Saturday, February 28, 2009

Colonnade

Continuing our exploration of venerable Atlanta restaurants, tonight's dinner took us to Colonnade on Cheshire Bridge Road.  It dates back to the 1920s, though the decor has a '50's fee.  It specializes in comfort food, with a few fancier twists (venison osso buco tonight).  The majority of the clientele are from the white-haired set that I belong to, but one does see some younger hipsters as well.

I've had their fried chicken before, which is excellent, so tonight I decided to branch out with their pork.  The first treat of the meal at the Colonnade is the bread.  They always make several different types of rolls.  I generally go for the cornbread first, but tonight it was the whole wheat rolls that hit the spot.  One doesn't often find whole wheat at restaurants, particularly ones as traditional as the Colonnade.

The pork came as two chops resting on cornbread stuffing and covered with just enough brown gravy; cranberry sauce was on the side.  That meal really hit the spot.  The pork was tender and juicy.  The gravy was thick and rich but not overpowering. The stuffing was sweet and moist.  They also do an excellent job of fried okra.  I'd been raised by my Oklahoman father that okra was beneath contempt, and I must admit that stewed okra doesn't do much for me, but fried okra has really grown on me.  

Unfortunately, neither time nor diet allowed us to have dessert tonight.  But I've tried it there before and their cobblers are definitely worth the pain they will cause you in working off all those calories.

Colonnade on Urbanspoon

The Colonnade

Friday, February 27, 2009

Paschal's


Paschal's is one of the older restaurants in Atlanta.  It is known as the kitchen table of the civil rights movement.  I've eaten at their ATL locations quite a few times and found them quite good, given the constraints of airport food preparation.  I recently figured out where their main restaurant is located---it's very near Morehouse and just a couple of miles from Georgia Tech.  I decided that today was the day to try their lunch.

Fried chicken is what made the restaurant's reputation.  As a fan of fried chicken, I had no qualms about making that my selection.  It's truly excellent.  The crust is crispy and the meat is tender, not greasy.  But what sets it apart is the seasoning.  Fried chicken seasoning is usually either lost in the grease or overpowering.  Paschal's seasoning is a delicate note that accents the bird.

The collard greens were also richly flavored with just the right touch of pork.  They were tender but not overcooked.  The cornbread dressing is a rich, dark color.  I didn't need the cobbler, but I didn't let that stop me.  It was great, but next time I'll try it without the ice cream so I can get a better sense of the crust.  And there will be a next time...

Paschal's on Urbanspoon

Paschal's Restaurant

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Eating in Georgia Tech: India

No, I didn't fly to Bombay for lunch.  Rather, we had a delivery from Bhojanic, the Decatur Indian restaurant.  I've been there in person.  The wait-staff is a little too enthusiastic about the high concept but the food.   I can report that it travels well; sauces always help maintain dishes over time.  Their vegetable dishes are comfortably hot---you don't have to worry about sweating through your shirt.  I didn't try the dessert but it was quite the modernist cake and very visually appealing.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Eating around Georgia Tech: Asian food

I ate lunch today with my colleagues Ian Bogost and Aaron Lanterman.  Our destination: Tin Drum Asia Cafe in Tech Square. Quite frankly, I have a mental block against "Asian food."  I wish these people could pick a country and stick with it.  Asian food tries to please everyone and ends up as too wishy-washy to stand on its own as real food.  It's not that Tin Drum's food is bad---it's perfectly passable.  But I prefer food that tastes like someone's mother made it.

If you want to see how simplistic this "Asian" food is, you need look no further than rice.  Even I, a committed Caucasian, know that rice is supposed to stick together so you can eat it with chopsticks.  Tin Drum goes for Uncle Ben-style rice that acts like every grain is coated with Teflon.  Not only is it hard to eat, but the starchy coating that keeps the rice together adds flavor and texture that is an essential part of food from any part of Asia.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Buckhead: Nancy's Pizza

At some point, I plan to address the general topic of the state of Italian food in Atlanta.  For today, I'll just tell you about my lunch trip to Nancy's Pizza in Buckhead.  Nancy's specializes in Chicago-style pizza.  That's the thick-crust pizza that often has huge piles of ingredients on top, in contrast to the thin-crust New York style.  The New York vs. Chicago pizza debate is a subject in itself; suffice it to say that I've eaten enough pizza in Chicago at several of their well-known establishments.

I got a single slice at Nancy's, which isn't always a good indicator of the experience of a whole, freshly-made pie.  But I was a little disappointed.  My concerns centered on the sauce, which was almost nonexistent.  I did notice a red stain on the crust, so I know they weren't trying to make a white pie.  But I couldn't see sauce, let alone taste it.  This caused the pizza to be a little dry.  More important, the slice lacked the sweet/tart taste that's part of what makes pizza great.  For Atlanta pizza, this wasn't bad, but compared to Chicago it wasn't what it could have been.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dateland AZ: Date encounter

The story of how I got to Dateland, Arizona is a bit long.   Suffice to say that, once there, I decided the thing to do was to have some dates.  The town has only four builidngs, so just about the only things you can do there are buy gas and eat dates.

The culinary signature of Dateland is the date shake.  It's a lovely concoction.  The date taste is a light touch in the ice cream.  The whole thing is not too sweet, just right.  

I also picked up some Datejool dates for cooking.  

Friday, February 13, 2009

ATL: One Flew South

I don't know why airports don't have better---great---food.  An airport is a marketer's dream: high-income people on expense account, packed together like sardines with nothing to do.  Although there are exceptions, most airport food continues to be injection molded.  It won't kill you, but it won't make you feel anything.

I've heard good things about One Flew South, in Concourse E of Atlanta's airport, so I took advantage of a trip to try it.  They are a fusion restaurant that combines Asian and Southern food.  I've said before that I am suspicious of Asian fusion, but these guys have talent, so I can't complain.  I decided to try different types of food on my first visit.  The scallops were served with BBQ sauce, corn, and a small foam whose composition escaped me.  I was afraid that the BBQ sauce would overwhelm with sweetness, but it was a good complement; they clearly made their own rather than reflexively reaching for the Cattleman's.  The sushi and sasimi were very high quality. I was particularly impressed by the buttery tenderness of the salmon, but then again I'm a salmon nut.  But the best item was the closing cheese plate. Three different varieties of cheese served with berries, gelatin, and a nut compote.  
One Flew South on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tucke/Northlaker: Comfort food

Some nights, you just want something warm and familiar.  Last night was one of those nights, so we went Casey's, to our favorite cafeteria in Northlake.  The food is good and plentiful.  The fried chicken is my favorite, with an excellent crust. They cut the chicken into smaller pieces, which sounds like torture, but allows me to taste without feeling I'm going to excess. The greens are quite good. The cornbread is tasty. Green Jello caps off the meal.  Who could ask for more?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Eating with Georgia Tech

A string of meals with colleagues allows me to discuss several different types of food. For yesterday's lunch, I went with Mary Jean Harrold to a relatively new campus establishment, the Coffee Snob in the IBB building.  I'm a big fan of their salad, which has an impressive array of ingredients.  I'm an even bigger fan of their matte.  I had assumed that it was some sort of Indian variation on a latte, but the owner tells me that it's from a South American plant.  It's a wonderfully spicy drink.  I get it with skim milk and no honey because I don't think it needs sweetening.

Yesterday's dinner was further from campus.  Vince Mooney and I went to Mezza in north North Druid Hills.  They serve Lebanese food in a tapas format.  The food is excellent and the small plates allow you to sample more dishes, which is always nice when you aren't an expert in the cuisine.  The atmosphere is chic.  And as a bonus, the owner is a Georgia Tech grad.

Today's lunch was at Noodles in midtown with Sung Kyu Lim.  It's an Asian fusion noodle place.  I have an intrinsic bias against Asian fusion, which I see as a marketing gimmick, not a cuisine.  But the noodles were tasty and plentiful.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Another Northern transplant

The Philly cheesesteak has an international reputation---I found a purveyor of them at a highway rest stop in Korea---even though it was invented remarkably recently. It shouldn't be surprising that Atlanta has a large selection of Philly cheesesteak vendors. Pennsylvanians are moving to Atlanta by the busload, bringing their tastes with them. I've been intending to evaluate Atlanta's offerings in this area and today was truly the first day of the rest of my life, so I went to Philly Connection in Decatur. I've been to Philadelphia's shrines of cheesesteak: Pat's, the inventor of the cheesesteak, and their archrival Geno's. I've also had a number of cheesesteaks in the Philadelphia area; naturally, their average level of competence in this dish is very high. I'd rate Philly Connection as fine but not exciting. They chop their steak a la Pat's rather than leaving the bigger chunks; they do serve with onions and give you your choice of cheeses. But I didn't find their cheese or their meat to be quite as rich as I had hoped. Pat's is known for using high-quality meat, and if you think that is a waste in a lowly sandwich, I suggest that you stand out in the snow at Pat's and find out what a cheesesteak should taste like.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chamblee: Country Kitchen

The Country Kitchen is on Peachtree Industrial Road in Chamblee.  The strip mall it's in, like many in Atlanta, has seen better days. But the Country Kitchen is a comfortable, warm, inviting place.  So far I've only tried the biscuits and gravy---they're that good.  The biscuits are obviously carefully prepared and wonderfully flaky. The sausage gravy is just that, with chunks of sausage, the way it's supposed to be but usually isn't.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Eating Around Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech is an island of geeks in a sea of bureaucrats.  Back in 1885, the Georgia School of Technology was founded on a horse farm on the outskirts of Atlanta. Today, Coca-Cola borders the south side of campus, Turner Broadcasting guards the north border, and the former Bell South headquarters sits a few blocks to the east.  As a result, many of the lunch choices near campus are designed to support business lunches, not hungry students.

Furthermore, Atlanta's restaurant entrepreneurs seem to have not been appraised of the Iron Law of Computer Science: All programmers love Chinese food.  Go to Cambridge MA to see what I mean: MIT is guarded by Chinese restaurants like Fort Knox is guarded by pillboxes while Harvard has only a few token examples of the species.  Given the thousands of hungry students who need dan-dan noodles and kung pao chicken to keep their fingers flying over the keyboard, I'm shocked that more Chinese restaurants haven't sprung up to serve their needs.

When I am in the mood for Chinese food, usually about once a week, I go to Chow Baby, about a mile off campus. Today I took my colleagues Sudha Yalamanchili and Milos Prvulovic. I refer to it as tragically hip Mongolian barbeque, which sounds belittling, but I like the food. I generally classify Mongolian BBQ restaurants as grad student fare---low-grade food for people with little money and no standards.  But Chow Baby uses high-quality ingredients in great variety. As I grow older, I particularly appreciate their vegetables; those of us in the AARP-enabled set need to eat our roughage.  The sauces are in great variety and quite good, not to mention in a wide variety of caloric contents.  The lines can be long, but waiting is part of the fun.  Although they don't emphasize this too much, you can in fact go back as many times as you want.  If I had moved to Atlanta 25 years ago, they would have been sorry to see me darken their door, but today I only occasionally load up on a few extra vegetables.

The New Old Chamblee

Chamblee, on the north side of Atlanta, started out as an industrial town. The old business district lies along the railroad tracks north of the MARTA station.  It's been home to antique stores for a long time. Probably due to the new apartments that have sprung up near the station, that area is seeing a new spurt of growth in boutiques and hang-out places, even in the year and a half since I moved here.  There aren't any true restaurants yet, but at least two coffee houses have sprung up.  The district is still pretty quiet but business types do seem to be comfortable there, resplendent in their WiFi connectedness.