole
End of the Line
Article and Photos by Jimmy Jacobs
Manuel’s Tavern in the mid-town section bills itself as Atlanta’s Quintessential Neighborhood Bar. Having a pedigree stretching back more than six decades, there is good reason to believe that description. But sometimes it is better to let others speak for themselves. Here’s how the folks at Manuel’s describe their watering hole.
“Manuel’s isn’t a “brass and fern” bar. Neither is it a place of anonymous bartenders and nameless, faceless customers. One can find, at any given time, a broad cross-section of American culture rubbing elbows at the bar, discussing the news item of the day, arguing the merits of a sports team, or espousing the idea of the century. Here a doctor, a plumber, a lawyer, an electrician, a student, a journalist, a salesman, a politician, or a construction worker can feel comfortable–accepted for who they are, known by their name or what they drink. They are “regulars,” the life-blood of the Tavern. Manuel’s Tavern has an essence like no other place in Atlanta.”
That is all well and good; but what does it have to do with fly fishing, one might ask? For more than half the bar’s years of operation and for the entire life of the club, Manual’s Tavern has been the home of the Atlanta Fly Fishing Club. On the third Wednesday evening of the month the back room of the tavern becomes the mother church of the long-rod crowd in Georgia’s capital city.
Established in 1990 and boasting more than 175-plus members, the AFFC hosts local, regional and national speakers for its membership meetings. In spite of some members describing it as a “drinking club with a bad fishing habit,” their regular forays on the water prove the lie to the tongue-in-cheek description.
AFFC sponsored trips range from targeting panfish in local ponds, to chasing big brown trout on their home water of the Chattahoochee River, camping trips in the Georgia and North Carolina mountains to saltwater trips to the Gulf Coast and foreign destinations.
Manuel’s Tavern provides the perfect headquarters for the group, since both have become iconic parts of the city. Manuel’s first opened in 1956, when Manuel Maloof bought Harry’s Delicatessen, then renamed and branded the burger and beer joint. The building which it still occupies has a front façade of granite quarried from Stone Mountain , just east of the city. Within, Manuel strove to recreate the atmosphere of the taverns he visited while stationed in England in the army.
Later Manuel tossed his hat into politics, eventually become CEO of suburban DeKalb County, and achieving the title of the “Godfather” of Georgia Democratic politics. His bar became a mandatory stop for any Democrat running for governor or presidential candidate passing through the city.
However, rest assured that on the third Wednesday, politics are replaced by fisherman’s lies.
After Manuel died in 2004, his younger brother Robert took over management until his death. Today, another generation of the Maloof family in the form of Manuel’s son, Brian Maloof operates the historic eatery and watering hole.
If you wander to the backroom and check out the memorabilia hanging on the wall, you’ll even find a framed column from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution penned by On The Fly South editor Jimmy Jacobs on June 18, 2009, detailing the connection between Manuel’s and the AFFC.