modern American


No 246 wears well, like a great pair of leather shoes, or an oft washed pair of denims. It is a smaller restaurant on Ponce de Leon, next to Leon’s Full Service. No 246 has a longish bar, some tables, excellent staff and an intriguing menu. If you show up at lunch, you get to see staff prepping food for dinner, something a foodie might actually enjoy watching.

Wagyu flatiron steak.

Wagyu flatiron steak.

I enjoy the menu, think it well designed and the menu items are ambitious. Take the flatiron steak: how about wagyu flatiron instead? The salads are good. There are tapas style items. You can get a decent sized pizza here as well. Now, despite the care taken on the menu items, nothing really blew me away here. That can’t be said for my daughter, who favors their pastas and thinks they can, in fact, be blow you away good.

It’s a place I like to eat, feel free to linger, want to bask in the ambience and try out the food. I don’t think you can go wrong here, as it’s plenty good enough in a very competitive part of Atlanta.

No 246
129 E. Ponce De Leon
Decatus GA 30030
(678) 399-8246

No. 246 on Urbanspoon

Graft is a rarity, an ambitious farm to table restaurant in the northeast OTP. It’s located on Grayson Parkway, part of a triangle of roads that also house other interesting Grayson eateries, just as this Johnny’s on steroids. It’s in a converted wood frame house and not all that easy to see. A sign alone gets you there. Parking is in the back of the house and extends some distance away from the house. The first bit of parking you see isn’t the only place to park.

Inside, the tables are of wood and heavy, reassuring. The menu is small and rotates frequently. There is a good wine list and a usable selection of American industrial and craft beers, both regional and national. There is a ‘C’ shaped bar that takes up a fair amount of space, but given the crowd they had the night we went, it’s surprising how many people they can seat in that space.

I apologize for the picture quality, but Graft uses very low light.

smoked salmon appetizer. Excellent.

smoked salmon appetizer. Excellent.

Graft's pork chop.

Graft’s pork chop, along with some broccolini.

Flank steak, topped with kale and on top of some root vegetables.

Flank steak, topped with kale and on top of some root vegetables.

We loved their smoked salmon appetizer. There was a hint of heat that lingers on your tongue, a reminder the salmon just didn’t come out of a refrigerator and onto your table. I had a flank steak, richly marinated, and my daughter had a pork chop, which also was quite good.

The sides were good enough we took extra servings home, for later. The creative sides led to the following exchange with my daughter:

“Does this restaurant remind you a little of Top Flr?”

“Yes, but it’s not as claustrophobic. You don’t feel like you have to join some members only club to eat here.”

We both agreed it would be a good date restaurant.

Take home? For those in this neck of the woods, I’m saying this restaurant should be on your short list. If you’re a northeast foodie, then run, don’t walk, to this place.

Graft on Urbanspoon

I’ve already reviewed the Local Republic, but I hadn’t gone to the LR for dinner so far. I corrected that. It’s as nice at dinner as it is at lunch, but more crowded and a little louder. If you want parking on the weekends, try to arrive before 7pm. It’s always a bit tough to park around Lawrenceville Square.

Lamb burger

Jerk Chicken

Hummus plate, along with crawfish sliders.

If you’re within a 30-45 minute drive of Lawrenceville Square, just go sometime. This is one of the best, and most ambitious eateries in the area.

Local Republic on Urbanspoon

Little Mexico is showing some interesting lunch specials on their blackboard.

We were able to take advantage of those recently. Shown below is their hot and spicy burrito. Ground beef, beans and rice, along with a spicy salsa mark this lunchtime choice.

The chile relleno lunch special is also a whole pepper, as opposed to a ring of pepper with a little beef poured inside.

Local Republic was a chef’s recommendation, a bar, and on Urbanspoon, it’s classed as a gastropub. On a bright spring day, I was able to head up Highway 29 and into Lawrenceville and try it out recently.

To note, ‘gastropub’ is a moniker that is controversial in this town, because of Meridith Ford Goldman’s negative use of the term in her review of Salt Factory Pub (named Red Salt at the time). And of course this represents a problem, because her review really never bothered to say what a gastropub was.

So what is a gastropub? If only a name chef is required, then HD1 is a gastropub. If only great food is required, then Ria’s Bluebird is a gastropub. And since no one has bothered to tell Meridith Ford that an absence can’t define, we’re more or less left with a critical status quo that has Holeman and Finch as a gastropub, perhaps Leon’s Full Service as well (but maybe Leon’s is just too 2010 to count anymore), and that Red Salt isn’t (because, of course, burgers disqualify you as a gastropub, unless you’re Holeman and Finch and only sell them when vampires are afoot).

What is clear is that Local Republic is an ambitious eatery for its place and location, that serving escargot in a bar is not typical fare, and that putting a nice little proto-gastro-eatery right across the street from McCray’s is also quite gutsy. The owner isn’t afraid to take risks; witness his excellent looking Johnny’s in Grayson. The location is cute, has its own parking (important for an eatery close to the square in Lawrenceville), and some good outdoor seating.

In terms of beer selection, Local Republic has ten craft beers on tap. The selection varies, and they don’t print a beer list. On a blackboard, they keep a list handy.

So, the question: is Local Republic a gastropub? Let’s talk about the food we had and get back to that.

Local Republic has some very attractive small plates, and that’s what we focused on. Yes, the signature dish here is supposed to be shrimp and grits, but that’s dinner fare and we had been nibbling before lunch began.

My daughter had their escargot. That was the most successful dish of the night. She liked it, and my sample was flavorful, buttery, earthy at times.

Escargot. Our favorite dish when we ate.

The salad was a delight, tender leafy greens, but not in any sense ambitious.

Chicken and sausage gumbo.

The gumbo was something of a quandry. Yes, it was good tasting, smoky, some complexity in the broth, but really didn’t “hit the mark” as a gumbo, and there was no spice, or heat, to speak of. I’d had a good gumbo recently at the Froghead Bar and Grill in Mississippi, with on point flavor and spicing. Local Republic’s fare isn’t anything like the gumbos I grew up on in Lousiana. Nevertheless, it was interesting.

Huge serving of mussels.

The mussels were an enormous serving, and the size of the serving presented a problem. The mussels were better when dipped in the broth that came with the seafood (milky, with bits of garlic in it), but there were so many mussels, you really needed 3 bowls, one for the mussels, one for the shells, and a third for the broth. Dry, the mussels weren’t as delicious as they were when dipped.

So, is it a gastropub? Personally, there weren’t enough “wow” moments to class this eatery in the same strata as H&F or Leon’s. A more appropriate comparison would be Salt Factory Pub. That said, any eatery with this level of ambition and execution automatically becomes a factor on the northeast side. Any foodie from Tucker to Suwanee to Lithonia would be well served by the trek to Lawrenceville Square to try this eatery out.

Local Republic
225 W Crogan St
Lawrenceville, GA 30046
(678) 205-4782

Local Republic on Urbanspoon

I managed to make it back to TBM recently. I never had indulged much in their appetizers, but this is one I do  like:

On the board are mushrooms, stuffed with sausage and parmesian cheese. Three Blind Mice may be the best restaurant within a few minutes of Snellville, and this creamy, delicious appetizer is one reason why.

Three Blind Mice
1066 Killian Hill Road, Suite 101
Lilburn, GA 30347
(770)-696-4139

Three Blind Mice Restaurant and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

My first impressions of Ten Bistro were good. The food was respectable, the atmosphere something else, a sonic essay by Dave Brubeck in 5/4 time. Perhaps such a look is ‘meh’ to ITPers, but to the commuting/OTP crowd, this place stands out. I’d compare it most directly to an eatery on Canton Street in Roswell or perhaps Lilburn’s “Three Blind Mice“.

"The King" sandwich, with grilled veggies.

For cold winter days, this place is warm, soothing comfy. Inside, there is a long bar backed by an equally long extended table along the back, speckled in between by tables for two or four. There is art on the walls, real oils, with the gouges, scratches, and raised rough edges to prove it. With the sounds reflecting an authentic early 1970s groove, the menu itself has its share of puns and allusions to groups, singers or bands of the period. I haven’t been at dinner, or had their wines, it doesn’t really fit along my commute back home, but as a lunch place? It has a lot going for it.

Lamb sloppy joe with a bit of Perfect Ten salad.

One item I prefer, and try to work into my meals is the Perfect Ten salad. It has tender  greens, some artichoke, and shades of the old “Badayori“,  a bit of heart of palm. There are  useful grilled vegetables on the lunch menu, and  plenty of sandwiches. The clientele, if you listen carefully, are some of the most astute, smart people I’ve ever overheard, and I’ve had plenty of lunches in the cafeterias of the University of Pennsylvania. It’s attracting an erudite crowd.

Yes, I’m aware that some people have had mixed results with this eatery, but the owner is engaged, active, friendly, cordial. And when I started a long discussion with his staff about what music might set off his restaurant the best — seriously, where  in my 400+ reviews have I ever gotten into it about a restaurant’s music – he listened attentively. And yes, they need to sneak in a little more jazz into their 1970s mix.

It’s an upscale bar, better looking than most, more friendly than many, convenient to my work, so I bothered to find it, and it surprised me a little. Whether others find it as appealing, I can’t tell, but watching the good looking and active customers over repeated visits, I think this place will find its niche.

 

Ten Bistro
5005 Peachtree Parkway
Norcross, GA 30092
(770) 375-8330

Ten Bistro on Urbanspoon

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