Fast Food


Barberitos is a smallish chain which started in Athens and grew. They deal in border cuisine, and are the kind of restaurant that insists they’re not a fast food chain. They call themselves quick to serve instead.

There is some basis for making this kind of distinction. They prep their foods every morning, and rather than using only generic ground meats in their preparations, they do grill steak, and you can get grilled chicken as well. The cheese they use is the Mexican white you’ll see at Buford Highway Farmer’s Market, not a big wheel of Longhorn cheddar. Salsas are fresh. Their chipotle hot sauce has a bite to it.

When I arrived, a little after 11 on a Saturday, they were still preparing the meats of the day, apologizing for their slowness – they had done a large catering event the night before, or were explaining what they put in their cheese dip. In a word, it seemed as if everyone knew what they were doing and were ready to explain it to anyone who showed. This is not ordinary in a fast food quick to serve restaurant.

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The items served here are, unless you’re selective, heavy on rice and beans. The quesadillas are not. They have a salad that’s acceptable if you’re avoiding carbs.

The salsa bar is appealing and the chipotle hot sauce has a kick to it.

The salsa bar is appealing and the chipotle hot sauce has a kick to it.

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Anyway, the salsa were enjoyable, the cheeses went over well with me. I thought I had a good, decent quesadilla here. Not blow you away but good enough. I probably liked the atmosphere here most of all, of a new restaurant starting its day, and how engaged the staff was and proud of the work they did. At this restaurant, it came shining through.

Barberitos
5610 Roswell Rd., Suite 110
Sandy Springs, GA 30342
(404) 943-1000

Barberitos on Urbanspoon

The next best thing in this store are their chicken fingers, full and richly flavored. Their four pack is worth a lot of trouble. The *best* thing are the people coming in to buy this food, young men who would be equally at home in a Marine Corps recruiting poster or draped in T shirt and shorts on the pages of GQ magazine, or the young willowy cheerleaders with their drill sergeant dads.

The sandwich was drenched in sauce.

Best bang for buck is the four finger combo.

The worst thing about this place are the staff, sullen and indifferent, with a ‘eff you’ attitude and no real ability to respond to requests. My wife asked that no sauce be put on her fingers; her fingers were drenched with sauce. Nothing she asked for she received, and staff seemed annoyed that she bothered to ask.

Enjoy the fingers. Enjoy the eye candy customers. The staff here, be warned, are wretched.

Raising Cane’s
659 N. Service Rd. East
Ruston, LA, 71270
(318) 254-0354

Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers on Urbanspoon

Guthries is a small chain, a place to get nicely done chicken fingers, well covered in a blog post by Grant Goggans. It’s one of the places that’s pretty safe for someone like me to eat, as long as I avoid chips and fries. The dish that fits my style of eating best is the sauce and seven, seven fingers and two sauces, which I can add to a salad to make a nice little meal.

I also dropped by because there were reports of wireless at this location. I wasn’t able to find any such signal. The two tan sauces that came with the chicken fingers had a flavor much like a thousand island dressing. The yellowish dressing was an Italian, and not bad.

Guthries
3219 Holcomb Bridge Road
Norcross, GA 30092
(770) 248-4244

Guthrie's on Urbanspoon

I took my daughter and two of her friends to a movie, and afterwards they wanted to eat. Wendy’s, they said. It was a restaurant they could afford. One of the girls had an iPhone and pulled out the Urbanspoon app. It, of course, directed us to a Wendy’s ten miles away. No no, Steak ‘n Shake is closer. So we’re driving to Steak ‘n Shake and then pass a Wendy’s. So into the Wendys’s we go.

I’m of the mistaken opinion that a combo at Wendy’s is just fries and a drink. So I pass on a combo and order a chicken sandwich, a side salad, and a bottle of water.

The clerk looks at me and says, “Sir, that’s a combo.” Oops. I now recall that, from commercials long ago, but I haven’t been in Wendy’s enough to get it. Wendy’s has a very flexible combo concept. Now I get it. Yes, the combos are nice and the choice is convenient.

It was in my undergrad days when I first encountered Wendy’s. They spoke about how the burgers were “juicy.” No, they’re not juicy, they’re greasy. Wendy’s has some of the worst burgers on the planet.  However, Wendy’s is neat and clean. They have decent chicken sandwiches, decent chicken fingers, good salads, and their flexible combos are nice when you’re trying to avoid fries.

Steak ‘n Shake is, for me, a late night eatery, the kind of place you go after being with “the guys” till 2 in the morning. You can get into one of these and have a nice burger, maybe a shake, maybe some chili. They have shoestring fries that are decent, largely, and the cheese fries can be a lot of fun. In Snellville, however, the Steak ‘n Shake tends to be a teen hangout. It gets very loud, almost unbearably loud when the crowd shows. Because of the noise, I can’t recommend that restaurant. I’ve had better luck with the Steak ‘n Shake in Duluth, near Gwinnett Place.

The day previous I took my family to Alon’s on Ashford Dunwoody. Though I had been there several times, they had never been. And Alon’s is major eye candy. We had sandwiches and my wife shopped for small breads. They had interesting chocolates, interesting cheeses, and I paid a lot more attention to their olive selection than I had previously.

Happiness can be a roast beef sandwich at Alon's.

I’ve been playing with Weight Tracker ODS. It’s a nice little spreadsheet derived from the Hacker’s Diet tools, and I intend to keep using it for a while. It smooths out changes in weight, and predicts the rate of your weight loss, calculates your BMI, and keeps a running total of how many calories you’ve saved. It’s in the smoothing algorithm that I have some nit picks.

It’s an exponential smoothing algorithm and the first thing that becomes obvious on reflection is that it’s very sensitive to the first weight you enter. It seems to assume the very first weight is a very accurate weight and that isn’t always so. The algorithm doesn’t handle missed data very well. If you decide to extrapolate back a month on 3-4 measurements for the month the algorithm doesn’t handle that situation very well. It can only change so much per measurement.

Because it can only change so much per measurement the Weight Tracker curve will tend to be a lagging indicator of your weight. Most of the weight measurements you give it will be below the extrapolated line, as you’re in a weight loss situation. There may be useful psychological reasons for using such an indicator, but I did a heap of curve fitting back in the day. I’m used to lines that straddle data points, that minimize the sum of squared residuals. The curves don’t straddle their data and that just seems a little odd to me.

Wendy’s
1918 Scenic Highway
Snellville, GA 30078
(770) 972-4060

Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers on Urbanspoon

Steak ‘n Shake
1610 Scenic Highway
Snellville, GA 30078
(770) 978-8787

Steak 'n Shake on Urbanspoon

Steak ‘n Shake
2110 Pleasant Hill Road
Duluth, GA
(770) 623-8600

Steak 'n Shake on Urbanspoon

Chow Down Atlanta is reporting that the Super H Mart, to be built just off Peachtree Industrial and near Brands Mart, has been delayed until at least November.

I dropped by the strip mall where Snellville Diner is found and I can confirm Darla’s report that it is being closed. People were moving the contents of the restaurant out as I dropped by. I spent some time looking around the mall. They appear to be adding an American Deli.

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American Deli is a chain, and there is one in Stone Mountain, though I’m not sure if the one in Snellville is open.

There is also this intriguing grocery in the strip mall, named Garden’s Best European Grocery:

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They appear to sell foods from the Adriatic area. I saw items from Macedonia, from Bosnia, from Zagreb in Croatia, from a lot of what was formerly Yugoslavia. There are three tables outside and men gather and speak there. Inside I see a lot of interesting things, such as canned fish, breads, sausages, fruit drinks, preserves, desserts of various kinds, etc. It’s as confusing to me as the Eastern European aisle of Buford Highway Farmer’s Market and equally as enticing. It’s easy to get lost in a place like that. They are open 7 days a week, 9:30am to 6pm.

Niko’s Corner has a sign up promoting a wine tasting. I didn’t get the date as I passed by. And Little Mexico has a Tuesday $1.00 taco special.

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I recently tried Little Mexico and will review it soon. In the meantime, check out SallyAnne Wagoner’s guest review of Little Mexico on the Snellville Eats site.

Figo Pasta is one of three restaurants in a medical facility on the corner of Hammond and Peachtree Dunwoody. As it was off in a distance, all I could see was “Fig”, so I was determined to find out what that “Fig” restaurant was all about. It was only as I drove closer that I could make out the ‘o’ and then the word ‘Pasta’.

Piedmont Heart Institute

Piedmont Heart Institute

Front of Figo

Front of Figo

Walking up to  the blackboard showed a list of specials, one of which was duck ravioli. I’ve been really partial to duck as the old Mandarin Gardens (now Manchuria Gardens) used to do a mean duck. So I figured I’d have a try at that.

Inside, what you do is decide what you want to eat, pay for it, and then they hand you a pepper grinder. You take the pepper grinder to the table of your choice. At that point people descend on you from all directions, and you suddenly have a table with plates, cutlery, water, salt, olive oil, bread, and very soon after, your drink.

Bread!

Bread!

It’s a decent bread. Even if it is not the kind of wild whole grain goodness you might get at a fancier place, it’s still bread nonetheless. A little bread and olive oil and some cracked pepper can go a long way as you wait for your entree.

At this point I had a chance to take a break and look the restaurant over. It’s very open. Tables are both inside and outside, the walls are largely glass, the space is airy, and the customers are dressed informally. You can watch the food being cooked. The preparation area is open, the staff is young and friendly and the service is good and attentive. Pretty soon after the entree arrived:

Duck ravioli

Duck ravioli

The pasta was decent, but not spectacular. I was expecting maybe some chunks of meat, some resistance, but the filling of the pasta was smooth and homogenous and really had no flavor that reflected “duck”. Or maybe it did, but I wasn’t tuned to it.

I spent a little time talking to my waitress, and was happy to have the time to do so. She told me that the pastas were all made at a main location and shipped to this one. A little web browsing shows that Figo Pasta is a chain of 8 restaurants in the Atlanta area. Making the pasta in a central location makes for a lot of efficiency in production. It also means that Figo, nice as it is, is really a kind of fast food restaurant. It’s just the fast food might be a little more wholesome at Figo than the 1000 calorie triple burger down the street.

Verdict: Nicely done fast food in a very pleasant setting. Good service. Recommended.

Figo Pasta
1140 Hammond Road
Atlanta, GA 30328
(770) 698-0505

Figo Pasta on Urbanspoon

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

A suno, according to Suno Dessert, is a pile of shaved ice on a plate colored with slices of fruits, flavored with syrups, and served to their customers at large. It is large and it is not cheap, running about $5.60 or so. It is, however, ridiculous fun, and a crowd of teens, both young and old, were in the store when I arrived.

It’s on Pleasant Hill Road before you get to Super H Mart and after What the Pho?, in a strip mall on the right hand side while traveling west. The sign, with a blue snowflake theme, is moderately conspicuous, and also used inside the store. The counter front has rows of fresh fruits to be added to the suno, and on the far side of the countertop are twin rows of syrups. On one side of the store is a whole collection of photos of satisfied customers.

I had a Hawaiian suno, which meant I had chunks of strawberry, kiwi fruit, and pineapple piled on mine. It’s big, tasty, more than one person can eat. The ice is shaved so fine it’s a bit like eating snow. I’m not sure if the shaved ice itself has any flavor, but it wouldn’t be a bad date dessert, shared with someone else. I ate what I could, and placed the rest in a bin, for cleanup.

Verdict: Recommended, especially for those with an inner 12 year old.

Suno Dessert
2570 Pleasant Hill Road, Suite 101
Duluth Georgia, 30096
(770)-623-1990

Suno Dessert on Urbanspoon

Quoc Huong is a restaurant that Eat Buford Highway and Blissful Glutton have pointed out as having good banh mi, a kind of Vietnamese sandwich with some French influence. Anyway, I was hungry, heading home, had just a few dollars, and stopped here for a quick bite. I’d never had the sandwich before and really wasn’t sure if the prices quoted could be correct.

Physically, this restaurant is on Buford Highway, in Asian Square, and close to Pho Hoa. I had no idea where to buy anything, but a waitress came out to me, as I was standing, and took an order.

All I can say is, yes, they’re $2.50 each, they’re very good. I had one sandwich, the barbecue, and it was delicious. The bread is crusty, really tasty and the filling had enough flavor and spice to please. Next time I’ll make sure I have $10 in my pocket.

Verdict: recommended. The banh mi is good and cheap.

Quoc Huong
5150 Buford Hwy NE
Doraville, GA 30340

Quoc Huong on Urbanspoon

Update: John Kessler’s Buford Highway tour also has a review of Quoc Huong. The commentary on Mr. Kessler’s AJC article is also well worth reading.

My wife is the chicken lover in our family. She tells me she can eat it every day of the week. So if we buy chicken, we consult her. Over the last couple years, when we have purchased fried chicken in Snellville, we largely purchase it from Popeye’s.

Popeye’s originated in a suburb of New Orleans and has a spicy New Orleans influence in their products. I’ve known of Popeyes for at least 25 years. My wife and I saw one first in Houston, where it had competition in the form of Frenchy’s fried chicken.  In Snellville, however, there is no Frenchy’s and there is absolutely no competition in the spicy New Orleans chicken category. Moreover, finding good fried chicken in a fast food chain has as much to do with the individual store (manager, cooks, etc) as the chain.

I suspect this store is just a cut above the norm. The chicken we’ve gotten from this store is spicy when it needs to be and is dry, not greasy. The biscuits we have gotten are tender and fresh, with a hint of a butter taste. Among Popeye’s sides, the dirty rice is quite good, but the red beans and rice side has the consistency of a thin soup. I avoid their red beans and rice when possible.

When we eat this chicken, we usually like to add 3 or 4 small hot banana peppers to the food mix. Brands we recommend include Trappey’s Torrido Santa Fe Grande and Mezzetta Hot Chili Peppers.

Verdict: Recommended. It’s among the best fried chicken restaurants in the city. Just please, avoid the red beans and rice.

Tip:

There is often a special of the day or week, usually adding an extra piece of fried chicken compared to a similar item. This special is usually a better deal, piece for piece, than the standard combos.  If they have one, I recommend you get it.

Location:

2330 Ronald Reagan Pkwy.
Snellville, GA 30078
(770) 736-8633

Popeye's Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

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