Buckhead isn't too bad and there are certainly safe bars and restaurants there. If you would like to see a little bit of a different side of Atlanta, still safe but more casual and filled with everyday folks, check out either the Virginia Highlands or East Atlanta. (East Atlanta is much like the Highlands but with plenty of parking. )
Atkins Park in the Highlands is a bar with top notch food. Noche is a Tapas place with (at least they used to have) a $10 all you can eat tapas night on mondays. There are a dozen or so bars and restaurants right around the corner of Virginia and Highland (hence the Virginia Highlands). Just a few blocks south on Highland is where you will find Atkins Park, the Dark Horse, Limerick Junction and a bevy of other eateries and bars. A number of them such as 10 High, Limerick, Blind Willies, etc have live music as well.
I am not as familiar with the up and coming East Atlanta area but it is on Boulevard just on the south side of I-20.
Dress Code: Casual
Neighbors is in the same building as Hand in Hand but has a completely different feel. It has two sections, one part is restaurant and one part is bar. neither side is huge and the place definately has the feel of a neighborhood pub and doesn't pretend to be anything more.
On mondays from 8:30 until about midnight, there is live karaoke. (which, in my opinion, is MUCH better than dead karaoke! Many of the singers are quite talented, but there are also the normal folks who should have listened to themselves BEFORE trying to sing in public. I expect that some of those will be turning up on American Idol some day!
All in all it isn't a bad place, but can get smoky a little too fast for my taste.
Pictures will be forthcoming.
Dress Code: Casual but not sloppy or dirty.
The hand in hand has the BEST patio that I've been to in Atlanta. They have somehow managed to capture a feeling on their patio, as well as inside the pub itself, that you are not in Atlanta Georgia, but rather somewhere in the UK. Oh sure, you still see American cars, hear American accents and all of the other details, but the place has a feel of being from elsewhere.
Their food is prepared very well, but is nothing fancy. The portions are good sized, though not huge, so you will definately not go away hungry should you decide to have something to eat along with a cold pint.
It is definitely a social place and not a dance club. Come here to have a few pints and enjoy old friends company or make new friends!
The only downside to the pub is that it is just a bit more expensive that other places nearby. It does have a good product, a great atmosphere and good service so in spite of being a little more costly, it is still a place I will chose over others.
Dress Code: Casual, but you are in the Highlands so while eclectic dress is not unheard of, sloppy dress is not what you will see.
BuckHead or the Virginia Highlands
BuckHead has an Array of restaurants and clubs all within a few blocks for the ease of Bar Hopping. These clubs tend to cater more to the 21-35 crowd but all are definitely welcome.
The Virigina Highlands also caters to groups of all ages with fine dining and bars but tend to require dress codes no jeans and such.
Dress Code: BuckHead bars have little to no requirements.
The Virgina Highlands require not jeans or tennis shoes normally.
Try to avoid Buckhead, which is a cluster of trendy bars north of downtown and midtown. The bars are all packed and the people are all the same for the most part. There are a few decent spots, but the area on the whole is overrated. Instead, venture out to Virginia Highlands, Little Five Points, Flat Shoals, Midtown or Emory Village - there are a number of drinking, music and dancing establishments in these areas with a little more character. Ok, a lot more character. I've attached the 'short list' below - a lot of places around town tend to come and go so they may not all be around. I do not recommend or sponsor any of these establishments unless otherwise noted. This is a mixture of tried-and-true and a few picks that *appear* to have *possibilities*. So if you go there and the place sucks, it's your own damn fault. :D On the other hand, if you discover the place is cool or you want to add to the list, by all means, let me know.
If you like to listen to Blues bands, while in Atlanta, this is where you want to be. Relaxed atmosphere. Friendly crowd. Good music. Cheap drinks. The whole Virginia Higlands area ids unique and something of a must see. You'll see what I mean once you are there.
Dress Code: Jeans and nikes.
I think this is where I would hang out most if I lived here.....
Dress Code: Dress a little better here than you would if you were going out in Buckhead......