Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In our series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened (as well as some of your favorite) restaurants.
This time, we’re taking a look at JoJo’s Beloved Cocktail Lounge, which opened July 23 in Midtown. Reservations are live now.
JoJo’s Beloved is part of Politan Row, a reimagined food court in a heavily trafficked area of Midtown from Politan Group, a New Orleans-based restaurant group that’s opened similar food hall dining establishments in Chicago, Houston, New Orleans and Miami.
1. JoJo’s is hiding in plain sight.
Though JoJo’s Beloved is technically part of the Politan Row project, it’s also separate, with its own entrance and exit, and with zero food service. As part of the very recently finished $400 million renovation of Colony Square, the layout might take some getting used to, even if you’re familiar with the Midtown building’s previous setup. Don’t worry; JoJo’s is only a few steps and doors from Politan Row’s main dining hall, where chef-driven food stalls serve a variety of creatively presented fast-casual eats (pizza, tacos, burgers, etc.) under a ceiling where bright light shines through a golden grid drop ceiling, creating quite the retro vibe.
While the food stalls are run independently, they’re also on an interconnected system that incorporates servers and hosts who tend to guests after they’ve brought their own food and drinks to their tables.
If you didn’t know there was a bar just beyond the rear wall as you stroll through the seating area to enjoy your food, you’d be perfectly content hanging with the general population and taking in the scene. But when you step past the restrooms on your left and see the velvet rope and door attendant, you’ll know you’re entering a different zone, one that’s partial to the disco era and all the glam that came with it.
2. Make sure to peep the scene.
Once you’ve confirmed your reservation with the host, you’ll enter a room cloaked in tall and lush deep-maroon curtains hanging from JoJo’s impossibly high ceiling. Moving between the wall on your right and the stone-topped horseshoe bar on your left, you’ll note the scene as unabashedly 1970s.
It’s not just the surrounding maroon velvet drapery. The half-circle, monochromatic rainbow-shaped lines of neon light arch above both the bar and the velvet booth seating (also burgundy velvet).
It’s a color combination that Politan Row’s beverage director Sophie Burton calls a combination of lush and luxe. “It’s simultaneously sensual and polished, if that makes sense,” she says.
There are also period-specific album covers from Earth Wind & Fire, Donna Summer and others hanging just beneath the pink neon JoJo’s Beloved logo sign on the back wall.
If that doesn’t sound like time travel, just stick around until you hear the actual sounds.
3. And then, let’s groove.
Burton may not be there when you visit, but her presence is all over JoJo’s — quite literally when you include the sounds. Not only did she oversee the selection of drinks, but she’s responsible for the musical vibe, which is pure flashback.
On any given evening, you’ll transport back 30-plus years, thanks to classic songs like Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love,” “All Night Long” by Mary Jane Girls, “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross, assorted jams from Prince, and of course Barry White.
So what’s the secret to curating JoJo’s music? Burton says it’s natural curiosity. When record shopping she intentionally puts herself in “a mood of exploration,” looking for sounds to encourage a desired atmosphere that creates a sensory experience that goes beyond looks.
“I look at the year the album was released, cover art, personnel, song titles, record label, etc., and try to gauge if there’s going to be something fresh yet of the era,” Burton says. “We’ve heard a lot of the same ‘Best of the ’70s and ’80s’ songs, so I like to explore the soundscape a little differently, and connect to the creative ideas people were putting out in that time.”
Even when you’re not seated at one of JJB’s velvet-cloaked surrounds, you can still catch vibes from Burton’s immaculate taste in music — just visit the bar’s website and click the link to the Spotify playlist.
4. Now about the drinks…
Era-specific scene notwithstanding, JoJo’s Beloved is, after all, a bar. There’ve been more than a few speakeasies in Atlanta that have come and gone like decades past. Thankfully, JoJo’s isn’t just some backroom setting for Boomer nostalgia; it legitimately delivers the liquid goods.
It takes gall to make a bold and boozy cocktail inspired by a Oaxacan old fashioned but built with Scotch and amaretto as add-ins, and name it My Offer is Nothing, in tribute to one of Michael Corleone’s early lines in the 1974 film The Godfather II. Burton, the drink’s creator, clearly wanted the cocktail to keep that same gangster energy.
She also has recommendations for those who arrive at Politan Row with an appetite, whether you eat first or after your JoJo’s Beloved reservation.
Post-dinner she has a few specific suggestions: following a pizza at Politan Row’s Belli, she advises ordering the My Offer is Nothing. For a digestif to cap a Caribbean meal of jerk chicken at the Locale Cafe stall (whose owner Taylur Davis is a native Atlantan), she advises the Private Life Drama cocktail, served in a coupe glass and composed of hibiscus grenadine and two different rums, including overproof Jamaican rum Smith & Cross.
“For those beginning their night with JoJo’s I recommend the Bee’s Gees,” she says, which is an aperitif with sloe gin, ruby port, honey, Galliano, lemon juice and Champagne Lonclas. “It’s a bit lower proof and very flavorful.”
5. And even more drinks — all nods to the old school.
More drink options at JoJo’s can be found on the shots menu, which includes the Bluetsy Collins mix of Tequila, mezcal, soda and a spicy blue cordial, and is also available in full cocktail form.
Beer-wise it’s a bit less fancy, with only Anchor Steam and Coors Banquet in packaged forms, which feels appropriate when you remember that back in the day, especially in Atlanta, nobody knew they’d want local craft beer, much less where they’d have found it. And on the bubbly side you get two options by the glass: a blanc de blancs brut and a dry Lambrusco. The rest comes by the bottle, ranging from $130 to $475.
Beyond that, wine-wise, around 10 selections are also available by the glass, including whites, reds, pink rosé, and Demarie Sabbia, a small-batch orange wine from Italy’s Roero. Burton took care to include California and Burgundian wines, with 1976’s Judgment of Paris tasting as a starting point for inspiration.
“In the 70s it was still exciting and posh,” she says, “and I enjoy giving a nod to the classics. My jump-off wine was the Mayacamas Chardonnay, and then I built from there.”
Did you come with old-school friends? Order the Set Up ‘75, a “baller French 75” cocktail on the special menu, and you get three servings of Remy 1738 Cognac, lemon, sugar and a half-bottle of Champagne.
Of course, by the time you read this, Burton expects changes will have come to the menu. Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’ slippin’ into the future, after all, but expect the mood, music and liquid relaxation to maintain.
JoJo’s Beloved is reservation-only. The bar is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 5 p.m. to midnight, and closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Mike Jordan is an Atlanta-based journalist, with work published at The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Atlanta magazine, Eater, and elsewhere. He’s also the editor-in-chief of Atlanta media company Butter.ATL, and he only dunks biscotti. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Resy, too.