Steakhouse


Joey D’s is a classic steakhouse, claiming components of Italian, Cajun, and New York steakhouse heritage. Inside, it’s very pretty with white shirted waiters everywhere, and plenty of metal, wood, and glass. Seating is fine, the restaurant is well lit. The ‘L’ shaped bar has shelves that extend 20 feet off the floor, full of liquor. Those of you that have seen the ladder routine at Leon’s Full Service in Decatur will be at home here.

I came in for lunch, looking for something I could have that wouldn’t bust a lunch budget. Steaks here are in the 20s, so they wouldn’t do. I settled for a filet mignon sandwich, some mussels and a salad.

The salad was good. The mussels I had were also good, with an excellent marinara.
But the star of the evening were the two small circles of filet mignon in the sandwich. They were cooked a perfect medium rare, seared outside, and as tender as can be inside. The meat was perfect.

Joey D’s Oak Room
1015 Crown Pointe Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30338
(770) 512-7063

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I’ve reviewed Texas Roadhouse before, but this time I arrived with a camera and I took photographs. Those that want discussion, I’ll pass on to my older review, as little has changed that I can see. This article will be concentrating on photographs.

Good rolls, good peanuts. The butter is too sweet for me to indulge in.

Enjoyable house salad.

buttery and delicious.

To note, we haven’t been back much since my original review because this restaurant is just way too popular. The lines linger out the door on weekend nights and we pass on to places that can seat us. That said, the off hours aren’t bad – I had lunch on a Saturday this time – and service is good once you get inside.

Texas Roadhouse
1969 Dogwood Road
Snellville, GA 30078
(770) 985-1450

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O’Charleys is a classic chain steakhouse, offering good steaks and good service at reasonable prices. It’s not a chain I frequent often, but one I keep as a reserve. I’ve had good luck here with prime rib, with chicken entrées, with dinner salads. This day I tried a burger, as a change of pace.

Rolls are served with the meal. They’re small, light and tender.

There are a series of specials at O’Charleys, including a $5.99 lunch special. I didn’t go there because the choices were too limited.

For a small additional fee I could get a side salad. I’m not sure why any chain charges more for a side salad than French fries. Lettuce just isn’t that expensive.

I asked for a medium rare burger, and received a medium rare. The top bun was crusty and delightful. The bottom bun was soaked clean through with burger juices. No matter, not like I eat the whole bun anyway.

Service was, in my opinion, very very good.

In summary, just because I don’t go here often shouldn’t stop anyone else from going here. There is very little to differentiate the mid range steakhouses. O’Charlie’s is one that has served me well in the past, and could serve you well too.

O’Charleys
2049 Scenic Highway
Snellville, GA 30078
(770) 736-3231

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Fogo de Chao is a well run and popular chain of restaurants, perhaps 20 so far, whose presence ranges from our local city to as far east as Beverly Hills, as far west as Philadelphia, with half a dozen locations in Brasil as well. It’s is very popular in Atlanta, and very popular in other urban areas as well, such as Dallas. Trying to tell the blogosphere that this is a good place to eat seems about as pointless as trying to convince people that the sun rises in the east, but on this one day, I had an excuse.

Yes, my daughter had a birthday and we were looking for a gift a little more distinctive than a new iPod. So we made reservations. I put on a nice shirt, wore a tie even. And I really don’t like the traffic jam that is the drive into Buckhead, but for one day, and for my daughter, it’s excusable.

For those who haven’t been to a churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse) the drill is this: it’s an all you can eat buffet, but except for the salad bar, the food comes to you (much as in a dim sum restaurant). There is a card on your table with a red and green side. Flip the card to green when you want meat, flip it back to red when you want to digest what you’ve eaten.

Fogo de Chao is a smaller place than I might have expected. Or at least it gives no real impression  of size. Of course, you get to see meat grilling from the outside as you enter.

Fogo has an excellent salad bar. Not visible in this photo are a slice of artichoke heart and three excellent cheeses. Smoked salmon is pretty much ground zero for my diet, and guarantees I get my omega 3s in the middle of this meal.

Meats, once we were ready for them, came fast and furious. This is unlike Fire of Brasil where the pace is a lot more stately. There were, at times, three gauchos were around our table at once. It became a little confusing sorting out what we wanted to eat.

Service was superb. Everyone had more than enough to eat. The birthday girl was especially fond of the lamb, though there were some excellent and smoky cuts of sirloin. The pork tenderloin was a little hit or miss. My wife found her piece a little chewy, whereas mine had a wonderful smoky flavor.

Verdict: Reigns supreme among ATL churrascarias. Great food, great meats, over the top service. Very highly recommended.

Fogo de Chao
3101 Piedmont Road
Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 995-9982

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Pampas Steakhouse is an Argentinian style steakhouse, well dressed on the outside and graceful inside. I came there recently, curious, knowing that the serving size of the steaks was huge and trying to get a more normal sized meal out of the eatery. One of the keys to my weight loss has been portion control, and the smallest meat serving at Pampas is about twice the size of my typical serving. More typically, 14 to 20 ounces of meat will end up on your plate.

It’s hardly cheap. Meat cuts ran this day from 19 to 56 dollars, averaging in the 30s. An 8 ounce filet mignon was 25 dollars, one of the more reasonable cuts. I ordered that, some asparagus, and a salad. Later on, I asked if they had any cheeses to finish the meal. That was off the menu but they were able to conjure something up.

The steak was melt in your mouth tender and perfectly prepared. Salads were decent sized. The asparagus I ordered were huge, grilled, wonderful, but there were only 6 stalks, hardly enough for 1 person, much less 2. That was about my only food complaint on a day I felt pampered. Service was lush and omnipresent. My water glass was never empty.

Other notes. The main dining area is a large circular region, flanked on half of its sides by curved wine racks, and open through a glass window into a prep area, where you can see staff working on food. The room is thus visually impressive, but it has the same effect as the single room in Arizona’s: you’re caught in a place where conversations are magnified. You share your meal with everyone else in that space.

Otherwise, Pampas is a very graceful indulgence, certainly worth the time and effort, if a superb cut of meat handled by expert staff is what you desire.

Verdict: Excellent steaks, superb staff. Very highly recommended.

Pampas Steakhouse
10970 State Bridge Rd
Johns Creek, GA 30022-4557
(678) 339-0029

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Stony River Legendary Steaks is a small chain, perhaps 10 locations total in several different cities, that specializes in higher end premium steaks. I’ve never had much luck getting into one of these, as every time I had tried in the past, I could never get past the 90 minute to 2 hour waits and the cramped seating while people would wait. I’m sorry, but unless I’m really motivated, I don’t like it when I have to wait longer than a meal should take for a meal.

This day, however, the wait was only 30 minutes or so, and we decided to stick around. I do have to say it’s an uncomfortable wait. The couches provided are older, the space allotted isn’t adequate, and staff doesn’t pick up on the little things that can make people comfortable while waiting. Offer people a menu while they wait? No, they don’t do that. I suspect an orgy of success has cost the chain the concept of initial common courtesies.

The rolls, with a sweetened butter, went fast.

In part, staff can get away with it because the meats are, in fact, excellent. Once seated, the service wasn’t just good, it was superior, and there was plenty of space while seated. They started with breads, round balls that tasted more like a sweet bread or a donut than a traditional roll. They were good. Even I had to set my dietary issues aside, and have one.

Entrées were trout, a roasted half chicken, and I had lamb chops. The lamb was just spot on. It was cooked exactly the way I asked, and the spicing accented the flavors of the meat extremely well. The meat was tender and well marbled. Best I ever had? I might not say that, but a superior serving of lamb, yes. The chicken was really  juicy, well spiced and flavorful, and you could tell the trout was a grilled fish, the flavor of the grilling was just there.

Sides were good but not as mind blowing as the meats. I thought the asparagus was good, but they were larger stalks. I tend to prefer the smaller, finer stalks that places like Whole Foods now sell. Mushrooms were very good; the wine reduction they were cooked in was a terrific complement to the dish. Green beans suffered because of how they were presented. My wife’s roasted chicken came in a plate full of roasting juices. The juices soaked her green beans through and she wasn’t very inclined to eat them. This place tends to glory a bit in their animal fats and if you’re not a fat lover, the presentation overall can be a bit off putting.

Towards the end of the meal and as we left, we started getting a lot of questions about how we liked the meal and whether we were happy. I was glad to see this, as it shows management is trying to get the kinds of feedback they need to improve. If I would have one suggestion, they need to push some of that curiosity forward, because as good as their meats are, and as successful as their restaurants seem to be, they might be running off some people who would delight in their food and service, if a little more attention were paid to them in the beginning.

Verdict: Uncomfortable waits. Superb meats. Good sides. Superior service. Watch out for the fats. Highly recommended, overall.

Stony River Legendary Steaks
5800 State Bridge Road
Duluth, GA 30097
(770) 476-0102

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California Dreaming is a steakhouse, well regarded, with two locations, one in Kennesaw and one in Duluth. The Duluth location is near the intersection of I-85 and Old Peachtree Road,  and whenever we head to Mall of Georgia, we pass by this eatery. It’s been on our “try it” list for some time, and as our wedding anniversary approached, it seemed the appropriate time to try California Dreaming out.

The restaurant is very large, and also very roomy. Light brown wood is everywhere, making thick tables, the backs of booths, structural components. It’s kind of a relief from more cramped steakhouses. It also, on a per entree basis, tends to be more expensive than eateries such as Outback or Longhorns. That said, the total cost of our meal was relatively modest.

Among the first things that attracted our attention was the hot vegetable salad. We had it served as an appetizer. Half hot veggies, half bed of cold lettuce, it took about 3 minutes for the 3 of us to demolish the hot greens. It’s quite an attractive collection of greens, including thin slices of palm, artichokes, peppers, etc.

Hot vegetable salad. Delicious.

They have interesting variations on nachos at this restaurant and my daughter zeroed in on the seafood nachos as her entree. It was a tasty mix of “alfredo” sauce, shrimp, salmon, and chips. The sauce was very cheesy and had a nice dusting of paprika, enough to give the sauce a hint of heat. The chips and sauce alone were worth eating, and  a welcome respite from white cheese based nachos. The small shrimp and thick chunk of salmon gave the whole dish a lot more zest.

My wife, after a lot of back-and-f0rth, ended up with the petite filet and fried shrimp combo. She rarely buys steak at a steakhouse, usually preferring to get ribs or chicken dishes. At one point she was strongly leaning towards the tequila chicken wings and some ribs. As it turned out, she really liked the shrimp she had and was a little indifferent to the steak. My daughter tried some of my wife’s steak and liked it. The consensus, though, was her shrimp were the best thing we tried at this restaurant, a complete success.

Excellent shrimp.

I ended up buying California Dreamings’ New York strip. I was tempted by the marinated sirloin, but I wanted to try one of their meats without the marinade first. I asked for a medium rare cut of meat and almost got it. As my wife really prefers well well done steak, I thought it would be a stretch for an eatery to do both perfectly and deliver plates at the same time. What I got was medium well on the end I started eating, growing redder as I proceeded along the steak. The steak, once I looked more closely, was wedge shaped, thinner on one side, thicker on the other, which certainly couldn’t have helped the cooking.

That said, I was happy I had pink and the steak was tender and very good tasting. As the steaks at California Dreaming are choice and not prime, the steak was a little chewy and not buttery. I’m pretty happy with a little chew in an otherwise tender steak. The “Pittsburgh” style crust added some crunch and flavor to the meat and the serving size was large enough I took half of it home. Thinking about it afterwards, the only way to make the strip better to my tastes would have been to sprinkle freshly crushed peppercorns on the steak (I should have asked).

Service was good here, attentive and not too intrusive. The music was largely Christmas themed and to my tastes, a little loud. In total it was a very good meal, a calm meal with few failures and a lot of dishes new to us. I know one complaint about this eatery is that they use culinary themes repeatedly across multiple dishes, and after a few visits it gets to be the same. But as this was our first visit, and a wedding anniversary, I can say I was heartily pleased with the efficient tasty meal we were presented.

Verdict: Good steak house with a number of interesting dishes. Highly recommended.

California Dreaming
1630 Cross Pointe Way
Duluth, Ga 30097
(770) 813-9240

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Note: perhaps because of Gwinnett County’s large Korean community, there is a menu for this restaurant in Korean on California Dreaming’s web site.

Kennesaw Location:

745 Chastain Road
Kennesaw, GA 30144
(770) 428-2055

California Dreaming (Kennesaw) on Urbanspoon

The first churrascaria I ever went to was the Fire of Brazil in the old Alpharetta location. It was a business dinner and I enjoyed it. Afterwards I took relatives there, and what clinched the experience was taking my family once on a Father’s day. On Father’s day they offer exotic meats (kangaroo, ostrich, venison, duck, alligator) and my daughter to this day has not stopped talking about the food she had there.

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We went to the Perimeter location on the weekend of my daughter’s birthday. She became sick on her birthday and we couldn’t eat anywhere, but the day after she was well and specifically requested going to Fire of Brazil. We spoke of going to Fogo de Chao, but frankly, I wasn’t sure of being able to get there on a whim, I generally dislike the drive into the Buckhead area, and Fire of Brazil was what the birthday girl asked for.

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The restaurant is good looking on the outside, but my wife finds it a little cramped compared to the old Alpharetta location. Seating is around a “wood” fire (stone logs fired by natural gas, probably) and near the windows they have a salad bar. I tend to raid the salad bar for palm hearts, smoked salmon and anything else interesting. The mussels were interesting this day, so I got a few of those.

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For those who have never been to a Brazilian steakhouse, or churrascaria, these are places where the meats are cooked on a rotisserie. The meats are then taken off the heat, while still on the skewer, and moved by staff called passadores from table to table. You are then asked if you want some of the meat, and if you do, a thin slice is usually cut off for you. The slices are thin so you can sample a wide variety of meats. For someone like my daughter, whose tastes run to meats, this kind of eating is a little bit of heaven. There is a fixed price ($41.50/person on this day) and you can eat all you want.

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New York strip

New York strip

Flank steak

Flank steak

The meats were running hot and cold this day. The New York strip was a deep red and full of flavor. The flank steak was good, and sausages were tasty. The sirloin with garlic, on the other hand, was a little flat and tasteless. There was a spicy chicken that everyone seemed to enjoy, and my daughter the carnivore was doing her best to get her share. My mother-in-law was with us; this was her first churrascaria and she hadn’t gotten half way through her salad before the meat started arriving. She usually took the same foods my wife would choose.

About halfway through serving the meats, side dishes arrived. They were a heaping bowl of white rice, a thin bean “soup”, and fried plantains and yucca fries.The beans were tasty, but I can make kidney beans at home. The plantains my wife described as “interesting”, and said she preferred Cuban style maduros. The yucca fries were dry and starchy and otherwise an ordinary side. They would be better as a side to a good burger, in my opinion. Yucca fries at FLIP would be a lot of fun.

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Towards the end of the meal, a passadore came and asked if we wanted anything else. I asked for lamb and my wife asked for turkey. They hadn’t served either in their first pass through. Lamb is my favorite meat in these kinds of steakhouses, even on Father’s day. There is a flavor in lamb that I can’t get anywhere else, and I believe is associated with lamb fat. The chunk of lamb I had was a little chewy, but delicious.  My wife was quite happy with her turkey.

Beef ribs, Fire of Brazil style.

Beef ribs, Fire of Brazil style.

leg of lamb. delicious!

leg of lamb. delicious!

At the end I raided the salad bar one last time, to make sure I had all the various kinds of salmon they served. It turns out their salmon salad that day was delicious.

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Service: I had no problem with table service at all. Drinks were filled, there were no lulls in people coming to the tables and asking if we needed anything. The meats did have a pattern. They would begin with chicken and sausage, proceed through their meats, and then pause. It’s in the pauses that the passadores ask if you want anything in particular. I’ve always taken this to mean, “Is there one last meat we can get you, so that you’ll be happy?” but it could be taken as, “Is there one last thing we can serve you to get you to leave?” In a business where small perceptions in quality of service are the major differences between the churrascarias, that’s a perception Fire of Brazil needs to guard against. Otherwise, I had a great time here.

Verdict:  One of our favorite steakhouses. A little cramped compared to the old Alpharetta location. Highly recommended.

Fire of Brazil
118 Perimeter Center West
Atlanta, GA 30346
(770) 551-4367

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J Alexanders is a steak house in the Dunwoody area, on Ashford Dunwoody Road north of Perimeter Mall, on the right as you’re heading north. It’s connected to the Perimeter Village Shopping Center, though it sits in a building all by itself. The outside of the building is good looking and the inside has a spare sophisticated look.

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I came here for lunch one day, and you see all the dishes and options a higher end steak house will offer. Just, with my diet, I saw no small steak entrees, and I was trying to avoid cheese as much as possible. It’s a seductive menu, with many appealing options, and I ended up getting J Alexander’s vegetable plate and the smaller sized portion of their Norwegian salmon.

J Alexander's vegetable plate, with slaw, couscous, orzo and wild rice, and tequila beans.

J Alexander's vegetable plate, with slaw, couscous, orzo and wild rice, and tequila beans.

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The entree was excellent. The fish was neither undercooked nor overcooked and was exceptionally tender.  The thing that most impressed me were J Alexander’s outstanding side dishes. The tequila beans, the couscous and the orzo and wild rice were fantastic. The tequila beans, for example, weren’t just beans. There was a bit of meat in the dish, some carmelized onion, and a deep rich flavor that probably did come from the tequila. The couscous were delicious and buttery. The orzo and wild rice dish seemed to have a bit of everything in it. There were bits of nut, hints of corn in it. There were cranberries and tiny raisins.  There were tiny bits of vegetable of all kinds. On a plate of fantastic sides, the wild rice was perhaps the best.

Service, if I haven’t said, was very good, cooperative and seamless.

Verdict: Excellent entrees and terrific sides make this a great place to eat. Very Highly Recommended.

J Alexanders
4701 Ashford Dunwoody Road
Atlanta, GA 30338

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Arizona’s at Stonecrest is a great looking restaurant.  It’s spacious inside, surprisingly so given how compact the building appears from the outside. The waitstaff dress all in black, and are efficient but unobtrusive. The background music is jazz, not too soft, not too loud. There is a bar on the left as you enter, two good sized flat screen televisions on view, and sofas are available, so you can sit and watch while your party assembles.

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These virtues, and the lack of other functional alternatives, have turned Arizona’s into the best place for adults in Lithonia to meet and greet. It also makes it a place where parties happen. A party was happening as we entered, a girl’s night out, perhaps, or a shower or wedding party. They were happily and noisily taking photos of each other, and drinking plenty of wine.

This leads to one central problem that Arizona’s does have. The restaurant is, in essence, one large shared room. If a single table is loud, everyone gets to hear it. If a party is loud, then to a first approximation, that party is being shared by the whole restaurant.  And that wasn’t much of a problem when we arrived and were hungry, but it made it very easy to leave after the entrees were finished. Now I’ve done reviews of restaurants that were having parties and seldom has a party affected the mood of my eating. I think the difference is that in the other instances, the parties were being housed in separate rooms, and the noise reduction was substantial.

That said, let’s talk about food. We ordered a starter, the Denver lamb ribs, and we ordered the hickory grilled Atlantic salmon, Arizona’s baby back ribs, and their signature sirloin. We ordered salads with the ribs and the steak. My daughter had a side of mashed potatoes with her salmon. Before the food arrived, a loaf of bread arrived at the table.

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It was a decent bread, even if I found crusts on the very ends a little dry. The house salad was also a nice plate of greens.

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Pretty soon after the lamb arrived. I liked this appetizer a lot, as did my daughter, considering how quickly she went for seconds.

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There was a bit more of a wait, a second loaf of bread appeared, and then the entrees arrived at the table. Of all the dishes, perhaps the salmon was the best received. It had two good sides, the grits and the mashed potatoes, and the salmon was very appetizing as well. My wife didn’t like the sweetness the spinach and chili oil imparted, but I liked the bit of fish I tried, and my daughter ate most of her fish.

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The baby back ribs are a huge plate of food, mostly dry and have a bit of a smoke flavor. I was a little surprised, not expecting that from steakhouse ribs. I’d call this entree a success as well.

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The least successful entree was the steak. It had taste, and was a genuine medium rare for the most part, but the meat was relatively tough and chewy. I’ve had consistently better and more tender sirloins at much less expensive steakhouses. The steamed vegetables were also just okay. Had I known, I’d have gotten the same dish my daughter ordered.

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More quibble perhaps than critique: Arizona’s seems to rely a lot of sauces, marinades, and coatings to get more flavor out of their dishes. I find this curious since steaks need little more than salt, cracked pepper and garlic to bring out their best flavors. The best proofs, however, of the success of this approach are the full restaurant we saw when we came, and the crowds that mark up this restaurant on review sites such as Urban Spoon.

Verdict: Mostly good food. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a place to hold a party.

Arizona’s at Stonecrest
2940 Stonecrest Circle
Lithonia, GA 30038
(678) 526-7775

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