mame11

Atlanta, GA

169 posts in this topic

I have been reluctant to post about Atlanta because it is a hard foodie city. There are lots of good restaurants but the city is pretty spread out, like Los Angeles. There are some places I'd like to highlight:

1) Chik-fil-A: I swear that there is no chicken sandwich (fried of course) better than a Chik-fil-A in Atlanta. I think the consistency is greatest in Atlanta because the home office is up the road. (all over)

2) The Varsity: The world's largest drive-in is really a must do at least once. If you have kids it is a hoot to see their reaction to the place. They are known for their orange drink and hot dogs. I like their fries and onion rings. However, for the record, I go once every 5 years which is all my heart can take! (downtown)

3) Souper Jenny: This little shop is amazing for many reasons. Every day they offer a variety of soups and salads in a quaint Buckhead setting. It is only open for lunch, but you can get the soups and salads to go. (Buckhead Souper Jenny Info)

4) Eclipse di Luna: Chef Paul Luna brought tapas to Atlanta. Great space, fun environment. Eclipse di Luna (Brookhaven Circle, technically in Buckhead)

5) Fontaines Oyster House: My mom is a big fan of this seafood place in Virginia Highlands. I think it is good too... but it reminds her of New Orleans which says a lot! Think of it as a dive bar with seafood. (Virgina Highlands)

6) Taqueria del Sol: What was novel seven years ago, has become a go to spot for tacos with unique fillings. There are two locations, one near Georgia Tech and the other in Decatur.

7) Watershed: Again a place that has become a mainstay in Decatur. The menu is comprised of modern takes on Southern classics. A very nice space by the way and I understand they have a really good wine selection. (Decatur)

8) Flying Biscuit: Okay this place has been a favorite of mine for over a decade. The original location is in Candler Park near Little Five Points. They opened an outpost near Piedmont Park a couple of years ago. They have a great breakfast menu as well as good Southern influenced lunch and dinner fare. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the owners recently sold the business to the company that has created a variety of franchises including Moes. I am not sure how the Flying Biscuit translates as a franchised operation but if you get to Atlanta before they spring up like weeds (there are Moes on every corner in Atlanta) the place is a treat.

9) Bacchanilia: I'd be lying if I said I had eaten at what is considered the best restaurant in Atlanta. I left Atlanta right after it opened and haven't had a chance to eat there (yet) but it is supposed to be the bomb. For many on this list I know the restaurant would be especially appealing because the chef grows much of her own produce. Also, I love the retail and to go operation attached called Star Provisions. Bacchanilia

10) Float Away Cafe: The more accesible restaurant owned by the Bacchanilia team

11) Mellow Mushroom Pizza: Really good local pizza chain. I prefer it to Fellinis, another local chain. (all over)

12) Food Studio: Really cool space and unique food at the King Plow Arts Center. It is a dark space so don't go there for a business dinner. The Food Studio

You might notice that the Food Studio is one of a group of restaurants. The Buckhead Life Groupset the stage for restaurenters to own multiple different concept restaurants in Atlanta starting in the 1970s. Of the Buckhead Life Group restaurants, I have been to, and like the following places:

13) Buckhead Diner: Yummy diner food done extremely well and upscale.

14) Corner Cafe and Bakery: Great lunch place, never been to brunch but I hear it rocks AND the bakery is really good.

Now, back to regularly scheduled programming...

When I lived in Atlanta, Thai and Japanese were the two big Asian cuisines. However, since leaving Atlanta I have had much better Thai food. As to Japanese, I used to like

15) Soto: The chef at Soto was brought to the US to be the chef at the Hotel Nikko in Atlanta. When he left, he set up shop in a strip mall right across from the hotel. The hotel is now an Intercontinental but Soto remains...

And finally, a word about dining in strip malls... I don't know why but many of the good and great restaurants in Atlanta are in strip malls! Seriously odd...

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John, Atlanta is an exciting restaurant city which is on the move. You need to try Bacchanalia, Rathbun's and the Watershed. Especially the Watershed which is in a converted gas station and ONLY on Tuesday night has the best fried chicken on earth. Serious. Not an exaggeration. It's also the best "southern" restaurant in the Atlanta area. I'd liken Bacchanalia/Quinones to Citronelle. Rathbun's may be the "hottest" restaurant in the South right now-it's in a former pot belly stove factory!

I don't think that Peter Chang is going to have the impact on Atlanta that he may have had here.

By the way, Seasons 52 is OPEN near Perimeter Mall and their Buckhead location opens in late November. I have lobbied like Hell to have Darden open a Seasons 52 in Fairfax County. We'll see.

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John, Atlanta is an exciting restaurant city which is on the move. You need to try Bacchanalia, Rathbun's and the Watershed. Especially the Watershed which is in a converted gas station and ONLY on Tuesday night has the best fried chicken on earth. Serious. Not an exaggeration. It's also the best "southern" restaurant in the Atlanta area. I'd liken Bacchanalia/Quinones to Citronelle. Rathbun's may be the "hottest" restaurant in the South right now-it's in a former pot belly stove factory!

I don't think that Peter Chang is going to have the impact on Atlanta that he may have had here.

By the way, Seasons 52 is OPEN near Perimeter Mall and their Buckhead location opens in late November. I have lobbied like Hell to have Darden open a Seasons 52 in Fairfax County. We'll see.

Joe

I suspect you're right about not having the same impact. The problem is there isn't the sheer quantity of decent/good Chinese alternatives there compared to the DC area, so when word gets out they may be overrun anyway. We'll see--it's only a matter of time.

Meanwhile I'm looking forward to trying out lots of other spots too, including those you recommended, consistent with a retiree's income of course! There is certainly a large number of worthwhile places, at all levels and of all types, more than I'll ever be able to get to.

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I have been reluctant to post about Atlanta because it is a hard foodie city. There are lots of good restaurants but the city is pretty spread out, like Los Angeles. There are some places I'd like to highlight:

1) Chik-fil-A: I swear that there is no chicken sandwich (fried of course) better than a Chik-fil-A in Atlanta. I think the consistency is greatest in Atlanta because the home office is up the road. (all over)

2) The Varsity: The world's largest drive-in is really a must do at least once. If you have kids it is a hoot to see their reaction to the place. They are known for their orange drink and hot dogs. I like their fries and onion rings. However, for the record, I go once every 5 years which is all my heart can take! (downtown)

3) Souper Jenny: This little shop is amazing for many reasons. Every day they offer a variety of soups and salads in a quaint Buckhead setting. It is only open for lunch, but you can get the soups and salads to go. (Buckhead Souper Jenny Info)

4) Eclipse di Luna: Chef Paul Luna brought tapas to Atlanta. Great space, fun environment. Eclipse di Luna (Brookhaven Circle, technically in Buckhead)

5) Fontaines Oyster House: My mom is a big fan of this seafood place in Virginia Highlands. I think it is good too... but it reminds her of New Orleans which says a lot! Think of it as a dive bar with seafood. (Virgina Highlands)

6) Taqueria del Sol: What was novel seven years ago, has become a go to spot for tacos with unique fillings. There are two locations, one near Georgia Tech and the other in Decatur.

7) Watershed: Again a place that has become a mainstay in Decatur. The menu is comprised of modern takes on Southern classics. A very nice space by the way and I understand they have a really good wine selection. (Decatur)

8) Flying Biscuit: Okay this place has been a favorite of mine for over a decade. The original location is in Candler Park near Little Five Points. They opened an outpost near Piedmont Park a couple of years ago. They have a great breakfast menu as well as good Southern influenced lunch and dinner fare. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the owners recently sold the business to the company that has created a variety of franchises including Moes. I am not sure how the Flying Biscuit translates as a franchised operation but if you get to Atlanta before they spring up like weeds (there are Moes on every corner in Atlanta) the place is a treat.

9) Bacchanilia: I'd be lying if I said I had eaten at what is considered the best restaurant in Atlanta. I left Atlanta right after it opened and haven't had a chance to eat there (yet) but it is supposed to be the bomb. For many on this list I know the restaurant would be especially appealing because the chef grows much of her own produce. Also, I love the retail and to go operation attached called Star Provisions. Bacchanilia

10) Float Away Cafe: The more accesible restaurant owned by the Bacchanilia team

11) Mellow Mushroom Pizza: Really good local pizza chain. I prefer it to Fellinis, another local chain. (all over)

12) Food Studio: Really cool space and unique food at the King Plow Arts Center. It is a dark space so don't go there for a business dinner. The Food Studio

You might notice that the Food Studio is one of a group of restaurants. The Buckhead Life Groupset the stage for restaurenters to own multiple different concept restaurants in Atlanta starting in the 1970s. Of the Buckhead Life Group restaurants, I have been to, and like the following places:

13) Buckhead Diner: Yummy diner food done extremely well and upscale.

14) Corner Cafe and Bakery: Great lunch place, never been to brunch but I hear it rocks AND the bakery is really good.

Now, back to regularly scheduled programming...

When I lived in Atlanta, Thai and Japanese were the two big Asian cuisines. However, since leaving Atlanta I have had much better Thai food. As to Japanese, I used to like

15) Soto: The chef at Soto was brought to the US to be the chef at the Hotel Nikko in Atlanta. When he left, he set up shop in a strip mall right across from the hotel. The hotel is now an Intercontinental but Soto remains...

And finally, a word about dining in strip malls... I don't know why but many of the good and great restaurants in Atlanta are in strip malls! Seriously odd...

Atlanta is an excellent restaurant town which does not receive the national press it deserves. I've been to Bacchanalia three times and it's adjacent Quinelles (sp?) is close to Citronelle if not as good. Rathbun's is outstanding as is Seeger's. His replacement at the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead has returned the room to its former lofty position when Gunter Seeger was there. Pano and Paul's is the Prime Rib of Atlanta. Fat Matt's Rib Shack is the best Q. Seasons 52 is in Perimeter Mall (and opening in mid to late November in Buckhead) with Pappasito's in the suburbs also. I like Floataway, the Food Studio (most romantic restaurant in the city), Chops (Atlanta's best steak house), the original Dalt House (Chick Fil A), Watershed (best fried chicken I've ever had but only on Tuesday nights and they run out early; great chocolate cake, too), Buckhead Diner (excellent for what it is), Mary Mac's (meat and threes), Thelma's (definitive meat and threes) and the Flying Biscuit Cafe was great on a visit a year ago. Emeril's (yes, THE Emeril's) still has the best gumbo (seafood and andouille) I've had in a restaurant although everything else is a pale imitation of what he once had on Tschoupolitas street in New Orleans in the early '90's-when he was in the kitchen every night.

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from NCPinDC

>>>9) Bacchanilia: I'd be lying if I said I had eaten at what is considered the best restaurant in Atlanta. I left Atlanta right after it opened and haven't had a chance to eat there (yet) but it is supposed to be the bomb. For many on this list I know the restaurant would be especially appealing because the chef grows much of her own produce. Also, I love the retail and to go operation attached called Star Provisions. Bacchanilia<<<

I have eaten (lunch only, I think) at Bachannalia a handful of times over the past five years and have only fantastic meals there with excellent service. They're (justifiably) well known for their crab cake appetizer. I loved it the two times I had it. On the second time, I recognized the flavor of vanilla in it somewhere (almost ephemeral, perfect). I asked the waitress about it and she said that yes, they use vanilla salt in making (I think) the broth. It was wonderful. My relatives who lived there have moved away and it really saddens me to think I may never eat there again.

My other recommendation in that part of the world is the Grit in Athens. It's a vegetarian restaurant, dirt cheap in a bar like setting. Great food. The golden tofu is amazing.

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Fat Matt's Rib Shack is the best Q.

Fat Matt's has the best BBQ sauce I've ever tasted (the ribs themselves were just ok). A look at the label (it's bottled for sale too) indicated that anchovies were one of the secret ingredients.

The banana cream pie at the Buckhead Diner is a must.

A place I enjoyed that hasn't been mentioned is Dish, which is in a converted filling station in the Virginia Highlands neighborhood.

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from NCPinDC

>>>9) Bacchanilia: I'd be lying if I said I had eaten at what is considered the best restaurant in Atlanta. I left Atlanta right after it opened and haven't had a chance to eat there (yet) but it is supposed to be the bomb. For many on this list I know the restaurant would be especially appealing because the chef grows much of her own produce. Also, I love the retail and to go operation attached called Star Provisions. Bacchanilia<<<

I have eaten (lunch only, I think) at Bachannalia a handful of times over the past five years and have only fantastic meals there with excellent service. They're (justifiably) well known for their crab cake appetizer. I loved it the two times I had it. On the second time, I recognized the flavor of vanilla in it somewhere (almost ephemeral, perfect). I asked the waitress about it and she said that yes, they use vanilla salt in making (I think) the broth. It was wonderful. My relatives who lived there have moved away and it really saddens me to think I may never eat there again.

My other recommendation in that part of the world is the Grit in Athens. It's a vegetarian restaurant, dirt cheap in a bar like setting. Great food. The golden tofu is amazing.

I wrote this about Bacchanalia a year ago in a trade publication for my industry:

Among the world's best flavor favoring caloric indulgences is one whose recipe includes almost equal parts Valrhona chocolate and country butter. Bacchanalia's signature dessert is a warm chocolate cake oozing a puddle of molten chocolate from its core with vanilla bean and malted milk chocolate ice creams nestled alongside. The is the finale to dinner at what many consider to be not only Atlanta's best restaurant but also one of America's best. The James Beard Society acknowledged this in 2003 when it named Bacchanalia the best restaurant in the Southeastern United States. The chef owners outsource the freshest natural and organic ingredients possible, many from their own sixty acre farm.

Their signature first course is a panko crusted blue crab fritter with avocado, citrus and Thai pepper essence. A foie gras terrine with brioche and onion jam is also popular along with potato gnocchi with Perigord black truffles and pancetta among other choices. Wood grilled breast of squab with potato gratin joins braised red snapper with caramelized turnips and three others for the second course. The salad course may include D'anjou pears with endive, wlanuts and artisan blue cheese or Granny Smith apples with four year old farmer's gouda. For dessert a blood orange souffle as well as "fresh capriole cheesecake with candied kumquats" stands out.

The four course dinner is $68 prix fixe. Bacchanalia is among Atlanta's most difficult reservations generally booked up a month or more in advance for weekends. However the 70 seat restaurant often has openings on weekdays.

Alternatively, a more intimate and personal restaurant-similar to an earlier incarnation of the original Bacchanalia-Quinones was opened this year on another floor of the same building with a set menu of nine courses for $95 prix fixe. With the same fresh indigenous ingredients flavors with real depth emerge: fresh picked roasted figs and foie gras with a Port reduction, sturgeon wrapped with proscuitto and garnished with squash, Diver scallop in sweet onion milk, Tallegio with toasted hazelnuts and "Tupelo honeycomb" and a poached Quail egg in tomato cosomme with black truffle among other small courses.

Edited by Joe H

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I wrote this about Bacchanalia a year ago in a trade publication for my industry:

Among the world's best flavor favoring caloric indulgences is one whose recipe includes almost equal parts Valrhona chocolate and country butter. Bacchanalia's signature dessert is a warm chocolate cake oozing a puddle of molten chocolate from its core with vanialla bean and malted milk chocolate ice creams nestled alongside. The is the finale to dinner at what many consider to be not only Atlanta's best restaurant but also one of America's best. The James Beard Society acknowledged this in 2003 when it named Bacchanalia the best restaurant in the Southeastern United States. The chef owners outsource the freshest natural and organic ingredients possible, many from their own sixty acre farm.

<snip>

For dessert a blood orange souffle as well as "fresh capriole cheesecake with candied kumquats" stands out.

You know, I know a lot of folks who love that warm chocolate cake. Although I dearly love chocolate, I find that sort of lava cake to be completely overrated. It's not just theirs, I've never had one that really wowed me. However, I did have a variation on the capriole cheesecake (different topping, dried fruits that had been soaked in a simple syrup made of white wine and sugar--I tried to get the recipe and that was about as close as I got--but delicious all the same).

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I just returned from seven days of entertaining during my annual tradeshow which, this year, was in Atlanta. Confirmation that Bacchanalia is still Atlanta's best restaurant, based on two meals there. Still, I believe it is a big notch below both Citronelle and Maestro, perhaps CityZen. Rathbun's IS the hottest restaurant in Atlanta right now, well worth a visit. Overall, I believe that Washington has now outdistanced itself from most cities in America, with only San Francisco, Chicago and New York offering a greater volume of excellence. I am still not sold on Vegas having had excellent dinners in several high profile restaurants-but nothing equal to Maestro or Citronelle noted above. I have not been to Robuchon's $350 prix fixe place in the MGM preferring to use that to buy a ticket to Paris instead. This also means that I believe that DC's best is the equal of any in America.

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... Rathbun's IS the hottest restaurant in Atlanta right now, well worth a visit.
Chef Kevin Rathbun at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen: post-241-1164167126_thumb.jpg

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The hubby, Peanut (aka Butter Cup) and I are travelling to Hot'Lanta in April. I'm from there and am familiar with the established eateries but would like to know which of the newer places we must try. My parents LUV Eugene's. Has anyone been recently? Apart from the usual suspects already mentioned in other posts, any other gems folks would recommend?

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Confirmation that Bacchanalia is still Atlanta's best restaurant, based on two meals there. Still, I believe it is a big notch below both Citronelle and Maestro, perhaps CityZen.
Mrs JPW and I had a wonderful dinner at the bar at Bacchanalia this past weekend. I would agree in general with Joe's analysis above. I'd give CityZen the edge over Bacchanalia by a nose. We started with the shrimp and a charcuterie plate. The shrimp were perfectly done and their briny essence was contrasted nicely with the creamy garlic sauce. The charcuterie platter was five different meats cured in house (and displayed AND on sale from their new curing room in the store up front) and a pork rillette. All were very nicely done. For a main, we split a grouper over mixed vegetables. The grouper fillet was perfectly broiled with a nice crust. It went well with the stronger vegetables especially the artichoke hearts. A pre-dessert of a shot glass of orange foam with tiny dollops of fennel ice cream at the bottom was an amusing take on bubble tea.

A nice selection of wines by the glass and really excellent service. I'm not generally a fan of open kitchens, but I really like that the bar overlooks the open kitchen. So often as a solo diner at the bar, I have nothing really to look at but a wall of bottles. Here, the bar diner gets the show. A nice interior that makes you forget that you are in what is for all intents and purposes a strip mall. A thoroughly enjoyable meal and a place to which I look forward to returning.

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To deal with my farmers market envy, I drove to Thomasville, GA today. They have the state farmers market there. Unfortunately, the web site I got my info from neglected to say that this was the series of wholesale warehouses and not stalls open to the public. Bummed and hungry, I went into Market Diner for some lunch. This is an $8.50 buffet set up that features the goods of the market. I filled my plate with crispy but not greasy fried chicken, corn souffle, dressing, stewed okra and tomatos, and some of the best collards I've ever tasted, well seasoned with generous chunks of local ham. The staff was really pushing the cobbler because they were so excited to have it back in season. My very kind server kept my tea glass filled and told me to come back in summer (!) if I want the open fruit stands. It was 94 degrees in the shade - I wonder what they call summer?

This place is an easy 30 minute detour off I-10 if you happening to be cruising across the south.

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Had a really enjoyable quick trip to Atlanta this weekend. For some reason, I'd thought it was farther then it is and haven't included it in any of my weekend road trips. But, at only 4 hours and a really enjoyable drive, I'll be back (unless I move first).

Had a work meeting Friday morning which spilled over into lunch. Went to Brio in Buckhead and was really disappointed - both at the actual lunch and at having to give up my lunch to work. My dining companion raved about the lasagna so I caved and got it. It was drowning in bechamel and was just too heavy for summer.

Set free in the afternoon I headed to the aquarium -- truly wonderful place. Made it back to my hotel around 8 and had to figure out what to do about dinner. I was too tired to go back downtown as originally planned and decided to go around the corner to the Buckhead Diner at the recommendation of the concierge at my hotel. He said instead of eating at the bar, sit at the chef's counter. They have an open kitchen with a counter and a few bar stools. You sit in the middle of the action and share the heat of the ovens. I had the tempura softshell crabs at the recommendation of the chef who chatted with me from time to time. The crab was light without a trace of grease. It was served over a disappointing risotto that just had too much going on and was a poor match for the crab so most of my risotto was left on the plate. The chef noticed and had them bring me a cherry cobbler, the dessert special. This was a thing of beauty. The cherries were both tart and sweet. Rather then a biscuit topping it had something akin to French toast and it just worked wonderfully. I also enjoyed the show. The chef was fed up with several of the servers and it was an interesting FOH/BOH dynamic.

I wanted to hit the big State Farmers Market on the way home but they were only open until noon on Saturday and I didn't want to leave that early. I went to the DeKalb Farmers Market, more southern style Super H then farmers market. In fact, they were selling peaches from California which just seemed wrong. But they were next to durian and plantains which somehow balanced everything out. Had lunch at the buffet restaurant which was a good reflection of the eclectic international products, produce, and meats in the store. Want greens to go with your fried chicken? Sure, but they were bak choy, not collards. I stocked up on some spices, tea, and other staple-ish things that I can't get locally. I'd brought a cooler with me and got some wonderful looking lamb and some Texas grass fed steaks. I skipped the enticing storemade sausages. I could be very happy living near this place.

On the way home I stopped at a number of roadside stands and picked up a few varieties of peaches, tomatoes and corn. Had some great peach ice cream at Ellis nut farm in Vienna, GA where they had 4 different pecans on offer. Then to the Salt-lick Sausage Company where I looked but didn't buy anything because I'd been told to go to Stripling's General Store across the street but I couldn't resist stopping in to both places in Cordele, GA. Stripling's had a great assortment of sausage, bacon, ham steaks, and pickled veggies of all types. I picked up the medium smoked sausage based on the advice of the guy behind the counter. They must have a number of drivers stop in on a whim because they had an assortment of cooler bags on display by the meat counter. I also picked up some wonderful butter from Sparkman's Cream Valley in Moultrie, GA. It is dark yellow and very flavorful. They had non-homogenized milk, but sadly, no cream because I would have loved to make some carmels with the same magic cow stuff that went into this butter.

A great couple of days on the road. Many promising bbq places along the way but those will have to wait until next time.

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After a long absence, I am relocating in May to my childhood home--Atlanta. My parents live in Lawrenceville, so they don't get into the city much--so is there anyone on this board who can fill me in on what's hot in the ATL dining scene these days? My initial impulse, based on past experiences, is that it's not as exciting or varied as DC, but that it doesn't get nearly the respect it deserves.

Thoughts? Thanks!

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The local high-end booze distributor recommended Pearson's, in Buckhead, as the most likely place in the area to find a selection of their items. It turns out that the Atlanta Pearson's was started in the early 1970s by the son of the owner of DC's own Pearson's. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find the hardest-to-find items I was looking for, but I did at least pick up some Aviation gin, some more Neisson rhum, and a few other things.

Ask for Annie; she's clearly the resident spirits fiend. I'm going to have to try this Modmix citrus margarita mixer with the Hangar One Chipotle when I get home.

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Alright, kids, I know I previously asked for general sentiments about the Atlanta-area dining scene, but now I have a specific trip planned and would like some thoughts--if you've got 'em.

After Presidents' Day, I'll be spending three days (and two nights) in Atlanta for job-hunting purposes. I'll be staying with my folks in Lawrenceville, so dinners will likely consist of Chick-fil-a (drool...) or goodies from the surprisingly fresh and tasty local sushi joint. My question is--what about lunch? Two of my interview days will be spent in Decatur (1700 Clairmont Road, to be exact), and the other will be in the Peachtree Center area (right near the MARTA station). Are there any spots close-by that shouldn't be missed?

After three days of smiling and tooting my own horn, I'm fortunate enough to be going to Athens for the weekend to visit my alma mater and many friends I made there. Other than 5 and 10 (where I've dined once before and will be going if I can convince someone to accompany me), are there any new and noteworthy spots in the Classic City? When I was a poor college student there, I ate at The Grill and The Grit, and date nights/parental visits usually called for trips to East/West Bistro or DePalma's.

Any recent experiences would be much appreciated--thanks!

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Alright, so apparently I'm the only one who writes in this topic! rolleyes.gif

During my jaunt to Athens, Georgia, last week, I decided to treat myself to one nice solo dinner. Being a college town, the Classic City isn't exactly chock-full of haute cuisine options. However, 5 & 10 garnered the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's "Restaurant of the Year" title in 2007. What better reason to give it a taste?

I had a hard time deciding how to proceed food-wise. Nearly all of the entrees looked delicious, but I wanted to try as many varied things as possible. So, in the end, I had three appetizers and a dessert. First, I chose the cauliflower soup with butter poached Maine lobster and chive cream ($9). It was creamier and a little thinner than the version I recently had at Proof (which I loved), but the flavor was really good. The lobster didn't really add or subtract from the dish, which causes me to conclude that chefs should just leave their cauliflower soups alone and stop adding seafood (Proof's version had cornmeal-crusted fried oysters, and I thought they were superfluous as well).

Next, I ordered a half dozen oysters on the half-shell. As an oyster-lover, I pay great attention to the care that is taken in selecting and presenting raw bar items. In this case, the oysters (which were Kumamotos - small, but briny and somewhat sweet, and absolutely fantastic) were served with a homemade cocktail sauce and a mignonette, and it was a wonderful middle course (especially when paired with an insanely reasonably priced $6 glass of cava).

Earlier in the evening, the bartender had raved about the ahi tuna tartare with cornichons, shallots, lemon, parsley, ponzu, citrus salad, and haricots vert ($14). It sounded fabulous, so I decided to end my appetizer tour with the dish, and the presentation was certainly gorgeous (and the quality of the fish was top-notch). However, it seemed to me that the chef was rather heavy-handed with the ponzu, as the sauce often overpowered the flavor of the tuna (especially near the bottom of the mold, where the fish was sitting in a puddle of the liquid). I've had a lot of tuna tartare, and this one was certainly good, but it wasn't mind-blowing by any stretch of the imagination.

For dessert, I noticed a bourbon pecan pie on the specials menu, and I had to go for it. I make a mean bourbon pecan pie myself, and I wanted to see how 5 & 10 would stack up against my baking prowess (intense sarcasm intended). Shockingly enough, I really and truly thought that my pecan pie was the superior dessert, as 5 & 10's version was rather uninspiring. The Coca-Cola ice cream that came with the pie, however, was one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. Amazing. And I don't even like ice cream all that much.

Three appetizers, a dessert, two glasses of wine, a beer, tax, and tip added up to $82. The service was very good, and the atmosphere was energetic and casual (except for the primped up sorority girls who got busted for having fake IDs...ah, college). But I walked out of the restaurant with a furrowed brow. Was that REALLY the best restaurant in Atlanta?

I applaud the AJC's food editors for realizing that there exist great culinary possibilities outside of the perimeter (or OTP, as we ATLiens would say - haha). However, it is hard for me to believe that there isn't a single restaurant in the metro Atlanta area that can beat 5 & 10 in terms of a total dining experience. To say that the best restaurant in Atlanta resides in Athens (which is a good hour and a half outside the city) is, in my mind, to severely denigrate the many great dining options that one can find right downtown.

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Help!

I have one day in Atlanta next week. I am staying downtown and need to be at Emory Law School at 7 pm.

I have an old friend meeting me but she won't get in until 4:30 or 5.

Where can we have a nice early dinner near Emory?

Thanks!

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Help!

I have one day in Atlanta next week. I am staying downtown and need to be at Emory Law School at 7 pm.

I have an old friend meeting me but she won't get in until 4:30 or 5.

Where can we have a nice early dinner near Emory?

Thanks!

My first suggestion would be Watershed, ESPECIALLY if the day you're in Atlanta happens to be a Tuesday (which is when they have fried chicken). If you like Mexican food, Taqueria del Sol is also good. Both restaurants are on Ponce de Leon (they're right across the street from each other, actually), in downtown Decatur, just a short drive from Emory. Hope that helps!

Watershed: http://www.watershedrestaurant.com/

Taqueria del Sol: http://www.taqueriadelsol.com/

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Do we have any Rockwellians currently living in Atlanta? My move is less than 2 weeks away, and I'd love to meet any potential dinner companions as I prepare to eat my way through the city! :-)

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Okay, my first restaurant report from Atlanta--TWO urban licks, which is part of the Concentrics Restaurant Group (they own about 8 places in the Metro area), and which happens to be right across the street from my loft. The ambiance is kind of over the top--very industrial, and trying VERY hard to be hip.

For appetizers, Jason and I shared the oxtail empanadas with roasted garlic aioli ($10) and the sweet and spicy calamari with basil and cilantro ($10). The empanadas had a very healthy helping of queso on top, which, when combined with the aioli, greatly overpowered the dish. However, when I scraped off the excess toppings and got a bite of just oxtail and pastry, the flavors really sang--the meat was insanely tender from braising and incredibly well-seasoned. The calamari was fried perfectly--not chewy, not greasy, just crispy and tender--and the chili glaze delivered the as-promised one-two punch of sweet and spicy. I could have used a little more cilantro to cool things down, but overall, I thought it was a delicious version of the ubiquitous squid starter.

Before our main courses, we decided to order some vino. In terms of wine, TWO urban licks has special relationships with certain wineries that allow it to buy in large quantities and then store the wine in temperature-controlled stainless steel barrels. While it all sounded nifty, I wasn't thrilled with any of the by-the-glass selections, and we were there to celebrate. So, a bottle it was.

Entree-wise, Jason opted for the bronzed scallops with gouda grits and smoked tomato broth ($20). He said they were quite possibly the best scallops he's ever had--very high praise! I'm not sure I agree that they were superlative, but they were nicely cooked (bordering on underdone, which is how I like them) and subtly seasoned. The accompanying grits and broth were very tasty as well and did a good job of complimenting and highlighting the bivalves. I opted for the braised pork with baked cheddar macaroni and pork jus ($19). Let me just get this out of the way: that macaroni and cheese may have been the best I've ever had. Ever. Served in a mini cast-iron pot, the cheddar cheese on top was perfectly browned and just a tad crunchy, and the macaroni underneath was rich, creamy, tangy deliciousness. The waiter said that the secret was bechamel sauce. Drooooooool. The pork was a HUGE portion, and it was definitely well-braised (it fell off the bone), but it was waaaaaay too heavy on the fennel, which surprised me all the more because the menu didn't mention it as a component of the dish.

For dessert, we ordered port, coffee, and the chocolate mousse rice crispy treat with chocolate malt ice cream ($7). Basically, it was like Atlanta's take on the Michel Richard "Kit Kat Bar." I sometimes found Richard's version to be a little heavy (i.e., not enough air in the mousse), but this version was virtually error-proof. The mousse was light in both flavor and texture, and the "rice crispy treat" bottom was delicately crunchy. I didn't get a lot of malt flavor from the ice cream, but Jason really liked it.

At the end of the meal, in addition to our bill (which came out to $187, without tip, but which would have been a LOT cheaper if we hadn't splurged on an expensive wine), we were presented with a $25 gift certificate to each of two other Concentric restaurants, Trois and STATS. I thought it was a nice gesture, and VERY smart--in this economy, even popular restaurants need to make extra efforts to encourage diners to eat out. Service was very good, and the experience as a whole went much more smoothly than I was expecting (since it's such a "see and be seen" place, I anticipated more waiting and certainly more aloofness).

In sum, though the kitchen could use a lighter hand with certain seasonings, and though the atmosphere is more clubhound than chowhound, I am thrilled to have TWO urban licks right in my backyard.

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There are a lot of places to get "meat and three" plates in Atlanta, but I just went to one of the most beloved--Eats. It's on Ponce de Leon, and it's a pretty busted lookin' place. BUT, there's a reason it just celebrated its 15-year anniversary. A "meat and two" plate with jerk chicken, mac 'n cheese, black beans, and cornbread costs less than $7, but it's enough food to keep you going all day long. The HALF chicken was literally falling off the bone, and it had a great kick--it definitely didn't taste of any commercial, mass-produced jerk seasoning. The mac 'n cheese was a solid rendition, and very cheesy. The beans were wonderful, with a creamy texture and a chili-enhanced flavor. I don't really like cornbread (I know, blasphemy), so I can't comment on that--and I don't think I would have been able to stuff it in anyway.

Eats also has a pasta bar, where you can customize your noodles, sauces, and toppings. I think it will be a long while before I try that, though. I still have to get through the meatloaf, collards, green beans...

Very diverse crowd--old and young, black and white, yuppies and emo hipsters. Cool place all around!

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China Inn, tonight, amazing ma pa tofu. When we entered the restaurant on Peachtree Industrial Blvd. tonight I expected tried and trued Americanized Chinese food. However, I saw a gentleman making a take out order off a Chinese menu. I asked if they had a translation which they didn't. I thought of the Chinese names of the dishes I liked at Joes and elsewhere but to little avail. So, I stuck with dishes on the main menu that I knew had traditional Chinese roots. Since I had tried to order Chinese dishes, the server brought us the traditional versions of the dishes. Wow.

Though we ended up ordering Cashew Chicken for him, my teenage nephew loved watching the open kitchen.

Oh, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce Atlanta chapter was having a banquet in the restaurant... always a good sign.

5470 Peachtree Industrial Blvd

Chamblee, GA 30341

(770) 458-6363

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Heading down to Atlanta this weekend. We're thinking about going to JCT Kitchen one night (looking for good food in nice, but casual setting), and Bone's the other (looking for a steakhouse). Any thoughts on these restaurants?

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I've heard good buzz about JCT, though its newness may result in some inconsistencies. Seems like a decent choice for good food in a more casual atmosphere, but have you thought about Watershed? It's only a short drive to Decatur, and Scott Peacock is doing amazing things with southern-themed food in a chic but relaxed environment.

People argue about whether Bone's or Chops is Atlanta's premiere steakhouse, but I think it's probably a toss-up. I haven't eaten at either lately, but way back when, I enjoyed my meals at both places. They are both "power steakhouses," so you can be sure you'll get top quality food at top-dollar prices. Make sure you call ahead and confirm whether jackets/ties are required (I can't remember off the top of my head).

I don't think steakhouses are Atlanta's forte--so if you decide to stray from that path, let me know and I can try to recommend something else. Enjoy your trip!

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Heading down to Atlanta this weekend. We're thinking about going to JCT Kitchen one night (looking for good food in nice, but casual setting), and Bone's the other (looking for a steakhouse). Any thoughts on these restaurants?
I don't know JCT Kitchen but Bones is good. There are two other notable steak places in Atlanta. Chops, which has been referred to earlier, is part of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. It is really good. Prime may be past its prime (ha ha) but people still really like it. Double bonus that you can shop in Lenox before your meal...

There is a newish restaurant group in Atlanta called Concentrics Restaurants. I am a huge fan of their newest property called Parish which is in Inman Park. It reminds me of a place I like in Portland Maine but with the most amazing grits I have ever had. It's in Inman Park which is a cute neighborhood near Little 5 Points.

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I've been to JCT Kitchen 3 times, and have had 2 good experiences and one so-so one. The setting is lovely, and the fried chicken and macaroni and cheese do it justice. Other restaurants working a similar concept are Shaun's Social Club and Restaurant (Inman Park), Watershed (Decatur), and Home (where Richard Blais, of Top Chef, consults). I think you'll be happy, but not wowed, at any of them.

Perhaps the best thing about Bone's is that it has no dress code. A rarity among restaurants of its kind, especially in the South.

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Went back to TWO urban licks with my parents earlier this week. The atmosphere felt very different on a Monday at 7 PM than it did on a Saturday at 9 PM--it wasn't as busy, of course, and the light hit things differently and made it seem a lot less hip. In fact, my dad even said he was expecting the space to be more "shi-shi."

For appetizers, empanadas and calamari again. Instead of oxtail, the empanadas were filled with shortribs. Also, I asked for the crumbled queso on the side, since I remembered it overpowering the dish. The shortribs seemed a little less flavorful than the oxtail, but the meat was every bit as tender. Also, the smaller amount of cheese let us really taste the crust and the chipotle sauce, which was definitely a good thing. The calamari were, again, cooked perfectly and spiced nicely. I love that great balance between spicy and sweet.

For entrees, mom went for the bronzed scallops with Gouda grits and smoked tomato broth--it got a wonderful review. Perfectly cooked scallops and creamy cheese grits? How can you go wrong?! Dad got the Maple Leaf Farms duck breast, which was stuffed with italian sausage and served with cayenne sweet potato puree and ancho BBQ jus. By far the best dish of the night, the flavors and textures were just amazing, even though the duck itself was just a touch overcooked. I went for the wahoo with summer squash and sunchokes; it was light and tasty, but the fish was a little dry.

Our server was friendly, engaging, non-intrusive, non-awkward, and just generally a fun and interesting human being. He made great recommendations and chatted with us about other restaurants we've enjoyed (notably, The French Laundry, where my parents just dined last month). He talked about his travel to Asia. We debated about food blogging and molecular gastronomy and whether or not cupcakes have jumped the shark (they have). He was such a pleasant part of our dining experience, and I will certainly ask for him when I return.

I only wanted to order one or two desserts, but because we were all in disagreement about what to choose, well, we went for three. Mom got the chocolate mousse rice crispy treat, and she really loved the chocolate malt ice cream. Dad got the bread pudding and said it was good but not great. I got the cupcake plate (previous conversation with the waiter be damned), which had three varieties: chocolate on chocolate, carrot cake and cream cheese icing, and banana caramel with (I think) lemon icing. The chocolate treat went right in the doggie bag for later, and I don't really dig on carrot cake, so that one went to my parents and they reported that it was one of the best versions of carrot cake they'd ever had. The banana lemon cupcake was incredibly moist and delicately flavored, and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. The brown sugar ice cream that accompanied the cakes was absolutely amazing.

So, another very nice meal at TWO. I don't know why people bash this place. It's tasty food in an interesting atmosphere with (in my experience, anyway) attentive service. It's not necessarily a dining revelation, and it definitely has small flaws that keep it out of the top rung of ATL restaurants, but it's a reliable and fun neighborhood joint and I am not ashamed to be a fan.

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Wolverine, where did you end up going while you were visitin Atlanta? I'd love to hear your report!

Sorry for the delayed report.

We ate at JCT Kitchen the first night. The atmosphere at the restaurant is fantastic. Hard to describe in words but it is fairly stark (lots of white), yet comfortable (that doesn't really make sense, but it is). Lots of people in the restaurant, including couples and large groups. As you may know, the menu has a southern flair to it. The bar (also nice, although it has an obstructive fixture in the middle of it) has a great selection of hard alcohol and beer. I didn't review the wine selection. I chose a gin that I had never had before -- No. 209. It was nice, a bit on the sweeter side. I believe the bartender said it was from SF, CA.

For my appetizer I had the Angry Mussels, which was supposed to have a spicy broth with bacon. It was good but could have used more spice. I hit some sort of pepper towards the end (which had a modest kick to it) that gave the broth the intended kick, I believe. So I can see where they were going with the dish, but it just wasn't there for most of it. My wife had the truffle Parmesan fries -- really good. Up there with Poste.

For dinner I tried the special -- a salmon dish. I can't recall all of the details (which may lead you to believe that I didn't like it), but it was quite good. I want to say it was a white salmon. In any event, my wife had a sweet corn and goat cheese ravioli with (the menu says it was a) brown butter-veal jus. I thought this was the star of the night. The goat cheese provided a very nice balance to the dish. It reminded me of a butternut squash ravioli, but I liked it better.

The staff was excellent -- very friendly. There may be better restaurants in Atlanta, but JCT Kitchen was very enjoyable and in a really nice setting.

The second night we went to Bone's. Not much to say other than it is a great steakhouse that holds it own against the best in any other U.S. city. Great wine selection too.

For brunch on Sunday we hit the News Cafe (New Orleans brunch) in Little Five Points. The bloody mary bar is a great concept. There are a few different kinds of bloody mary mixes -- Whiskey Willy's, Major Peters (I think), and V8. You can add olives, horseradish, pepperoncini, worcestershire sauce, 50 or so hot sauces, etc. You make a good one and you feel like a star. You make a bad one and you got no one else to blame but yourself. The food is good brunch food, but it seems that most are coming for the bloody marys -- and the Sweetwater 420 on tap.

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Boyfriend and I have been checking out a lot of local breakfast joints, so here's the report from the past few weeks...

Highland Bakery: Our first visit was a Saturday around 11 AM. The place was crowded, but we snagged the last two seats at the counter. Coffee was fresh, though it could have been a tad stronger for my liking. I ordered the quesadilla benedict, which was just okay--the beans were cooked a little too al dente, and the hollandaise sauce was a bit thin. The eggs were cooked nicely, though, and the tortilla had a great crunch at the edges. Boyfriend got peanut butter french toast, and good LORD was it decadent. He also got some turkey sausage, but it was pretty standard. Service was fine, and while I appreciated the waitress' menu recommendations, they would have been more helpful if they had come at the BEGINNING of the meal instead of the end. Prices were fair for the portions, I think. We returned (with our new puppy!!!!) this past weekend, more like 9 AM on a Saturday morning. It was really nice to sit outside and watch the people and dogs go by. OJ tasted fresh-squeezed, and boyfriend enjoyed the peanut butter french toast as much as he did the first time around. This time, I went for the cilantro corn pancakes, and they were delicious and spicy and incredibly rich.

Gato Bizco Cafe: This place is DEFINITELY going into my regular breakfast/brunch rotation. While the atmosphere might scare the tourists (and probably some locals), isn't that a good thing when all you want is to eat your yummy eggs in peace? Another bonus is you get to watch the hordes lined up in front of the Flying Biscuit and laugh, since you'll get the same biscuity goodness without the hellacious wait! We went at about 10:30 on a Saturday, and we only had to wait about 10 minutes for a seat. My boyfriend and I both had omelettes--his was the Felix (with ham and cheese and a few veggies), and mine was the garden (with peppers, onions, tomatoes, cheese, and cilantro). Both were perfectly cooked and very fresh-tasting, and they didn't skimp on the fillings. Let me put it this way--my dad's omelettes are my benchmark for perfection, and this is the closest I've found to that mark. We also split some Paris Texas Toast, which was good but fairly standard. The biscuits were AWESOME, since they were sliced and then thrown on the griddle with butter. The beans were good, but I didn't care for the taters--I just really like my breakfast potatoes to be crunchy, and these weren't. Coffee was strong and refilled frequently. Service was friendly and fast.

Speaking of the Flying Biscuit: I never went before it "sold out" to the folks who own Moe's, but I had a decent breakfast experience at The Flying Biscuit. Went at about 10 on a Saturday, and since we were a party of 5, we waited about 30 minutes. No biggie, it was a nice day, and there's a cute little art shop to poke around in right down the block. Once we sat down, service was friendly and attentive, and food came out fast and hot. My egg white omelette with spinach, mushrooms, and goat cheese was fluffy and full of flavor. The potatoes were just okay, and the biscuit was actually kind of disappointing (it tasted good, but it wasn't warm and actually seemed a bit stale). Sweet potato pancakes were gobbled down by the toddler at the table, and everyone else seemed to enjoy their egg variations.

Java Vino: I jogged by a few times and thought, "That's weird, is it a coffee house or a wine bar?" Lucky for me, it's BOTH! So far, I've only tried the coffee house side of the business, but I was certainly pleased with my breakfast experience. The variety of coffee is impressive, and the dedication to quality is evident. I'll definitely be returning to buy beans for home consumption. Boyfriend and I both had breakfast burritos in addition to our cups of joe, and they were tasty and filling. The atmosphere definitely has a local feel to it, and there were lots of regulars--I would normally find this fabulous and charming, but many of the folks were acting as if they were in their own living rooms (i.e., taking up tons of space and talking VERY loudly) instead of a public place. Perhaps I'll like the uber-social atmosphere when I come back to try the wine bar, but at 9 AM on a Sunday, I prefer things a little more chill. In any case, it seems like a great neighborhood place.

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If you are checking out breakfast places, I must recommend that you go the Va-Highlands for a visit to Belly General Store. I <3 the olive oil bagels, especially the plain whole wheat version. I have had a range of great baked goods, as well as both delicious and unique breakfast items and sandwiches. Heck, they have nutella banana sandwiches. What more do you need?

Also, I really appreciated Parish the last time I was in Atlanta. It has a great breakfast, nice covered patio area, addictive coffee and free wi-fi. It's part of the Concentric Restaurant group.

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If you are checking out breakfast places, I must recommend that you go the Va-Highlands for a visit to Belly General Store. I <3 the olive oil bagels, especially the plain whole wheat version. I have had a range of great baked goods, as well as both delicious and unique breakfast items and sandwiches. Heck, they have nutella banana sandwiches. What more do you need?

Also, I really appreciated Parish the last time I was in Atlanta. It has a great breakfast, nice covered patio area, addictive coffee and free wi-fi. It's part of the Concentric Restaurant group.

Belly does have good sandwiches and bakery goods; as well as a few different sodas (not Coke--in Atlanta!). Good for either people-watching down Highland, or taking to Piedmont Park for a nice picnic (says this Emory alum).

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Thanks for the tips about Parish and Belly. I've passed both while walking/jogging, and they're definitely on my to-do list.

Jason and I had a nice dinner last night at Pura Vida, a local tapas joint that has been garnering very positive reviews. They have a nice selection of Spanish/Latin wines, both white and red, and they're all reasonably priced. They also have some specialty drinks that looked good, like a caiprinha (bad spelling, I know) and various mojitos. We started with yuca croquettes with a spicy avocado-chile sauce, and they were very good--light, crispy, not at all greasy. We also had hanger steak skewers with chimichurri sauce. When the waitress didn't ask how we wanted the steak done, I got worried, but the meat was tender and juicy (hanger is such a great cut) and the sauce was fresh and flavorful.

For our second round, we tried "Mi Media Noche," which were 4-6 little pressed sandwiches with adobo pork, ham, house-made pickles, and spicy homemade mustard (think of a Cuban, only miniature). The meat and fillings were good, but the bread was a little dry. We also had a salad of local heirloom tomatoes (season's almost over, couldn't resist), which was perfectly salted and very refreshing.

For dessert, we had a chocolate and ancho chile flan brulee. Aside from a slight layer of liquid at the bottom, this was very good--nice consistency, and the ancho chile didn't so much make the dish spicy as it brought out a new angle of the chocolate.

The bill, including 4 tapas, dessert, one mixed drink, three glasses of wine, a coffee, and a port came to about $88--which, in my opinion, makes Pura Vida the kind of place that doesn't have to wait for a special occasion.

But speaking of special occasions...while we were waiting for dessert, Jason proposed and I said yes! :-)

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My sister was visiting last weekend, so we decided to try Restaurant Eugene (we were going to try Home, as she is a Richard Blais fan, but we learned a few days prior that he had moved on). I had high hopes, but unfortunately, the experience was average at best.

We were definitely the youngest table in the room, which may have been why we waited so long, once seated, to be addressed. Seriously, we sat at our table, without water and without menus, for a good ten minutes. Then, our waitress brought us wine and food menus, and wanted to know if we would care for a specialty cocktail. When I told her that we'd have to see a cocktail menu in order to make such a decision, she had to retreat to the bar to get one.

None of the cocktails looked particularly yummy to me, so sis and I decided to order some wine. I told the waitress that I wanted dry and white, and that I wanted to stay in the $50-$60 range (which is high for me, but that seemed to represent practically the bottom of Restaurant Eugene's wine list barrel). She brought a bottle of Chablis, and we enjoyed it with our meal, but there was NO WAY that it was worthy of its $61 pricetag. I expect a certain amount of markup, but there's definitely a point where I start to feel taken advantage of. I would have ordered something by-the-glass, but they were all quite expensive as well (I noticed a lot in the $16-$18 range).

Restaurant Eugene has a "Sunday Supper" 3-course, prix fix dinner for $29.50. Jason ended up going that route, and for his appetizer he was given "ham and biscuits" with lots of homemade fixins (such as mustard, chow-chow, and bread and butter pickles). It was tasty and nicely presented, and there was plenty to share. Sis and I split the appetizer sweetbreads, which were pan-fried and served with sweet corn relish. The meat was cooked nicely and had good flavor, but there wasn't anything amazing about the dish. I should note that we scarfed down our apps, not because they were so delicious, but because we were STARVING after waiting upwards of 40 minutes to receive them. For two relatively straightforward opening courses, that is entirely too long.

For entrees, Jason's Sunday supper came with two huge pieces of fried chicken. The breading was salty and crispy, and the chicken was fresh and moist. It came with some thick-sliced "fries" that were nothing terribly special, and a VERY celery-heavy cole slaw. Sis ordered squab, which was cooked very nicely and served with faro and arugula, but was unremarkable in its presentation. I ordered snapper over a sweet corn risotto; both components were cooked correctly, and the crispy skin of the fish was very flavorful, but the rest of the dish was incredibly underseasoned. Again, nothing was bad, and the ingredients seemed to be high quality, but I didn-t feel like I was experiencing chefly creativity.

Jason's prix fix menu came with a brownie a la mode, which he ate a few bites of (it looked like it was way too dense). Sis ordered a "s'mores" concoction, and she thought it was good; the butterscotch sauce was a bit much for me, but the plating was cool. The server did present me with two homemade cookies on a plate that said "Congratulations!" in chocolate (my sister had previously mentioned our recent engagement), and the chocolate chip variety was sweet and chewy.

With wine, two cocktails for my fiance, one Sunday supper, one appetizer, two entrees, and one dessert, the total (with tax and tip, too) came to about $275. I had a little bit of sticker shock, I'm not gonna lie. I mean, I expect to pay a price for fine dining. But for nearly $100 a head, I expect something a little more intriguing, thought-provoking, mouth-watering, etc. In sum, when the thing that jazzes me the most about a meal is the room-temperature butter (don't get me wrong, an important point, but not exactly what should be at the top of the highlight reel), I probably won't be returning in any hurry. Too bad, as I was hoping to be able to brag about fine dining in Atlanta. Oh, well. Guess I'll have to save my pennies for Bacchinalia!

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I once worked in Decatur, Georgia, a small town (now suburb) outside of Atlanta. It was charming and cute way back then, and surprisingly has become more charming and cute over the years. An old favorite, Crescent Moon, has moved down the street to new digs. In its place Cake and Ale has opened. It joins Watershed in serving food focused on local produce with a regional flare.

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I once worked in Decatur, Georgia, a small town (now suburb) outside of Atlanta. It was charming and cute way back then, and surprisingly has become more charming and cute over the years. An old favorite, Crescent Moon, has moved down the street to new digs. In its place Cake and Ale has opened. It joins Watershed in serving food focused on local produce with a regional flare.

Mmm...Watershed. Tuesday fried chicken night=awesome.

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We still haven't made it to Watershed for fried chicken night, but we did really enjoy our recent dinner at Wisteria. Located on North Higland Avenue in the Inman Park neighborhood, Wisteria has a very warm and inviting decor - there's some great exposed brick, and lots of cool artwork on the wall. The space is big enough to feel hip and happening, but it's not so big that it becomes deafeningly loud at full capacity. There is a small bar where (I believe) you can order from the full menu. My fiance ordered a gimlet at the bar, and he said it was very well-made, but it harkened us back to DC with its $12 pricetag.

We asked our lovely server to bring us a dry white wine in the $30-$40 range, and she did just that'I just wish I could remember what it was! In any case, it played very well with the food and was reasonably priced.

For appetizers, I couldn't resist the Kumamoto oysters flown in from the Pacific coast, and they were as briny and delicious as I expected. They were served with some sort of cocktail/mignonette hybrid, but to be honest, I didn't use a drop of it because the oysters were so tasty. Fiance ordered the seared sea scallops over braised pork belly, radicchio, and a bourbon-molasses reduction. Yum! The scallops were just underdone, which is exactly how we like them, and the pork belly gave the dish some salty, slightly crispy contrast.

For entrees, fiance went with the pan-seared skate wing, which was served with lemon brown butter, stone-ground grits, and asparagus. The fish was delicious and perfectly cooked, and the accompaniments suited the dish very well (though the asparagus were a little scrawny, and I was surprised to see them on the plate out of season). I opted for the roasted half duck - and I probably shouldn't have. Don't get me wrong, the flavors were spot-on (it was glazed with an orange ginger sauce and served with a Napa cabbage and julienne pepper saute), and it was prepared exactly as it was described. However, I really prefer my duck cooked rare, and roasting forced the bird to be more like medium. The good news was, the skin was perfectly crispy, and it was a delicious treat.

Desserts are more like tastes, and the idea is to mix and match and try a number of them. We opted for three for $10, and we chose the carrot cake (which I don't like, but which Jason thought was very good), the pecan pie (a good, solid rendition), and the balsamic strawberry and mascarpone tart (stellar - I could have eaten three more). I like the concept of dessert "tapas," so you can sample a bunch without feeling totally bloated.

Service was excellent - friendly and attentive, but not annoying and overbearing. Our waitress really knew the menu, and she made excellent suggestions. With a bottle of wine, two apps, two entrees, three dessert "tastes," a glass of port, tax, our Open Table gift certificate, and tip (on the pre-discounted amount, of course), we walked out for less than $150. For what we received, we both felt that Wisteria was a good value - and certainly a wonderful neighborhood destination.

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In the burgeoning yuppie-burb of Alpharetta, we found a enjoyable lunch spot in recently-opened Field Good (11500 Webb Bridge Way), a rather unusual mom-and-pop café. The menu is built around sandwiches, wraps and panini, and a number of salads, but the front display case holds an unexpected variety of good French pastries. I had a thoroughly addictive croque monsieur (just a hint of mustard lurking under the bechamel), and a decent pain au chocolat for dessert, washed down with a Rième lemonade. Flatware was plastic, pre-wrapped catering sets. Prices were appallingly modest. But it was still pretty darn tasty.

Beneath the surface lies an ugly truth. The space (formerly a local coffeehouse) lacks room for a full kitchen, so almost all of the items are prepared in advance in the commercial kitchen of the owners' catering business, and only finished onsite before serving. Why isn't this format a food disaster? By including only items that would cater well, the menu largely avoids the quality sag you'd expect from not making everything to order. But also, the kitchen contains some unexpected credentials.

Chef/Owner Christophe Le Metayer was imported directly from France in 2001 to be sous chef at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead where worked for nearly six years, rising to Chef de Cuisine before opening his own venture with his wife. His previous experience in France included working in one of Alain Ducasse's kitchens. But fate landed them in Atlanta, where building a critical mass of clients can be a challenge. During our visit, a number of locals (judging from their accents) stopped in to browse the menu only to depart...the only other takers appeared to be two Israelis, and a table of Francophones. Naturally, the result is a fairly restrained menu of items with broad appeal - comfort foods, basically.

I asked the chef about his plans for the future should the café succeed, and while he'd like to open a fine dining establishment, he's put off by the prospects of building a cellar of what sells reliably in the local market - expensive, Parkerized Bordeaux - which he personally disdains. He'd like to find a format which directly connects the person doing the cooking with each and every diner, but acknowledges that it would be difficult to make every table a chef's table and serve enough covers to survive. Until then, it'll be sandwiches and salads and pastries.
 

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lunch, 5 October 2008

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I left DC before the real meat (pun intended) of the burger craze, a fact which clearly disappoints me, as there are few things I love more than a great burger.

Good thing I have The Vortex here in Atlanta--a mainstay of burger-osity since goodness only knows when. I remember in high school, on the rare occasion that I was allowed to drive from my home in the 'burbs to the big city, I ALWAYS stopped at the Vortex for a burger. Back then, I probably chose the black bean variety; now, I opt for bison, and I certainly take advantage of their impressive beer selection.

The Vortex has a number of pre-fab burger combos, including the Coronary Bypass (a half-pound specimen with a fried egg, three slices of cheese, four strips of bacon, and mayo), the Double Bypass (the same as the previous, only with two grilled cheese sandwiches instead of the buns), the Tex Melt (with cheese, BBQ sauce, and fried jalapenos, served on Texas Toast), and more traditional options like mushroom swiss burgers and bacon cheeseburgers. Most importantly, the Vortex will cook your burger exactly how you darn well want it. For me, that means rare. Yum.

I'm a big fan of their potato salad (secret recipe), but they also have respectable tots and onion rings. Prices are reasonable, and atmosphere is goth-kitsch, particularly in the Little Five Points location (where you enter through a giant skull). But for burgers in Atlanta, this is the spot--don't let anyone tell you different.

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I left DC before the real meat (pun intended) of the burger craze, a fact which clearly disappoints me, as there are few things I love more than a great burger.

Good thing I have The Vortex here in Atlanta--a mainstay of burger-osity since goodness only knows when. I remember in high school, on the rare occasion that I was allowed to drive from my home in the 'burbs to the big city, I ALWAYS stopped at the Vortex for a burger. Back then, I probably chose the black bean variety; now, I opt for bison, and I certainly take advantage of their impressive beer selection.

The Vortex has a number of pre-fab burger combos, including the Coronary Bypass (a half-pound specimen with a fried egg, three slices of cheese, four strips of bacon, and mayo), the Double Bypass (the same as the previous, only with two grilled cheese sandwiches instead of the buns), the Tex Melt (with cheese, BBQ sauce, and fried jalapenos, served on Texas Toast), and more traditional options like mushroom swiss burgers and bacon cheeseburgers. Most importantly, the Vortex will cook your burger exactly how you darn well want it. For me, that means rare. Yum.

I'm a big fan of their potato salad (secret recipe), but they also have respectable tots and onion rings. Prices are reasonable, and atmosphere is goth-kitsch, particularly in the Little Five Points location (where you enter through a giant skull). But for burgers in Atlanta, this is the spot--don't let anyone tell you different.

Get thee to Miss Ann's on Memorial Drive. Make sure you have plenty of time to spare.

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I left DC before the real meat (pun intended) of the burger craze, a fact which clearly disappoints me, as there are few things I love more than a great burger.

Good thing I have The Vortex here in Atlanta--a mainstay of burger-osity since goodness only knows when. I remember in high school, on the rare occasion that I was allowed to drive from my home in the 'burbs to the big city, I ALWAYS stopped at the Vortex for a burger. Back then, I probably chose the black bean variety; now, I opt for bison, and I certainly take advantage of their impressive beer selection.

The Vortex has a number of pre-fab burger combos, including the Coronary Bypass (a half-pound specimen with a fried egg, three slices of cheese, four strips of bacon, and mayo), the Double Bypass (the same as the previous, only with two grilled cheese sandwiches instead of the buns), the Tex Melt (with cheese, BBQ sauce, and fried jalapenos, served on Texas Toast), and more traditional options like mushroom swiss burgers and bacon cheeseburgers. Most importantly, the Vortex will cook your burger exactly how you darn well want it. For me, that means rare. Yum.

I'm a big fan of their potato salad (secret recipe), but they also have respectable tots and onion rings. Prices are reasonable, and atmosphere is goth-kitsch, particularly in the Little Five Points location (where you enter through a giant skull). But for burgers in Atlanta, this is the spot--don't let anyone tell you different.

Totally agree about the burgers at The Vortex BUT (fair warning) you have to be 21 years or older to eat at any of the restaurants. I forget why The Vortex had to become a bar, probably because of smoking, but they did. No children are allowed even with parents...

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Totally agree about the burgers at The Vortex BUT (fair warning) you have to be 21 years or older to eat at any of the restaurants. I forget why The Vortex had to become a bar, probably because of smoking, but they did. No children are allowed even with parents...

That would make sense. I'm pretty sure the Georgia law is, or at least once was, that smoking was allowed at 21+ places only.

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Thumbs-Up diner. Very good breakfast spot on Edgewood in [inman Park? Cabbagetown?].

Watershed for a fine sunday brunch.

Fox Brothers. BBQ; good brisket, great mac n cheese.

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After tiring of Thanksgiving leftovers, my fiance, my sister and her boyfriend, and I decided to go out and try Top Flr, located in a narrow little building near the intersection of Ponce and Myrtle (in Midtown). We were led upstairs to the "Top Flr" and sis and I decided to start with an insanely reasonable $6/glass cava. The boys ordered beers - well, they tried to, but sadly the bar was out of their first two choices. Disappointing, as they had less than a dozen (if I remember correctly) on the menu.

For appetizers, we chose the "White Bean Hummus, Flat Bread, Olives, Chili Oil" ($8) and the "Lamb Skewers, Daikon Taziki, Cauliflower Couscous" ($8). The former was a large portion with good grilled pita and some grilled, marinated artichokes, and it was tasty (albeit undersalted). The latter consisted of three skewers of tender lamb with an INSANELY good yogurt sauce and some very flavorful couscous. In both cases, I think the prices were very reasonable, given the ingredients and the amount of food. We also tried both of the salads on the menu, the first being "Mixed Greens, Figs, Chevre, Pistachio Honey Lavender Dressing" ($8) and the second being "Arugula, Georgia Peach, Roasted Vidalia, Toasted Almonds, Perano Cheese, Citrus Vinaigrette" ($9). Immediately, we noticed differences between the menu descriptions and the ingredients on the plates; there were blackberries instead of figs, and there were raw pears instead of peaches. The salads were fresh and delicious - the honey lavender dressing with the chevre was a delightfully sweet treat, and the arugula had a great bite to it. However, if you're going to change key elements based on seasonal availability (of which I am in favor, no doubt), you should probably spend the time and money to update your menus.

For "entrees," we ordered some main-esque dishes and a few sides that piqued our collective interests. A pizza of "Duck Confit, Applewood Bacon, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Pesto" ($13) was well-received by the whole table, but I preferred the pizza with "Chorizo, Roasted Onions, Oaxca Cheese, Tomatillo Cilantro Relish" ($12). Both had ample toppings and tasty flatbread crusts. We tried a pasta with "Sauteed White Shrimp, Preserved Lemon, Chevre Ravioli, Fennel, Arugula" ($14), and while I found it to be WAY too heavy on the fennel, the rest of the table loved it and really enjoyed the way the lemon brought out the flavors of the shrimp and the cheese. Sides of "Purple Potato Hash, Corn, Scallions, Pancetta" ($6) and Mac 'n cheese ($6) were quite good, though I wish the potatoes in the hash had been more - well - hash-like (they were cubed instead of shredded, so they weren't all crispy).

Sadly, desserts were not as successful as the rest of the meal. My filo-wrapped chocolate dumplings were drowning in an overpowering orange brandy sauce, and my sister's s'more featured non-melted chocolate and a marshmallow so burned that it was nearly impossible to chew (we did complain about that dish, so it was taken off our bill). The winner of the bunch was a moist pumpkin ginger pound cake served with maple ice cream. Coffee was good, and after-dinner drinks were fairly priced (for example, fiance enjoyed a 20-year tawny port for $11). Service was friendly and knowledgeable, though a bit slow at times. After all of the food and drinks, and with a nice tip, the total worked out to be about $100-$110 per couple. You could definitely eat well for less, as we probably ordered more food than we should have (not that there was any left over, haha). Given the enjoyable experience and how close it is to my place, I will definitely return to Top Flr.

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Ever since Top Chef runner-up Richard Blais left Home earlier this year, Atlanta has been abuzz, wondering what his next culinary move would be. For now, at least, Chef Blais has landed as creative director of Flip, an "upscale burger boutique." Fiance and I visited on Friday night; the wait for a table at around 7 PM was only 15-20 minutes, but we snagged two seats at the bar almost immediately. Also almost immediately, we saw Chef Blais walking around and gladhandling. He needs a haircut.

The menu is divided into beef and non-beef burgers, and sides are a la carte. The burgers aren't mini, but they're not full-sized either, so the idea is to get 1-2 per person (though one bartender confessed that she watched a guest devour 5 in one sitting). We started with 2 burgers and 2 sides. The pork belly and cheese burger ($7.50), which was Flip's play on a bacon cheeseburger, was tasty and perfectly cooked (which is funny, because the server didn't ask how I'd like it done, but it came out rare to medium rare, which suits me just fine), but I really couldn't taste the pork belly. The pickled cukes were a highlight of the toppings, which also included onion, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mayo. The shrimp po boyger ($8.50) was amazing--the patty had great texture, and the fried lemon and Old Bay mayonnaise were lovely compliments. In terms of sides, the vodka-battered onion rings ($4) were wonderfully crunchy, with just the right proportion of batter to onion. The remoulade dipping sauce was nice, too. The sweet potato tots ($4.50), while tasty, were WAY WAY WAY oversalted. The portion was also fairly small for the price (I didn't have either of those complaints with the onion rings).

We were still a little hungry, so we ordered the codfish burger ($8.50) and a Krispy Kreme shake ($7). Sadly, the shake came out first. Well, only the timing was sad--the shake was happy, happy, happy! I mean, it tasted EXACTLY like the iconic glazed donut. Except better, because it was frosty and creamy. Strange how Chef Blais took something so delicious when hot, and turned it into a fabulous chilly treat. Bravo. The cod burger was very good, though I could have done with less tartar sauce and my fiance could have done with less of the pea shoot salad (personal tastes, what can I say).

Service at the bar was mostly good, though one bartender clearly outshone the other. Beer selection was decent, but I found the wines to be unvaried and overpriced. For example, there were only 5 red and 5 whites by the glass, and a glass of Hess chardonnay went for $12 (which is more than I've paid for a bottle of the same in some instances). I'll stick with the suds until they start playing around with crazy cocktails.

I think this place is going to explode. It's an interesting concept. Its price point is relatively reasonable. It's family friendly. It's going to be awesome in the warmer weather when they can open their patio. And, in all likelihood, it's going in my regular rotation.

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I'm flying down to ATL next Tuesday, flight arrives a little after 7:00.

Anyone know what time the fried chicken typically runs out at Watershed? Trying to decide if it's worth swinging by at a later hour. Google seems to yield mixed answers.

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I'm flying down to ATL next Tuesday, flight arrives a little after 7:00.

Anyone know what time the fried chicken typically runs out at Watershed? Trying to decide if it's worth swinging by at a later hour. Google seems to yield mixed answers.

My guess is that is a little too late, but don't know how busy they are these days. The one time I went there for fried chicken we got there right when it opened at 5:30, and they filled up pretty good after that, but that was also a nice summer day.

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Fianceés birthday is this week, so I told him to pick any restaurant in Atlanta for dinner on me. After perusing menus and online reviews, he chose Craft Atlanta, the newest of Tom Colicchio's chain of restaurants. The atmosphere as a whole is lovely--lots of wood, warm lighting, and a vibe that is inviting in an accessible yet luxurious way. My only minor complaint is that the tables are a little close together, but we ended up sitting next to some great folks, so it was a minor offense.

We arrived about 20 minutes early and decided to have a cocktail at the bar. A "Tom's Collins" (oh, that clever Colicchio), consisting of Hendricks gin, bitter lemon soda, and cucumber, was refreshing and tasty. Jason's "Sunshine Squeeze," which had vodka, citrus, and ginger, was sweet and tart and well-balanced. The bartendress was very friendly and knew her stuff. After our first round, Jason had a beer and I had a glass of rose brut, and then we settled out our approximately $40 bar tab and journeyed upstairs for the main event.

Our server greeted us fairly quickly and gave us the menu rundown. Bread arrived, and it was pretty good, but the butter was rich, flavorful, AND served at the proper temperature (just a touch colder than room temp). I asked for a bottle of Sancerre, but that prompted the server to make a different recommendation in the same flavor and price range; we trusted him and were quite happy with the result, an Italian white that was dry and acidic while still maintaining a fruity quality. I wish I could remember what it was. I also wish that hadn't been the height of the server's usefulness.

When he returned to take our appetizer orders, we opted for sweetbreads ($17, roasted and served with candied kumquats) and slices of Wagyu tongue torchon, served with pickled jalapenos ($16, I believe). I also asked for one each of the three oysters available that night ($3 per). The oysters came out first, with a lovely mignonette, a few lemon slices, and an adorably teensy tiny bottle of Tabasco (Jason said that when he was in the military, each MRE came with one of those same bottles). The hot appetizers came next, and I recognized the Wagyu, but on the other plate were a few fried dumpling-esque bites and a gelatinous mass. Thinking that I had maybe misunderstood the preparation of the sweetbreads, I took a bite of the jelly. DEFINITELY not sweetbreads--somehow, the waiter heard me order "head cheese." Even though the mistake gave us a chuckle and enabled us to bond with our neighboring table (they were an awesome couple, and we ended up chatting and sharing bites throughout the remainder of the meal), it really was an awful error. I mean, I am STILL talking about how nasty that one bite was. In terms of the other appetizers, the Wagyu was good but not terribly memorable. The sweetbreads, however, were quite possibly the best I've ever had. The outside was perfectly caramelized, and the inside was firm yet tender. And the flavor? Out of this world, especially with the nice touch of sweetness at the end from the fruit. Delicious.

For entrees, Jason ordered the roasted swordfish ($27). He expressed some concern about its preparation to the server, since he wanted to make sure the fish would keep its firm texture without drying out. The server said that they were actually poaching it in olive oil, which sounded like the perfect way to get the desired result. Unfortunately, the server must have misled us a bit, because the dish was quite dry and really didn't seem like it had been poached. It still tasted fine, but I could tell that Jason was a bit disappointed. I opted for the braised beef short ribs with root vegetables ($28), which were absolutely delicious. The meat was tender and flavorful, and it reminded us of the best pot roast we've ever had. Everything is done a la carte, so we also ordered side dishes of cauliflower gratin ($7) and roasted Jerusalem artichokes ($8), both of which were superb.

Sometime in the middle of our meal, we were visited by a favorite waiter from another restaurant, who is now working at Craft and loving it. He gave us recommendations for dessert, and we trusted him wholeheartedly. So, we ordered glazed chocolate cake donuts ($11), roasted bananas ($4), and brown sugar ice cream ($4). The individual items were amazing, but the combination just knocked everything out of the park. It was insanely good, and it managed to be rich and decadent without feeling oppressively so. We tried our neighbor's Valrhona chocolate cake, which was good, but I would order our dessert trio again any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Jason had a glass of 20-year tawny port ($16), and I had coffee with a shot (read: magnum) of Bailey's. Sadly, our server had pretty much abandoned us by then, so when I needed a refill on the coffee he was nowhere to be found. Jason actually had to get up and find a servers assistant to fill my cup.

The server did eventually return to present the check, which I perused only to find that the head cheese was still on the bill. I flagged our server down to alert him to the error, and he fixed it when asked, but I thought it was a pretty careless mistake. It was as if that disgusting stuff was destined to stay in my memory forever, as it just kept inserting itself into our experience. After all was said and done, the total dinner tab, with tip, was $290. So, with our previous rounds at the bar, the whole evening rounded out for just under $350.

I knew Craft was going to be expensive. I have paid similar amounts for other dinners, and I truly believe that an amazing meal is worth that kind of money, as it is an experience for all of the senses. But did Craft live up to its billing? There were some incredibly high points, but there were also some significant flaws, specifically with the service. Craft touts itself as specializing in simple food, but forming an overall opinion has been anything but simple. I think, in the end, that I liked Craft--but I didn't love it. Perhaps with a different waiter, I could have loved it. Unfortunately, without a hefty expense account, I don't think I'll be able to find out anytime soon.

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I'll be in Atlanta for just under 48 hours and have time for one dinner in Midtown. Is Spice Market good? I am concerned it may be too interesting for my tradionalist dining companion? What about South City Kichen? Or is there a better option?

Thanks!

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I haven't been to Spice Market, but I've heard decent things (not great, not bad). My fiance LOVES South City Kitchen. Ecco is also supposed to be very good in Midtown, and if you're willing to take a quick cab ride, you can be in Inman Park/Virginia Highlands, and there some great places in that neck of the woods (Wisteria immediately comes to mind, as does Rathbun's).

For a more casual meal, if you have time, try to get to the Vortex for a burger. Drool.

Let me know where you ended up!

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I haven't been to Spice Market, but I've heard decent things (not great, not bad). My fiance LOVES South City Kitchen. Ecco is also supposed to be very good in Midtown, and if you're willing to take a quick cab ride, you can be in Inman Park/Virginia Highlands, and there some great places in that neck of the woods (Wisteria immediately comes to mind, as does Rathbun's).

For a more casual meal, if you have time, try to get to the Vortex for a burger. Drool.

Let me know where you ended up!

Thanks!

I ended up at Spice Market for a late dinner the first night since I was staying at the W. Very good food--fresh salmon sashimi, very nice shrimp dumpling soup, chocolate pecan pie and nice wine pairings with it. Service was effusive and sweet. My waiter told me an incredibly convoluted story about his senior trip to DC and a rave...

Second night I met a friend at South City Kitchen. I really, really, really liked it. So much that I am hoping I can find money in my office's depleted non-profit budget to go back for another program in March... Had the buttermilk fried oysters and the meatloaf.

I didn't try Vortex but it is definitely on the list for a future visit.

Unfortunately I rounded out the trip with dinner at Houlihan's at the airport. The stuffed mushrooms just aren't what I remember from my college days... :P

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Aw, sad to hear about the stuffed mushrooms--I used to work at Houlihan's, and they were my fave.

Glad you had a good trip to Atlanta! If you do come back in March, send me a message and maybe we can meet up for a meal.

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This past weekend, for the first time in a LONG time, my fiance and I were both in town and not sick. When I started brainstorming about places we could try, my mind kept going back to Craft. I wanted to revisit the restaurant, but I didn't want the formality and expense of the upstairs dining room. Instead, I wanted to put on my nicest pair of jeans, walk into the downstairs area, and see what the experience would be like at the bar. So, that's exactly what we did.

We got there at about 7:30 PM, and most of the Craftbar tables were empty. The bar was full, though, presumably of people waiting for their upstairs reservations. Casey was the main bartender who was taking care of us, but his partner in crime (whose name I cannot recall, sadly) was also available to help us out. They were both amazing - incredibly knowledgable and passionate about the food and drink offerings, honest about what they loved and what they didn't, and friendly without being phony or overbearing. Really, they were a great team.

There was a lot to choose from on the starters menu, so we chose one ourselves (lamb sausages with saffron pickled cauliflower and a yogurt sauce) and went with one of Casey's recommendations (grilled quail with turnips, apples, and smoked bacon). The former was very tasty, with a great salty kick and a nice cool finish thanks to the yogurt. I believe my fiance actually said, "I would have this sausage's baby." The saffron pickled cauliflower made me so very happy - I think I'm going to have to experiment in the kitchen to see if I can recreate that part of the dish. The quail was a little less punchy in terms of flavor (it had a sweeter tinge), but it was cooked absolutely perfectly and had a lot of meat for a little bitty birdie.

For entrees, I opted for the veal ricotta meatballs over papardelle and tomato sauce. The simple, rustic preparation was one of the best dishes I've eaten over the past six months. The pasta was flavorful and impeccably cooked, the sauce was tangy (and not over portioned), and the meatballs were substantial without being heavy. Bravo. Jason ordered the pulled pork, country ham, and swiss cheese panini (with house made mustard and pickles). It was quite tasty - stuffed with piggy goodness, it reminded us of a Cuban, especially since the bread was pressed nicely and had a great crunch.

We were almost too stuffed for dessert, but it was a highlight of our meal upstairs, so we wanted to try one more thing from the sweets menu. We decided to order the s'mores, but Casey saw Jason's disappointment at not being able to order the carrot cake (because I hate it) and decided to bring him a slice on the house (and in the interest of full disclosure, he had already bought him a round earlier in the evening). The s'mores were messy and yummy, just the way s'mores should be. My only complaint was that the marshmallows were a little heavy on the char, but that was a minor quibble. Jason loved the carrot cake, and I even tried it because it didn't have raisins in it (one of my main objections to the dessert). I still didn't like the flavor (too spicy for me), but the texture of the cake was lovely and the cream cheese icing was great. The toasted pecan ice cream that accomanied the dish was amazing - ice creams are definitely one of the strong suits of Craft's pastry chef.

While our Craftbar experience wasn't cheap, I walked out feeling like our money was well spent and that the experience, both food- and service-wise, had lived up to its pricetag. We may still be hesitant to return to Craft (unless someone else is paying), but Craftbar definitely made up for its sibling's missteps and created two loyal fans in the process.

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When Jason and I visited Serpas on Saturday night (which had only been open for about two weeks at the time), I tried to think of our first meal as merely an introduction.

(For those of you not familiar with the Atlanta scene, Serpas is the name of the chef/owner, who has been a fixture in the local culinary community for quite some time. Most recently, he was the executive chef at TWO urban licks, a restaurant that we have enjoyed on numerous occasions. He also worked with Kevin Rathbun and some other notable names.)

We arrived early for our 8 PM reservation in order to grab a drink at the bar. I absolutely adore the bar space - there are plenty of stools, and it's set up on one side of the restaurant so the servers don't have to walk through a mosh pit of customers in order to deliver food and drinks. As a former waitress, I can definitely appreciate a flow of movement that allows guests and staff alike to have a more comfortable experience. The bartendress was very sweet, and she conversed with us as we drank our Abita Amber and Sweetwater 420 drafts (I was a little bummed that there were only four taps, and one of them was out). Then there was a mix-up with another party, so two free drinks appeared before us - I'm not sure what they call the concoction, but it consisted of sweet tea vodka (!!!), peach schnapps, and not a whole lot else. It was delicious, though you'd have to keep careful track of how many you were downing.

Once we got to our table, we decided to start with some appetizers. Crispy duck rolls with chili syrup and five spice were meaty and full of flavor, though they were also fairly greasy and had a bit too much of the sauce. Texas crab toast with chipotle aioli had great texture, but again the sauce was too much (and this time it was more obvious, as the sweet crabmeat just couldn't hold up). The presentation of both dishes was simple and elegant, though, and we agreed that the concepts and flavors were pretty solid.

We had a lot more appetizers that we wanted to try, so we decided to order two each instead of entrees. Jason opted for the chopped Caesar onion ring tower, which sounded a lot more intriguing than it was. This was my least favorite dish of the night, comprised of a stack of onion rings (which were actually pretty tasty on their own) with some chopped caesar salad in the middle. It was just really heavy, and I'm not the biggest Caesar salad fan to start with, so the components didn't come together well for me. He also ordered the eggplant hushpuppies with blue cheese. The hushpuppies themselves were absolutely delicious and perfectly cooked (I got a bite without any of the blue cheese, and it was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside), but again they were oversauced. The blue cheese was more of a dressing than merely crumbles, and Jason felt like it really overpowered the rest of the flavors.

I opted for the flash fried oysters with pickled chiles and mirliton, and the dish was very successful. The breading on the oysters was substantial but not heavy, and the end result wasn't greasy at all. The accompaniments brought out the briny flavor of the bivalves and really created an interesting, delicious dish. I also ordered the shrimp and crab chowder, and it was probably the best thing we ate all night. The texture was creamy but not oppressively so, and you could really taste each individual ingredient. There were large portions of crabmeat and shrimp (the latter of which were just slightly overcooked), and with a little bit of additional salt and/or spice, it would have been perfection in a bowl.

We were too full for dessert, but there were definitely items that intrigued me. Service was friendly and knowledgeable, and you can definitely have a nice night out for a reasonable sum (I think, including our drinks at the bar, we got out for about $100). I found the beer prices to be pretty steep, but except for their reserve list, all bottles of wine are $25 and all glasses are $6.50 - which I think is a great, affordable touch.

While Serpas didn't give me a flawless first impression, it's very early in its journey and I believe that it will continue to develop and improve. It pleased me enough that I want to return, probably in a few months, to see how the restaurant is growing and learning from its inaugural days. If what the bartendress said turns out to be true and they utilize the outdoor space in the warmer weather, I'm sure that Jason and the puppy and I will be frequent visitors.

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Ever since Top Chef runner-up Richard Blais left Home earlier this year, Atlanta has been abuzz, wondering what his next culinary move would be. For now, at least, Chef Blais has landed as creative director of Flip, an "upscale burger boutique." Fiance and I visited on Friday night; the wait for a table at around 7 PM was only 15-20 minutes, but we snagged two seats at the bar almost immediately. Also almost immediately, we saw Chef Blais walking around and gladhandling. He needs a haircut.

This is way belated, but my friend and I went to FLIP back in early January. I agree that it is mostly worthy of the hype.

Burger itself is fine, certainly not any better than what you'd get at Ray's. And the portion sizes are definitely on the small size. Krispy Kreme shake was out of this world though. What also blew me away were the richness of the house-made condiments. They made the vodka-battered onion rings and fries taste even better.

We also had some top-notch fried chicken (loved the sweetness of the breading) and meatloaf at Greenwood's in Roswell. Plus a slice of chocolate cream pie that could've been straight out of Waitress. Very Colorado Kitchen-esque, and ginormous portions. Still need to try Watershed. I made the mistake of not making reservations in advance for fried chicken night and called them instead after landing. They were already booked.

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I'm at a conference at the Marriott Marquis at Peachtree Center, and because of the timing of symposia, I'm somewhat trapped here. So far I've had Starbucks breakfasts, a food court lunch that I'm trying to forget, a dinner at Haveli Indian that was not good, and a quick dinner last night at a little pan-Asian place next door (forgot the name) that was pretty good, but nothing special. Saturday we have a group of about 25 going to Thai Chilli (sp??) - this venue was chosen by someone else. It's tough at a conference in a group - anyone know of anything close by that might be a better bet?

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lperry, are you still in ATL? Just saw your post, so if you are, let me know and I'll try to help you find something.

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Thanks Bettyjoan - I'm back in DC. I spent yesterday with my family (I have lots of aunts and uncles in Atlanta), so the food was good.

It's really difficult in that section of downtown. I understand that it takes a while to revitalize areas, but I figured with all those conventions going on, there would have to be some good food we could walk to. I'll be better about researching next time.

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It's funny that you say that good food should be available in a convention-heavy area. Honestly, I think Atlanta takes the opposite approach--more along the lines of, "Convention-goers just want touristy, generic, mediocre food." My fiance works around Peachtree Center, and I always get so sad when I go there--nothing but Hard Rock and Hooters, and NO real taste of what Atlanta truly has to offer. Bummer.

Let me know next time you're in town--there are some nearby areas (maybe not walking distance, but definitely cab-able) that have some really great options.

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Thought I'd chime in and update folks on the Atlanta food scene, as many people often visit for conventions and such.

Pizza wars are in full effect here, with most of the competition centering around Varasano's and Fritti. The only appetizers available at Varasano's (in Buckhead) were three different kinds of salads and a cured meat platter. None of those really spoke to me, so we passed on the first course altogether. In terms of drinks, there was a small selection of wine and a fairly decent bottled beer roster, but other than a glass of prosecco, I really didn't get excited about anything on the list. The options for pizzas were somewhat limited as well, so I ordered the margherita pizza (with an upgrade to buffalo mozzarella). My fiance went for the salumi (cured meat, mozzarella, and spiced olives). The toppings were delicious, and the crust actually stayed crispy throughout the pie. BUT, unfortunately, the char that accompanied that crisp crust was a very overpowering flavor. I actually lost a lot of the taste of the mozzarella due to the bitter bite of the char. Even though the flavors of Jason's cured meats were more robust and could stand up to the char, he agreed that it was a little too much for his liking as well. Service was very good-the restaurant almost seemed overstaffed, as many different people came to check in on us at various times throughout our brief meal (which is better than the alternative, don't get me wrong). I really wanted to try the Italian doughnuts, but I was too full to justify them.

At Fritti, there were plenty of beers and wines to choose from, which always makes me happy. We were seated outside, which allowed us to enjoy the beautiful evening and the sights and sounds of Highland Avenue. The menu is quite extensive, so after some debate, we ordered the arancini (risotto croquettes, these with sausage) and the bresaola (thin-sliced beef with arugula and parm) as appetizers. The arancini were perfectly fried and pratically grease-less, but they were a bit bland overall. Perhaps some more salt or some kickier fillings would be good. The bresaola was nice and balanced, and a very light and tasty start to the meal. I ordered the calamari fritti pizza, which contained fried calamari, fresh tomatoes, and mozzarella. My friend had a pizza with lamb, mint, red onion, and mozzarella, and fiance ordered the salame piccante (with spicy salami and black olives). I really loved my pie-the toppings were flavorful and high-quality, the sauce had a nice sweetness, and the crust had the right amount of chewiness and crunch. There was some char present, but it didn't overpower all of the other flavors. The pizza did get a bit soggy towards the middle, but that upset my dining companions far more than it did me (after all, I was born in NY, so properly folding a slice is in my DNA). Service was prompt and very friendly, and I definitely liked the scene.

My fiance recently took me to a lovely dinner at 4th & Swift in the Old Fourth Ward. The space is very similar to others in the area-in other words, it is a lofty/industrial look with lots of exposed brick and piping and high ceilings. The signature cocktails are really interesting. While we sipped, we muched on fried pickles with red chile mayo. The pickles were piping hot and nicely fried, and the sauce provided a good kick. We were also presented with a bread basket, which contained delicious cheddar biscuits and a house-made lavash. They would have kept the bread coming all night long, but we finally had to ask them to stop. There were two soups available, so rather than choose between them, we decided to try both. One was a Vidalia onion soup with pancetta and watercress oil. The other was a roasted garlic and cauliflower soup, with crawfish and braised celery. The former had a great texture, but unless you got a big chunk of the pancetta, the overall flavor was way too sweet. The cauliflower soup was absolutely fantastic, and held up surprisingly well to the strong flavor of the celery (which still added a nice crunch, even though it was braised and mellowed). Next, Jason opted for the chicken livers, and I ordered "The Schnitzel" from the bar menu. Jason liked the flavor of the livers but he wished they would have turned out crispier (though they were served with little toasts, so there was an element of crunch to the dish). The schnitzel was nice and thin, and the breading was tasty, but I did feel like that part of the dish needed more salt. The over-easy egg on top of the meat did add a bit of a saline punch, so when the bites overlapped, things tasted more balanced. The herb spaetzle was tender and well-seasoned, and the two different kinds of apples added some really interesting layers of flavor. "Doughnut holes" on the dessert menu were three light, fluffy, steaming hot puffs, each sitting atop a different sauce. The Boston Cream was my definite favorite, causing me to abandon all class and use my finger to sop up what the pastry missed. The chocolate and raspberry sauces were also very good. I told the bartender that if they were open for breakfast, I'd eat a dozen of those doughnuts every morning and not think twice about it.

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Heading to Atlanta and need some help picking restaurants. We'll be there for three nights, there are six in our group, and I have been tasked ith trying to sort through various recommendations.

Here are the options that have been suggested by some in our group.

Choose one: Rathbun's Steak, Bone's, or Chops Lobster Bar.

Choose two: Buckhead Diner, Restaurant Eugene, JCT Kitchen, Floataway Cafe, Abattoir, La Grotta, or Hal's.

Other suggestions are welcome as well. Thanks in advance for any advice.

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Heading to Atlanta and need some help picking restaurants. We'll be there for three nights, there are six in our group, and I have been tasked ith trying to sort through various recommendations.

Here are the options that have been suggested by some in our group.

Choose one: Rathbun's Steak, Bone's, or Chops Lobster Bar.

Choose two: Buckhead Diner, Restaurant Eugene, JCT Kitchen, Floataway Cafe, Abattoir, La Grotta, or Hal's.

Other suggestions are welcome as well. Thanks in advance for any advice.

In the first category, I would choose Rathbun's Steak, no question. In the second category, it seems like you are trying to stay in the Buckhead area, which is somewhat limiting (despite the large number of options presented). Are you open to other geographies? What's the price range? Is there a genre you're particularly interested in? I hope I haven't missed your trip--I was out of town and just saw this post. Feel free to PM or email me if you like.

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I'm heading to Atlanta for 4 days in the middle of November and staying at the Hyatt Regency (265 Peachtree Street NE). Based on what I've read in this thread, there isn't much hope for good eats in this area, but I thought I would at least give it a try. I'll be eating breakfast, lunch and dinner around here, generally with limited options for getting away (and the fed doesn't generally like to pay for expensive taxi rides for yummy dinners, damn that M&IE per diem).

The one night when I have some leeway is Friday night. I'm going to be going out with a group of roughly 20-30 and am looking for a restaurant where entrees are <$13 (IIRC) and is no greater than a $5 taxi ride from the hotel. All cuisines welcome (more or less--needs to be able to accommodate the usual round of vegetarians, allergies, whathaveyou). In an ideal world, this place would have some kind of either private room or area to put us (you know, so we don't have to mix with the hoi polloi). Most of these restrictions, if not all, have nothing to do with me and I have limited to no ability to alter them. I realize this list of restrictions may be impossible to accommodate, but if I have any ability to keep us out of a TGIFridays, I'll take it.

I had hoped to skip part of the conference and go to Bacchanalia for lunch on Saturday (a favorite treat from when my parents lived near Atlanta and a place with some fond memories for me). However, I just went to their website and it appears they no longer serve lunch. [insert sad sigh here] Any recs for somebody who's last meal there was a lunch 6 years ago and really liked it, is looking for a similar quality/price lunch spot, doesn't eat pig/chicken/cow (and is willing to taxi around a bit to get to said restaurant)?

Thanks!

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I'm heading to Atlanta for 4 days in the middle of November and staying at the Hyatt Regency (265 Peachtree Street NE). Based on what I've read in this thread, there isn't much hope for good eats in this area, but I thought I would at least give it a try. I'll be eating breakfast, lunch and dinner around here, generally with limited options for getting away (and the fed doesn't generally like to pay for expensive taxi rides for yummy dinners, damn that M&IE per diem).

The one night when I have some leeway is Friday night. I'm going to be going out with a group of roughly 20-30 and am looking for a restaurant where entrees are <$13 (IIRC) and is no greater than a $5 taxi ride from the hotel. All cuisines welcome (more or less--needs to be able to accommodate the usual round of vegetarians, allergies, whathaveyou). In an ideal world, this place would have some kind of either private room or area to put us (you know, so we don't have to mix with the hoi polloi). Most of these restrictions, if not all, have nothing to do with me and I have limited to no ability to alter them. I realize this list of restrictions may be impossible to accommodate, but if I have any ability to keep us out of a TGIFridays, I'll take it.

I had hoped to skip part of the conference and go to Bacchanalia for lunch on Saturday (a favorite treat from when my parents lived near Atlanta and a place with some fond memories for me). However, I just went to their website and it appears they no longer serve lunch. [insert sad sigh here] Any recs for somebody who's last meal there was a lunch 6 years ago and really liked it, is looking for a similar quality/price lunch spot, doesn't eat pig/chicken/cow (and is willing to taxi around a bit to get to said restaurant)?

Thanks!

Wow, holy restrictions, Batman.

As far as your first request, it's the less-than-$13 entree that really kills you. Where does that limitation come from, if you don't mind my asking? It seems a random and unreasonable number for Friday night dinner in a big city. The only thing that is jumping to mind is Ted's Montana Grill (interesting trivia: the Ted himself lives in a condo on one of the upper floors of the downtown location, when he's not in Montana, that is). Yes, it's a chain, but it's a way better chain than any of the others in that area (Hooters, Hard Rock, etc.). It's maybe 5-6 blocks from the hotel, so you could definitely walk and skip the cab altogether. In terms of breakfasts and lunches, there's a Corner Bakery nearby, and the Peachtree Center area has a Chick-fil-a and a couple of other fast food type options. Unfortunately, despite convention traffic, a lot of downtown Atlanta shuts down on the weekend. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!

In terms of your Saturday lunch, there IS nothing comparable to Bacchanalia. Period. There are some GREAT places in Atlanta that come really close, but they ain't downtown. If you give me some idea of how far/long you're willing to taxi, I can narrow down some better suggestions for you. Feel free to PM or email if you like.

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Feel free to PM or email if you like.

Hey, Bettyjoan--I just wanted to let you know that I decided it might be better to take this to PM. I'm happy to share the recs (and my impressions of the places I go!) with the broader group.

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Bettyjoan,

Just wanted to let you know that the Friday night, low cost, affair has been settled. We're going to the Cottage Ethiopian Restaurant at 1841 Piedmont Ave (intersection of Piedmont and Rock Springs Rd.). Although it's certainly too late to change the plans, I'm curious, do you have any thoughts on this place?

On a different topic, I'm still debating Watershed. Their fish/veggie options looked a bit slim and I'm thinking that the nostalgia I feel for Bacchanalia might not carry over to a restaurant other than Bacchanalia. But, that's a totally different issue and I'm grateful for your thoughts on a substitute.

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Bettyjoan,

Just wanted to let you know that the Friday night, low cost, affair has been settled. We're going to the Cottage Ethiopian Restaurant at 1841 Piedmont Ave (intersection of Piedmont and Rock Springs Rd.). Although it's certainly too late to change the plans, I'm curious, do you have any thoughts on this place?

On a different topic, I'm still debating Watershed. Their fish/veggie options looked a bit slim and I'm thinking that the nostalgia I feel for Bacchanalia might not carry over to a restaurant other than Bacchanalia. But, that's a totally different issue and I'm grateful for your thoughts on a substitute.

I have never been to Cottage (I'm not a fan of Ethiopian food), but the buzz seems to be generally good. I will be really curious to hear what the cab fare ends up being, though, as that seems farther out to me than what your restrictions would allow for. Then again, because I live here, I don't take cabs often, so I have very little frame of reference for how much they charge.

For your lunch, if you are looking at everything through that Bacchanalia lens, you are bound to be disappointed (as you alluded to). You are correct that the menu at Watershed is a bit smaller, so maybe that wasn't the best suggestion. Again, high-end lunch is a tall order, as most of the premiere restaurants in Atlanta are closed. My husband and I did go to Rosebud last night and were darn happy with the meal (they have a Monday night brunch that is pretty decadent), so maybe that's a lunch option? If there is ANY chance you could have dinner instead, the options would open up SIGNIFICANTLY.

When is this all happening again? Feel free to PM again if you like.

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Cabs are not inexpensive in Atlanta. I assume you mean $5 per person, not entire trip, Smokey. If you have a big group you might want to prearrange transportation.

As to places to eat, there are some really good places closer to downtown that you might consider.

My favorite restaurant in Atlanta these days is Dynamic Dish. Its veggie heaven and can't be beat. Saturday night is pizza night.

As for an option like Bacchanalia I can offer you a couple of restaurants:

1) Star Provisions is Bacchanalia's general store and casual dining option for lunch. I heart it.

2) JCT Kitchen is not like Bacchanalia at all but is fabulous in its own right and in the same 'hood as Bacchanalia.

Your price restrictions are a little unrealistic for anything that is not a chain however here are some casual options you might consider:

Everybody I know in Atlanta loves Taqueria Del Sol. You might also try Manuel's Tavern which is the Atlanta political hangout, has lots of space and is reasonably priced for really good food.

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OK, another downtown customer here staying at the Marriott Marquis. It seems options are limited. Rather than asking where I should go, maybe I should say what are the best places to go that are easy to get to from there? (Cab not an issue, as long as it would be easy to get a cab back.) Upscale and downscale options appreciated.

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If you're amenable to taking a cab, that's great--most of the worthwhile Atlanta restaurants are slightly outside of the official downtown area. Though, if you're in the mood for a steak, there are some upscale options in your area (Morton's, BLT Steak, and I believe Ruth's Chris as well). There's also an Il Mulino right there at Peachtree Center, near the Ritz Carlton.

On to the better stuff...a fairly short cab ride would take you to Grindhouse Killer Burgers, which is at 209 Edgewood Avenue in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market (an Atlanta landmark in and of itself). Good burgers, though you'd have to go for lunch as they are only open M-Sat 11-4. Another great burger joint (my favorite, in fact) is the Vortex, which has locations in both Midtown and Little Five Points. Unique atmosphere and extensive menu, both in the food and beer departments. Dynamic Dish, while I haven't yet been there myself, gets rave reviews for its yummy veggie fare.

In the more upscale category, 4th and Swift is one of my favorites--it's in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. Abattoir is newish, from the same chefs who are responsible for Atlanta's famous Bacchanalia restaurant. If you want to get your Top Chef fix, you can try to get into Woodfire Grill (Chef Kevin Gillespie's restaurant), or you can head over to Pura Vida (Chef Hector Santiago's restaurant, which I really enjoy).

Let me know if you need further info, or if you would like other suggestions. You can PM me or email me if you like. Enjoy your stay!

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4th & Swift is good, have been a few times BUT I would opt for Woodfire Grill, JCT or Abattoir. Each is unique compared to what we have in DC. I love, love Dynamic Dish and wish there was something similar here (totally not the same as Vegetate).

I love the Vortex. Wonder how they stack up to the DC options.

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If you're amenable to taking a cab, that's great--most of the worthwhile Atlanta restaurants are slightly outside of the official downtown area. Though, if you're in the mood for a steak, there are some upscale options in your area (Morton's, BLT Steak, and I believe Ruth's Chris as well). There's also an Il Mulino right there at Peachtree Center, near the Ritz Carlton.

On to the better stuff...a fairly short cab ride would take you to Grindhouse Killer Burgers, which is at 209 Edgewood Avenue in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market (an Atlanta landmark in and of itself). Good burgers, though you'd have to go for lunch as they are only open M-Sat 11-4. Another great burger joint (my favorite, in fact) is the Vortex, which has locations in both Midtown and Little Five Points. Unique atmosphere and extensive menu, both in the food and beer departments. Dynamic Dish, while I haven't yet been there myself, gets rave reviews for its yummy veggie fare.

In the more upscale category, 4th and Swift is one of my favorites--it's in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. Abattoir is newish, from the same chefs who are responsible for Atlanta's famous Bacchanalia restaurant. If you want to get your Top Chef fix, you can try to get into Woodfire Grill (Chef Kevin Gillespie's restaurant), or you can head over to Pura Vida (Chef Hector Santiago's restaurant, which I really enjoy).

Let me know if you need further info, or if you would like other suggestions. You can PM me or email me if you like. Enjoy your stay!

Thanks for the reply, I will look into these options. I noticed a mention of South City Kitchen upthread, so I spotted that on a map. How far of a cab ride would that be from the Marriott Marquis? And how does that compare to some of the options you mentioned above? I'm just trying to determine my reasonable cab ride radius and what would fall within it. I'm thinking like 10 minute ride max?

Thanks for providing input. I'll try to pay it forward somehow.

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I just got back from Atlanta. I made repeat visits to South City Kitchen and Spice Market. Neither one really lived up to my memories from January. Spice Market was still good but not mind blowing--had the samosa and then the strip steak. SKC was no where near as good as I remembered. The fried chicken was just okay. I will give the pecan pie a huge thumbs up though!

Also tried Vortex. The tater tots are quite lovely but the burger was just average.

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The Doctor: In terms of upscale dining, SCK does not compare with any of the places I suggested. SCK is reliable, but the other places are standouts. As for how far/long the cab ride would be, it all depends on time of day and traffic. Atlanta has some of the worst traffic in the country, and each day is an oh-so-happy surprise in terms of commute times. ;-) From downtown, Abattoir and 4th and Swift are your closest options (of the ones I mentioned).

booklovingbabe: Sorry your Vortex burger was just average! We've had a couple of off days there (mostly in terms of burger doneness), but by and large they're kick-ass. I always go for the buffalo patty, cooked medium rare, and it has rarely let me down. Glad you liked the tots--they are always good and crunchy!

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The Doctor: In terms of upscale dining, SCK does not compare with any of the places I suggested. SCK is reliable, but the other places are standouts. As for how far/long the cab ride would be, it all depends on time of day and traffic. Atlanta has some of the worst traffic in the country, and each day is an oh-so-happy surprise in terms of commute times. ;-) From downtown, Abattoir and 4th and Swift are your closest options (of the ones I mentioned).

booklovingbabe: Sorry your Vortex burger was just average! We've had a couple of off days there (mostly in terms of burger doneness), but by and large they're kick-ass. I always go for the buffalo patty, cooked medium rare, and it has rarely let me down. Glad you liked the tots--they are always good and crunchy!

BettyJoan have you tried JCT Kitchen yet? It's received better reviews than Abbatoir and is fabulous. It's in the same complex as Bacchanalia.

I'm not surprised the Vortex is engh. They opted to be treated as a bar to allow smoking. The choice speaks volumes about where they make their money.

I haven't been a fan of SCK since, well, Watershed opened.

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BettyJoan have you tried JCT Kitchen yet? It's received better reviews than Abbatoir and is fabulous. It's in the same complex as Bacchanalia.

I'm not surprised the Vortex is engh. They opted to be treated as a bar to allow smoking. The choice speaks volumes about where they make their money.

I haven't been a fan of SCK since, well, Watershed opened.

No, I have not been to JCT. To be honest, yours is the most enthusiastic recommendation I've heard, particularly in recent months. Many of my trusted ATL sources indicated to me that JCT was good in the beginning, but that it lost some of its edge as it aged and expanded. Therefore, it never jumped to the top of my "must try" list (which is harder and harder to get to, due to budgetary constraints). You're intriguing me, though, so I may have to check it out and weigh in personally. :-)

The Vortex is very polarizing, to be sure. I've been going there since I was a teenager, so I may be somewhat biased. However, I feel like their choice to go 18+ in order to allow smoking doesn't necessarily mean that they don't care about their food quality. Their clientele has always consisted of a high percentage of smokers, and they definitely have a vibe that they try to maintain (and it's not necessarily a kid-friendly one). I can understand them choosing to stay true to the customers who made them successful. All I know is that I bring out-of-towners to the L5P Vortex pretty darn frequently, and we always have a great meal and a great time.

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OK, it looks like 4th and Swift and Abattoir are my best bets for something interesting based on their distance, and I've spotted both of them on the map. How much further away would JCT be? (And for that matter, how expensive of a cab ride would it be to either of the first two places?)

And, what's the reservation situation like? Any chance of getting in same day? I sadly won't be able to get to Grindhouse, close as it is, because I'll really be a prisoner in the hotel until about 5 or 6 each day.

Cheers.

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OK, it looks like 4th and Swift and Abattoir are my best bets for something interesting based on their distance, and I've spotted both of them on the map. How much further away would JCT be? (And for that matter, how expensive of a cab ride would it be to either of the first two places?)

And, what's the reservation situation like? Any chance of getting in same day? I sadly won't be able to get to Grindhouse, close as it is, because I'll really be a prisoner in the hotel until about 5 or 6 each day.

Cheers.

Since I live here and don't take cabs very much, here's a fare calculator for your convenience: http://www.taxifarefinder.com/main.php?city=Atlanta. I just have no frame of reference, so I won't attempt to make something up.

As for reservations, the same-day situation all depends on what day it is! Weekends have been pretty busy at Abattoir, since it is still fairly new and hot. 4th and Swift shouldn't be a problem--and even if it was, all of my meals there so far have been at the bar and have been lovely.

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OK, it looks like 4th and Swift and Abattoir are my best bets for something interesting based on their distance,

And, what's the reservation situation like? Any chance of getting in same day?

Cheers.

I tried to get a res at Abbatoir and wasn't able to come up with anything for lunch in the coming month at opentable. I think their dinner reservations were actually more open, provided you were flexible about time.

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My favorite restaurant in Atlanta these days is Dynamic Dish. Its veggie heaven and can't be beat. Saturday night is pizza night.

As for an option like Bacchanalia I can offer you a couple of restaurants:

1) Star Provisions is Bacchanalia's general store and casual dining option for lunch. I heart it.

Hey, I just wanted to thank you for the dynamic dish rec. I just came back from a yummy meal there. It was the very antithesis of the conference I'm at, which is what I needed (I've been here about 12 hours and am ready to pull my hair out). It was a mellow place to be alone as a woman, which was part of what I wanted.

I had initially turned up my nose at the Star Provisions rec because when I was last at Bacchanalia I thought Star Provisions was perfectly nice, but this trip I didn't want to go there all for a croissant (no matter how perfectly executed), some cheese that I have no place to store and some beautiful but pricey tableware. I went back to their website though and realized that they have a little place to sit, and now serve sandwiches and such, and I'm thinking it's my lunch plan for tomorrow. Thanks for pointing me back towards it.

The folks at Dynamic Diner recommended Miller Union. Sadly, it's only open for dinner and this was my only available night for dinner out. Ah, well.

More feedback to come as appropriate.

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OK, it looks like 4th and Swift and Abattoir are my best bets for something interesting based on their distance, and I've spotted both of them on the map. How much further away would JCT be? (And for that matter, how expensive of a cab ride would it be to either of the first two places?)

And, what's the reservation situation like? Any chance of getting in same day? I sadly won't be able to get to Grindhouse, close as it is, because I'll really be a prisoner in the hotel until about 5 or 6 each day.

Cheers.

Go to JCT. It's in the same complex as Abbatoir. It's better, far better, than SCK and contrary to what BettyJoan's friends have told her it still gets good reviews and the last meal I had there in July blew my expectations. I liked it much more than the 2 meals I had at 4th & Swift. The food was comparable but the atmosphere at JCT was much better... lighter literally and figuratively.

Most people I know who have eaten at Abbatoir haven't liked it enough to go back or at all. I have chosen not to go based on their reviews.

Cabs in Atlanta are expensive because its a sellers market.

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Took my parents to dinner at 4th and Swift last night. Was a little worried, as it was practically empty when we arrived shortly before 7, but by 8:30 it was packed. Cocktails were inventive and well-made, and the bread basket contained warm cheddar biscuits and sesame rolls. Nom. Parsnip soup was perfectly creamy and balanced, shrimp and grits was soul-satisfying (and the grits were cooked impeccably), and champagne and oyster mushroom risotto was delicate and lovely. The only starter that was just "meh" were the veal and ricotta meatballs--despite the presence of capers in the accompanying sauce, I found the dish to be somewhat bland. For entress, mom had a mushroom-crusted halibut special that was bursting with flavor. Dad had cod with cannellini beans, chorizo, and escarole, and it was quite good. Both fish were cooked absolutely perfectly--someone in the kitchen has quite the hand with seafood. My scallops with butter-poached parsnips and greens were rich and tasty, and husband's "three little pigs" (sausage, belly, and loin) was as meaty and rib-sticking as you would imagine (my only complaint: too much smoke flavor in the accompanying mac and cheese). The house-made chocolate donuts were good, but the dessert star was the apple tarte tatin with sage ice cream. FABULOUS. Service was good, if a little bit quiet and reserved. Dinner for four with a couple of rounds, after tip, wound up right around $340. I continue to recommend 4th and Swift as a neighborhood gem.

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Newest breakfast obsessions in Atlanta:

1) Rosemary olive oil bagel from Belly General Store. Slightly crisp on the outside, and warm and soft on the inside.

2) Buttermilk pancakes from Ria's Bluebird (directly across from Oakland Cemetery, where Bobby Jones and Margaret Mitchell are buried). Fluffy, warm, decadent, and frickin' INSANELY good with caramelized bananas on top.

Good thing we just moved out of city center, or my waistline would surely suffer...

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Just reporting in from the conference. Went to Abattoir on Tuesday (I wanted to hit 4th and Swift, but my companion already had plans to go there tomorrow with a local friend, hence validating the recommendation.) I was completely satisfied. I took some pictures and can hopefully post them here upon my return. While I won't say I'll remember the meal for years to come, everything was of high quality. The service was great and the meat was delicious. (I destroyed the pork chop.)

For future readers, I spent $15 each way on a cab for two from the Marriott Marquis to Abattoir. It took maybe ten minutes. This was at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday.

I'm not sure if I'll get anywhere else before leaving on Sunday, but I'll report back if I do.

Thanks again for the recs!

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Newest breakfast obsessions in Atlanta:

1) Rosemary olive oil bagel from Belly General Store. Slightly crisp on the outside, and warm and soft on the inside.

2) Buttermilk pancakes from Ria's Bluebird (directly across from Oakland Cemetery, where Bobby Jones and Margaret Mitchell are buried). Fluffy, warm, decadent, and frickin' INSANELY good with caramelized bananas on top.

Good thing we just moved out of city center, or my waistline would surely suffer...

Glad you like the bagels at Belly! I'll have to try Ria's next time I'm in Atlanta... those pancakes sound amazing.

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Yes, it took me a while to follow up, but I thought I'd share some photos from Abattoir for the record.

Here we have the steak tartare, confit of mushrooms, pork chop, burger (made with beef AND pork), and burger interior.

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If you're visting Atlanta and have 1) time, and 2) a car, there are some notable noshes outside the city limits.

For sushi, my favorite place is Tomo (address is technically in Atlanta, but it's right on the Cobb County line, up I-75). Tomo is somewhat unassuming, lodged in the middle of a Kroger shopping center, but the food is worth any trouble finding it. Live diver scallop sashimi, served in its own lovely shell and garnished with little dots of hot sauce and flecks of micro cilantro, is somehow light and rich at the same time, and absolute perfection in terms of presentation. Fantastic. Sashimi and rolls are all extremely fresh and well-presented. The rice is the perfect stickiness, and the ingredients are top-notch. Chef Naito (who has trained with some of the best Japanese chefs in the world) is incredibly creative, and even desserts are amazing. A little pricy, but a wonderful experience and definitely merits the cost and the drive.

I've only scratched the surface of dining in Gwinnett County (moved there around Thanksgiving - it's north of ATL on the I-85 side), but I have a few favorites at this point. Little Barn (in downtown Lawrenceville) has the best biscuits and gravy and country ham around (and it's really in a little barn). Kirin House is a hibachi restaurant that has a small but surprisingly good sushi bar. Taco Depot is a teeny tiny storefront in a teeny tiny strip mall, but it boasts the most delicious and AUTHENTIC tacos I've ever had - al pastor, barbacoa, tongue, tripe, all super fresh and served on homemade corn tortillas. We are consistently the only gringos in the place, though I'm not sure why - the owners are awesome, and the food is CHEAP.

I'm not a big fan of chain restaurants, but if you're a beer lover, Taco Mac is the place to go (and they're all over Atlanta, as it is a local chain). They have the best variety, both on draught and in bottles, and their selection is constantly changing. Food is meh - I happen to enjoy their boneless wings and one of their chicken sandwiches, but there's nothing revelatory.

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Speaking of dining outside of Atlanta proper, my husband and I had the good fortune of eating with the Four Coursemen last month. You can read about them here: http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/supper-club-confidential, or on their website: http://www.thefourcoursemen.com/, but basically it's an underground supper club in Athens, Georgia (about an hour and a half northeast of the city, and home to my undergraduate alma mater, the University of Georgia).

I have a full post about it (with photos) here: http://troublewithtoast.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/the-four-coursemen/. It was an absolute blast! If you travel in/around Atlanta with any frequency, definitely get on their mailing list and they'll email you when reservations open up (they try to have dinners twice a month, but it just depends on what else they all have going on).

First course: "Oyster Po'Boy on a Half Shell" - served with a demi sec sparkling wine.
Second course: "Slow-cooked Salmon with Apple and Grana Padano Ravioli, Thyme, Saffron Beurre Blanc, Celery Leaves" - served with an Italian Sauvignon blanc.
Third course: "Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon Lardons, Vanilla Brown Butter, Brazil Nuts" - served with a California Pinot noir.
Fourth course: Roasted Tri-Tip Beef with Red Wine Poached Egg, Arugula" - served with a Ridge (California) Zinfandel.
Fifth course: "Orange and Lavender Steamed Pudding with Honey Creme Anglaise" - served with a French blanc de blanc.

The suggested minimum donation was $60, which I felt was more than fair. It was such a nifty experience, both food-wise and socially. I mean, the communal nature of dining sometimes gets lost in traditional restaurants, so for me, this was a welcome change of pace and a way to really share the joy of food and drink with other like minds. A very cool experience!

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I wish I had more energy for doing a full write-up right now -- I'll get around to it -- but I just have to say that I had a phenomenal time, and an outrageously good meal, with bettyjoan and her husband the other night at Linton Hopkins' gastropub, Holeman & Finch. Perhaps my favorite memory of the evening would be the great discussion over the veal fries, which has to be shared:

Husband: "What are veal fries?"

Me: "Well, given that it's the only 'part' on the "parts" section of the menu that doesn't have an anatomical name, um ..."

(Betty and I lock eyes; I'm pretty sure we're thinking the same thing)

Betty: "I'm sure you can ask; the waitress will know."

(waitress appears)

Waitress: "Do you have any questions about the menu?"

Husband: "Yes; what are the veal fries?"

(very brief awkward pause)

Waitress: "They are ... testicles."

Me: "Yeah, it kind of had to be, right?"

Betty: "It's basically the only body part you wouldn't list verbatim on the menu."

Husband: " ... "

Waitress: "They're really good, in fact."

Me: "It's not that unusual; think Rocky Mountain Oysters."

Husband: " ... "

Betty: "Cojones, you know."

Me: "Ooh! Why can't they just put that on the menu? That would be great!"

(another brief awkward pause)

Husband: "I'm gonna try 'em."

Betty: " ... "

Me: " ... "

Waitress (cheerily): "All right then!"

(she leaves; Betty and I look at each other again)

Betty: "Well, that was unexpected.

Me: "I think I need more wine."

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As I was perusing this thread, as I do from time to time, I realized that I never posted about my experience at Abattoir. Husband and I ate there sort of as a scouting mission, to figure out where we should take leleboo when she came to visit. Well, as you can see from her post above, we did NOT take her to Abattoir.

Abattoir was one of those weird experiences where there were some good things happening, but the end feeling just wasn't really warm and fuzzy. A large part of that was due to the service (or lack thereof) that we received - we sat at the bar, which usually results in superior service, but we were largely ignored by the TWO bartenders working. It was busy, but it wasn't THAT busy. Our glasses and plates sat empty for way too long in between rounds, and it took significant gesturing to get the bartenders to notice and attend to us in most cases. Grrrr.

As for the food, we ordered chicharrones (not my thing, but that's not Abattoir's fault), pickled shrimp from the "in a jar" section of the menu (delicious, but a small portion for $10), lamb liver fritters with tomato relish (the best dish of the night), chicken schnitzel (HUGE portion, and yummy), and duck meatballs (very comforting, almost in a soup-like broth). For dessert, we ordered maple bacon beignets, but they were SUPER doughy and heavy and not like beignets at all - more like doughnuts, but not particularly good ones.

Wines were reasonably prices, but beers seemed overpriced to me. And again, we just didn't leave feeling awesome about the place since we didn't feel like our presence was valued. I would go back for more food, since the price point is fairly accessible for a nice evening out, but it's hard to justify Abattoir when there are places like Holeman & Finch (more on that shortly...).

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As I was perusing this thread, as I do from time to time, I realized that I never posted about my experience at Abattoir.

I can't believe they named a restaurant Abattoir.

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I can't believe they named a restaurant Abattoir.

There was a lot of grumbling about the name when it opened (which I don't really understand - I mean, there are WAY worse restaurant names out there), but I believe the building that houses the restaurant used to be, in fact, a slaughterhouse.

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I have been daydreaming about Holeman & Finch for a while now (my last visit was in early June, and that's far too long of a gap for my liking), so I figured I'd post about why I love it so much, in case anyone is heading to Atlanta anytime soon (and if you are, let me know).

The atmosphere is very lively and social, which I love. As for the food, the plates are smaller so you can try a lot of things (and share!) without breaking the bank. On our first visit, we started with the bread and salted butter, the deviled eggs three ways, and the crisp B&B pickles. The bread "box" consisted of Parker House rolls, a slice of pumpernickel, a slice of crusty baguette-type bread, and a slice of rye. The rolls and the pumpernickel were definitely the standouts - and the butter would have been as well, had it not been inconsistently salted. I loved the deviled eggs, and though I'm not normally a huge fan of bread and butter pickles, these fried babies were absolutely delicious, especially when paired with the spicy mayo. We order them nearly every time we visit.

Also during our first visit, we decided to do a fish course, ordering the pan-seared black bass with braised Vidalia onions and the fish and chips. The former was somewhat underwhelming - the fish was cooked perfectly and the overall flavor was nice, but I suspect that there were leeks accompanying the dish rather than Vidalias, and they were quite stringy and tough. The latter, however, was frickin' fantastic. The fish was tender and flaky, and the batter was flavorful and just the right thickness. It was fried perfectly, with just the right amount of grease (come on, you gotta have SOME).

There's a whole part of the menu that is all about offal (labeled as "Parts"). Our server decided for us, and he brought us the peppercorn crusted veal hearts, served with a parsnip puree and a blood orange marmelade. I was quite hesitant at first, because as much as I love "parts," some organ meat has that very metallic taste, like sucking on a penny. Thankfully, the heart was rich and tender and not organy at all, kind of like eating a really high-quality steak. The star of the dish, though, was the parsnip puree - not only was it delicious, but it was the smoothest, lightest, most velvety puree I've ever encountered. The server also brought a gratin of marrow, and I'm not sure I have the words to describe it. It was so ridiculously decadent and over the top, and it was just as good on its own as it was spread on bread and topped with a parsley and onion salad.

On subsequent visits, we have enjoyed such dishes as the previously mentioned veal "fries," pig ears and tails, fried oysters, steak tartare, creamed lady peas, beautiful pan-seared fishies (snapper, most notably), charcuterie, fried apple pie, and bacon-caramel popcorn. The burger is mythical and magical (so I will write about it separately), but half the time, we get so caught up in other menu items that we run out of room for it. Cocktails are genius, wine and beer are interesting and accessible, and service is impeccable, no matter how many folks they cram into the bar area. H&F embodies everything a restaurant should be, and gosh darnit, I need to get back there ASAP.

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From the official Holeman & Finch website:

Around 9:30 each night at Holeman & Finch Public House, the energy shifts from the constant mirth that seems to shroud this establishment to a sort of jubilant tension. More folks start streaming into the place and by 9:50, it's full - teeming with those eager for the stroke of ten o'clock followed by the squawk of a portable bullhorn announcing, "it-s burger time!" Each night, 24 exquisite, double patty cheeseburgers are assembled on house-made buns and served alongside hand-cut fries and homemade ketchup, mustard and pickles - only 24. Some nights they sell out in under a minute. The thought behind the minimal number and the 10:00 serving is not a gimmick; it's just the opposite. A handcrafted burger takes a lot of time to prepare correctly. In order to pay the proper respect to this iconic American food, Linton Hopkins and company decided that only a handful would be made and served each night. This way, the burger is done right; and because generally, a burger on any menu tends to trump other items, it allows the rest of Holeman and Finch's menu to take its place with due respect.

Could a burger possibly live up to such fanfare? Such top-billing? Such cult-like following and devotion? We were gonna find out, gosh darnit. Originally, we reserved two burgers, but when we flagged our server down post-marrow to cut it down to one, he winked and said knowingly, "Yeah, I was waiting for that." We were such amateurs, but when that bullhorn sounded, we didn't care. The whole place started to smell like a diner, and I mean that in the best possible way - the meat, the fries, the buns, all of their aromas began wafting into my nose and making me drool (even though I was pretty darn full at that point). Finally, the beautiful creation was placed on our table, and all of the people who were too late to reserve burgers, or who didn-t know you HAD to reserve them, were staring at my meaty monstrosity with lustful envy. Yeah, I said it.

Was it worth the hype? Abso-frickin'-lutely. The meat, while cooked medium throughout, was tender and juicy and flavorful (I'm not sure what the mix is, but it's good stuff). The bun was fresh and light, but it still stood up to the burger and toppings. Speaking of toppings, the meaty, cheesy, melty goodness was perfectly salty, so the homemade bread and butter pickles were a welcome change from the usual dill. Of course, the mustard and ketchup were homemade, and of course, they were top-notch. The fries were really awesome - I just wish I had room to eat more of them.

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H&F's burger gets some national blog love...

http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/08/holeman-and-finch-burger-review-atlanta-ga.html

That is some serious food porn!

And just as a FYI, the Four Coursemen ("underground" supper club in Athens, mentioned above) is still a great time - we got reservations this past weekend (dinner sold out in 25 seconds, so we were pretty lucky) and really enjoyed the meal and the company. Highlights were a peach gazpacho with crispy serrano ham, deviled chicken hearts on buttered toast, and a lemon poppyseed shortbread cookie with blackberry jam. Wine pairings, as usual, were spot-on.

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Atlanta has a main thoroughfare called Buford Highway which has served as an ethnic mainline for decades, and likely generations. It begins not far from Buckhead, or from 85, and travels out to the suburbs through a maze of restaurants and stores from Chicago Supermarket, a Mexican eatery and shop, to Tempo Doeloe, an Indonesian restaurant with a Java market attached.

Over the years I have ventured to Buford Highway many times. I had my first experience where a restaurant was downright rude and unhelpful to my group because none of us spoke Korean on the street. I celebrated my first Chinese New Year with a feast at a restaurant which is now a Mexican western wear shop. I've had some amazing meals at different places along the street but always on the recommendation of a critic or other resource (friend, blogger, what have you).

The other day I reached out to John T. Edge, the Southern food critic/historian/writer, to ask where he would recommend eating these days in Atlanta, and on Buford Highway. He sent me a link to this amazing resource from the Southern Foodways Alliance about a recent trip they sponsored to explore Buford Highway. I sent it to my friend and she chose Tempo Doeloe since she last had Indonesian food in Amsterdam. I had never had it and it was delicious.

We shared three dishes. The lamb kebabs were petite and smothered in a sauce that consisted of peanuts and something else. They were perfectly cooked, even as small as they were. They were served with the most interesting thing I have seen at a restaurant in a while... rice cubes. The rice cubes were perfect for sopping up the generous sauce portion. The Javan fried chicken was, um, interesting but still good. The fried chicken seemed to have been smoked and then fried sans coating. It was well flavored and (basically) tender. The interesting element was that it was served with different types of beef and possibly chicken gizzards which had been smoked. One presentation of beef was similar to a brisket, another (which I didn't try) reminded me of a piece of leather. That dish was served with delicious coconut rice. Finally we shared something akin to a salad.

It was an adventure I would happily revisit. First, however, I'll have to mark the other restaurants off the Southern Foodways list.

ETA: It occurs to me that many people may be unfamiliar with the Southern Foodways Alliance. It is a non-profit affiliated with Ole Miss that has a mission to preserve the food cultures of the American South.

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