By Hope S. Philbrick
A job moved me to Atlanta in 1997, and I blame my former coworkers for never telling me about Polaris. It was open back then, and I wish I’d seen the place in those days—if only to appreciate its current retro coolness even more.
Polaris was built in 1967 and looks like a blue UFO landed on the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia. It was and is a revolving bar and restaurant.
I’ve been told, but haven’t yet perfected time travel enough to verify the stories, that once upon a time it was Atlanta’s hippest hangout and best place to appreciate the city views. It’s easy to imagine a Southern Donald Draper-type and his cohorts slamming martinis at Polaris back in the day. But then other taller skyscrapers were built around the hotel, obstructing views. Adding insult to injury, another revolving bar and restaurant was built atop a nearby competitor hotel, and that hotel was dubbed the tallest hotel in the world. Fans waned.
Polaris was closed in 2004. Fortunately, it has been renovated and reopened (in June 2014). Visit a workweek evening these days and the place is bustling…perhaps especially the bar, if the work day didn’t go so well.
Atlanta restaurant design stalwart The Johnson Studio is responsible for the remodel and once again nailed it. The space respects its nostalgic roots and space-age exterior with Mid-Century Modern details, from its color scheme to furniture selections.
Polaris is 22 floors above the lobby, 25 stories above Peachtree Street. To get there, hand your car keys to the valet, stroll toward the designated elevator, check-in with the host waiting outside the elevator (remember to get your valet ticket validated), and ride the glass elevator up. Fair Warning: The elevator travels fast, though not quite as fast as a time machine might.
There’s no bad seat in this place: The restaurant rotates once every 45 minutes, and all tables are near the windows, so the view changes throughout the dining experience. The speed is slow enough that while the rotation is perceptible there’s no need to fear motion sickness.
The menu offers handcrafted cocktails, creative small plates and seasonal entrées. Flavors are bold, presentations creative, and portions generous enough to share, take home for later snacks or just go ahead and consciously indulge.
The current summer menu will run through the end of July and, like all the seasonal menus here at Polaris, finds inspiration in the season. Right now you can expect to see Georgia figs, mushrooms, corn, squash, tomatoes in dishes alongside local cheese and other regional treats.
Some ingredients are super local—they grow on the hotel’s rooftop garden, which you can glimpse from Polaris as you spin around. According to a hotel representative, “The rooftop garden reflects Hyatt Regency Atlanta’s commitment to sustainability. Plants are grown in organic soil with compost from the hotel’s food waste composting program. Beds are mulched with recycled rubber tires and the plants are watered by a drip irrigation system using rain and condensate water collected in re-purposed storage containers.”
Garden plants include tomatoes, beans, peppers and herbs, the bounty of which is all used at the hotel’s restaurants. The rooftop garden is also home to two beehives that house thousands of bees; the honey these bees produce each year is served at the hotel’s restaurants.
Polaris has a laid-back hip local vibe, not a touristy one. One of the hotel’s three dining options, it’s an adults-oriented spinning good time whatever brings you to town and whether you want a drink, snack or whole meal. Plus, it’s an easy way to blast into the past while keeping a firm grasp on present-day garden-to-glass and -plate flavors.
Open 5 p.m. to Midnight, Monday through Saturday.
625 Peachtree St. NE
Atlanta GA 30303
Odds of Encountering Children: Very low. We saw no youngsters on our recent visit. NOTE: Other online reviewers have slammed the restaurant for not offering a kid’s menu (we can’t verify that since we didn’t ask for one), but we of course think that’s fabulous if true! Also note that there is no restroom on the dining level; you’ll have to climb stairs up to the restaurant facilities or take the elevator down to the lobby level facilities. We do not consider this a problem, but FYI.
– Photo Credits: Top 4 images courtesy Polaris / Hyatt Regency Atlanta Hotel; remainder © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion. Thanks to Polaris for hosting my visit.