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The Vortex is Celebrating Their 25th Anniversary

The Vortex, Atlanta’s longtime champion of quality burgers, turns 25 years old this month.

To celebrate the iconic institution, popular for its beer, booze and ridiculously indulgent bar food, the co-founding siblings, Michael, Suzanne and Hank Benoit are hosting a weeklong party April 17–23, giving away gift bags, pint glasses and more (while supplies last) at both the Midtown (878 Peachtree Street NE) and Little 5 Points (438 Moreland Avenue NE) locations. The Vortex team also collaborated with Red Brick Brewing Company for the occasion to craft a limited edition peanut butter, bacon and banana imperial stout inspired by their one and only Fat Elvis burger. A peanut butter porter, also by Red Brick, will replace the imperial stout when supplies run out.

Celebratory specials and happenings not to be missed include:

  • April 15: Starting on Saturday, a team of graffiti artists from Mutiny Artwrx will begin painting a commemorative 25th anniversary mural of The Vortex on the Little 5 Points Package Store
  • April 17Vortex Radio Podcast – Stroll-down-memory-lane with Vortex owners Michael, Suzanne, Hank and guest interviewer Lucky Yates of Dad’s Garage Theatre and “Archer” fame
  • April 17 – 19: Dine and Give Back – The Vortex will be donating 5% of sales during this time to benefit The Giving Kitchen, an organization that provides emergency assistance grants to Atlanta area restaurant workers facing unanticipated hardship (up to $2,500)
  • April 17 – 20: Classic Coronary Burger Special – available as a lunch special for dine-in guests (1-4 p.m.) for the ridiculously low price of $4.20 (regularly priced $12.50)
  • April 17 – 23: Limited Edition 25th Anniversary t-shirts available for purchase
  • April 20: On the restaurant’s official anniversary, guests will receive a unique gift bag with various items like a Vortex-branded shirt, 25th anniversary buttons, stickers and more
  • April 20 – 23: Guests who order the Limited Edition Fat Elvis Imperial Stout, or any Laughing Skull draft, receive a custom “beer can-style” pint glass to take home

For those unable to attend the weeklong festivities, mark your calendars and tune into Travel Channel to catch The Vortex on the “Stack Attack” episode of “Food Paradise,” airing on April 30 at 8 p.m.

The Vortex was born when the Benoit siblings moved to Atlanta from Southern California and asked themselves what would be more fun than looking for jobs. “We decided we really enjoyed hanging out in bars. We pooled our savings and opened the first Vortex location at the corner of West Peachtree and 11th Street in Midtown,” says Michael Benoit. “We knew nothing about owning or running a restaurant, so we adopted a ‘learn as you burn’ philosophy.”

For the first five years, the siblings filled every role in the restaurant, from serving and bartending to janitorial duties and even cooking, in a pinch. That hands-on approach gave them lots of quality time with customers – mostly awesome, and some much less so.

“As we had occasional run-ins with people who displayed entitled attitudes, looked down on servers and were really not any fun at all, we began drafting our company policies,” Benoit says. “Over the 25 years, those ‘House Rules’ have grown from a single paragraph on our menu to filling the entire front and back covers.”

While most customers find great humor in the policies, they take The Vortex menu, which consists of heavyweight burgers like the Zombie Apocalypse or Classic Coronary, and significant sandwiches such as the Hot Southern Mess or Grilled Cheesy MoFo, seriously.

“In the early days, we sat down with any purveyor who would see us, sampling tons and tons of meat,” Benoit says. “In the end, our decisions were not based on cost but on what we thought tasted best. Our proprietary burger blend was and still is made specifically for us.”

In July 1996, the Benoits expanded their eclectic empire to Little Five Points on Moreland Avenue and created an Atlanta landmark with the restaurant’s 20-foot high “Laughing Skull” façade. A little over a year later, The Vortex’s original Midtown location moved to its current home on Peachtree Street. Both locations feature eclectic décor and a fun, lively atmosphere in keeping with the family-owned, independent vibe the three siblings have firmly established.

“Our entire business plan was based around having fun, and that’s what we’re doing,” says Benoit. “We have built a loyal fan base over the years that has allowed us to grow our business, and we do what we do for them. There’s a lot of love in these 25 years.”

Where do they go from here? Benoit says they are continually asked about franchising or opening restaurants in other cities. “We didn’t open to become bar moguls,” he says. “The last thing we want to do is create more work for ourselves.”

Michael Benoit, Suzanne Benoit, Hank Benoit (L-R)

About The Vortex
Serving burgers and booze since 1992, The Vortex has earned its reputation as the godfather of all Atlanta burger joints. It has been honored with numerous “best burger” awards from local and national publications, as well as accolades for “best beer selection,” “best neighborhood bar” and “best bar food.” The extensive selection of beer and booze, along with its lively, non-conformist, no-bull attitude and ridiculously indulgent bar food are key reasons The Vortex is a perennial “reader poll” favorite.  Both the Little 5 Points and Midtown locations are restricted to customers 21 and over only and adhere to “official idiot-free zone” policies. The eclectic bar is also the home of Vortex Radio, a podcast (available on iTunes) that features one-of-a-kind discussions about bar culture, food, nightlife and entertainment. For more information, visit thevortexatl.com.

Image credit goes to one of Atlanta’s most talented photographers – Colin Murphy

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