Category Archives: Decatur/Druid Hills

Shield’s Meat Market – Atlanta’s Oldest Meat Shop

Old-time general stores, with their charismatic cashiers and vintage “cha-ching” registers; and barbershops, with their mesmerizing revolving red-blue barber poles and musty astringent smell, both signal the old-school local business era we once knew: when shops emphasized customer service over profit; owners lasted for decades, not years; and business was personal, not expedited and fleeting.

Engulfing CVS Façade
Engulfing CVS Façade

Adjacent to the imposing façade of a CVS drugstore in Atlanta’s Emory Village is a relic of the old-era small business; a butcher shop by the name of Shield’s Meat Market.  Attached to the major retailer’s left hip, Shields’s is seemingly hidden from plain sight like a scar underneath layers of clothing, as its entrance sits inside CVS’s left hand entrance foyer.  To the unacquainted eye, there are few indications of the market’s existence: small decals plastered on the storefront’s glass-face along with the store’s name written on the very top of the building’s structure are similar in color and style to the numerous adjacent CVS logos, making it hard to distinguish between the two at first glance.

Tucked Away
Tucked Away

Yet, while the market is tucked away, it thrives, particularly among local and loyal clientele who habitually frequent the store, undeterred by the looming corporation’s presence.  The reasons for their return are simple: intimate customer service, expert advice, and unmatchable quality of product, guaranteed.

Swinging the door open, customers are played in by the tune of a cackling cowbell attached to the door, an appropriate and rustic signal to their arrival in meat paradise.  Upon entering, a wave of smells inundates patrons, bathing them in the warm scent of eclectic raw meats.  On the left is a refrigerated aisle with four rows, of which the bottom three hold a basic selection of fresh greens, fruits, cheeses, and wine, purposefully placed to tempt customers to purchase the perfect dinner accompaniments to pair with their meats.  The top row is lined with a collection of various craft beers, hand-selected and taste-tested by the owner and further supplemented by helpful ratings.  On the right sits a long, seemingly bottomless freezer-pit filled with a variety of frozen meats and fish, and suspended directly above the pit are freezer cabinets packed with assorted meat patties.  Beyond the freezers stand wooden cabinets on either side, stocked with wine, hot sauces, and pastas.

The store then diverges, the single pathway slicing in an s-formation to the left and narrowing, making space for the prototypical butcher counter. Behind cylindrically curved display glass sits what Shields’s is known for, a diverse selection of quality meat.  Whether it’s beef, poultry, lamb, pork, or even seafood, Shield’s has it.  Poultry delivered three times a week, ice packed, and never frozen by local Georgia company called J&G Poultry Inc. lay nestled in a bed of ice on the left side of the display; home-made Italian sausage links, filled with a secret concoction of spices are stacked into tall coils and laid out in a circular display in the center; and an assorted range of prime aged cheeses fill out the right endpoint of the counter.

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Behind the counter stands a burly, seasoned man, his hair predominantly gray. Spectacles sit atop the bridge of his nose, softening his otherwise tough, steely appearance.  He dons a classic white apron, blue jeans that sag around his ankles, and worn black shoes. The man behind the counter is Geoff Irwin, connoisseur of meats and proud owner of Shield’s Meat Market.

Meat has always been Irwin’s forte.  Carl E. Fassett, the owner of Fassett’s smoked meat shop in Adams Center, New York, trained Irwin after he finished high school, and Irwin credits Fassett’s teachings and expertise to the store’s emphasis on quality and customer service. Irwin’s journey in Atlanta started in 1983. “I arrived with $63 dollars in my pocket … and in about two weeks I was market manager for Mathews Supermarket,” Irwin said.  By 1986, Irwin became the principal owner of Shield’s Meat Market in downtown Decatur after working there for a year. The old store epitomized classical butchery with a butcher-block for precise cuts; sawdust on the floor to absorb moisture, thus making the meat taste better; and suspended cow carcasses displayed to illustrate freshness and classic traditions upheld through life times of experience.


In 2000, Irwin decided to open another Shield’s in Emory Village to increase business; however, while his new location thrived under his watchful eye, the old Shield’s Market had to close much to Irwin’s disappointment, “I tried to run both of them together, but the guys I had running the other store ran it into the ground.”  Nonetheless, Irwin and long time employee Diamond Bardell have tried to replicate the old store’s atmosphere, “This store is similar to the old store; its set up is similar but more modern” Bardell said.  “We try to keep everything the same.”

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Customers affirm Bardell’s claim to uniform high standards even after moving, praising the service as well as quality that Shield’s offers, “Everything he has is quality and Geoff adds a personal touch” regular Lee Alderman said. “He has excellent meat loaf that he’s been making it since 1980.”  Locals Jill Peterson and Elizabeth Bell frequented Shield’s well before it moved to Emory Village and sing nothing but praise for Irwin, “we actually got my son a whole calf for him and his buddies to cut outside, and Geoff arranged for all of that” Peterson said.

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Irwin’s munificent and professional approach to his craft embody the essence of old-era business that once was, and his Meat Market, a vestige in today’s society, should be cherished and enjoyed by all.


Falafel King: accessible location, delicious food, affordable price

As a freshman without a car, Emory Village is the most accessible location to grab a bite to eat off campus. Located next to Yogli Mogli, Falafel King is a tiny restaurant, with the tallest roof. The signs seem outdated, and you may question if the yellow roof had actually started off white.

But don’t let the visual fool you! Since 2006, Nicholas and Jane Nam have successfully served both Mediterranean and Japanese food here to a steady stream of customers.

Easily the favorite on the menu is the falafel sandwich. Priced at $4.50, it has won recognition from various local publications over the years. Atlanta Magazine named it best falafel in 2007 and Atlanta Journal Constitution readers picked it as second best falafel in Atlanta in 2011. Emory University alumni and staff writer at Creative Loafing, Max Blau claims the falafel sandwich is “the vegetarian equivalent of a medium-rare porterhouse cooked to perfection.”

Vegetarian not your thing? How about a shawarma plate! Every plate comes with two sides of your choice.

Not craving Mediterranean? No problem. Nicholas can serve up a variety of sushi dishes for you.

They even have dessert for those craving something sweet!

Below are pictures of Falafel King’s main menu and special sushi menu.

It is a small establishment, with less than twenty seats available inside. So even at an awkward hour like 4:00 p.m., it may be difficult finding a seat. Luckily, there’s eight more seats outside.

There’s more to the establishment than the food. Jane’s eyes brighten up when speaking of the customers, especially those who come back years after graduating. She says she appreciates those that take the time to say a warm hello every time they’re in town. She even keeps in touch with a few former Emory students through email, sending them Thanksgiving and Christmas messages.
Good food and warm service leads to satisfied customers. Or as an Emory freshman put it, “falafel makes me happy!”

When asked what bothers her most about customers, Jane first says most customers are extremely pleasant. Then, after a bit of probing, she shyly mentioned that from time to time, a spicy mayo bottle (pictured right) disappears…

Although I’ve never taken one, I understand the desire of the spicy mayo bottle stealers. Falafel King’s spicy mayo sauce is delicious! I’m sure I could find a number of other uses for the sauce at home. Jane proudly gives credit to her husband for creating the sauce, which apparently includes six different kinds of mayo.

However tempting it may be, stealing is never a good idea. Students, please leave the bottles alone.

Here is a virtual tour of the establishment:



Falafel King
1405 Oxford Road NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30307
Emory Village

Story from:

The ER crisis

Click here for a podcast version of this news story 

The E.R. Crisis. What’s causing us to choose emergency medical care, and the steps we need to take before the crisis becomes a disaster.

Dale Davis has no college degree, no medical training, but could be considered an expert on the inner workings of a hospital emergency room. He suffers from cirrhosis of the liver, gout, and cognitive disabilities from a traumatic brain injury from a motorcycling accident. Due to this impressive list of ailments, he visits his local E.R. about three times a month, sometimes more. “There’s no comfort level at all in a big city hospital,” says Davis. “I know a lot about…metro hospitals where there is a lot of chaos in the emergency room, a lot of waiting.”

According to Davis’ experience, not everyone that comes to the E.R. is in critical condition. “Some of the people that are there, are there just for the sake of being there and aren’t really there for an emergency at all. And then some of the people there that are really there for emergencies, can suffer greatly.”

This chaos that Davis mentions, is the re-emerging and troubling trend that experts call “The E.R. Crisis.” The E.R. Crisis is a blanket phrase for the overcrowding of emergency rooms nationwide, especially in urban, densely populated places like Atlanta. The New England Journal of Medicine has published that visits to the E.R. have increased 26 percent since 2006. Why they are increasingly more crowded is a matter of opinion, and varies based on who you talk to. When it comes down to it, there are three possible answers; limited access to healthcare, diminished funds for hospital emergency care, or limited access to primary and preventive care options.

Dr. Stephen Pitts, doctor of Internal and Emergency Medicine at Grady Memorial Hospital, says lack of primary care physicians is a driving force of these mounting numbers. “People try to go to their doctor, but they can’t get in,” says Pitts. “To stay in business in primary care, you have to see another patient every fifteen minutes. If they can’t do that, they have to fire their office staff. Economic forces have put them in a bind, it makes them not able to give people the care they want to.” Dr. Pitts says that lack of access to primary care physicians is because of their unwillingness to accept uninsured patients and their preference for other private, more profit resulting insurance plans.

But it’s not the uninsured populations who are filling up E.R. beds. “The fact is the uninsured come to the E.R. less than other categories of patients. They’re worried about having a bill, and wait longer to be seen,” says Pitts. “Medicaid patients have the highest rate of visits, something like 50 to 60 people out of 100 in a year.”

In fact, with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the year 2014 is expected to cover 16 million more Americans with the Medicaid insurance plans. That is 16 million more people newly insured, and perhaps more likely to visit their local E.R. The projected data is troubling for most city hospitals. When the Medicaid expansion is implemented, the previously uninsured patients may no longer be concerned about the big bills, and may adopt the visiting frequencies of the patients who are currently on Medicaid.

The government is anxiously developing a solution to this impending aggravation of the E.R. Crisis. To stem the influx of emergency room patients, the government is developing programs to entice primary care physicians to be more likely to accept Medicaid insured patients. By offering more monetary incentives to take on these patients, the government hopes to lessen the burden of the emergency rooms, and channel patients to begin to choose primary and preventative avenues, rather than emergency care options.

Despite these measures, the initial stages may still be devastating. To some experts, the problem is the cost burden of E.R. visits and the toll it takes on the entire system.

Michael Rovinsky, President of Integrity Consulting Group, a healthcare consulting group based in Atlanta, says the E.R. is the currently the most expensive endeavor of the entire healthcare system and will continue to be.

The E.R. is the biggest problem in healthcare, says Rovinsky. “It is overused by people who do not have a critical condition. The worst part of emergency care, is it’s the most expensive kind of healthcare. It costs the payers of healthcare a tremendous amount of money.” According to Rovinsky, the behavior, and the culture of the population who uses the E.R. as a primary care solution, will be among the hardest thing to change.

Likewise, many lawmakers are not in favor of the law, and will further hinder primary care expansion to prevent extreme overcrowding in emergency departments. Rovinsky says, this will only worsen the current problems. “A number of governors across the country are against the expansion of Medicaid. Hospitals treat patients anyway, without any money. It’s in their best interest to accept the expansions, because it’s costing the system more money without it. The ultimate goal is the overall reduction of healthcare costs for the entire population.”

More importantly, there is an underlying issue that is often neglected and failed to be targeted in government acts or motions of reform. Patient responsibility is also a topic this rarely mentioned. If everyone was insured, everyone had a primary care physician, and everyone had access to these programs, people still will continue to get acutely ill.

Rovinsky says, it’s because of an unwillingness of some patients to take care of themselves. He explains it simply that the biggest cost to healthcare is using healthcare services. Things that prevent acute illness lessen the amount of money being spent. Simply stated, yet rarely understood, or even mentioned in public debate.

“Anything that leads to poor health, tremendously increases the cost of healthcare,” says Rovinsky. “The big thing that no one will speak about is personal responsibility for wellness. The obesity crisis, the diabetes crisis, drives the cost of healthcare up. The public should take personal responsibility for living a healthier lifestyle. That’s the missing piece in the healthcare discussion.”

All in all, even if all these reforms and preventive measures take a successful hold, the healthcare world is just a world of maybes. Maybe people will seek primary care physicians instead of the emergency room. Maybe primary care physicians will take to the incentives to take on Medicaid patients.

Maybe, maybe not.

In the meantime, the crisis will rage on. Until 2014, it is very unlikely experts will have a clear vision of the new horizons of healthcare. People like Dale Davis will continue to be subject to an increasingly burdened system, with a very foggy future.

But he remains optimistic about the quality of care he receives. “I’ve been extremely lucky,” says Davis. “I’ve been uninsured through times of my life, and I haven’t always been fortunate enough to get the care I needed. But it comes down to taking care of yourself too. You stop drinking, you stop treating your body badly, and you can save yourself a lot.”

With eagerness in his voice, he looks forward to his placement on the transplant list for a new liver later this month. Davis also acknowledges the importance of personal responsibility in healthcare, and claims it’s what turned his life around.

“Yeah, it comes down to you. How badly you want the second chance. You have to prove you want to be healthy, you need to prove you deserve the new life. There’s always someone around the corner who may need it more than you, and that may be the one thing that will scare you straight.”

Humans of Decatur: Why is Decatur Special?

Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s blog Human’s of New York, which photographs random New Yorkers and includes quotes alongside the photograph, I set out around Decatur to ask strangers what they thought was special about Decatur.  Check out their responses below!

“Decatur is good food, good drinks, good people” – Jeremiah, Barista at Cakes and Ale
Talia Blanchard
"I really like the diversity of the community" - Shakeem
“I really like the diversity of the community” – Shakeem, The Yogurt Tap Employee (White)
“I have had many senior customers who’ve lived in Decatur for a long time like Mayberry in the middle of a big metropolis. It’s very much a small, close-knit community feel but with all the amenities and drawls of a big city that has a lot to offer” – Owner of Vivid Boutique Michael Minga (Aqua Green)
“I love Decatur because of the community as a whole and all the locally owned businesses” – Annette
"What’s so special about Decatur is its sense of community, feels like a very small town." - Squash Blossom Employee Barbra
“What’s so special about Decatur is its sense of community, feels like a very small town.” – Squash Blossom Employee Barbra (Orange)
"Square pub is the best place to hang out after work because it’s close, people are great, and everyone from" - Liz
“Square pub is the best place to hang out after work because it’s close, people are great, and everyone from” – Liz
"My favorite thing about Decatur is HomeGrown, which is a local co-op that has local art from around Atlanta. It’s a way for smaller artists to get their art out to the world at large. We get lots of visitors from out of state and they come to this store and they get to see things that we would have never reached them before" - Cuppy, Employee at HomeGrown
“My favorite thing about Decatur is HomeGrown, which is a local co-op that has local art from around Atlanta. It’s a way for smaller artists to get their art out to the world at large. We get lots of visitors from out of state and they come to this store and they get to see things that we would have never reached them before” – Cuppy, HomeGrown Decatur Employee (Green)
“What I find special about Decatur is the different types of food” – Jordan
“What I find most exciting about Decatur is the architecture, especially the Square” – Spencer

Artists breathe life into the walls of Decatur


Scattered across Atlanta you can find beautiful paintings on walls of buildings. These murals are part of the the Living Walls Atlanta Conference, a collective effort between local and international artist to use street art “to promote, educate and change perspectives about public space,” according to the organization’s mission statement. Started in 2010, Living Walls has created public art in various corners of metro-Atlanta. You can currently find six living Walls murals on Decatur’s walls. Here they are!

1. 430 West Trinity Place
(Beacon Hill Complex)
by Michi and Adrian Barzaga 

Pumped up to see the first wall, I followed the GPS on my phone. When the GPS announced that I had arrived, I looked up to see this:

Suh_Decatur_Blog_2The construction workers at the site could not remember tearing down a mural on one of the walls, but numerous residents could confirm the construction site was formerly the Beacon Hill Recreation Center, where the mural had been previously. Living Walls creations have a history of being torn down or painted over for different reasons. As seen in the photo below, this wall seemed to have been demolished as a part of a larger remodeling project for the whole block.

Disheartened, I continued my search for the murals.

2. 113 East Court Square
(Squash Blossom Building)
by Gaia and Nanook

Located in the middle of the courtyard, the second wall was the easiest to find.


The first picture didn’t capture the intricacy of the mural, so I tried to capture some of the details in a close-up picture.


3. 133 Sycamore Street
(Dancer’s Core Alley)
by Sam Parker

The third location was the most difficult to find. Although you can see the alley from the courtyard, a bolted gate blocks that entrance.


The second entrance is through a parking lot. it’s definitely not a location you’ll stumble across.


Then the narrow alley made it impossible to capture a single picture with the entire mural. Here is a portion of the mural.


4. 211 East Trinity Place 
(Back wall of Twain’s) 
by Doodles, Gaia and Clown Soldier 


There was another mural on the adjacent wall of the Living Walls mural. Twain’s garbage small deterred me from getting closer to the second mural (pictured right).


The last two murals can be found on opposing sides of a seemingly abandoned building right down the road from Twain’s.


5. 302 East Howard Avenue 
by Freddy Sam and Ever 

The larger of the two murals faces the west.


6. 308 East Howard Avenue 
by Jason Kofke

The final mural in Downtown Decatur can be found on the opposing side of the larger mural.


There is an additional wall in south Decatur, located at East Lake Drive in Oakhurst.

The highlight of my trip was that although I got lost numerous times, every single person I stumbled across went out of their way to answer my questions. Thank you residents of Decatur!

Decatur: metro Atlanta’s beer neighborhood

Five local breweries that will make a college student put down Natty Light

Twenty years ago Decatur looked very different. While the little city just outside the Atlanta limits had plenty of small-town charm, it lacked nightlife. Then Brick Store Pub opened in the square, beer laws became looser, and Decatur became a beer-loving neighborhood.

Bryan Cronan

“It was fun to see the transition of Decatur,” said Crawford Moran, the owner of new Emory spot, Slice and Pint and a brewing veteran. Decatur is the neighborhood for brewing beer. With five commercial breweries and a host of pubs that serve fine craft beer, there is no excuse for drinking crappy beer in a fraternity basement.

Moran’s pizzeria in Emory Village will soon be brewing its own beer. The restaurant is currently getting its brewing license, but it can’t until it finishes construction on the brewing equipment later this year.

Next to the restaurant is a room full of fermentation tanks. According to a bartender, “There is a tunnel under the floor, and pipes will go from the tanks to tap. It doesn’t get any better than that” In those tanks will be a rotation of beers, from light to dark and everything in the middle.

“We want to try a lot of new things,” Moran said.

Slice and Pint’s bar offers a few local libations. One Decatur beer they offer is Single Intent by Three Taverns Brewing (I can verify that this beer is delicious). The beer won “Best Overall Beer” at Hotoberfest in 2013. Three Taverns offers four other beers including Feest Noel, a special Christmas brew.

Twain’s Billiards and Tap, located in downtown Decatur, is more than a brewbub, a bar that also brews its own beer. It’s a hang-out spot. While sipping one of its nine beers, you can play darts, shuffleboard, or billiards. And if you’re searching for the perfect date spot, Twain’s offers live jazz on Tuesday nights.

Blue Tarp Brewing Co began brewing beer in December 2012 as Decatur’s first full scale brewery. The brewery has five different beers, including the high gravity Last Place Stout. You can find their beers in local pubs or any of the growler filler stations.

Wild Heaven Craft Beers was being brewed in South Carolina but they are moving just outside downtown Decatur, the brewery is looking to open in April.

Moran realized he loved good beer when he traveled to Europe and realized beer there was far superior. Now, instead of taking a plane, students can hop on Emory’s free CCMT shuttle to Decatur or walk to Emory Village, and get a taste of the types of ales once exclusive to faraway lands.

To those who still drink crappy lagers, Moran says, “Life is too short.”

Looking to try these beers and hang out in Decatur, check out the annual Decatur Craft Beer Festival in October 2014.

Slice and Pint 1593 North Decatur Rd. Atlanta, Ga 30307 404-883-3406

Bryan Cronan