Last week, Creative Loafing Atlanta (CLATL) released its 2012 Ultimate Neighborhood Guide. The guide does a great job of breaking the Atlanta metro down into nice little bite-sized pieces of neighborhoods, all organized by county (e.g., South Fulton, North DeKalb, Gwinnett, etc.). Each neighborhood has an overview, intended to give you a general feel for the area in a few brief sentences, along with a more in-depth look at restaurants and bars, local hangouts and hotspots, community institutions, and so on. This guide is extensive, to be sure. But does it really deserve the “ultimate” designation?
The high points:
- Great user interface. The drop-down menus are handy, and the guide is well-organized and looks promising on first glance. I can’t wait to explore each neighborhood!
- Links to helpful supplementary information. Several featured “Best of”-style lists give you the 411 on notable spots and also have links to reviews of each establishment and the correlating star rating. Not all establishments have reviews, but where they are available, it’s awesome to be able to scan them all at once. If rounded out with good content (e.g., menus, food descriptions, photos), this could be one heck of a resource. It would be nice to see this in the individual neighborhood pages as well as in these featured lists.
- Nice use of maps with color-coded points of interest. Being able to look at an area map and see everything--bars, restaurants, shops, attractions--at a glance is terrific. Not only can you locate things quickly, but you can also see where the main hubs or arteries of a given neighborhood lie. However, some of these points are mismapped (e.g., stuff that’s in Inman Park shows up in Downtown’s map).
- Superficial neighborhood overviews. I live in Fairlie-Poplar, a tiny hidden gem of a neighborhood in Downtown Atlanta. Perhaps I’m biased, but I found the overview of Downtown to be cursory at best -- it reads like something written by somebody who’s never actually spent much time in the area. Fairlie-Poplar should be showcased, given that it contains the bulk of Downtown’s residents, but it is not even given a mention! Also, please note that asking somebody who works in a neighborhood establishment for a “resident’s perspective” is bogus; you need to find an actual resident...you know, somebody who actually maintains a home address in that neighborhood.
- Not enough content. While CLATL has built out an impressive shell for this info, there’s not a whole lot of content to fill it up. The user interface suggests a plethora of info just waiting to be clicked on, but the guide falls short in its delivery. “Disappointing” would be a key descriptor here.
- Not enough photos. The introductory photos are all pretty good, but there’s room for tons more. Photos should do a better job of capturing the spirit of an area and its residents.
- Outdated and inaccurate establishment listings. For example, the Yoreka location in Little Five Points closed over a year ago, and neighboring Sweet Lime Thai restaurant was replaced last year by the vastly superior OMG Taco (which unforgivably does not receive a mention!). I can only imagine how many other such entries are inaccurate for the other neighborhood write-ups. You can’t have a guide that is outdated; it kinda defeats the purpose.
The outdated or otherwise inaccurate establishment listings are perhaps the weakest link. Some of the timeless favorites and definitive standouts are not even listed, while other here-today-gone-tomorrow joints somehow made the cut. For example, what in the world is a roundup of Poncey-Highland bars doing without a mention of Manuel’s Tavern, an infamous local watering hole?! In order to avoid “Flavor of the Month” syndrome, the guide should showcase the well-established neighborhood institutions that truly encapsulate the local vibe.
This guide certainly can’t be all things to all people. But it can (and it definitely should) complement--but not compete with--widely used review sites like Yelp. If it could pull in data from outside sites, it might be able to easily enhance its own original content, making it a far more valuable resource for readers.
CLATL does an admirable job of mapping out neighborhoods and building out the infrastructure for what could one day be the authoritative guide on Atlanta neighborhoods. Nevertheless, it needs to flesh out its content, ferret out inaccurate and outdated listings, and provide overviews that better capture the vibe of each neighborhood. Our verdict? Brilliant idea with sloppy execution; room for improvement, but tons of potential.
Did you get a chance to check out the CLATL Ultimate Neighborhood Guide yet? What did you think? Does the guide do justice to your neighborhood?