Monday, November 29, 2010

Real Atlanta Street Food - El Burro Pollo and ATLFRYGUY

Remember that whole Atlanta street food movement that was kind of an underwhelming blip on the food radar? Food trucks would set up shop in parking lots as a joint festival celebration of "street food." Well now there are two true street food vendors in Poncey Highland that are far outshining the food truck competition. Both of these new stands make simple, comforting classics and they do it far better than anyone else.
The first street vendor that's really doing things right is Hector Santiago (Pura Vida and Superpan). His El Burro Pollo is crushing the likes of Willy's and Moes and frankly, doesn't deserve to be used in the same sentence as the California burrito chains. Every weekend Hector sets up shop in the parking lot at the corner of N. Highland and Blue Ridge Ave (across from the old San Francisco Coffee lot). Hector makes the most magnificent burritos in all the land and combines a heaping portion of lightly spiced and shredded chicken with fresh, cool and crispy vegetables which will leave you full for the afternoon. El Burro Pollo even goes the distance by grilling the tortillas prior to assemblage. An enormous burrito will only set you back $6 and a veriety of latino beverages are offered for $2 each. Go hungry.
Less than 100 feet south on Highland (next to the Highland Inn) is an even newer entrant into the street food realm - ATLFRYGUY. Serving belgium style frites (fries), ATLFRYGUY cooks to order and seasons these fresh, crispy yet fluffy numbers immediately after removing from the frier. A wealth of sauces are offered and an order will set you back 5 delicious dollars.

Don't hesitate to make a grand lunch of it combining the frites with the burros. If you want to top it off with some dessert, just stop in at King of Pops, further south on N. highland in the Buddy's Parking lot.

PS - Since the onslaught of cooler weather is in full swing, El Burro Pollo has been moved inside Superpan on Blueridge. Hours are approximately 12-3.
El Burro Pollo on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nooner - Pappy Red's Newest Spot

I'm stopping in to write a quick review to my much neglected blog. Plenty more to come, so please revisit!

I just so happened to be in the Peachtree Hills area of town today and decided to stop in for Atlanta's newest ITP barbecue offering - Pappy Red's. I initially heard about this new location from Eat It, Atlanta's post and was already unappetized by perusing his pictures. An oversauced and pre-sauced sandwich is what I saw and sure enough that's what I got when stopping in today.

At least it's not easy to miss!

For those that don't know, Pappy Red's is actually a well-respected and old-school barbeque joint out in Cumming and this is the first of many potential franchise operations. I've actually been to the original location, and frankly, didn't like it back then and would say that the current location stays true to the mothership.

While there are several schools of BBQ (especially in Georgia), PR's seems to subscribe to the Alabama realm of Q. When I think of Alabama barbecue, I think of meat overly pre-sauced, on a soft bun with pickles, and wrapped in wax-paper. Dimitri's BBQ in Homewood Alabama is really the ideal example of this type of Q. Another spot in closer proximity would be Old Hickory House in Dunwoody. To me this style is the sloppy-joe of barbeque.
Back to Pappy's - The pork was dry and the sauce very tomatoey. Compared to other well-known places ITP, the flavors were kind of amateur and simple. While they cook over hickory wood, I found no real presence of smokey flavoring or any real seasoning for that matter. If it was there, the sauce totally masks it. And the dry pork just put the nail in the coffin. It was missing everything I love in a pulled pork sandwich - both fatty and lean bits of meat, some smattering of bark, and a tangy sauce with some additional kick subtly applied so that you can still taste those hours sitting in smoke. I didn't get anything close to that here.
The brunswick stew was also very simple with what almost seemed like ground pork in it. They'd be better off leaving some slightly larger chunks of meat in the stew and altering the flavor a little bit away from their BBQ sauce.

Really I don't see PR's trumping any other spots in the area but they did have a good lunch crowd. I just wish there was some more well-executed barbecue in this area. While I won't be returning, Pappy Red's will do in a pinch if you're really craving some pig.

P. Red's B.B.Que on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 17, 2010

Spiced Right - Tasty China Revisited

So I've already written about Tasty China. And I love it. But with a new chef that everyone is raving about, I had to make it back to try some of his food. Peter Chang, one of the original chefs of Tasty China, is back after a break from the Marietta eatery. For a while there was rumor of him opening his own place in Atlanta and there was and still is so much buzz surrounding the guy, you'd think people were mistaking him for David Chang.

So I'm going to debunk the rumors right away. The food isn't any better with chef Chang in the house. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing considering how great their dishes already are. We went with a large group so I got to try some old and new plates, and a couple were outrageously good.
The Fish and Coriander rolls are a really great start to a meal. Light, delicate and flavorful, there ain't nothing wrong with these.
The Iron Griddle Chicken with Scalions is a spectacular mash-up of flavor and spice and is now my favorite chicken dish they serve. While I still love the Shan City Chicken, this just brings more flavor to the table without having to be fried (like many of Tasty China's great dishes).
The waitress also recommended the Crispy Beef (I think that's the name of it). Essentially beef is stuffed into Tofu skins, rolled into swirls and fried. This was a pretty unique creation, but not one of my favorites of the night.
My new absolute favorite is the Roasted Fish with Green Onion and Pepper. The fish was prepared to the utmost perfection; Crispy, spicy crust surrounding the most tender, moist and flaky fish.

I actually thought the dried fried eggplant wasn't as good as its previous incarnation. The eggplant was cut too thickly and didn't pack the crunch, or flavor, of the original rendition. I don't know whether to attribute this to an off night or Chef Chang's twist?

Mushrooms up front, eggplant in the back

The dried fried mushrooms were delicious. Meaty, slightly gamey, and just the right amount of chew, I'd gladly substitute these for any number of fried snacks or even popcorn at the movie theatre. Addictive.

Midway through the meal, someone ordered the pan-fried bread. While it was a nice change from the spice, I felt the onion-filled bread was just average. Pung Mie used to have one that was really terrific and this one just couldn't measure up.
The peppery aftermath

You might not be able to tell from the picture above, but I thought the food was not as spicy as it has been in the past. I actually appreciated that Chef Chang harnessed the powerful Szechuan peppercorn and used it more deftly than the previous chef. This allowed for a greater appreciation of the food, while still having to reach for ones water glass regularly.

I'd really put more hype on the owner, Phoung than chef Chang. She is so personable and makes the dining experience fun. She also makes great suggestions. The last few times I've been, she was not there - does anyone know if she's OK?

Tasty China on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 13, 2010

Battle Sandwich - Sawicki's vs. Star Provisions vs. Super Pan

I've been a bad blogger. To say I was uninspired couldn't be further from the truth; I've had a number of terrific and a couple of not so stellar meals in the past few months. However, I just haven't gotten around to writing anything about them. I won't bore you with the other goings on in my life, so with out further adieu, here is my first review in a month.

In this entry I will be comparing three of Atlanta's gourmet sandwich shops. With sandwiches hovering around the $10 mark, it's truly a testament to how many rich-folk there actually are that three sandwich shops of this caliber can stay in business in this economic downturn. And while I would generally scoff at a $10 sandwich for lunch, you can't help but notice the quality of ingredients and careful preparation of each of the contenders in this battle.
You may remember my last review of Star Provisions (Provisions To Go). I've found that one's experience at SP is directly influenced by one variable - the item ordered. Do yourself a favor and just order the Shrimp Po'Boy. It is absolutely the best sandwich I've ever had. Six freshly fried jumbo shrimp line the bakery fresh hoagie roll. Every single ingredient symphonically melds in this masterpiece and the quality couldn't be higher. The buttery, soft bread. The creamy and flavorful cajun remoulade/mayonaise. Those 6 fresh, enormous, crunchy, perfectly seasoned and succulent shrimp. It's just too good. At $9.95, it's a steal - you can't even get 6 shrimp this size anywhere in Atlanta.
Not my most appetizing picture to date...

Other honorable mention goes to Provisions To Go's chicken sausage biscuit. Only available on Saturdays, the over-sized biscuit (cats don't have heads this large) is extremely flavorful and topped with housemade preserves whose sweet notes balance out the salty sausage patty and biscuit. Other items at SP have been hit or miss.
Being tempted by yet another Shrimp Po'Boy, I made it out to Decatur's epicurean sandwich stand (and deli counter), Sawicki's. Their version of the Shrimp Po'Boy is very good but just can't stack up to SP's. Four medium sized, freshly fried shrimp are served on a baguette. While the green's are nicer than Star Provision's the flavor and textures just can't measure up. Sawicki's shrimp just aren't seasoned as well and they don't hold up against the tougher bread choice.
I also had a chance to sample Sawicki's "Definitive Cuban." This version of a cuban was excellent and the mildly sweet, and almost greasy bread was outstanding. The filling ingredients were also terrific but I have one complaint. When looking at a crossection, the pickles took up an equal amount of space as the meat. That bothered me. While the pickles were outrageously delicious, I think thinner slices would really put this sandwich over the top.
Lastly, I made it over to Hector Santiago's latest entry into the gourmet sandwich game - Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop (whew that was a moutful). While I've only had one sandwich there, the hype surrounding this joint is incomprehensible. I mean seriously, every blogger is dangling from Hector's unmentionables like some foodie groupie whores. While the ingredients in my sandwich were undeniably high quality, the flavor and particularly moisture were lacking. The medio dia (the shop's signature and highly touted sandwich) was on a very narrow, very dry pineapple (I couldn't taste any) roll. The berkshire pork was completely dried out and underseasoned but the pork cracklin was a delicious stroke of genius as were the slightly spicy chayote pickles. They also wrap their sandwiches in banana leaf prior to putting them on the press, which is also a nice touch. I would have to say that the hype is unwarranted for this $11 sandwich.

While both Sawicki's and SP's sandwiches warrant the big price tages, the Shrimp Po'Boy at Provisions to Go reigns supreme in this battle. You don't even have to take my word for it- get over there and try it for yourself - it's one of the best items I've ever eaten. The Po'Boy is definitely worth mingling with some of the snooty clientele.

Star Provisions on Urbanspoon
Sawicki's Meat Seafood and More on Urbanspoon
Super Pan on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just Life - Pura Vida

I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack. On Friday the 13th no less! It's been entirely too long, but after flirting with a gig in print, I'm back to the blog and will be updating on a more regular basis. I have a ton of backlogged reviews, so keep your refresh buttons handy, as they'll be flowing forth in the coming weeks.

I should have hated Pura Vida. I hate tapas. They are more often than not overpriced, meager on the portions (Iberian Pig), and poorly executed. In fact, before our meal at Pura Vida, I can't think of a successful tapa I've ever had. Another reason I shouldn't have liked it was that Chef Hector Santiago kind of rubbed me the wrong way on Top Chef. He also was eliminated early on in the competition. However, our meal at Pura Vida was my favorite in recent memory. 15 atrocious minutes of fame aside, the Hector can clearly cook.

Taking one glance at the menu at Pura Vida, there are easily more than 10 dishes I would pine for. The menu is heavy on the proteins so if you're a vegetarian, you only have 4 items to choose from - although I'm sure they're good. Kins and I tried to order a variety of dishes that sounded best and this is how they came out. The menu is clearly Latin inspired, and the one Asian inspired dish we ordered was kind of a failure. Here's the breakdown:
1. Chorizo Empanadas - These were a special and only $3 and they hit the spot. Just Chorizo, cheese and a flakey crust which was slightly on the dry side.
2. Sierra and Langoniza Pinchos - Easily the best fish I've had in a loooong time! It was tender, flakey, and still steak like while remaining sublime in flavor. The house made sausage was also perfect and tender enough to fall apart at first bite. The baby banana mustard on this dish was brilliant and was the perfect offsetting tang to the perfectly seasoned fish and sausage. At $8, you get 4 skewers - a very generous portion by tapas standards. I'd pay $8 for two.
3. King of Crab Papaya Salad - This one was the failure. The spices were completely overwhelming and killed the sweetness of the papaya, if there was any. The crab distributed through the dish was very generous and delicious however.
After I tore into it

4. "BBQ" Beef Rib - Beef shortribs are essentially the modern day pork belly. They're fatty, flavorful, and historically, undesirable. In the past few years, the shortrib has made it's way up to more refined establishments and rightfully so. Fork tender, with perfectly rendered fat, the rib was extremely flavorful and the accompanying spice of the chipotle-bbq sauce nails it with the pickled vegetables providing a cool followup to the heat.

The magaritas here are kind of bland, but it's my understanding that the mojitos are top of the line.

The meal at Pura Vida was nearly perfect and delicious (most of the time). The menu is inspired and well executed and has items that you can't get elsewhere in Atlanta, and for this I have to give it all of my praise. Hats off to you Mr. Santiago because your menu and food is awesome.
Pura Vida on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Ultimate Sandwich - Kool Korner (Alabama)

Lately I've been trying to come up with a list of the best things I've eaten in Atlanta. A couple of items topping out the list are the Lime Parfait from Bacchanalia, the ricotta dumplings from Serpas, and even the beef rib from Fox Brothers. On Saturday evening, one bite facilitated the climb of a new item to the top of the list. That bite was of the classic Kool Korner's Cuban sandwich.

OK, slow down. I know most of you are thinking, "Wait, didn't Kool Korner close up shop in 2008?" And the answer to this is a simple, "Yes." However, few Atlantans know that shortly after closing in Atlanta the owner, Ildefonso Ramirez, set up shop in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. I'll spare you the details but the story is right here.
On Saturday, a group of Atlantans made a pilgrimage out to the new location of this legendary Cuban establishment to feast on what has been touted as the best Cuban sandwich in all the land. I was fortunate enough to reap the benefit of their 6 hour round trip by having two sandwiches hand delivered to me by a good friend. Thank you sir, you're a gentleman and a scholar.

When the hand-off was made in a Candler Park parking lot, I might as well have been buying smack. The aroma coming out of the bag of cold sandwiches was instantly addicting. I rushed home and popped these bad boys (they travel surprisingly well) in the oven at 200 degrees for 25 minutes and they came out crispy, melty and what I imagine it's like fresh off the press. My buddy got the Mojo on the side (smart thinking) and we reapplied the sauce to the sandwich which was the equivalent of hitting it with the defibrillator.
As soon as your teeth make it through the crispy, homemade exterior of the bread and continue through the rest of the ingredients, you know it's on. The flavor combination is insane. Yes, I've had a Cuban and yes they were good, but not like this. After her first bite, Kins turned to me and said, "This is made with love." We were pretty quiet for the rest of the meal. I couldn't have put it any better myself - the sandwich is sublime. While the pork seemed minimal to me, it didn't get at all overpowered by the ham or other ingredients. Frankly, I'm doing the sandwich a disservice by even trying to describe it. Addictive is a perfect descriptor; within 5 minutes of my last bite, I was already jonesing for another.
As a nice surprise my friend also through a pastelito de guayaba in the bag for us too. At only 85 cents this pastry is the deal of a life time. The size of an oversized scone, the pastry was gold brown and layered with delicate flakiness. It was stuffed with cream cheese and guava spread and so delicious that it gives a big middle finger to all of Atlanta's bakery offerings.

So, was it worth the trip? Do you even have to ask? If a pilgrimage's definition is a long journey or search of great moral/spiritual significance, then yes, this is the Cuban mecca.

Kool Korner Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yeah! Burger - Too Easy - Meh! Burger

You all know the story, Shaun Doty opened a burger shack. If you've read my reviews, you know how tired I am of burger places in Atlanta. Even Paul, from Panos and Pauls opened one (Burger Club).

OK, first things first - the name. In the planning stages, they originally wanted to call it Good Burger. Was the name "Yeah! Burger" supposed to be a step up from Good Burger?!?!?! Honestly, Bobby (Flay's) Burger Palace (yes it's a real) is a better name.

My understanding is the lines here have been outrageous, but we went for lunch on a late Saturday and experienced no wait at all. The feel of the restaurant is surprisingly corporate. Like a, "Haven't I been here before," corporate. Then, after sitting down and waiting for the food, Kins realized that it essentially looks just like Farm Burger. And man is she right. AND the concept, grass-fed and organic is exactly the same too.

So how did Yeah! stack (pun intended) up to the competition? The burgers are fast-food style - meaning that you can't order them to temp, that they come as a double stack and that the flavor of the actual beef is somewhat neglected. In short I thought it ranks under most of the new burger places. The patties were dry. Crumbly almost. The toppings were nice, including some homemade BBQ sauce and thick sliced bacon. The buns were kind of the star - both H&F wheat (really good) and white.

The fries and onion rings were both fresh and good. Fries could have stood to be a tad crispier and o-rings a tad less battered. But good, A- efforts.

The chocolate shake kind of sucked. It's made with soft serve. I could go on and on about how it's impossible to achieve shake greatness with soft serve but will spare you. Essentially the proper texture can't be reached. The shake also had that disodium phosphate aftertaste that McDonalds shakes have.

In terms of value, I paid over 30 bucks for two fast-food burgers, two sides, and a shake...

Lastly, for those who compare it to Flip Burger up the street, get a clue. If you go to Flip Burger and order a beef burger, you're missing the point entirely. The creativity and flavors shine on non-traditional burger patties and both the fries and shakes are outrageously better than Yeah!'s. And by the way, Flip Burger's beef burgers are still better that Yeah!'s. I'll save this rant for another review.

If you're in Atlanta and want one great burger, this is not your stop. If you are in Atlanta and want two great burgers, this is also, not your stop. I know I use the term meh far to often, but Meh! Burger.

Yeah! Burger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Feast your eyes on this. Feast Atlanta.

OK. It's been a looooooooooooooooooooooooong time. Too long. But I've been busy with other projects, cooking, and well, eating. I'm backlogged with posts for thefoodabides but will certainly get back on my A-game in the coming months.

What inspired me to write again was this:

Kins gets complete credit for finding and turning me on to these. These are the mushroom "chips" at Feast. Parents, if your kids do not like mushrooms, I recommend (force) them to try these. They are perfectly little crispy pillows of battered and fried Crimini, portobello, shiitake mushrooms. These things are utter perfection and the texture will blow you away. The mushrooms lose some of their meatiness and tougher texture and become quite light when deep fried. The batter is salty, flavorful bliss.

The rest of the food had its ups and downs. I ordered the special - red snapper over roasted corn salsa with a white wine butter sauce. The dish was well composed, but the fish was overcooked and tough.
Kins went for a vegetable plate. The haricot vert was in fact, just regular green beans which was pretty disappointing. The highlight of their sides was actually something I would have never ordered - bleu cheese and bacon risotto. This dish was smart and elegantly melded two great flavors. It was smooth creamy and butter and if I could have changed one thing, it would have been to use smaller pieces of bacon. Otherwise the dish was flawless.

I think if I visit Feast again, I will certainly just order the mushrooms and a drink. The food is a little pricey and I've always felt needed a boost in the execution department. But those mushrooms and that risotto... worth coming back for.

Feast on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fox Bros Bar-B-Q - The comprehensive and final (for now) review

Fox Brothers - The sometimes terrific, but highly inconsistent ITP BBQ spot. I have to say I've had some pretty incredible meals at Fox Bros but I've also had some of the most disappointing. Their inconsistencies are really the only thing they have going against them and my last two visits were certainly on the better end of great. My only other gripe, aside from the consistency (and that's a huge one), is that the new menu is nearly impossible to read. They tried to make it all "Old-West," but it's entirely too jumbled. It took me 5 minutes to find the baby-back combo that I planned on ordering.

The unique and highly enticing factor, and why I still rate Fox Brothers as highly as I do, is that they really do serve different and unique Q. It's not cookie cutter in preparation or taste. Their seasonings and smokey flavorings are significantly different than any other barbeque places in the area (perhaps the state?). Seasonings are more intense - a heavier reliance on spice and sometimes sweetness - you can definitely taste a lot of brown sugar on the ribs. Most BBQ places are trying to mimic each other, but Fox Bros really cooks to the beat of its own smoker, and that gets 4 stars from me.

They have a lot of wacky appetizers that usually incorporate fried goodness (tots, taquito wrappers, egg roll wrappers) with savory smoked meat. However, I usually skip these because they just aren't any better than their entrees with a fried side. Also, the fried goodness usually takes away from, or overcooks the meat.


Suck on that King Kong

Beef Short Rib - Only served on Thursdays and Saturdays, this brontosaurus rib will knock you out. Literally. The ginormous bone is enough for two and the amount of fat rendered from it is obnoxiously flavorful. Add to that a beautifully rubbed crust and you will consistently find barbeque perfection in this special. Seriously look at that picture above and tell me you don't get turned on.

The Ribs - Probably the most inconsistent item I've had. Sometimes they're tender and sometimes they're dry and crispy. The rub application is always different. I've had it go from Cajun-black to light brown colored. I went last night and the ribs fell in the center of the spectrum - firm but tender (a plus in my book - fall of the bone isn't good if it's mush) with a heavy, but not overbearing application of the rub.

Pulled Pork - This is their most consistent and possibly best meat. They do it right every time and I enjoy a sandwich here more than anywhere else. It's always served with a fair amount of lean meat, fatty meat, and bark.

Brisket - I recommend it sliced. They always seem to serve a fattier cut than elsewhere. Had this last night and there was no real smoky definition. It was still good but nothing compared to Community Q.

Wings - When they are on, they're the best in the bidness. They carry a heavy smoked flavor that you can't get anywhere else and the spicier sauce they're tossed in is perfect. I'd say 3 out of 5 times they've been awesome with one of the other not-so-good times being inedible.

Chicken - I've only tried it once, and that was a while ago, but it was some of the better smoked bird I've had. From memory, it was very juicy without being soggy.

Fries-Good+ rating from me. I usually skip them for more unique sides, but they've always been good.

Onion rings - Very good, but again, kind of an easy one to avoid.

Mac and Cheese - Different than other places. Less creamy and more reliant on ricotta-like consistency. Also it's not macaroni at all, but rather shells. A pretty good take on a classic BBQ side and I usually end up getting it, but I'd take Carver's or the Colonnade's rendition over it any day.

Brunswick stew - One of the best. Consistency and flavors are always perfect. Nice ingredients. Not overly meaty like some takes on it.

Brisket Chili - Another really good and unique side. It's unlike other chili you've had and most likely, better. I don't care for the raw onions however.

Tater tots - Run-of-the-mill.

Fox-a-roni - A side special mixing their mac and cheese and brunswick stew. A very wise choice - it's like getting two sides in one. Amazingly, the two sides stay separate in the one dish for the most part and are easy to distinguish from one another.

So, along with Community Q, this is your best ITP BBQ spot. If you go to Community Q stick with the beef (short rib and brisket) and if you choose Fox, pork or chicken (ribs, pulled pork, and wings). Inconsistency has kept me away, but I can't help myself from going back and hoping it's not one of their off nights.

Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

I ate like a boss this weekend and hope everyone had a nice 3-day weekend. This is how I topped out my night:
Cayenne Fried Chicken, Lemony Green Beans, and Mac & Cheese

By the way, the mac and cheese is actually Community Q's 1400 calorie per serving rendition.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

5 Reasons not to go to 5 Seasons Brewing - Westside

I had literally the worst meal in recent memory last night. Nope, it wasn't at a hot, new spot or crummy run-down dive. It was 5 Seasons Brewing - a pretty well established brewery chain with an equally popular reputation. So without further adieu, I give you 5 reasons not to go to 5 Seasons Brewery:

1. The Beer - This place is a brewery, right? There was no beer list on the menu or at the table. Our server (we'll get to him later) asked us if we wanted something to drink. We replied "Yes probably some beer." It took him two more trips inside to get us the house chalkboard with just the names (no descriptions) of their beers. We all ordered and the server disappeared again to retrieve our choices. It turns out that 2 out of the 3 we ordered were out, and our second choice was out as well. 5 Seasons Brewery. One of my friends went with the Golden. It honestly could have been from a golden shower. The beer was flat and flavorless. My other friend and I went with the Venus (as our server and the two of us couldn't think of any of other beers). It was essentially a beer flavored mimosa. The Venus, like the rest of 5 Seasons, didn't have any depth. The flavor was just that of light, orange syrup. My two friends didn't have the heart to even finish their beers and asked if the brewery carried any bottled beers. The waiter's response was, "No, we only carry our own, after all we are a brewery. We have $25 bottles of some stuff." Yes, a brewery that doesn't carry two out of three beers and delivers beers that taste like piss.

2. The Service - Honestly, it seemed like there wasn't a seasoned professional in the entire building. Seriously, Fisher Price my first waiter, waitress, host and manager. Our waiter couldn't answer a single questions we had. What's the Scotch Abbey Like? "Ummm... Ummm (as he checks his notes)... I don't know, it's like, in between the other two we have. I don't really know, I don't drink beer." I'd honestly rather be lied to than listen to this nitwit who works at a brewery tell us he doesn't like beer. We went through this with every single question. What does antelope taste like? What kind of peppers are on the sandwich? The dude made up a new species of peppers - Soblano. I honestly couldn't make this up. Additionally, he claimed bell peppers gave a kick to a sandwich.

3. The Food - Strangely enough, this 5 Seasons menu is not like their Sandy Springs location at all. The Prado location focuses on small, higher quality plates. This menu really reads like any bar menu with a few added items to make it seem cultured. There's an Antelope patty melt and Kari Kari (crab/cream cheese dumplings) but the menu consists primarily of sandwiches and pizzas.

One friend got the Antelope patty melt and said that the Antelope could have been any meat and tasted the same. This same friend ordered the Lobster Bisque as a side. He said it was just plain bad and even told the waiter. The waiter came back saying that they planned on taking it off the menu because a broth-based lobster bisque doesn't work. !?!??!?! Then why was it still being served?

I went for the organic beef burger. It truly was the worst burger I have ever had. Ordered at medium rare, the burger came out well done. The texture was that of sawdust. I've honestly had many better BUBBA Burgers. In fact, every single fast food burger is better than this one. Additionally, there was no seasoning or flavor - unless you count fish flavoring. Yes, my burger tasted of fish. The fries were passable, but unsalted and unseasoned also.

My other buddy ordered the curry grilled chicken sandwich, which he claimed was just OK.

4. The price - The bill, for our abysmal time spent there was roughly $60.

5. The atmosphere at this location is sterile and has no depth. Honestly the brewery felt like a place where middle aged happy-hour drinkers go to give up on youth and doing anything worthwhile and fun. Lastly, 5 Seasons is well known for their roof-top patio with a view of the Atlanta skyline, so we asked to be seated outside. We were sat on a street level side patio. The roof was closed... I'm guessing they only open it up when there is a lot of traffic inside but really, the view might have been 5 Seasons' only saving grace.

I can't seem to find a nice thing to say, but would like to warn diners from coming here when every other option in the area is better. Worst case scenario if you can't find anywhere good to go in this area - buy yourself a case of fine Belgian beer next door at Hop City and drown your sorrows. I guarantee the hangover the next day won't be nearly as mind-numbing as my experience at 5 Seasons Brewery.

5 Seasons Brewing Company Westside on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sounds like a Winner - The Sound Table

The Sound Table is Old 4th Ward's newest, regentrifying business of the Edgewood area. Located on the corner of Edgewood and Boulevard, I think it's safe to say that this may become the most happening of Atlanta corners. Sound Table falls within eyesight of Danneman's, Corner Tavern, Cafe Circa and within earshot of Thumbs Up, Lotta Frutta, Miso Izakaya, Rathbun's/Krogbar and Lenny's. It comes as no surprise that the owners of Top Flr (Midtown's chic and successful restaurant/lounge) are in on this trendy endeavor. The feel is very similar to Top Flr but more laid back and urban. Upstairs is strictly restaurant dining with some light grooves playing and downstairs was all bar/lounge with full PA and DJ setup. I'm hoping the location will help filter out the douches who are still afraid to travel to this side of town.

The concept, from what I've read, is supposedly street food which is the biggest trend in the Atlanta scene since the exciting (sarcasm) hamburger. Fortunately, for Sound Table's sake, I didn't find the focus to be street food at all. The menu tends to lean in many directions. Each item was carefully thought out and crafted with unique takes on flavor and ingredients. Unfortunately, like it's sister restaurant, I found that most (3 out of our 4) of the dishes fell a little short on execution. Additionally, this is a small plate restaurant (like Top Flr), meaning that no main comes with a side, which also makes it a little pricier. But with a menu like this, I'll be back again to try more and perhaps retry some others.

Also of note, the cocktail and beer menu are more than impressive. The cocktail menu was a near three pages long and much like the food menu, featured singular and thoughtful combinations. I ended up ordering the Estate di Romeo - one of the more feminine (it came out pink and served in a martini glass) cocktails. Featuring housemade limoncello and a whole bunch of other ingredients that I can't speak intelligently about, it was highly enjoyable. Just please, serve it in a highball?

We started out with the Salade Frisee which was an absolute knockout. Every element complimented the next ingredient in this terrific salad resulting in an amalgamation of perfection. Tender and succulent duck confit adorned unique frisee greens tossed in a light, lemony dressing. Macerated raisins, preserved, tiny chunks of lemon and what we thought were crispy bits of duck skin topped off the tapered white bowl.

The Salade was followed by an order of the Belgian-Style Frites. This is an easy one to make and a lot of restaurants in town have it down. All the good renditions I've had started with a fresh cut potato. I think Sound Table skipped this step. The fries seemed frozen. In fact they were nearly identical to the ones I grew up eating at Brookwood Cafe long ago. Sadly, they weren't particularly crispy or golden brown. I think a double fry (starting lower and finishing higher) would really improve these guys. Additionally, the housemade mayonnaise could really benefit from some flavoring element. It was just plain mayo. Check out Leon's smoked tomato rendition for a real treat.

For our two larger courses, we went with the Morrocan Lamb's Bread and the Szechuan Fish Fry. The Lamb's Bread was essentially lamb pot pie. The cinnamon-spiced crust was really a thick and hearty delight. Unfortunately, the filling was a let down. There was hardly any gravy inside the filling and the lamb was tough. Curry was mentioned as a flavoring element on the menu but if it was there, it was entirely too subtle. A quick fix could catapult this dish into a favorite.

The Szechuan Fish Fry was also on the average side of the spectrum. A small fish filet, which is diced and quickly fried, was well prepared but didn't really excite me. The sauce was the star on this dish and was very reminiscent of the blood orange reduction I had at Top Flr.

It's imperative to keep in mind that while 3/4 dishes had some problems, this is the restaurants first week open, and I'm sure they have some kinks to work out in the kitchen. The food was still enjoyable because it was a nice face-lift to the junk food drab that the Atlanta dining scene has been dwelling on the last year. Pizza and burgers can only go so far. Innovative and inspired, I will be returning many times to retry sound table. Their smooth and romantic atmosphere alone was enough to draw me back and I think it's safe already (first week of opening) that this place will be a huge success. It really says something that I considered it a great meal, but only really enjoyed one dish.

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