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The Vortex Blog

JUST STROKE IT

Several years ago, a good customer of The Vortex ​presented us with a carved wooden phallus, slightly over a foot tall, that he had purchased in Thailand. He explained that if we displayed it near our front door​ it would help “attract money and bring success.” We thanked him for his thoughtfulness and immediately placed it among the liquor bottles behind our bar. Soon after, we were contacted by the Travel Channel, and featured on “Man vs. Food.” That television exposure undeniably helped our business. So, was this whole chain of events purely coincidental? I didn’t think so.

In fact, I was so convinced of the power contained in this wooden wang, I made it a personal mission to help spread the good fortune to our loyal patrons. I contacted an old artist friend, and commissioned a bigger, better version of the magical phallus. On Easter Sunday of 2014, the new 3-foot high piece of sculpted mahogany splendor known as the #DickOfDestiny was installed in the Midtown Vortex. Since that time, hundreds (maybe thousands) of customers have given our big wooden dick a good rub, and made a wish or said a little personal prayer. Does it work? Many people swear that it does.

Imagery of the phallus has been prevalent and widespread throughout the world since the beginning of recorded history. Found within the art and religious practices of many cultures, the phallus is symbolic of strength, fertility, good fortune, prosperity, and protection. So next time you visit the Midtown Vortex, just stroke our big dick and see what happens. The universe is a mystery. What have you got to lose?

A TASTY EFFECT

A million years ago when I was a kid, my siblings and I gave our parents a fancy barbecue grill for Christmas. While skeptical at first, my father grew to love cooking on it. Our memories of him in the backyard cheerfully cooking thick, juicy burgers over an open flame must have been resonating in our collective consciousness when we opened The Vortex​. Back in those days there just weren’t many places to get great burgers in Atlanta, so we decided that serving a flame-grilled burger, just like the ones our dad used to make for us, would be a good move. As it turns out, we were right.

Now twenty-three years later there seems to be an over-abundance of burger offerings in our city. Many of the new places use a flat-top griddle (or frying pan) as their chosen cooking method. It’s easy to understand why. it’s faster and easier, and picking a “cooking temperature” is generally not allowed. It streamlines the process. Both flame-grilling and pan-frying rely on the “Maillard Effect” for creating much of the flavor. This is a complex series of reactions between amino acids and reducing sugars in the meat, in which hundreds of different compounds are created. While technical, it is a very tasty effect. But the addition of that distinctly “charred” flavor-profile can only be attained through the use of fire.

As an experiment, we took a Vortex burger patty and slapped it on our flat-top griddle. Then we tasted it side-by-side with a second Vortex burger patty cooked over an open flame on our chargrill. The difference in flavor created by these two cooking methods was more subtle than I would have imagined, but it was still apparent. I can’t say one is better than the other, because of course they’re both good, just somehow different. Since we are the Godfather of Atlanta’s burger culture, and because we’ve always tried to provide our fans with a variety of tasty options, we decided to add a couple of these griddled “Old-School” burgers to our menu.

Beginning today, you can now order our “Retro Diner Burger” and “Ultimate Patty Melt.” They’re both really good, and a fun departure from our staple flame-grilled Vortex burgers. We have always believed that variety is a good thing. Some people might think that serving a pan-fried burger at The Vortex is some sort of burger-blasphemy. But if my dear pops were around today I have no doubt he’d be happy to give one a try, and I know he’d approve. After all, a tasty burger is a tasty burger regardless of how you get there.

CRACK AND W!ENERS

In 1997, when we decided to relocate The Vortex from West Peachtree to Peachtree Street, people did not hesitate to tell us we were crazy. And maybe we were. After all, the stretch of Peachtree we moved to was pretty sketchy. None of today’s soaring modern condo towers or fancy shops existed. Far from it. The area had more of a post-apocalyptic, urban wasteland feel to it in those days.

For instance, just one block south of our new location, the Atlanta Cabana Hotel had represented the pinnacle of mid-century modern design when it originally opened in 1958. But as people began abandoning the city for the suburbs in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, it fell into disrepair. During one of its final incarnations as a Quality Inn, it was routinely rented out to a variety of unorthodox groups. A girlfriend of mine once had her nipples pierced at a “Sex Toy” convention held there. Well, actually only one nipple. She couldn’t take the pain. Anyway, by the time we had moved to the neighborhood, the hotel had been permanently shuttered, and sat decaying behind a rusty chain link fence.

The soviet-style brick building that we actually moved into was originally built in 1950. It served as offices for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and later the Georgia Department of Human Resources. The government eventually abandoned the site in the early ‘90s, as the area became increasingly seedy. The building remained boarded-up and blighted until it was acquired by local developer, Jim Borders. His idea was to redevelop the property into apartments with retail spaces on the bottom floor, and open in time for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. I’m sure a lot of people thought he was crazy too.

Directly behind us, Cypress Street literally had a world-wide reputation as the place to pick-up male prostitutes. The scene reminded me of the Native American legend that described a time when a warrior could walk from horizon to horizon on the backs of the buffalo without stepping on the ground. Sure, there were a lot of buffalo on the great plains, but I’m guessing there were actually more hustlers behind The Vortex. In fact, you couldn’t drive your car down the street without nudging them out of the way. If you did manage to squeeze through, these young men would openly display their sizeable packages for your inspection, day or night. They were just remarkably friendly, in a terrifying sort of way.

Directly across the street was a Citco gas station that we lovingly referred to as the “Crack-co,” because drug dealers openly sold crack in the parking lot. Catty-corner was a boarded-up Krystal, and just beyond that was the notorious Backstreet nightclub. Originally opened in 1975, this was one of a handful of Atlanta clubs that operated 24/7. They featured a long-running drag show which was immensely popular with both a gay and straight clientele. This place was actually pretty awesome. I’m not ashamed to admit that I stumbled out of its dark depths into the morning sunshine on more than one occasion. But eight years after we moved in to our new location, the forces of politics and gentrification finally caught up with Backstreet, and it too was replaced with a shiny new condo high-rise.

Sometimes the nostalgic side of me yearns for a $3 pitcher of beer at the Stein Club, the smoky dive bar that served as refuge from the trendy Buckhead bar scene of the day. Or a bowl of seafood etouffee from the little French Quarter Food Shop, served-up by Missy, the diminutive owner with the mouth of a sailor. But sadly, those spots were also demolished to make room for more redevelopment. To some it may seem that The Vortex was part of the first wave of urban-pioneers willing to invest in a questionable part of Atlanta. But in hindsight, what I have come to realize, is that The Vortex is actually one of the last remaining links to the “good ol’ days” of drinking and debauchery in this town. So if anyone wants to join me in a toast to those times, you’ll find me sitting at my bar. Come on in. Everyone is still welcome here.

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