Remembering and reflecting on the entertainment, dining out and restaurant scene from a few decades ago — my musings of another part of Atlanta in another time — there were mighty fine places to break bread. Of course, the entertainment folks demanded the best on occasion, especially with big stars and deluxe expense accounts.

Photo by Kelly McCoy.

We weren’t the international city that Atlanta is today. And I’m fairly certain the term “foodie” wasn’t a part of our conversations.  

If you really wanted opulent splendor, Nikolai’s Roof at the Atlanta Hilton could fill the bill. Just like the other finer places, there was an amazing wine list, and the supreme dishes they prepared were world-class. Some of us remember their location and when the blue building, The Polaris, was the tallest thing downtown.

Speaking of tall, Tower Place, home to our WQXI studios, was pretty much the tallest building in Buckhead. Houlihan’s at Lenox Square was a nice place, too. The Peasant Uptown at Phipps Plaza was a little more than an average regular “go-to” we frequented. Bones Steakhouse was a new establishment in town, and we learned how top-notch beef was meant to be served.

We didn’t have phones and cameras in our pockets, so a lot of priceless pics can’t be shown. I would have felt a little goofy pulling out a Kodak Instamatic with a cube flash or a Polaroid and asking someone for a picture.

Photo from the Vintage Atlanta Facebook page.

Then, of course, a Fotomat was always nearby for quick processing. Now, you can get digital processing online from a pharmacy chain for mere pennies. The smartphone did to the photo business the same thing it did to radio and records — a couple of features that make us “…all just prisoners…of our own device.” Those words are part of the lyrics from an Eagles hit of the same era. Were they prophetic, or just lucky?

While preparing this column, Olivia Newton-John passed away …73. She was 32 when we met, a sweet lady we got to know up close and personal for a few hours in a very intimate setting with fewer than 10 people in the room.

Kelly McCoy and his wife, Cary, at a party with Olivia Newton John, left.

Also, Whitney Houston would have been 59 this month. My very first column has a picture of us at her 21st birthday celebration at Chastain Park Amphitheater…before the corporate prefix.

The Red Barn was within walking distance of Chastain. One of old Buckhead’s premier and finer places, they’d even bring the phone to your table, and plug it in!

Hedgerose Heights Inn on East Paces Ferry in Buckhead was my favorite. It was a small building with elegant interiors and served the finest of anything you ate or drank, with at least four people servicing our table. I swear, if a crumb came from a piece of bread, it was scooped or swept up immediately. This was the kind of place you’d have Burt Bacharach to dinner.

It’s hard to imagine that people smoked cigarettes in all restaurants in those days. While having a smoke, if ash perhaps made its way to the tablecloth, it was gone in less than 60 seconds and a clean ashtray would appear! Combine this attention with delectable food with divine, gourmet flavors for a meal experience like no other. Only the finest in adult spirits was served.

103 West was another great, with always a pleasant vibe. It had amazing food and service from top to bottom, and an area you could reserve for groups, family, or anything special. One evening, a record rep sent a taxi for a specific bottle of cognac after the table consumed the only one they’d happened to have.

E.J.’s on East Andrews was another of Buckhead’s finest hangouts and always had a cool vibe. One of the most unlikely things happened to me and a few other buds there. We’d seen Martin Mull at the Great Southeast Music Hall. After the gig, we were invited to join Mr. Mull and others for a cool, laid-back way to wrap up an evening at E.J.’s, a hip place to go in “serious paper country” — another way to say, “rich neighborhood.”

I honestly don’t remember the entertainer of the evening, but when our entourage arrived, it was suggested that Mr. Mull should perform “a number or two.” Imagine walking in and seeing Martin Mull on a stage playing an acoustic guitar and having an impromptu fun evening with some nice Atlanta folks. Of course, there’s no picture.

I’ve only written a tiny tapas for the amount of really good places to eat in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The Coach and Six, Pano’s & Paul’s, and more come to mind. Fast forward to the current day, and a full array of anything you want to put in your mouth is available in the metro area. 

Happy dining! Thanks for reading.

Kelly McCoy

Kelly McCoy is a veteran broadcaster who worked for more than four decades at radio stations in the metro Atlanta market.