Thursday, April 30, 2009

Old Hickory House

I've eaten at the Old Hickory House near Northlake Mall quite a few times. I believe that it's a chain. This is classic BBQ that is very reliable. I usually get the ribs, although on a previous visit I discovered the gourmet BBQ sandwich. The beans are rich with brown sugar and quite a treat. I enjoy their fried okra. The atmosphere is classic, a sort of rustic coffee shop style. Even at my advanced age, I'm one of their younger customers. I find that comforting; I know they'll be around for quite awhile.

Decatur: Zucca Bar and Pizzeria

Zucca is in downtown Decatur next to the MARTA station. True to its name, it looks like a beer pub with its dark wood interior, but its menu is dominated by pizza and pasta. I had a slice and a pizza. As I've said before, the slice is not the perfect way to try a pizzeria. But this slice was pretty good. The crust was the right thickness and a little crisper than I would like probably because it was served as a slice. The pepperoni was fine, although it lacked the licorice flavor of the best pepperoni. The salad was very good: the vinagrette dressing was tart and the cheese sprinkled across it gave it a nice Italian touch.

I didn't realize how cool the area around the Decator MARTA station is. It's quite the hangout. I have several more places to try.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eating Around Georgia Tech: Sublime Doughnuts

Today was my day to try Sublime Doughnuts on 10th Street.  I bought an assortment of donuts so that I could try several.  I sampled one of the chocolate donuts and a glazed donut. When it came to the jelly-filled donut, I couldn't resist and ate the whole thing.  These donuts are truly sublime in that they are subtle.  They are very tender with vibrant flavors but they aren't overly sweet.  I can testify from personal experience that making tender donuts is a challenge---tender donuts come from soft dough that is hard to work with.

The owner, Kamal, is a food artisan.  He wears a chef's coat with his name on it.  He uses a stamp to sign every box of donuts.  He makes coffee one-by-one using a French press.  The shop has an upscale, youthful, loungelike atmosphere.
Sublime Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 27, 2009

Eating Around Georgia Tech: City Cafe

I started off the morning on a quest for Sublime Donuts, but today is their day off.  Instead, I had breakfast at City Cafe on 10th Street.  I've had lunch there before but this was my first breakfast.  Overall, this is a standard coffee shop with the usual assortment of American food on the menu.  My waffle and turkey sausage were good and competently executed; no surprises here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Quinnie's

We are regulars at Quinnie's, so a review is overdue. It bills itself as a barbeque restaurant but it is much more than that. The menu, to use examples from two recent entries, is a combination of Dusty's and Matthews Cafeteria. Quinnie's has some excellent BBQ---its pulled meats and ribs are both excellent. But it also has fried chicken that is truly outstanding. It also regularly serves excellent fish. The vegetables are some of the best in town. I am particularly fond of the rutabaga, fried okra, and collard greens. All the vegetable dishes are cooked without added meat.

Quinnie's is in a very, very low-key location in a strip mall at the corner of LaVista and Oak Grove. But I have been surprised at the number of people, even non-locals, who know about Quinnie's. It's still hanging on and now is the time to visit.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Farewell to Dusty's

I stopped by Dusty's for my usual Saturday lunch to find that today is their last day. They will still have a catering operation and some take-out but no sit-down service. It seems they lost their lease. Why a landlord would run off a successful tenant in this economy is beyond me.

All this makes me wonder about the future landscape of food in Atlanta. Restaurants are closing left and right, many of them fixtures in their neighborhoods. What will be left when the economy recovers? How long will it take for the new neighborhood institutions to emerge?

Friday, April 24, 2009

A small experiment

I tried a variation on custard tonight just to see what happened. To make coconut custard, I replaced the milk with coconut milk. I used one can, which was 2/3 of the amount required, so I used regular milk for the rest. I was afraid that the coconut milk would separate but it worked fine. It didn't, however, impart the coconut flavor that I had hoped for. My search for the ultimate coconut custard continues.

Decatur: Pastries a Go Go

Pastries a Go Go is in downtown Decatur. I've been there twice and it seems to be a very popular spot. Despite the name, it has a full menu. I had a Greek salad and vegetable soup. The Greek salad was very good with a sweet balsamic vinegar dressing. But I should use this opportunity to air my grieveances about Greek salads. I've eaten Greek salads in Greece. (They're called mother's salad there. Ordering a Greek salad in Greece is about as productive as ordering a Denver omelet in Denver.) Their Greek salads don't have lettuce---they are tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and feta cheese. For some reason---probably cost---Americans insist on filling their Greek salads with lettuce.

But it is Pastries a Go Go and my thoughts eventually strayed from my healthy lunch to the glass case of cakes and cookies. The individual buttercream cakes sang their siren song to me, but I managed to resist their allure. I finally foundered on the shoals of a macadamia nut and white chocolate cookie. Oh, what a way to go! The combination was decadent and it was all based on a cookie that was the perfect combination of moist and flaky.

Rise 'n Dine

Rise 'n Dine is across from Emory. It's one of those nouveau diners that specialize in breakfast and lunch. When I saw that they had sweet potato pancakes, I knew what I wanted. The pancakes were fine. I ordered them with fruit and was disappointed when a cup of citrus and melon appeared next to my pancakes. I was looking forward to cooked fruit on and in the pancakes as a complement to the sweet potatoes.

Rise -n- Dine on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tucker: Matthews Cafeteria

Matthews Cafeteria is another TV star of the Atlanta restaurant set. It was recently on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives." As you might guess, this isn't Buckhead high fashion. Its appeal is its timelessness. Matthews dates to 1955. The restaurant is very well kept up, but the style hasn't changed since then. The cinder block walls and linoleum tile floor take you back to an era when Tucker was a small town on the outskirts of Atlanta. The people aren't Buckhead, either. They might be rich---you can't always tell a person's wealth from their clothes in this sort of place---but they all dress like people who have things to do besides compete on wardrobe.

I've been there two or three times. On my latest trip, my plate ended up with fried chicken, rutabaga, and peas. The rutabaga was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the meal just because I enjoyed the texture so much. But don't get me wrong, the fried chicken here is outstanding. The crust is crusty and the meat is moist. Best of all, you can smell it from the parking lot.

Matthews Cafeteria on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pecan Chocolate Pie

I call this the pecan chocolate pie because there's a small amount of chocolate in it, but what a difference that one bar of chocolate makes. The main theme of this pie is, of course, pecans. I firmly believe that a pecan pie can't have too many pecans. Commercial pies in particular often have a thin layer of pecans floating on top of Karo(TM) syrup. My pies are full of pecans.

Here's the recipe:
Pie crust: See my March 7 entry for the crust recipe; make 1/2 of that recipe.
Filling:
3 eggs
1 c. light corn syrup
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. butter
Nuts: 12 oz. pecans
Chocolate layer: One 3.5 oz dark chocolate bar, such as Ghiradelli Twilight Delight 72% Cacao.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly beat the eggs. Melt the butter. Combine the filling ingredients. Roll out the pie dough and put in pie pan. Break up the chocolate bar and use it as the bottom layer of the filling. Pour the pecans into the pie pan. Add the filling over the nuts. Bake for 50 minutes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Six Feet Under

I've been to Six Feet Under's location near Georgia Tech a few times; I finally made it to their original location near Oakland Cemetery. This is one of those destination restaurants in Atlanta. The Georgia Tech location is amazingly similar to the Oakland location---the proprietors clearly decided xerographically duplicate their quirky, offbeat style in the new location.

The fish has always been excellent. The calamari is excellent and accompanied by fried zucchini. It's a festival of fried food---don't order it unless you have your posse with you to help finish it off. My salmon was juicy and flaky on the inside with a crispy crust on the outside, not the easiest trick in the world. Don't let the BBQ salmon idea fool you. It isn't covered in ketchupy sauce, but rather something more akin to a salsa. I can't tell you exactly how spicy it was because I also ordered the fish stew which transported its welcome spiciness to the main course. The fried okra was of the full-pod variety; there's clearly a full-pod-okra underground that I've been unaware of for the past fifty years. Six Feet Under on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saravanaa Bhavan


I've been to Saravanaa Bhavan twice now. It has a huge reputation among my Indian friends as a premier south Indian vegetarian restaurant. Because of the awe in which they hold it, I expected it to be fancier, but it is casual in both decor and presentation. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised by this. In my experience, south Indian food is designed to work with casual social situations.

The restaurant is in a nondescript strip mall across from North Dekalb Mall, which is itself a fairly nondescript mall. Atlanta has many excellent restaurants in strip malls, but Saravanaa Bhavan is the best restaurant in the seediest mall that I've seen so far. I've tried several dishes thanks to combinations, all of which were excellent. The bread that I had on my last visit (aargh, I can't remember its name) really hit the spot. On my first visit, I sampled the roti among other dishes, which I remember as being filled with a cool minty filling.

Hotel Saravana Bhavan on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fox Bros. BBQ

Fox Bros. is one of the many fun establishments in the Inman Park area. It's atmosphere is definitely more upscale than, for example, Daddy Dz's. The vibe is proto-sports bar, with TVs tuned to ESPN.

I tried the beef short ribs, which is not a traditional BBQ dish. But it was excellent. The meat was very tender but with just enough of a tug to give you the texture that meat eaters crave. The sauce was very subtle---neither too sweet nor too spicy. The most surprising aspect of the meal was the fried okra. Most fried okra in these parts is made of slices of okra. Fox Bros. breads and fries the whole okra pod. I consider this a noble but not entirely successful experiment. The green beans, however, were excellent. They were cooked with meat that imparted a nice but not overpowering flavor. They make you feel as if you are eating healthily; whether or not that's the case is something that I will leave to the medical professionals.

Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chamblee: Dandy Donuts

I discovered Dandy Donuts in Chamblee by accident. It's across from Chamblee High School. I started my exploration of their wares with an apple fritter, which was good. I couldn't try their coffee because I didn't have time to wait for a fresh pot; I take it as a good sign that they didn't have old coffee lying around. I was there at noon, and of course the best times to test donuts is either early morning or late at night. They also have a sub shop those who don't believe that donuts are an ideal meal any time of the day.

But the atmosphere is what I love about Dandy Donuts. It hasn't changed in 50 years, much in the same way that Chuck's Donuts in Silicon Valley never changes. The decor is actually reminiscent of a den. It has very few windows and faux wood paneling, just like your dad's den in the basement. This is exactly the sort of place that is needed by someone who needs a donut and coffee in the morning to get going. Nothing ever changes in Dandy Donuts. You can sit and let the caffeine and sugar seep through your brain and around your synapses, safe in the knowledge that no unwanted stimulus will try to jump start your brain before it's properly warmed up. Not even nuclear holocaust will alter Dandy Donuts. Anyone who is eating donuts while the bombs fall will remain blissfully unaware until they the proper wake-up needed to meet the nuclear winter.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Einstein's

No, not the bagel chain. I'm talking about the steakhouse in Midtown. It's on one of the few remaining blocks in the midtown commercial district that has an air of the residential area it once was, with trees and sidewalks. Einstein's serves the usual panoply of meats---steak, chicken, and seafood---in a contemporary casual atmosphere.

I ordered the ribeye steak. It was served in a stack, as is au courant. Potatoes were on the bottom, then the steak, and finally a salad of tender lettuce and tomatoes. The server asked me to check the steak to be sure it was done "perfectly" which is always nice. The salad made a nice complement to the steak, tasty and healthy. The steak was in fact perfectly done, but I didn't get a taste of char. This isn't the sort of steak place you go to for the primal meat experience---it's the refined version of steak.

The wedge salad was pretty good, too. If you read this blog regularly, you should be catching on that wedge salad and steak is one of my canonical meals.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Social House

I have no idea what the neighborhood of The Social House is called.  It's on Howell Mill Road just south of I-75.  This area is changing very quickly from an older industrial area with some residential to a hip, New Urban environment.  The Social House is in an older house that has been well restored; it has a bit of a schoolhouse vibe to me even though they don't use school props as decorations.

This is a breakfast place.  Their pancakes are outstanding.  They come in a tall stack of relatively small pancakes, which give you a feeling of bounty without leaving you with a carb overload at the end.  The fruit pancakes feature the fruit but aren't drowning in fruit, so you can enjoy both the pancakes and fruit at the same time.  The pancakes are very well spiced, which accentuates the fruit in a subtle but powerful way.  I can also highly recommend the bacon, which is thick and just crunch enough.

Republic Social House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Daddy Dz's

Daddy Dz's is one of those BBQ places that advertises itself by its lack of decor. The building is probably more structurally sound than it appears to be, but it certainly gives off the right vibe. I've visited there several times and had a chance to try a variety of dishes. I didn't realize until my last trip how close it is to Oakland Cemetery. P erhaps that's because I really didn't know where Oakland Cemetery was. In any case, Daddy Dz's is a couple of short blocks west of the cemetery.

They serve what is a fairly typical mix of foods for an Atlanta BBQ restaurant: pulled meats, ribs, and vegetables including collard greens and fried okra. I've tried the pork, chicken, and beef, all of which are extremely well cooked. The sauce is what most people think of as BBQ sauce, meaning the heavier tomato-based sauce, not the vinegary North Carolina style. I had the spicy sauce on my last trip---at least I think I did---and I came out unscathed. Daddy D'z on Urbanspoon

Emory: Saba A Pasta Joint

Yes, it's Saba A Pasta Joint. That's the way it's punctuated on the sign and I strive to be an accurate reporter. This is a casual pasta house across from Emory. You order at the counter and then find yourself a seat. I went with classic comfort food, spaghetti and meatballs. The sauce was a light sauce made with chunks of tomato. The meatballs were tender and pretty good. It's definitely a nouvelle cuisine approach to pasta, not the sort of thing that Carmella Soprano would dish out, but quite appealing.

Buckhead: Cafe Sunflower

Several people had suggested Cafe Sunflower to me, so when I ran across it on Peachtree, I dashed in to try it. Vegetarian food is an interesting challenge for a chef because of the limited palette. With meat not an option, the chef has to work harder to keep all the dishes from tasting alike. Cafe Sunflower showed impressive skill in touring cuisines of the world vegetarian-style.

I went a little crazy with my lunch, consoling myself with the thought that it was, after all, vegetarian. I started with the soup, which was billed as minestrone-like. It was, in fact, good enough to pass muster as Italian food. I then had a goat cheese salad. Let's face it, the upside on a salad is small---at best, it's still rabbit food. But the downside for a salad can be very low. This salad was quite well done, with very fresh ingredients. My main course was a kung pao dish with soy chicken. It was quite Chinese to my Causasian palette, something that I would be happy to have in many a Chinese restaurant. And then I had to try the chocolate cake, which was exactly what it was billed to be---a decadent dessert.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

requiem for a restaurant

I was going to post an entry on Jaqbo, a bakery near Georgia Tech, but it's gone.  It's not the only restaurant that has become a victim of the recession.  Even restaurants that haven't (yet) gone out of business are somewhere between hurting and desperate.  If you can afford to go out, now is a good time to enjoy some excellent places.  If you work in the restaurant business, we're thinking about you and we're eating as fast as we can...

Bottoms Up update

I just had the challah french toast at Bottoms Up (near Georgia Tech).  Extraordinarily tender. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Peach warning

I was excited the other day to see fresh peaches at the grocery store.  My excitement evaporated when I cut open the peaches last night to make my pie.  Half were semi-rotted and the other half were as hard as tennis balls.  I thought it was a little early for peaches and I guess I was right.

Buckhead: Paul's

I had lunch the other day at Paul's with several colleagues. It's located in a cozy residential neighborhood in South Buckhead.  The menu emphasizes seafood.  I decided on the shrimp and grits.  Since it was one of the specials, I thought it was a must have.  It was very good, but I do wish that the shrimp had been a little spicier.  To me, the balance of spicy shrimp and the cool, smooth grits is one of the most enticing parts of this dish.

Capozzi's

This is the latest in a series of posts on the state of pizza in Atlanta.  Today's restaurant is Capozzi's, which has several branches, including a new one in Decatur, near Emory.  When I walked in, the room set my expectations high.  It had the feel of a nice, family-run Italian restaurant.  The walls were in Mediterranean earth tones with pictures hanging all around. The furniture was fancy.

Although I was by myself, I knew I had to try the pizza.  I decided on a quattro stagioni ("four stations"), which is made with four different cheeses.  But, of course, the crust was the first thing on my mind.  This was the best crust I've had in Atlanta so far.  It was exactly the right combination of crunchy and chewy.  It was, perhaps, a little thick, or perhaps I've just forgotten the mouth feel of New York pizza.  But I can't complain---it was excellent.  The four cheeses were combined together all over the pizza.  I prefer a presentation that preserves the four stations, but that's OK.

Capozzi's Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon