Tag Archives: Georgia Juke Joints & Bars

Hunter’s Cafe, 1951, Shellman Bluff

Hunter’s Cafe is one of the best loved local hangouts on the Georgia coast and it’s the epicenter of “downtown” Shellman Bluff. Open since 1951, it’s located in a World War II-era army barrack acquired as surplus from nearby Fort Stewart.

It’s a no-frills kind of place that caters to locals while welcoming the occasional tourist. If you’re in a rush, go elsewhere, because they don’t get in a hurry here. If you read internet reviews, you’ll hear people complaining about the wait time, but that misses the point of Hunter’s Cafe. It’s as much about the experience and atmosphere as it is the food. The original section of the restaurant feels like a neighborhood gathering place, and the bar, added in the 1970s, has the ambiance of a classic dive. And the staff are very welcoming and friendly, even if you’re not a local.

The food is really good. I visited with my parents and my aunt. My mother ordered fried green tomatoes, which I generally don’t care for, as an appetizer. There was something different about the Hunter’s version and I enjoyed them. I also don’t care for battered french fries, but their perfectly floured shoestring potatoes were memorable and way above average. The fresh Georgia shrimp was excellent, as it must be in a place like this, and it was accompanied by the most perfectly fried hush puppy to be found, amazingly light and flavorful. My mother and I agreed we could have made a meal of the hush puppies.

The Famous Get-A-Way, Zebulon

Mississippi soaks up all the attention for juke joints, and rightfully so, but they were once common in Georgia, as well. When I was growing up, there were still a few around and I remember that the word juke fascinated me. Some contend the origin of the term is the African word juga, meaning bad or wicked. Others suggest it comes from juice, which referred to early electric guitars and those who played them.

The Famous Get-A-Way in Zebulon is one of the best examples of an authentic old-fashioned juke joint that I’ve come across. It also served as a pool hall and sold gas and perhaps sundries from time to time. I got the impression it meant a lot to this community and luckily, the owners have preserved it as a landmark. My guess is that it dates from the late 1930s to about 1950.

It obviously grew in popularity over the years, as evidenced by the addition of this green cinderblock wing.

It’s one of just a few surviving such places to be found in Georgia to my knowledge.

A blacked-out Coca-Cola sign identifies the place as the “Famous Get-a-way”.

The gas pumps were probably a later innovation of the business but indicate that it was a successful enterprise.

And if there were any question about the reputation of the place, this sign on the porch suggests that the owners didn’t suffer foolishness.

Juke joints were places of revelry and community but they were also usually operated in a very business-like manner.

Pinkie Master’s, 1953, Savannah

Savannah has always been a drinking town and Pinkie Master’s dive bar at 318 Drayton Street was its epicenter from 1953-2016. Luis Christopher Masterpolis, better known as Pinkie Master, wisely located his establishment across Drayton Street from the old DeSoto Hilton, in its day Savannah’s hotel of choice for politicians and businessmen. Masterpolis loved politics and over the years local and state elected officials made unofficial campaign stops here. An urban legend that Jimmy Carter announced his presidential run standing atop the bar has been refuted but Carter dropped in on the evening before St. Patrick’s Day 1978 and paid tribute to Pinkie, who had died about a year earlier.

The perfection of Pinkie Master’s, as anyone who ever drank a beer there would tell you, was its lack of pretense. It was a dive bar in the truest since, serving cheap American tallboys and never taking credit cards. The booths and seats were often sticky and the smell of stale beer and cigarettes (long after the smoking ban) lingered in the air. You had to walk up to the bar and order as there was no table service. And fist fights were common from time to time. Just what you’d expect in a dive bar.

A good friend of mine who owned the building at one time stated that he loved having Pinkie’s as a tenant. There were occasional complaints, he noted, but Savannah loved the place and the complaints generally went unanswered. With new ownership came myriad changes. Legal issues brought on by unclear ownership and the sorts of things one might expect to befall a dive bar came front and center and a new owner took over by early 2016. A PBR sign still hangs outside, but a new nameplate identifies the restructured establishment, The Original Pinkie Masters. Varying camps will debate whether it’s anything near the original, but I’ll leave that to locals, being just an occasional patron myself.

The Cypress Bar & Lounge, Darien

This watering hole is a favorite with locals and I’ve always appreciated its mural of a cypress swamp. I believe it was named for the adjacent Cypress Cabin Court, (originally Delta Cabin Court, tourist cabins still standing and in use as apartments).

Their newest sign got my attention, and a laugh.

The Anchored Flint, Circa 1978, Lake Blackshear

If you’ve ever driven between Cordele and Americus via Lake Blackshear you’ve probably noticed this eclectic structure, built to look like an old river boat. It was a popular restaurant/nightclub known as the Anchored Flint and is still in use today as a banquet facility at Lakeshore Marine on the Sumter County side of the lake. The “flint” in Anchored Flint refers to the Flint River, from which Lake Blackshear was created. Thanks to Lydia Cook for the identification.

Ferguson Store Sign, DeSoto

The Ferguson Store was located on the ground level of the DeSoto Masonic lodge. It was most recently known as Disco D’s Warehouse, which I assume was a nightclub.

 

Red Carpet Lounge, Brunswick

The Red Carpet Lounge has been a gentleman’s club and lounge in downtown Brunswick for over fifty years.

The Rah Bar, Jekyll Island

I was surprised to learn that the Rah Bar is closing. Though not a landmark in the traditional sense, it’s become a bit of a local and tourist favorite for its welcoming, laid-back vibe. It’s not really a dive, but compared to many of the fancier establishments on the coast, it almost qualifies for that status. I’m saying that’s a good thing. Apparently, the restaurant with which the Rah Bar is associated, Latitude 31, is to be rebuilt. Let’s hope the atmosphere in the “new version” remains as cool as it was at the Rah Bar.

Dub’s Place, Baker County

baker county ga dubs place pool table disco photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

This is a pool hall and disco (juke joint), in the middle of the pinelands of Baker County.

Juke Joint, Calhoun County

Calhoun County GA Purple Shed Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanihsing South Georgia USA 2016

I first though this was a juke joint, considering its small size and location just outside the city limits of Morgan. Shawn Weathersby wrote that it might be associated with the Milner Grist Mill but Toni Milner writes: It is an old beer joint. My grandfather Sonny “Plunk” Milner sold beer out of it back in the day. The Grist Mill is housed in the building to the left of this building.