August 2010

Roughly 18 months ago I started this blog. I was wanting to talk about food, though at the time I was at least as driven by my cooking experiments as I was eating out. The cooking has waned, replaced more by a curiosity about places to eat. A good camera has helped. Pictures can carry a lot of information that written words cannot. Finding good restaurants has been a delight, and running into interesting readers and bloggers a pleasant surprise.

Clams and bitter melon from a "Great Wall" cafeteria.

Mussels from Man Chun Hong

About six months ago, I became ill and was hospitalized. I came out diagnosed with diabetes and gout. I had a choice: I could eat what I wanted and die, or eat properly and exercise a bit and live a long full life. Currently, my weight is fluctuating between 182 and 184 pounds. My size 36 pants are about two inches too big for me. My physician has said I don’t need to lose any more weight, but I’d still like to hit 180. Set a goal, meet a goal.

Alaskan sockeye salmon, a big part of my diet.

Wild blackberries.

I’m just curious how many people with two chronic eating diseases managed to keep a blog going while losing 80 or so pounds.

Ironically, though food is one of the best reasons for people to meet and engage in fellowship, there are some people who think otherwise. A certain hate mailer has a form mail that looks and goes something like this:

Dear FnS,

Why do you call your blog “Food Near Snellville” when you seem to be eating in other locations? What is wrong with you? You are a (proceed into general insults). I will never read your blog ever again.


I lied about my email address.

To answer a couple questions:

(1) I eat other places too, and like to talk about it. So does Eat Buford Highway and Eat it Atlanta. Are you saying I can’t do what every Atlantan blogger does? Why am I being held to this peculiar standard that no blogger in his right mind follows?

(2) The unique character of the two words “Food” and “Snellville” makes my articles easy to search for. Try Googling a restaurant sometime and my title. Works really well, and I don’t have to fight the 100,000 businesses that call themselves East Atlanta or Northeast Atlanta (whatever).

(3) Why is it now that I’ve received 3-4 hate mails from you, each claiming that you’re never going to read me again? Have this love-hate thing going, huh?

And to the 99% of you that do get it, that understand that food exists to bring people together, rather than be an excuse to be a jerk, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s been a pleasure engaging in this slow, leisurely conversation with you all.


Euro Gourmet Grill is on the corner of Gwinnett Drive and Scenic Highway, just about where 124 merges into Lawrenceville and Lawrenceville starts turning nice. It’s a section of the city with a lot of food really. This portion of Gwinnett Drive has at least three European themed stores, and this eatery. I had seen this restaurant before, while trying to find Two Brothers Barbecue (which I still can’t locate), and on a day when nothing in Snellville appealed, other eateries in Lawrenceville were packed, we ended up here, and ravenous.

Given the name, I  had expected it to be pretentious and overpriced, and Euro Gourmet Grill is anything but. It’s full of Balkan comfort foods, a few Greek favorites, fish, coffee, and desserts. It has inside and outside seating and it has food choices I’d not have expected even in Lawrenceville. Take Euro’s cevapcici, for example:

It’s a plate full of bread stuffed with sausages about three inches long. They’re tasty and juicy, but a little mild. For a spicier take on Euro’s glavna jela, you can try their sudzukice, a spicier sausage. They have a broad variety of stews, pies, salads, and desserts. And they have a dedicated clientèle: every time I’ve passed you can see people outside, on the porch.

I had a grilled trout this day, and my wife a gyro. Her gyro was excellent, easily one of the best I’ve tried in this town. The trout was quite good, as were the vegetables and the gljive, or mushrooms.

Service was quite good, even though it seemed as if there was only one active staffer this day.

I’m thrilled with what we’ve found. Will I be going back? You can count on it.

Verdict: Shockingly good, shockingly inexpensive. Highly recommended.

Euro Gourmet Grill
488 Gwinnett Drive
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
(770) 513-7788

Euro Gourmet Grill on Urbanspoon

There is a triangle of roads, bordered on one side by Ronald Reagan Boulevard, on another by the end of Pleasant Hill Road, and on the third by Highway 29, and in this triangle is an amazing array of ethic foods, from Argentinian to Dominican to (at one time) Polish to Venezuelan. Places there, such as Mango’s Latin Grill, are hardly discussed and explored, but it never stops leaving me with a major curiousity streak. I know I’ll not win any awards for being hip or trendy by hanging out here. Like every other foodie who has been hooked through the nose by the powers that be, I should only review restaurants on Howell Mill Road, correct?

Mango’s Latin Grill, a Venezuelan joint, lives in the corner of the ‘L’ shaped Five Oaks Shopping Center, and the one other time I tried to eat there, it was closing as I arrived. It’s small, no bigger than a typical taqueria or mom n’ pop Jamaican eatery. And the ambience of the place is that of a mom n’ pop eatery, as if mothers, fathers, sons, cousins and uncles are all getting together to serve food to guests. The inside is small, simple, pretty, with deft use of colors, and the kinds of food they serve shown in large photos along the walls of the eatery.

I had a Jaimito sandwich that day. I’ve had arepas before, and I was trying to avoid starch. The sandwich was decent. Not very good, or wow, but decent.  I brought a pair of Mango’s empanadas home to my wife, who enjoyed them a great deal. In my opinion, it’s a place to try a new cuisine, if you’re in the area.

Verdict: Promising, if you’re in an experimental mood, or like this cuisine.

Mango’s Latin Cuisine
3870 Lawrenceville Highway
Lawrenceville, GA 30044
(770) 381-8831

Mango's Latin Grill on Urbanspoon

There has been a definite maturing of Maya Fresh Grill‘s offerings. Recently I had an off the menu fish taco dish. The pico de gallo was excellent; the hot sauce on the side was good. The green sauce, a mixture of avocado, lime, and other fresh flavors, a nice accompaniment, and the beans and ham were “wow”. I didn’t expect some of the flavors I tasted in this dish. I took a pint home for my family to try.

Las Tortas Locas is on the east side of Roswell Road, in a little strip mall a bit north of the 285 intersection. The parking lot is cramped, hard to get into, or out of. The lot itself tends to be quite full, and the restaurant, around lunch, had plenty of people inside. It’s a chain of at least 7 restaurants, and the chain has been touched on by the ever present Chloe, in a fine review on Chow Down Atlanta.

I had never been there. It wouldn’t have even been on my radar had I not gotten lost looking for someplace else, grown tired, seen the eatery and then recalled that Barney was interested. I had followed his interest on Urban Spoon, read Wes’s review, thought at the time that the eatery looked good and then forgotten it. Getting lost and being hungry was a great motivator, however.

Inside, there were maybe a dozen tables, a counter front, and then a glass faced area where you can watch people cook. The sandwiches look simply enormous when being prepared. I ordered a Michoacana (pork) sandwich, probably really wanting their Pastor con Queso. Hey, I can try it again some other time. The sandwiches are inexpensive, less than $6, typically. Tacos here run $1.99 each.

The sandwich was large enough I took it back to work, and finished it off around 3pm. I eat 4 small meals a day these days, and this thing was easily two meals. Better when warm, though.

They have a salsa bar, with a good spicy red and a decent salsa verde. Onions were there; the pico de gallo was completely emptied.

In general the place seems a good value. Large sandwiches with spicy meats and plenty of bread leave lots of room for big appetites. There were foods other than the tortas and tacos. The take out menu has items such as flautas, quesadillas, burritos, and huaraches. There are plenty of lunch specials under $5.00 as well.

Prices are competitive with the mom n’ pop taquerias.

Las Tortas Locas
5841 Roswell Road
Sandy Springs, GA 30328
(404) 844-4445

Las Tortas Locas on Urbanspoon

Fung Mei has been relocating from Buford to the old Corky’s building, in a move impossible to miss if you commute down Pleasant Hill Road east of I-85. My wife drove by on a Saturday, noted the people, the sign saying “Grand Opening” and the crowd. She found it exciting, and we decided we would all go for lunch the next Sunday.

When I first arrived in the Atlanta area, roughly late 1996, Pung Mei, as it was known then, was a very hot restaurant. Found in a cramped building on Buford Highway, they were known for good food, large servings, and decent prices. Soon after, they moved into a larger, more ornate building and some of the charm of the eatery was lost in the process. I never liked the new digs of Pung Mei. I felt trapped in glass. The prices seemed a little higher. The service was less friendly, more remote. Now, with the transition to Duluth and the occupation of a new building, would things change?

Inside, the heavy brick of the original Corky’s combines well with the more ethnocentric touches the owners have provided. There are chandeliers, and aquariums with goldfish, but you don’t feel as if you’re trapped in a glass bowl anymore. The high industrial roof and track lighting helps leave people with a feeling of plenty of space. The restaurant was pretty full on this Sunday afternoon but not to capacity. Most of the clientèle were Asian. There was the young beauty trying hard not to be embarrassed by her more country aunts and uncles. There was the child, bored of his Game Boy, bending his head down to suck noodles out of his bowl of soup. And there were well dressed staff taking the orders of people coming and going.

We were seated quickly, but then the problems begin. This being a reopening, there were some issues. Staff were slow to take orders, and had problems getting back to customers. My wife, tired of the wait, started pointing out tables that were seated after ours was and then served before ours had been. People from at least one table stood up and left due to the inattention.

offal much?

The menu is enormous, 421 items. There is no take out menu (they will be available next week, we were told). I can tell you where we ordered various dishes, but not always their precise names. Since the only way to know truly what is on the menu would be to have a Chinese reading companion, I’m going to do my best about this, and not sweat the details.

The green bean dish, Dry Fried Green Beans, was excellent, and as my wife said, it saved the meal. It’s found in the Sichuan section of  the menu, on the very back, towards the bottom of the “Tofu and Vegetables” section. It is rich in toasted peppers, and those toasted peppers definitely include Sichuan pepper, the round red fruits easy enough to find in the dish.  My daughter’s comment, toward the end was, “My mouth is numb.” This dish did not last.

Beijing beef was sweetish, spicy, decent fare. Under the nice pile of meat is a lot of cabbage as filler. My wife questioned whether my daughter could eat her dish but she did fine by it.

My dish was “Fish Filets and Tofu and Vegetables in Clay Pot“. I probably would have settled for a black bean sauce dish but my waiter told me this one had no sugars, and I was curious. It wasn’t spicy, and there was plenty of food floating in the pot, thick squares of tofu with decent sized chunks of fish and bok choy. I couldn’t finish it all and stick to my diet.

This dish though, completely divided the table. It’s the first entry in the Sichuan chicken section of the menu, on the back. Rich in spice, I loved it, when it was hot. My daughter described it as “awesome”.  But my wife ordered it, and she was off put by the fact the chicken was fried. We could not get her to trade it either. Both my daughter and I tried to get her to swap food with us and she wouldn’t. Instead, we picked the chicken off her plate.

Verdict: Food is good, at times excellent. Service has some opening issues. Recommended.

Fung Mei
1605 Pleasant Hill Road
Duluth GA 30096-4619

Fung Mei on Urbanspoon

The 3 tostada special from the U.S.S. Vallarta, along with 6 additional oysters.

I spoke a little with the people there. They started in local flea markets (Pendergrass Flea Market,  IIRC). The site in Gwinnett Place mall is their third. The advantage to the mall location is that it is open seven day a week, as opposed to just two. They talked about adding items, such as fish tacos and quesadillas, done the way you would have them served in Mexico. Perhaps it’s too food courty for some, but I’ve always been impressed by this little stall in the court in Gwinnett Place.

Alpha Soda is in the same mall area as Mambo’s Cafe, a little weatherworn and sitting in its own niche. There is a history associated with this 90 year old restaurant, one someone who publishes, fast, as I do, can’t really dig into. But the name is evocative enough: just what is an Alpha Soda? Did it exist? Was it served in a soda fountain only, or did they bottle it? Was it why the restaurant was invented, or was the soda just a side effort in a town awash with Coca Cola? Trying to figure out the history and heritage of the restaurant is deserving of an Atlanta magazine article or a long essay in the Sunday magazine of the AJC. Just, in the “get a bite and get an impression” world of amateur blogging, I’m not the one with the resources to do it.

Inside, the heavy wood, the frosted glass, used to create this space evokes images of old East coast eateries, places like Bookbinders in Philadelphia. It reminds me in one sense of shopping for used furniture in the East, in the old shops where men with gnarled hands strip old hardwoods and make better-than-new heavy antiques for 20something home buyers. It reminds me of the desk on which I write these essays, so heavy two men are needed to lift it. Yes, the furniture and the glasswork evoke that kind of image.

But it has to be understood that Alpha Soda has gone through four moves and a dozen owners and the evocation is deliberate. The past is lost. The image is what remains, of an eatery with a history Alpharettans may know, buried in their bones, but the rest of us take in as “cloned Greek diner.” But its hardly that. The history, though, lies buried in news print that only exists on microfiche, or God forbid, real paper in libraries. And it will stay there, until the AJC becomes an efficient patron of its own heritage and stops losing <bleep>ing articles on the Internet every  time someone sneezes. Yes, I’ve said something similar once and I’ll say it again, the AJC’s online caretaking of their food opinions, the writing of their own journalists, is the very definition of irresponsible. And as a consequence, the reaction to Alpha Soda isn’t “WOW!”, it’s “what’s that, Mommy?”

To return to the restaurant: It’s nice inside, the redwoods, heavy and comforting. I’ve been at lunch and also around dinnertime, when a few words on the Internet led me to the gaming group that hangs out here on Thursday nights. At lunch I had their salmon entrée, a good chunk of salmon with sides, and at night I was asking for a salad and their bunless burger.

Service has been quick and efficient each time. The night time manager came by the gamers, made sure they were comfortable, was really nice. Clientèle appear to be people familiar with the place; being 90 years old has its perks.

No, I don’t expect the “in crowd” from ITP to ever come running up highway 400 to this icon of an eatery in Alpharetta. It is, at this point, a better than average diner, with good entrées, a lot of room, nice interior, and a very rich history on the cusp of being lost forever, unless people take the time to preserve it. Given the AJC’s treatment of food journalism as a disposable, don’t expect it from our mainstream media.

Verdict:  A cut above the average Atlanta diner. Worth a peek for the history alone. Highly recommended.

Alpha Soda Family Restaurant
11760 Haynes Bridge Road
Alpharetta, GA 30004
(770) 442-3102

Alpha Soda on Urbanspoon

It’s a brand of flax seed oil, a little expensive, and supposedly better for you. I had high hopes when I tried it.

But it was a little bitter, and bitter is the sign that it is rancid. I don’t have any luck buying “premium” versions of this oil. If I buy the house brand from Whole Foods, it’s a clean tasting slightly grassy product. The omega 3s are so oxygen sensitive that refrigeration is about the only effective way to preserve the oil, and if the warehousers treat it like paper towels or bricks, they spoil the product.

With a large volume vendor, you have some certainty that they are turning over their product and not allowing it to spoil.

I’m having a bit of writer’s block. I have enough information to do three restaurant reviews at least, but when I look at my screen, I just can’t write a review these days.

Maybe tomorrow.

Anyway, cashews. If you haven’t checked out how they are grown and harvested, you should. It’s another food that amazes me. How did anyone figure out you could eat these things? I’m half of the belief it comes from the nature of man: to put anything into his mouth to see if it is edible. That’s the only way I can explain (other than hunger, which is a powerful motivator) how we eat so many of the things we eat.

I really like the taste of cashews, and pre-diet, I could demolish a can of these in about 1-2 days. These days:

6 cashews is a fat exchange. I can have 4-6 fat exchanges total in a day (more if I miss a meal and need to replace lost carbs). In that I’d also like some olive oil (or olives), flax seed oil, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and maybe a bit of peanut butter every now and then. To note, this serving of cashews has almost no omega-3 fatty acids and a nice whole gram of omega 6 fatty acids.

The profile is pretty similar to that of the almond.

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