Pride Journey: Brookhaven, Georgia
By Joey Amato
A short 20-minute MARTA ride from downtown Atlanta, Brookhaven stands as a testament to the perfect blend of history, modernity, and community. As a city that has grown from a small farming community to a thriving urban hub, Brookhaven offers its residents and visitors a unique experience with its tree-lined streets, diverse neighborhoods, and an array of cultural and recreational opportunities.
Founded in 1910, Brookhaven's origins can be traced back to a dairy farm owned by Samuel Ernest Briarcliff. The city was named after the Brookhaven Country Club, which itself took its name from a town in Mississippi. Initially, Brookhaven served as a summer retreat for Atlanta's elite, thanks to its lush landscapes and easy access to the city. Historic Brookhaven, the neighborhood, was established in 1910. The City of Brookhaven was then incorporated in 2012.
For my stay, I chose the Hyatt Regency Atlanta Perimeter, which is centrally located to all of Brookhaven's restaurants and attractions. The beautiful property features a large outdoor swimming pool, walking trail, fitness center, and multiple dining options including their fine dining restaurant Villa Christina as well as The Barrel Room, which serves specialty cocktails. Villa Christina Market is a great choice for a quick breakfast or if you prefer, the hotel also offers a metropolitan breakfast for those looking for a heartier meal.
One of Brookhaven's standout features is its cultural diversity. The city boasts a rich mix of ethnicities, making it a melting pot of cultures, traditions, and cuisines. The Buford Highway corridor is a testament to this diversity, hosting a wide array of international restaurants, markets, and shops. From Vietnamese pho to authentic Mexican tacos and everything in between, food enthusiasts are in for a treat in this gastronomic wonderland.
If you are looking for an LGBTQ-focused dining option, head to Lips for their fabulous drag dinner show. Guests enter an ornate room complete with disco balls, glitter, and lots of sparkle. The menu consists of everything from shrimp and grits or seared salmon to mouth-watering hamburgers. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about the quality of food we would receive as many of these style shows are not known for their cuisine, but everything was absolutely delicious. My salmon was cooked to perfection and accompanied by a sweet mango salsa which complemented the fish perfectly.
The show consisted of about a dozen performances by the Atlanta area's best-known drag queens including Brigitte Bidet, Taejah Thomas, and Gigi Diamond. The capacity crowd celebrated as the queens werked their magic while serving double duty as hostesses and performers. If you are visiting Brookhaven during the week, swing by Lips on Wednesday evening for Bitchy Bingo.
Brookhaven takes pride in its commitment to green spaces and recreational facilities. The city's parks offer a variety of amenities for residents to enjoy, from walking trails and playgrounds to sports fields and picnic areas. Murphey Candler Park, a 135-acre oasis surrounding a lake, is a favorite among families and outdoor enthusiasts.
For those seeking cultural experiences, Brookhaven delivers a range of artistic and entertainment options. The Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, located on the campus of Oglethorpe University, showcases a diverse collection of artworks from around the world. The curator of the museum gave us a wonderful tour of the space, which houses works ranging from contemporary masters to current artists including Yehimi Cambrón, whose exhibition "Documenting the Undocumented in the South" is now on display.
The artist explains the exhibition "expresses the nuances of family togetherness, the sense of home found in the arms of immigrant mothers, the heartbreak of anti-immigrant violence, the transformative fire of resistance against oppression, and the kindled warmth of communities who survive and thrive together - a swarm that knows its collective power."
Brookhaven is home to a variety of public and private educational institutions, serving students from preschool to higher education. Oglethorpe University, a liberal arts college, has a rich history and plays a significant role in the local educational landscape.
Founded in 1835, the university has continually evolved while maintaining a steadfast commitment to providing students with a transformative education. The picturesque campus, which is reminiscent of an Ivy League university, boasts a harmonious blend of traditional architecture and modern facilities, creating an inspiring environment for learning and growth. Oglethorpe's faculty, comprised of distinguished scholars and dedicated mentors, fosters a dynamic and engaging learning atmosphere that empowers students to question, innovate, and excel. Beyond academics, the university encourages holistic development, offering a myriad of extracurricular activities, cultural events, and service opportunities that shape well-rounded individuals poised to make meaningful contributions to society.
After touring the property, head to Haven Restaurant and Bar for a delicious brunch. Try the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake "Benny" which is prepared with baby kale salad, cherry tomatoes, radish, soft poached eggs, and sauce bearnaise or if you want something on the lighter side, order the Dresden Cobb, a salad made with mixed lettuces, cherry tomatoes, haricots verts, smoked bacon, farm egg, avocado, feta, and served with a red wine vinaigrette. If you are really hungry, I recommend The Big Nasty, a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, scrambled egg, tillamook cheddar, and smoked bacon served on a soft bun with a smattering of Haven's secret sauce.
Perhaps one of Brookhaven's most cherished attributes is its strong sense of community. The city encourages civic engagement through various programs and initiatives, fostering connections among residents. The Brookhaven Farmers Market, for instance, brings together local producers and consumers, promoting sustainable practices and a stronger bond among neighbors. The city hosts various cultural events throughout the year, including festivals, concerts, and art exhibitions, fostering a sense of community engagement and creativity.
Brookhaven encapsulates the essence of a vibrant and evolving urban community. From its humble beginnings as a farming area to its status as a modern city with a diverse population, Brookhaven's charm lies in its ability to seamlessly blend history, culture, and progress. With its thriving cultural scene, green spaces, educational institutions, and strong community bonds, Brookhaven stands as a testament to the potential for growth while maintaining a unique sense of identity.
Enjoy the Journey!