Category Archives: Virginia-Highland

The quest for the best guacamole burger

As a college kid living on a budget, finding cheap, not entirely disgusting food is a habit upon which I pride myself. There are few restaurants in Atlanta that fit this description better than the countless burger joints throughout the city.

The options are endless—BurgerFi, Farm Burger, Flip Burger and Yeah! Burger to name a few, all of which raise the question of whether it’s state law to include “burger” in the name of all potential burger restaurants.

The answer to this question is no, as proven by Little Five Points’ Vortex, which possesses the king of all Atlanta burgers: Not the mildly disgusting Coronary Bypass specials that the restaurant is famous for, but a hidden gem—the Holy Guacamole burger.

photo(6)The Holy Guacamole is the King of Burgers, and should be worshipped as such. There’s nothing unusual about the burger, per se, apart from the fact that it has a huge, glorious glob of guacamole sitting on the patty, waiting to be squashed into a wondrous spread once the bun is applied. But this story isn’t about the Holy Guacamole burger, at least not entirely: it’s about my quest to find a guacamole burger in Atlanta that can rightfully claim to be its equal.

A quick look at a few menus made the job much easier for me. Yeah! Burger is the only other of the aforementioned restaurants to offer a guacamole burger, so off I headed to Virginia-Highland to try it.

I’d been to Yeah! Burger before, but I’d never tried the guacamole there—mainly because it’s subtly listed among their many one-dollar toppings. My expectations weren’t high. Yeah! Burger, in my admittedly amateurish opinion, was a middle-of-the-road burger joint, and the chances of it producing a challenger to the King seemed unlikely. Nevertheless, I included guacamole in my order and sat down to test.

Yeah! Burger’s creation passed the eye test with a generous C+. As opposed to Vortex’s glob, the guacamole was placed on the burger in a less than aesthetically pleasing spread. This resulted in a much smaller guac per capita ratio than desired. Looking at the burger and sighing ever so slightly, I dug in. The results are below:

It wasn’t bad at all. There was more guacamole than I expected, and while it wasn’t in the same ballpark as the Holy Guacamole, it was a viable alternative for about three dollars less.

I should add here that failing to live up to the King of Burgers is nothing to be ashamed of. Yeah! Burger is a fine establishment that advertises simple, tasty burgers and certainly lives up to expectations. Just don’t expect too much.

Here’s a map of some of the best burger places in Atlanta, so you can form an opinion for yourself.

The Tower

On the corner of a bustling Virginia-Highland intersection lies a set of worn stone steps. Trees line either side, masking all that lies beyond. The sight is mysterious, yet inviting. At the summit is an open lot enveloped with overgrown vines. It’s shady, with sunbeams peeking in through the canopy. Peaceful and still, there is no one in sight. But just beyond the vines and the brush, walls of gray stone and a dark wooden roof tower over the tallest of trees.

The Tower is not a house, but an art piece and work in progress. Jack Harich, a Georgia native, bought the lot in 1973 and began building two years later. Inspired by his motto “make it perpetually inspiring to live in,” Harich has been building the structure for the past four decades. He calls it a “design-as-you-go, pay-as-you-go, have fun type of art piece” — not a house.

“I just wanted to build something — build a house. Who’s to say why, but a lot of people build houses,” Harich says, reflecting on his motivation for beginning the project.

Harich sees his work as a craft, and for him, The Tower is a form of self- expression. The Tower has 100 tons of Cherokee marble and includes sections of White Oak and Yellow Pine. Each piece has been carefully integrated into the house to reflect Harich’s personality and creativity. The Tower’s form evolves as he does.

Harich’s first accomplishment was what he calls the stone circle. He originally designed it to be an outdoor accessory, but when he realized that it was a livable space, he continued to build around it. The stone circle now serves as stone pillars holding up the structure of the house. The stone circle, which now sits in the center of the lowest floor, is constructed of white marble for eight feet before it switches to wood. The structure is three stories high, shooting through the center of the house. At the top, Harich built the Crow’s Nest, a haven nestled away just beneath the roof. A wooden ladder ascends to a skylight that opens to the rooftop.

The base of the stone circle is now the core of the first floor – a space that Harich envisions to be his indoor workshop. It’s one of the largest open spaces in The Tower. And despite the Atlanta heat, the first floor will not contain air conditioning. The marble walls insulate the floor naturally through thermal mass, maintaining an average temperature of 56 degrees. The room will also have natural warming in the winter, retaining the heat. “You hardly have to heat it at all if you just bundle up a little in the winter,” Harich says. On the left is a section of the wall made entirely of thick translucent glass, allowing the sunshine to pour into the otherwise-dark lower level. Harich’s modern style incorporates two moon gates, which invite even more natural light to flow in, illuminating the room.

A wooden ladder from the outside leads upstairs. At the top, the light radiates through the windows constituting each of the main room’s walls. Harich says this room is meant to energize and inspire. The ceiling is awe-inspiring with grand arches and intricate carved designs. The wooden facade, sawed and nailed together by hand, took two years to complete. In 1995, Harich had twenty friends over for a weekend to help raise the timber frame. Six months later, Harich finished the joinery and decorative ceiling. Harich’s love for his wife, Martha, is palpable through the wooden carvings of hearts that crown each spectacular arch.

While the arched room is the most meaningful for Harich, the next room over, the guest room, is the most unique. Harich calls it the Tree Room. Built out of tree trunks, branches wind their way toward the ceiling. The tree trunks serve as a base to support the ceiling. With trees gracing outside the windows, the Tree Room becomes one with its surroundings.

And the artist? Jack is a jack of all trades. He’s as interesting as The Tower — maybe more so.

Meet Harich and find out the story behind The Tower here.

See the progress of the Tower over time:[timeline src=”” width=”100%” height=”650″ font=”Bevan-PotanoSans” maptype=”toner” lang=”en” ]

Majestic Diner, does this food really please you?

What with the classic red barstools and friendly Southern staff, the Majestic Diner at Poncey-Highland is very sweet. Many customers are regulars, there for the “homey feel,” of a place that has been serving “food that pleases” since 1929. Unquestionably, the atmosphere is nice.  However, should we really be support a place that essentially sells future diabetes and heart attacks?

True to tradition, Majestic Diner offers heaping mounds of comfort food, an expression I’ve never quite understood. I don’t particularly feel comfortable when food upsets my digestive enzymes and halts the chance of nutrient uptake. Pancakes and syrup may feel wonderful in your belly for about five minutes, but shortly after peaking on the high glycemic index chart they skyrocket you down to the “I feel horrible” stage.

As soon as sugar enters the bloodstream, a rush of insulin and serotonin overtake your body, according to Dr. Gillian McKeith, author of You Are What You Eat. The sudden rise in sugar levels causes the insulin to break it down very quickly, causing a drop in both sugar and endorphins—ultimately making you feel worse.

Junk food is called junk for a reason. A hamburger is part of the fatty food group that clogs arteries, depletes calcium levels, and compromises the function of the heart. Pancakes and syrup are sweets, which cause severe blood sugar imbalances and mood swings. Sweets also disrupt the function of the spleen, liver, pancreas and intestines. Adding a milkshake? According to the National Institute of Health, 30 million of you probably can’t digest milk.

The diner did offer salads, but they were covered with pepperoni and ham. I’m not entirely certain there were vegetables under the thick blue cheese dressing.

Recent nutritional research is producing more and more evidence that sugar is addicting, so pretty much all processed food is addicting. In addition, Nature Neuroscience found that excess food intake can trigger alterations in the brain, creating a neurochemical dependency. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is finding an “overlap between drugs in the brain and food in the brain.” Brain scans demonstrated disturbances in the reward circuit of the brains of obese people and compulsive eaters, just like drug abusers.

That’s enough information to make me want to steer clear of this tradition of American existence.

I’m fine with the décor of the 1950s, but it’s time for an upgraded menu. Sorry Majestic Diner, your food just isn’t pleasing.

Majestic Diner
1031 Ponce De Leon Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30306

Take a trip down Memory Lane

Looks can be deceiving, but behind Virginia-Highland’s gorgeous bungalow style homes and vibrant nightlife lies an alluring history dating back to the early 1800s!

For instance, did you know this suburban haven was originally an attractive farmland? No? Now you do! Let’s take a trip down memory lane so you can see just how much Virginia-Highland has changed over the years!

Recognize the Midtown Place Shopping Center on Ponce de Leon Avenue? Would you believe me if I told you this popular shopping center used to be a lake? It’s true! In 1890, a man by the name of Julius Hartman designed a man-made lake on Ponce de Leon Avenue. After the lake was drained in 1907, the Atlanta Crackers’ stadium was built in its place. The Midtown Place Shopping Center was opened in 2000 and is located in the valley where the lake was once located.

Midtown Place GIF


Check out this old map of Atlanta below! Recognize anything familiar? Yes, it is Virginia-Highland, but this 1893 map depicts Todd Road, one of the oldest known streets in Atlanta!  The road directly linked the homesteads of Hardy Ivy and Richard Copeland Todd; Ivy is often considered Atlanta’s first settler, while Todd is credited for being one of the earliest pioneers to move into the area. This map shows Todd Road continuing off of Ponce de Leon Avenue before Ponce was extended into Decatur. A small portion of Todd Road still exists today, as shown on the corresponding Google Map.

 Todd Road GIF


Not everything in Virginia-Highland has changed from the early days including this gem, the Solomon Goodwin House.  This house, the oldest existent house in DeKalb County, is was remains of a 600-acre farm originally owned by pioneer Solomon Goodwin in the 1830s! To early travelers heading to Marthasville (now known as Atlanta), the Solomon Goodwin house was known for its hospitality over generations, especially for Civil War refugees and the poor affected by the Great Depression.

 Solomon Goodwin House GIF

The Solomon Goodwin house was expanded into the present home in the 1830s and 1840s. The home, as well as the burial grounds of the Goodwin family still stands at 3931 Peachtree Road near the intersection of North Druid Hills Road. Fun fact: family members hold open tours to the public on the third Sunday of every month from 1 pm to 4 pm!

But the history of Virginia-Highland doesn’t end there! Check out this timeline of other important moments in Virginia-Highland history.

[timeline src=”” width=”100%” height=”650″ font=”Bevan-PotanoSans” maptype=”toner” lang=”en” ]


For a more visual exploration of Virginia-Highland history, check out this short film produced by the Virginia-Highland Civic Association.


Hope this trip down memory lane taught you a little something about the rich history of Atlanta and the Virginia-Highland neighborhood!

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