The more condo and apartment communities we build across metro Atlanta, the more we’ll be in need of small, one of a kind neighborhood joints. Nowadays, people in search of new dwellings tend to scope out local bars and restaurants with a type of scrutiny that was once reserved for choosing schools for the kids. Like Los Angeles, it often seems that nobody walks in Atlanta. The creation of the BeltLine has begun to shift our thinking on that, but not every apartment building sits close to a huge cluster of options like Westside Provisions District or whatever we’re calling that bunch of shops that sprouted up overnight at the intersection of North Decatur Road and Scott Boulevard.
For those in the Old Fourth Ward who live equidistant from Krog Street Market and Ponce City Market, sometimes those big complexes and their sizable crowds are still just too much of a hassle. At sundown on Sunday, maybe you just want to go downstairs and around the corner to a little place that does a bit of everything well enough for comfort. A Mano, the Italian place at the corner of Glen Iris Drive and Ralph McGill Boulevard, will definitely do the trick. You can make spaghetti at home, sure. But when you can pay just nine bucks for the freshly handmade stuff with black pepper and pecorino, why not let this neighborhood gem do the work for you?
The bar has about ten stools; the patio and the inside dining room can each seat maybe twenty more people. The high-backed booths are great for those in search of a place to hide, while the big windows nevertheless give the place a spacious, airy feel that encourages people-watching. The bar is warmly lit and expertly stocked for such a small space. A Mano’s drink menu is exceptionally well balanced. They’ve got nine taps, a half dozen cans, a dozen wines by the glass. The cocktails aim for a diversity of classics, from a solid Negroni to a sweet espresso martini. Moreover, their “zero proof” beverage list is a genuine delight: limonata, house sodas, ginger beer, sparkling waters all under four bucks. Also, Red Bull, if you’re that guy—every neighborhood has one or two of them. The lavender house soda was superbly refreshing and so was the blackberry.
There are five pastas and five other entree plates in the seasonal menu rotation. A Mano makes a variety of noodles, and a particularly superior tagliatelle. Served in a carbonara with chunky house pancetta, spring peas and an egg, the huge portion of pasta was expertly thin yet not at all stuck together. The pork and beef ragu for the bolognese was wonderfully strong on basil with a decent kick of spice at the end of each bite. The other entrees have one thing for anybody—a chicken, a fish, a flank steak, a veggie plate. Many of A Mano’s dishes rely on some keen grilling, and everything we ordered involving this preparation revealed a very precise approach to charring. The exacting cook times of these entrees across the board really shows the kitchen’s love and attention, which is one of the reasons A Mano is so comforting.
The appetizers and desserts tended to be a little more wild than the main plates. A great burrata and killer sourdough was thrown off a bit by an insistent tomato jam. That same sourdough accompanying the beef tartare was competing with an overabundance of tiny accoutrements. Among the sides, you’ve got basic fried potatoes paired with a salsa verde aioli, and shishito peppers with fennel and almonds. We had a panna cotta that was nicely whipped, somehow equal parts cheesecake and chocolate. A Mano is still finding its footing on some of these, but at least one of the more creative riffs is already ready for prime time. Especially go for the cauliflower, which works some kind of sweet and sour magic full of grapes, lemon and puffed rice.
In all, A Mano is what you want in a neighborhood joint—carefully yet casually cooking whatever you need to eat and occasionally showing a little thoughtful flair about it.
A Mano is located at 857 Ralph McGill Boulevard. For information and reservations, visit amanoatl.com.