April 2011

It’s in a small ‘L’ shaped strip mall anchored by an empty Vietnamese restaurant, and easy to miss, unless you see all three of the stores in a row. There is Kabab Hut, a store selling the hijab, and a Hilal grocer all side by side. You’re likely to see Iqra Imports first, a neat little grocery that advertises Halal goat and chicken  in Spanish and English. But to the left of Iqra lies Kabab Hut, about as underimpressive an outside structure as you might ever see. Plain? Yes, quite plain from the outside.

Inside, it’s much cleaner, neater, respectable. It’s set up much like the “mom n pop” Caribbean restaurants. There is a small refrigerator with cans of drinks. There is a bakery display. There is a low counter where you order food. There is a square hole behind the counter that peeks into the kitchen. There  are tables  – good looking ones, mind you – scattered about, with booths edging the eatery, and inexpensive hollow steel framed chairs by the tables. One flat screen television is on the wall, where ads for soft drinks and pretty models are intersperced with political broadcasts where the few English words are things like “colonialism” and “American imperialism”. Hey, I’m sure that’s typical and topical in Pakistan.

What’s most important to someone like me is that this isn’t a buffet at lunch, they’re serving hot meals. And since they’re serving food piping hot, you can get things you simply cannot get from a buffet, such as piping hot chicken 65.

Lamb kababs. More spice then their chicken 65, actually.

A good chicken 65. Like French fries, best when eaten piping hot.

I’m convinced the right chicken 65 vendor has a product prepped to go viral, that some aggressive clever entrepreneur, perhaps selling Korean-Mexican-Pakistani fusion food, is going to make it big with chicken 65 packaged like French Fries or perhaps Chicken McNuggets – throw a little sauce on there, make some chicken 65 tacos, put it all in a Twitter enabled van and sell in the right market. It will take off.

In the meantime, in order to figure out what I’m talking about, you’ll need to find the little Pakistani “mom n pop”s and look for dishes like these. Incidentally, chicken 65 is not what the Kabab Hut is about, it’s more about small traditional Pakistani meats and kababs. They have good looking breads for a dollar or so and the dishes run from $3.99 to maybe 5 or 6 dollars. You can eat like a king here for 10 dollars.

The spicing is .. pretty good. It builds. I thought the chicken 65 could have been hotter, but I never want to tempt a South Asian or a Southeast Asian to spice their local spicy. Usually “American spicy” is my perfect heat point. What the food has here is flavor, and a bit of sneaky spice that builds as you eat. I think the average Atlantan could handle these dishes, and I think it isn’t a fraud to those of us who want our foods a little spicier.

So try it sometime. There was a crowd here the day I arrived, one that grew larger as I ate. The locals know about this place, despite the appearance, and they’re eating here. No wonder. Good and cheap translates into any language.

Iqra Imports and Halal Meats
880 Indian Trail Road, Suite E
Lilburn GA 30047

Kabab Hut
880 Indian Trail Road, Suite C
Lilburn GA 30047
(770) 925-4440

Kabab Hut on Urbanspoon

Not too sweet, a touch of bitter flavors, a fantastic aroma.

Olive and Sinclair’s Southern Artisan batch made chocolates are a delight. If watching how this chocolate is made appeals to you, a nice little video is on the Olive and Sinclair site.

I came here because BuHi tweeted he was here that day. Thankfully the weather was threatening but not so bad I couldn’t reach it. I ended up chatting until he, his son, and his friend left, and then got down to actually eating.

It doesn’t show but the pulled pork was by far the best of the meats that I tried. It had a real bark, clear signs of smoking, was about as good as it gets. The ribs, by contrast, were smoked, but not smoky enough for my personal tastes. They were, however, exceptionally tender for a smoked meat.

The two sauces I tried were good: the vinegar sauce and the mustard sauce I felt all complimented the meats. If I were to come here again, I’d skip the ribs and load up on the pulled pork. To note, they also smoke salmon here, but the sweet used when smoking it kind of put me off. Still, I’m curious about the product.

Pig N Chik
5071 Peachtree Industrial Blvd
Atlanta, GA 30341
(770) 451-1112

Pig-n-Chik BBQ on Urbanspoon

The Diner is a place we’ve spoken about before. If the sign is correct, they have a catfish special they are running these days.

The Diner is pure eye candy if you’ve never been, with a classic US diner style (very unlike the popular Greek-American hybrids in Atlanta).

The Diner
730 Indian Trail Road
Lilburn, GA 30047
(770) 923-2961

Diner on Urbanspoon

It amazes me how Cafe Mozart can make a moon pie seem elegant.

That said, back when I could eat sweets, I used to savor the tarts that places like Cafe Mozart would serve.

My wife favors the pastries stuffed with (preferably) red bean paste. White bean paste would do in a pinch

Oh, she’s fond of these!

This particular location has musical notes attached to the walls, and a glass cutout in the floor, in the outline of a grand piano. It is pretty spectacular if you’re standing atop it.

Cafe Mozart
270 Lawrenceville Suwanee Road
Suwanee Georgia, 30024

Cafe Mozart on Urbanspoon

I was getting tires for my wife’s car and was hungry. The tire folks had to fetch tires from their sister shop in Lilburn. Could I wait? So I walked across the road to Jen’s New York Deli.

The outside of Jeni's Deli

Literally at the crossroads of Five Forks and Oak Road, this small deli survives by word of mouth. There is also plenty of eye candy inside, murals on  the walls. They use Boar’s Head meats, are effectively only open for breakfast and lunch. I had the Rachel, a cousin of the Reuben, but with pastrami instead of corned beef. Quite a nice sandwich, even if you have to gulp it down because the tire folks fetched their tires faster than expected.

It also meant I forgot to take a photo of the sandwich. If you want to see a photo of Jen’s food, follow the link.

Jen’s New York Deli
875 Oak Road
Lawrenceville, GA 30044
(770) 978-7653

Jen's New York Deli on Urbanspoon

The sesame balls at Shoya Izakaya are something my wife favors. She’s not as high on the ice cream, but my daughter is happy to finish that.

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

Shoya Izakaya on Urbanspoon

There is a report coming from  the LA Times that says that a team led by researchers at the Stanford College of Medicine have evidence that diabetes type 2 is an autoimmune disease. If so, in my opinion, this is a major (as in Nobel worthy) result. If the result holds, then it can explain why obesity can cause type 2, and why some people get it when obese, and when some people don’t.

It’s a small pretty place, in a strip mall on the left hand side as you’re going south. It’s easy to miss, the thin line of brown buildings (or building perhaps, as there is only one). Map it before you go, if you’ve never been. It’s also often crowded. The first time I came the crowd was so substantial I never tried getting in the door. This time I arrived a little early for lunch.

The staff were largely young men, well groomed, in black t-shirts with crawdads on ’em. There was an older lady whom the patrons called “Mom”. I can only guess she helps run herd on the crew here. The walls are covered in  the kinds of ridiculous sayings intended to amuse, but mostly, this place comes off as clean and.. cute. Yes, I said it: cute. You could take a date or a wife here and not be embarrassed.

The staff here is also largely Vietnamese. The story has been told, I know, but in short, we have had a wave of Vietnamese immigrants that settled in places like southern Louisiana, Kemah Texas and Mobile Alabama who took up fishing. They learned the ways of their peers who were often Cajuns. So, these days, the best Cajun in Atlanta comes from the Vietnamese community. Makes sense, in a historically transformative way.

You get into a line and order. Staff ask you if it’s a “to go” order or eat in. You sit and wait for food to be delivered. It might take a while but the pot in which they serve steamed seafood could fit in almost any restaurant. Ironically for a shack, they pay a lot of attention to the way things look.

Crawfish poboy.

I liked what I ate. I’d have ordered food “to go” for my family, but I worried about the commute. This is the kind of eating that is best fresh and steaming. You don’t want to be caught an hour driving with a batch of boiled crawfish. But it is a nice restaurant, the crawfish have a dash of spice to them, and you can wear a T shirt and a “John Deere” hat here and not seem out of place.

Highly recommended.

Crawfish Shack Seafood
4337 Buford Highway
Atlanta, GA 30341
(404) 929-6789

Crawfish Shack Seafood on Urbanspoon

Gary Taubes once again has the front page of the New York Times with an article titled “Is Sugar Toxic?” This is a recurring theme in his work, that fat isn’t nearly as bad for you as researchers in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s claimed, and that starches are underappreciated for their ability to push people into unhealthy places. Understand, almost everything Gary says is followed closely by diabetics – perhaps not the researchers but diabetics themselves, because he seems to talk a diabetics own language.

It’s a general contention when diabetics get together on the Internet that most researchers are a few years behind what the garden variety diabetic already knows. It took decades for the conservative side of the medical profession to embrace individual blood sugar meters, for example. And groups of diabetics will laugh anyone silly who tries to talk about the dangers of saturated fat.

My feeling is he’s interesting, but that Michael Pollan touches on many of the same topics with a more nuanced and less dogmatic approach. My ought two? Read him, but keep your own council. Diabetics, as anyone with the disease does know, are as individual as snowflakes.

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