Atlanta Dining: Crawling The Buford Taco Highway

August 30, 2007

Atlanta’s Buford Highway is the ultimate foodie ethnic eats drag — here you’ll find scores of Mexican and Asian eateries, all of which have something special to offer. To help us narrow down the sheer multitude of places and keep us centered on good food, I enlisted the help of Jennifer Zyman, the Blissful Glutton, Atlanta INtown food columnist and one of Atlanta’s top food bloggers.

Buford Highway on the outskirts of Atlanta is the best place for cheap ethnic eats and shopping. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Atlanta Dining: JCT Kitchen

August 30, 2007

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JCT Kitchen
1198 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta, GA
(404) 355-2252

Web Site: http://www.jctkitchen.com

After a disappointing meal at Watershed, Melissa suggested we take a look at JCT Kitchen, a similar modern Southern-style casual dining restaurant that had been getting raves from many local critics. Wanting to quickly make up for the night before, we headed toward Atlanta’s West Side and hit the restaurant during lunchtime.

JCT Kitchen on Howell Mill Road in Atlanta.

Lookin’ for some fine Southern eatin? Head no further than JCT Kitchen. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Georgia Dining: Watershed

August 24, 2007

Watershed Restaurant
406 W Ponce De Leon Ave
Decatur, GA 30030

Web Site: http://watershedrestaurant.com

Unlike other many other food bloggers out there in foodiespace, I’m not in the practice of doing negative write ups of the restaurants I visit. If I have a particularly negative experience or if I feel a restaurant just isn’t good, I simply would prefer not to write it up at all. That’s because I don’t consider myself to be a food critic — and I don’t pretend to follow the journalistic practices of a real newspaper food columnist. I’m a food writer who likes to try to reproduce the dining experience for the people who read my blog so they can make their own decisions about whether or not they want to visit a restaurant or order a particular dish. However, I also like to think I have a relationship with the chefs and restaurateurs who’s restaurants I write about, and I share my likes and dislikes with them when it comes to service issues, particular dish preparations, and so on — so sometimes, it’s necessary to play tough love in a particular writeup, especially if I know that a restaurant can do better.

It is said that a fine dining restaurant should be able to function well and replicate the experience of the Executive Chef or Chef de Cuisine even if the chef happens to be elsewhere that night. For the most part, I agree — I’ve had particularly good meals in many restaurants of well-known chefs, where the Sous or even the line cooks did a really great job in representing the dishes and paid close attention to quality. In the case of the very popular Watershed modern New American and Southern-style restaurant in Decatur, Georgia (bankrolled by singing duo Indigo Girls) they really dropped the ball in terms of attention to quality and preparation during my most recent visit, when partner and Executive Chef Scott Peacock was away in New York (presumably for the most recent James Beard event). I will now explain this in detail.

The Watershed Restaurant in Decatur, Georgia.

Watershed Dining Room.

Chef out of town that evening? No problem, right? Wrong. Click on “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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NJ Dining: Vitamia and Sons

August 16, 2007

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Vitamia & Sons
206 Harrison Ave, Lodi NJ 07644
(800)PASTA-UNO

Web Site: http://www.pastaboy.com

Sometimes you can only find the best places by sheer accident, or as a result of a string of unfortunate events.

About two weeks ago New Jersey experienced a severe rain and lightning storm which disabled a critical water treatment plant that caused our local water supplier, United Water, to issue an advisory requiring all Bergen County residents to boil their water before consuming, affecting approximately 800,000 people. This also caused our local health department to shut down just about every restaurant in the county. Unfortunately, this happened on a Saturday, one of the busiest restaurant days of the week. Jon and I originally planned to visit Lodi Pizza on a recommendation from Carlo Bartolomeo, the owner of my favorite local Italian deli in Palisades Park. When we got to Lodi Pizza, it was closed — as was just about every local food business. Jon suggested we drive around Lodi and intentionally “get lost” and see what other local food options we should explore, since we never really hang out in Lodi.

Eventually, we drove down Harrison Avenue and found one of the only food businesses still open — Vitamia and Sons, a bakery, pasta factory and Italian deli that has been in business for over 41 years. It was like as if God himself had sent us there. It should be noted that there is a major Roman Catholic church across the street, so I won’t rule out divine influence even if it is from a different religion from my own.

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Vitamia (pronounced Vee-ta-mee-ya) and Sons Bakery on Harrison Ave in Lodi.

You don’t even have to walk into this store to come to the immediate realization that you’ve discovered a fresh bread and pasta paradise. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Atlanta Dining: South City Kitchen

March 26, 2007

South City Kitchen
1144 Crescent Ave NE, Atlanta, GA
(404) 873-7358

Fellow food shutterbug and Atlantean Melissa Goodman, AKA Gifted Gourmet invited me to Sunday brunch at South City Kitchen, one of Atlanta’s most popular modern-style Southern restaurants. Set in a beautifully restored 1920’s bungalow right in the middle of downtown Atlanta among the city’s skyscrapers, the restaurant serves updated and interesting twists on Southern classics. It was a really interesting contrast to the “Meat and 2 veg” hardcore Southern cuisine I had eaten at Mary Mac’s a few days before.

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Atlanta Dining: Mary Mac’s Tea Room

March 22, 2007

Mary Mac’s Tea Room
224 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA
(404) 876-1800

Web site: http://www.marymacs.com/ 

One of my objectives this week was to have a sit down, traditional Southern meal in a classic setting. While I have had some good Soul Food examples in Florida and New York City recently, they were both modern restaurants, and the last time I had a truly exceptional Southern/Soul Food experience that could be considered to be truly classic would be at Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans, back in May of 2005. Willie Mae’s was destroyed by flooding three months later as a result of the levvee breaches following Hurricane Katrina, and it is in the late stage of being rebuilt — so I probably won’t be able to have another meal in there for at least several months. When I heard of Mary Mac’s Tea Room, a similar, but more upscale (and much larger) Southern/Soul Food restaurant in the Poncey-Highland section of Atlanta, which has been around since the 1940’s, I jumped at the chance to eat there.

Fried Chicken, Cornbread, Okra and Tomatoes. Click on the “read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Georgia Dining: Dreamland Bar-B-Que

March 18, 2007

Dreamland Bar-B-Que
10730 Alpharetta Highway, Roswell, GA

Web Site: http://www.dreamlandbbq.com

Georgia and Alabama aren’t really known as BBQ territory,  and they really don’t have a “style”, like their cousins in North Carolina, Memphis, Lexington, Kansas City and Austin, each of which are said to have their own schools that define the genre.  However, when in the South, I tend to gravitate toward genuine Southern-style food, and any excuse to eat BBQ is a good one. It didn’t take much encouraging when my client told me that he and his friends refer to Dreamland Bar-B-Que in Roswell as their “Church”, because they go there and get all quiet and serious when they are eating and worshiping the  Pork.

Dreamland is part of a small chain of Barbecue restaurants, originating out of Tuscaloosa, AL. When you drive up to the restaurant, the smell of meat smoking over fruit woods immediately smacks you upside the head. See the big chimney? You can’t see it because of the sun glare, but there’s a large volume of Pecan and Hickory smoke emanating from it.

Ready for some serious ‘Q, Alabama-style? Click on the”read the rest of this entry” link for more.

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Atlanta Dining: The Varsity

March 17, 2007

The Varsity
61 North Ave NW, Atlanta, GA

I’m in the Atlanta metro area this week. Having heard about The Varsity on a number of travel and food shows on TV, I knew I had to make a pilgrimage to this place. Now in its 80th year, the legendary fast food restaurant is most known for the fact that it is the largest operating drive-in restaurant in the world — Sonic couldn’t even try to hold a candle to this place, even if it tried.

As it turns out The Varsity has a branch in Alpharetta, right across the street from the Marriott Suites where I am staying. So what exactly would possess me to drive over 20 miles south down GA-400 to go to another one? Read on.

The original Downtown Atlanta location of The Varsity.

The big V sign can be seen very clearly off the highway. V for Victory! I found it!

Are you ready for some legendary Atlanta hamburgers and hot dogs? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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