June 2009

The Brick Store Pub has a formidable reputation, and I had expected it to be large, cover a whole block perhaps. Instead, it’s a rather small and compact bar in downtown Decatur, with a modest downstairs and a small upstairs. The famed red brick is on the left; the wall on the right of the pub is a dark grey. There aren’t many seats and this place is known to be hard to get into. I was lucky to scoot into the bar seating downstairs.

The downstairs bar is shaped like a ‘U’ and there are 15 beers on tap. It isn’t the beers on tap though, that this place is famed for. It’s the enormous beer list, categorized by region of origin and seemingly endless. And it doesn’t come cheap; a $30 beer isn’t that hard to find in this pub. I stuck to the beers on tap, starting with a Smuttynose brown ale.

The food? I had a couple plates, a smoked turkey sandwich, with a side salad, and their shepherd’s daughter’s pie, with a pasta salad. The turkey sandwich was a little small, but tasty. The greens were excellent, mixed in with some yellow raisins and sunflower seeds. The shepherd’s daughter’s pie was a strip of mixed meats, covered with thinly sliced potatoes. It did not have the distinct lamb flavor I’ve had in other shepherd’s pies, but it was good tasting nonetheless. The pasta salad wasn’t bad, but paled compared to the other three dishes.

The bartenders are friendly, unpretentious, know their beers, and seem to know their customer’s names. Service is slow to seat people, but pretty good once seated.  The people in the bar were exceptionally friendly that night.  I shook my share of hands, spoke with out of town visitors. I ended the stay with a hefeweizen, the glass so large I felt I was looking up at it. In short, I had a great time here.

Verdict: Good food, phenomenal beer selection, totally deserving of its reputation. Very highly recommended.

Brick Store Pub
125 East Court Square
Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 687-0990

Brick Store Pub on Urbanspoon

Notes: To get to the pub from Snellville, take 78 until it becomes Scott, Scott to Clairmont, south on Clairmont to Ponce De Leon (turn left onto Ponce). The little ‘U’ shaped road that Brick Store Pub is found on is immediately on your right after the turn. If you wish to park nearby, plan on looking for parking at least a couple blocks before you get to Ponce. Free parking is hard to come by in downtown Decatur.

On Father’s Day we went out twice. The first time was to Benny’s Bar and Grill for their brunch. I had never had their brunch before. We had their mussel appetizer (really good), a bowl of their gumbo (fantastic), and I had a tilapia wrap. My wife had a chicken sandwich, with marinated grilled chicken, and my daughter had a omelet.  It was all good, and too much food for lunch really. We all took leftovers. And I found out how much my daughter liked my wrap when I took it for lunch on the Tuesday after, and she had already taken a large slice of it. For dinner we went to Destas Ethiopian. I’ll review that restaurant later.

My doctor has laid down a gauntlet in terms of my eating, and it’s going to be hard to meet. The deal is, no red meat, no soft drinks that aren’t diet drinks, control portion size, and start an exercise program and stick to it. I start exercise programs all the time. Sticking to them is the hard part. The point is to lower my weight, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and if possible, prevent the onset of adult diabetes. There were some ugly sides to my last blood test, and though I didn’t starve the way I should before that kind of test, it is better take precautions now.

Simply put, I’m not going to be able to give up red meat. But what I think would work better actually, is giving up almost all meat for lunch. While the difference in cholesterol between fish and red meat is something like a 20-30% difference, the difference between animal and plant products is a 100% difference. Plants have no cholesterol at all.

The best diet I was ever on was later popularized as the Subway diet. You don’t need to eat Subway sandwiches to do this. Just limit calories at lunch to 400 or less, don’t snack, eat normally at dinner, and exercise moderately. My last successful diet, about 10 years ago, was exactly this. I lost 20 pounds doing this and relatively painlessly.

An easy way to accomplish a vegan/vegetarian lunch at my work is to make heavy use of Kashi’s frozen entrees, such as their Black Bean Mango and their Ranchero Bean offerings. Both are vegetarian, if not vegan (Sara from Innocent Primate suggests that many Kashi entrees may have honey as a sweetener. Please check). Both are under 400 calories.

Popular Atlanta sandwich shops often have a vegetarian option. Alon’s has a Tuscan sandwich and Wright’s Gourmet in Dunwoody has a vegetarian sandwich they call Glenda’s Garden. Finally, I’ve cooked both a quinoa and Kashi stir-fry before. If worst comes to worst, then I can do it myself (though I need some way to figure out calories per serving).

In terms of boonie peppers, I couldn’t be happier. The outside plant simply shed all its bad, nasty looking leaves and it now looks extremely healthy:

Potted boonie pepper growing outside in Georgia. It looks fantastic!

Potted boonie pepper growing outside in Georgia. It looks fantastic!

The inside plants, in 2 liter soda bottle greenhouses, are doing extremely well. To reiterate, take your plant once sprouted, get a peat pot, add about 1 inch of soil. Put the sprout in the peat pellet into the pot, cover with soil. Place in a greenhouse made of an empty soda bottle cut in two, with a few two inch vertical slits (can be done on either half, really. I split the top half). Water immediately with an indoor strength fertilizer; assemble greenhouse and place on handy sunny window sill; repeat watering as needed (every 1-2 weeks). Don’t worry about excess; it will drip into the bottom of the greenhouse and help keep the plants moist. To keep them warm through the cool Georgia spring on the window sill I had them on, I was using a heating strip. Heat + fertilizer + greenhouse = steady reliable growth.

Many of those will be moved outside sometime during July. They are looking that good, growing that well. My tomatoes, on the other hand, aren’t growing well. I believe I’m going to have to find a new plot for them, some place with more sun. The only tomato to fruit there so far have been Sweet 100s a few years ago.

Longhorn Steakhouse is a well established chain in the US, roughly equivalent to Outback or Texas Roadhouse, that serves steaks, chicken, and seafood in a clean modern setting.  I’ve been to various Longhorn Steakhouses many times, and all in all I prefer Outback slightly, because I think Outback’s entrees are a little cheaper and their service is a little better. I have friends I hold in high regard, however, who hold exactly the opposite opinion. I suspect the difference between the mid priced steak houses is mostly a matter of personal taste.

There are two Longhorns in Snellville,  and this review covers the one at the corner of Web Ginn Road and Highway 124, in the open mall known as Avenue Web Ginn. This is a Snellville location, though just by crossing Web Ginn Road, you are then in Lawrenceville.

When this restaurant first opened it was packed and impossible to get into. The wait was well over an hour and the receptionists were unable to accurately estimate time. I left lines for this place at least twice because a “half hour” wait stretched into an hour or more.

The lines have calmed down in the meantime, and my daughter and I came recently during lunch. We were seated quickly and a waiter was with us shortly. Drinks were rapidly served and we both ordered salads, my daughter a salmon salad and I had the 7 pepper sirloin salad, medium rare.

In the meantime, we were served Longhorn’s bread. It’s a round loaf, as opposed to the elongated loaf of other stores, and it was already sliced, a handy convenience. Longhorn’s bread is quite good.

Both salads were good. My daughter’s salmon was cooked, as opposed to undercooked, and while my salad ended up with medium well steak as opposed to medium rare, the steak was quite good and full of flavor. At points I thought the 7 pepper crust was a little potent, but in a salad with steak, blue cheese, balsamic dressing, and a pepper crust, there will be some strong flavors.

I found the service to be good, but not great. They seemed surprised when our glasses were empty. Some of that could simply be the time we came. Lunch isn’t as hectic as dinner.

Verdict:  Recommended.  Very good steaks, good seafood, good service.

Longhorn Steakhouse
1350 Scenic Highway
Snellville, GA, 30078
(770) 972-6552

Longhorn Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

If you have been to Little 5 Points, then it is hard to miss the Vortex Bar and Grill. The flashy colors, the skull surrounding the entrance, the huge sign proclaiming the bar to be the home of “Atlanta’s Best Burger”, all come into play.  And if you take the hype a little too seriously, it would seem as if you would be stepping into a Raider’s Nation on steroids. The truth is both a little calmer and a lot more pleasing to the senses.

Once inside, almost every surface that isn’t brick is painted in black, true. Then that surface is covered with .. stuff. Stuff like old vintage posters and photos, tee shirts, license plates, old toys, plastic sharks, alligator snouts, road signs, a skeleton riding a motorcycle. I was a bit fond of Maxwell, the .. cat (you have to be there to understand the context).

But otherwise what you have is a very functional bar (with around 20 beers on tap), lots of tables, a lot of room. I’m 6 feet tall, and I felt I could stretch out here and not bump into staff or neighbors. The bartender was efficient and friendly, and staff dressed informally. There was live music this day, and rather than being a Spinal Tap clone with amp hiked to 11, he was playing a far more ordinary guitar.

The patronage seemed to be of every race, creed, and color. People were friendly, chatty. There was a man, Chris, walking around, talking up the company he works for, New Belgium Brewing, offering samples. I ended up with a bottle of Fat Tire Amber Ale, and yes, a little lighter than my usual drink, but very good. A hat tip to New Belgium and Chris for promoting their product.

To the food: I ordered a Red Brick brown ale, some fried zucchini and a Ragin’ Cajun burger. Burgers are reasonably priced, given that they are half pound burgers. They also cook to order. If you ask for a medium rare burger, that’s what you get. The zucchini chips were thin sliced, covered in a brown batter and crisp. They tasted good plain or dipped into ranch dressing. The Ragin’ Cajun had a spicy pepper sauce on it. I threw on some Gulden’s brown mustard.. I thought it needed a bit more of a hit. The burgers are tall, by the way, close to four inches high once you stack it all together. It was a fine juicy burger. It’s easy to see how they contend for “best burger” in this city.

I didn’t have the nachos, but the couple next to me did. It’s an enormous plate of food.

Verdict: Informal and irreverent, Vortex does well with their signature burgers. Highly recommended, if you’re over 18 and a moderately sane adult.

Vortex Bar and Grill
438 Moreland Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 688-1828

Vortex Bar & Grill (Little 5 Points) on Urbanspoon

To get to the Vortex from Snellville, take Highway 78 to Scott, take Scott until it merges with Ponde De Leon, take Ponce to Moreland Avenue (please note it will be Moreland on the left, and Briarcliff on the right). Turn left at Moreland. When the stores turn psychedelic, start looking for the Vortex on the right. Please note on weekends you may have to pay to park in that part of the world.

The blog cinco2seis has a nice review of the Vortex’s largest and most heart stopping burger, the Double Coronary.

The Royal Oak Pub is next to the Quiznos and near the Atlanta Bread Company in the mall near the northeast corner of Abernathy and Mount Vernon Roads. It’s tucked in the back, and you have to brave traffic from Chik Fil-A to even reach it from the Mount Vernon side. However, if you do, the service is friendly and efficient, a bit of “Cheers” in Atlanta, and the food can be good to very good.

There are six of these restaurants, all run by the Dunwoody Restaurant group. These restaurants share a common menu, and similar look. Upon entry to the Royal Oak, there is a suit of armor that greets you to the left, with menus in hand.  Inside walls are made of brick and stained wood, and the front of the bar is “papered” in framed Guinness commercials from the past. There is bar seating, tables, and a few booths. Seating is roomy enough when the bar is mostly empty to half packed, but it can get tight in the pub when the place is packed.

There are 5 good beers and 1 hard cider on tap. There are dozens of different beers in bottles, and more tapped bottles of vodka and bourbon than I can count. The food? There is an online menu, which gives you an idea of the scope of their offerings. I’m partial to the nachos here. I like their Mediterranean salad, though the Hong Kong steak salad is a little better. All the salads, sandwiches, nacho plates, etc tend to be large plates of food. If someone leaves the Royal Oak hungry, it’s because they didn’t like the food or weren’t eating.

The “Doozy” is a good solid burger, though I like it better with the onion things scraped off. Fries are thick, meaty, and actually look like Texas fries. And I bet if you ask nicely, you can still get a “pot of fries” (delivered in a clay flower pot), if you need more. The Royal Oak has a decent array of sandwiches, and recently added a gyro I believe.

And since this is labeled an English pub, there are some English dishes. You can get a good shepherd’s pie here, bangers and mash, a good Irish stew, or a plate of fish and chips. There is a lot more lamb on the menu than most places, and this was the place I realized that I really like lamb.

They will have daily specials here, and it can simply be a riff off a stock menu item, a soup with a unique twist of flavors, or perhaps the chef is testing a dish to be added to the menu. The menus here are seasonally rotated and the chefs of Royal Oak do try to find food that their customers will like.

Service here is generally good, and grows far better if you let the staff get to know you. It’s more common than not for a regular to have his drink on the bar top before he gets half way to the bar. This is a place that really knows its regular customers and tries to please. Now, to note, staff is lean and everyone short of the head chef buses tables in here. If the place is a mess, the Royal Oak staff deals with it. But otherwise, service can get as good as you want it to be.

Verdict: Friendly, “Cheers”-like bar with good to very good food, good to great service. Absolutely recommended.

The Royal Oak Pub
1155 Mount Vernon Highway
Sandy Springs, GA 30338
(770) 390-0859

Royal Oak Pub on Urbanspoon

The DeKalb Farmer’s Market is the grand daddy of all the large markets in this city, and huge doesn’t begin to cover it.  It’s at the corner of Laredo and Ponce De Leon, and the entrance to De Kalb is one of the four ways you can go at that light.  The parking lot is about a block in size and as large as the lot is, it is equally as large inside. Once inside, there is a vast array of vegetables, about as ordered as any market could be, with the produce marked by country of origin, name, and with a drawing of the produce to boot.

The wines, two aisles of them, are separated by country of origin and type. In between the wine are stacks of beers, everything from Miller Light to Belgian ales. Grains and beans? Just to look at two examples, they had red, green, yellow, brown, and French green (a smaller variety) lentils, along with whole mung beans, and plenty of dals. Quinoa? Not only did they have the white and red varieties, but also wild black quinoa, not seen anywhere else that I’ve looked. Nuts and candied fruits are available in large quantities, neatly sealed in plastic bags.

They have good breads, and one thing I bought the day I was here was a sack full of whole wheat rolls. They were tasty and chewy once I got them home, just perfect. Just past the breads and vegetables is the fish section, which in my opinion is the very best part of this store. When my wife is after the freshest fish she can get, she comes here. She comes here because of the selection of live fish, and the ease with which this place can clean those fish. Perhaps something compares in this city, but I haven’t found it yet.

Meats are past the fish, and they serve a startling variety of product. Besides fine beef, you can get rabbit here, quail and cornish hens, duckling, goat from Australia, and lamb from Colorado. You can get bison, if you want it. A selection of fine cheeses is nearby, slices off large wheels, and the dairy section, also nearby, has items unavailable anywhere else.

Before I do nothing but sing praises to this place, I’ll note a few downsides. It is full of people and often cramped here, more so in the smaller aisles. There are shoppers who park in those narrow aisles with their flock of full grown kids for eternity it seems, blocking everything. If you take a cart inside, PUT SOMETHING IN IT IMMEDIATELY. If you do not, your cart will be taken. Though this is an international market, with international vegetables, it is not a particularly good Asian market, and Asian staples like Asian (often called “Korean”) yams just aren’t here. Go to Super H Mart for those kinds of goods. Meats tend to be pricey and if you want cheap meats, a market like Lilburn International Farmer’s Market is a better choice.

Still, there is nothing like it in the city, and it comes with the highest of recommendations.

From Snellville, perhaps the fastest way to this market would be to head down 78, then south on 285, and take the Ponce De Leon exit westward. An alternative path is to take 78 to Scott Boulevard, Scott down to Clairmont Ave. Head south, and take Clairmont until it ends at Ponce De Leon (hang a left when Clairmont ends). If you get forced left on Commerce, just keep going. It runs into Ponce De Leon as well.

Shoya Izakaya is currently the sole occupant of a shopping center that soon will be the home of a large Super H Mart, and as I drove up to it early in the evening, there were, I estimate, perhaps 40 to 50 cars in front of the eatery. There were so many I tried to get a photo (I didn’t get them all, I needed a wider angle lens). And after I watched 2 more people walk into the eatery I thought I had better join them, because it looked to be getting packed.


I was, it turns out, lucky. It’s a beautiful restaurant inside, but it’s a little small for the crowds they’re now getting, a little cramped. There was space at the sushi bar, and they seated me there. Though crowded, it was quite amiable, and staff were doing their best to manage the crowd.

After a bit of time, I was able to talk to a waitress, and I ordered 4 items to begin: oshinko (pickles), ankimo (monk fish liver), ikura oroshi (I wasn’t 100% sure of what this was initially, but I wanted to try it — ikura sounded familiar), and yakitori (chicken kebabs), cooked in sea salt. Later I ordered bbq eel (unagi kabayaki), and beef ponzu ae.

An izakaya is a bar, a place to drink, but in America, they’re becoming more akin to tapas bars. Shoya is an example of this style. The menu covers six pages in English and Japanese, and the menu is perhaps two and a half feet long (longer than my forearm – I checked). There are a dizzying array of choices, and that doesn’t even begin to cover the offerings of the sushi bar.  The menu items are, for the most part, inexpensive. The serving size is small. The idea is to let the customer try many different things, rather than settle on just one thing and eat that. I have to admit it’s a totally seductive proposition, and in the process, I forgot the one thing that would have centered the meal, and that is a bowl of rice. Unfortunately, that’s something I’ll have to fix on another visit.

The first thing I received was the ankimo, and in many respects it was the most surprising thing I had. It’s not at all like the liver of a land animal, and the product was creamy, molded into a oval shape. The ankimo was delicious, one of the best things I had that day. The ikura oroshi came next, and I liked it quite a bit. Basically it’s salmon roe over a bed of shaved daikon, and I really like salmon roe. Oshinko came next, with pickled carrot, daikon, cucumber, mushrooms, beans, and bits of pickled ginger. It was quite good, but would have been better with rice.

The yakitori arrived a few minutes later. It was lighter in color than the yakitori I’ve been having, and the salt added tastes I hadn’t had before. It was very good. The BBQ eel arrived next. I’ve always liked unagi, and this was no exception. I found it a bit hard to cut with chopsticks, and gave up finally,  and used other means to bring it into edible size. The last dish, perhaps the biggest dish I had all night, was the beef ponzu ae. It’s been noted in other blog reports that it is really good, cool thin strips of beef mixed with a light brown sauce and full of perfect green leaves.  I’d say it was among the best dishes I had that day.

Service was good, all things considered. The restaurant had people waiting almost from the time I was seated until I left. People remarked that they could have used more staff, and I suspect that’s true. All in all though, I had a great time. I’m sure I’ll be back.

Verdict: If Japanese tapas appeals to you, then this place is very highly recommended.

Shoya Izakaya
6035 Peachtree Road
Doraville, GA 30341
(770) 457-5555

Shoya Izakaya on Urbanspoon

Notes: There exist previews and reviews by John Kessler, Gene Lee of Eat Drink Man, and Foodie Buddha. Chow Down Atlanta has also weighed in on this eatery. Last, but never least, Amy on Food has an elegant report on the food of Shoya Izakaya.

Cold Stone Creamery is next to Macaroni Grill in the Avenue Webb Ginn  shopping center, and it’s mostly glass, neat and clean. There are maybe a dozen flavors of ice cream in the place, or maybe 15, but ice cream isn’t the big deal here. It’s all about the “mix ins”.

You choose an ice cream and they take a big hunk of it and start working with it on this “cold stone”. And yes, it’s really stone and I saw them scraping ice off it, so it is really cold. And between the spot where I ordered my ice cream (butter pecan) and the middle of the stone are dozens and dozens of things to mix in, from Butterfingers and Heath Bars to jelly candies, sparkles, bits of chocolate and bits of nuts. I asked the store clerk what he liked, and so we mixed in “graham cracker crust”, I believe.

What you end up with is something more malleable and immediately edible than the cold spheres of pralines and cream I remember from my childhood, and because of the mix in, there is a serious contrast in flavor and texture.

In short Coldstone Creamery isn’t about pure ice cream as much as making something good that starts with ice cream. And the result was creamy, cold, and had wonderful contrast going from the cold butter pecan to the warmer, crumbly bits of graham cracker. I would never know exactly what I would bite into.

If there is a downside to Coldstone, it’s that a single cup is a dollar more expensive than Carvel’s, and that doesn’t count the mix ins beyond the first one.

Verdict: Recommended. Cold creamy ice cream products. Better for those who want to mix stuff up and eat it.

Coldstone Creamery
1350 Scenic Highway N, #824
Snellville GA 30078
(770) 982-4030

Cold Stone Creamery on Urbanspoon

Six Feet Under is really well located, about four to five blocks from the Atlanta Zoo and right across the street from the Oakland Cemetery. It’s close enough to the zoo that it lends itself to the idea of taking families to the zoo and eating at Six Feet Under afterwards. They have an appealing online menu, the prices are right, and the combination of seafood with a Southern flair should be pretty much irresistible.

I had been planning to go for some time, but with a wife that was ill, I went with my daughter. We arrived in the evening, sun bright but low on the horizon. It’s an easy drive. The driving instructions on the web site are excellent. It was a little tricky to park, however, as it wasn’t obvious where we could park. It took a few minutes, but we found a place. We were then told the wait was 45 minutes for downstairs, an hour or more for topside. They asked for our cellphone number, told us to relax and wait and they would call us when a table was ready.

We spent a great time looking around in Oakland Cemetery. I didn’t know about this bit of Atlanta history, and we were able to see the Confederate graves, the Jewish burials, mayors and other dignitaries of the times (largely, burials from 1867, when land was first allocated, to the early 20th century).  The golfing legend Bobby Jones is buried there. And as we were walking back the restaurant called. They had us seated in less than 30 minutes.

It was topside seating, out of doors and along the rail, with the view of the cemetery and the Atlanta skyline. The cemetery is shot through with large trees and the view is really nice, in a spooky sort of way.  There are also tables topside, under large umbrellas, and there is a shack, kiosk, etc, in which there are taps with an excellent selection of draft beers ( I counted 24 brews on tap). And if I hadn’t been driving, I’d surely have been drinking.

Service this day was either “on” or “off”. It took several minutes and the manager busing the chairs next to us to realize no one had asked us for drinks or anything. That was soon corrected and for a good while after, service was good to excellent. We ordered a cup of gumbo, a half dozen oysters, fish stew for my daughter and I had the combo tacos (a calamari taco, catfish taco, and a shrimp taco). The upstairs bartender who served us after was awesome. If this had been a pub with a bar top and stools, I would have had us reseated in front of her and never moved.

That wasn’t possible of course, and with the heavy volume of the day (We asked a busboy about it. His comment was, “This crowd is crazy”), and the multiple large parties they had to serve, we just had to wait at times until they would notice us. And the manager was aware, as he would come over and ask us, “Are you ok?”

To the food: The gumbo looked more like a brown gravy than any gumbo I had ever seen, but it had good taste, had nice spicing and flavor that grew richer and deeper on the tongue the more you ate it. The oysters were excellent, even though they forgot to deliver them as appetizers. The star of the evening was the fish stew. It had an array of seafood (shrimp, cod, huge scallops and mussels) and a spicy tomato base, red liquid and chunks of tomato scattered throughout. My daughter’s comment was, “I usually don’t like tomatoes but I really like this.”

The combo tacos came with a huge side of potato chips and also a spicy green sauce on the side. I liked my tacos, and they were good, but they were better with the spicy sauce on them and not as terrific as the fish stew.  As sides we had hush puppies (really good) and onion rings (mostly untouched).

The final issue:  the topside of Six Feet Under becomes more and more pub-like, more adult in character as the night gets older.  And while during daylight I had no qualms being there with my daughter, it left me a little uncomfortable at night. In short, if you have family and your children are not fully grown, and you expect to be there after dark, insist on downstairs seating.

Verdict: Good, inexpensive seafood in a great location. Highly recommended for adults. Should be fine for families, if seated appropriately.

Six Feet Under
437 Memorial Dr SE
Atlanta, GA 30312
(404) 523-6664

Six Feet Under on Urbanspoon

Atlanta Things To Do on raveable

Yesterday I picked up some food to go from Haru Ichiban, and spoke a bit to the manager about the Shoya Izakaya – Haru Ichiban connection (noted by John Kessler and Gene Lee). He said that Shoya was opened by the ex-owner of Haru, and that Haru Ichiban has retained all their staff, including their executive chef. I wasn’t quite sure where he was going with this until he mentioned that people are eating at Shoya, not liking it, and going to Haru Ichiban to complain. They tell him, “The food doesn’t taste the same.” I think this is significant enough to pass on: if you don’t like the food at Shoya, complain at Shoya.

Otherwise I’ve been trying to remember the names and locations of places I’ve eaten at over the years, and I’m drawing so many blanks on so many places. Other places of note are simply gone: Bookbinders in Philadelphia is gone. Neal’s Ice Cream in Houston (the first place I was served a super-premium ice cream) is gone. The Pizzeria Uno on Colonial Drive in Orlando (pizza salvation in Orlando) is gone. Brocato’s in Shreveport? Gone. The BBQ place southwest of Fort Worth Texas we so favored? Closed, because restaurants are no longer allowed to have sawdust floors.

Others are lost in the wash of hundreds and thousands of potential contenders. Have you ever tried to track down a deli from New York City using Urban Spoon? Midtown West alone has 230 sandwich shops. Pizza in Chicago? There are 3000 eateries in the windy city.

Some things, however, are slowly becoming clearer. The In N Out Burger we dined at, located near the Muir Forest? Found that. The pizza we had in Chicago, I’m pretty sure it’s one of the two restaurants that Urban Spoon calls Original Gino’s East. Nothing else has the graffiti, or is close enough to Northwestern University. The astounding dungeness crabs in San Francisco? The leading candidate right now is Thanh Long. The really fun ice cream shop in Oakland, California? That was Fenton’s Ice Cream Parlor. The first place I ever had a French black bottom pie? That was House of Pies, on Kirby in Houston.

Yet another boonie pepper seed from floralys sprouted, totally unexpected. This brings the germination rate of floralys seeds to 7/12. I took my largest boonie pepper plant and put it in a clay pot outside. The pepper doesn’t look that good. I give it a 50-50 chance to survive.

And reviews on the way, soon to be published: Six Feet Under, Alon’s in Dunwoody, Shoya Izakawa, Longhorns near Webb Ginn, Cold Stone Creamery and more.

Note: for those who remember Brocato’s excellent red snapper in a bag, a minister named Richard Seaton is offering a cook book based on the old Brocato’s staples.

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