modern American


Miller Union is a farm-to-table restaurant, a product of a name chef (Steven Satterfield) and the boom in better eating at the  beginning of the teens of this century. Appearing roughly at the same  time as Bocado, it soon developed a group of dedicated  and worthy followers. Guys like Jimmy of Eat It Atlanta would make it a routine stop. And it’s always been on an invisible “wish list” of mine, one that wasn’t quelled a bit by the restaurant appearing on Tony Bourdain’s Atlanta show.

This was going to be my 500th review of an Atlanta restaurant. I wanted something appropriate.

I used a GPS to get here, but shouldn’t have bothered. The restaurant is on the left side of what amounts to a warehouse district, and the numbers “999” are distinct on the left as you approach. Parking is valet, cause there is none otherwise.  If you arrive early on a weekday, as we did, without a reservation, as we did, you’re likely to be seated outside. Thankfully, we had tolerable weather the day we arrived.

img_6771

Blueberry ginger soda, one of the home grown sodas at Miller Union.

The menu is small, selections are pretty straightforward. We ordered drinks, an heirloom tomato panzanella salad that we shared, an order of quail and an order of duck. The tomato salad was smallish when split in two, but went over well.

Half a tomato salad.

Half a tomato salad.

This is a pretty casual place, relatively slow paced. I think it was an hour and some minutes before we saw our entree. Staff are really good here. Excellent wouldn’t be an unfair evaluation. There is a lot of tag team waiting and multiple staff making sure everyone is comfy. But we were ready for food when it arrived.

Duck, nice and crusty. Squash was substituted for the regular corn.

Duck, nice and crusty. Squash was substituted for the regular corn.

Quail.

Quail.

I’d say we both enjoyed the meats. The duck was more solid than I’m used to, no layer of fat under crispy skin, but the crusty outside of the meat offered a pleasant contrast to the red interior. The quail was pleasing, but my partner would have been happier if the greens hadn’t been doused in balsamic-like dressing. The squash I had was excellent, grilled just enough to be tender.

Serving sizes were not large but big enough. No one felt stuffed afterwards, but felt we’d had enough food. The pace struck me, because I’ve been eating so many buffets recently. And after it all, felt it was actually worth the drive into town.

Miller Union is a spare graceful dining experience, not quite like any other I’ve had in town. It’s akin to the graceful relative who slips into town, shows you 3-4 hours of a great time, and then leaves, none the worse for wear. If you want food fast and enormous servings, this isn’t the spot for you. If you want to savor and relish the flavors you are exposed to, then this place will do you just fine.

Miller Union
999 Brady Ave NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
(678) 733-8550

Miller Union on Urbanspoon

The Iberian Pig is a nice looking restaurant in Decatur, near the Marta station and along a row filled with good restaurants. We went on a day where we had no restaurant specifically in mind. We just wanted good food and the opportunity to be seated quickly. At Iberian Pig, they could seat us within 5 minutes if we could sit outside. Usually that’s the kiss of death for my wife’s asthma, but this day, she was feeling good enough that we managed.

We started with small dishes, were served only one main dish (my daughter’s cabrito carbonara), and otherwise just ate things that appealed. Things we enjoyed included fried eggplant, pork cheek tacos, some octopus (pulpo a la parilla), lamb ribs, and Iberian Pig’s asparagus. My wife had an arugula salad, and we also asked for bread, which took some time coming. By the time it arrived, my wife and daughter had grown bored and started wandering, as a King of Pops cart within a few feet had caught their eye.

pork cheek tacos.

pork cheek tacos.

pulpo a la parilla, a good tasting octopus small dish.

pulpo a la parilla, a good tasting octopus small dish.

cabrito carbonara, a dish with shredded goat.

cabrito carbonara, a dish with shredded goat.

Overall, I’d say we enjoyed this meal. Service ranged from good to sensational at times. When Iberian Pig starts delivering food, you can have as many as 4-5 servers around your table. Our waiter was gracious and funny. Dishes ranged from good to superb (my daughter loved her goat dish). The restaurant is definitely a keeper, and I could easily see us coming back.

The Iberian Pig
121 Sycamore Street
Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 371-8800

The Iberian Pig on Urbanspoon

Resurrected from the ashes of Gary’s Bistro, the sister restaurant to “Local Republic” has emerged with a pared down menu and a focus on locally sourced meats and produce. Staff tell me it’s been open about two months, and the chef of Georgia Pine, Scott Smith, has Local Republic roots.

I went for lunch on Mike “Gadget Geek” Stock’s suggestion. We met at the bar and moved to a table. He ordered a reuben, I ordered the trout special. As appetizers I ordered a pickle plate and Mike ordered octopus. I added an extra side, some collards.

pickles.

pickles.

octopus.

octopus.

One of the biggest reubens I've ever seen.

One of the biggest reubens I’ve ever seen.

Trout special. Excellent fish, as good as anything I had in Savannah over the weekend.

Trout special. Excellent fish, as good as anything I had in Savannah over the weekend.

Everything was good, no stinkers in the lot. The pickles were tasty and subtle, the octopus had a hint of spice to it. Collards were tender and hit the spot. My fish was as good as anything I had while near the Atlantic coast, and Mike’s reuben was the king of sandwiches, in terms of size.

I’m told the menu is a work in progress, so expect more changes. But what I’ve seen so far is promising, and gives me hope this restaurant will stand to the big three of this region (Local Republic, Graft, Three Blind Mice) and lose nothing in the comparison.

The Georgia Pine
1250 Scenic Highway, Suite 1240
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
(770) 978-1800

The Georgia Pine on Urbanspoon

Note: Mike’s take on this meal can be seen here.

One of the first sights when headed to River Street, especially if you walk from, say, MLK drive to Bay and then onto River Street, is this eatery embedded in the cobblestone walls of Savannah.

Entrance to Cobblestone Cafe.

Entrance to Cobblestone Cafe.

The Cobblestone Cafe, where I ate in my last trip, has decent food and in our experience, entirely respectable, responsive waitstaff. It is, however, expensive, and those prices leave folks with the feeling that the cafe is something of a tourist trap. On Urbanspoon, of 53 Savannah restaurants rated as breakfast sites, it is ranked 53rd.

We liked it. You may not like the prices.

A better deal is a restaurant on Bay Street, B Matthew’s Eatery. It is respected, winning or placing in Best Breakfast awards pretty routinely. Those of us who have seen a bistro or two will be immediately familiar with the layout and find it something of a mainstay for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is much further east than Cobblestone, but if you have enough energy to walk along River Street to Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, then the stairs heading upwards, towards Bay Street, just east of the Kitchen put you within an easy walk to B Matthews.

Can get more than breakfast here. Essentially a modern restaurant. If  B Mathews were transplanted into Decatur Ga, no one would blink an eye.

Can get more than breakfast here. Essentially a modern restaurant. If B Matthews were transplanted into Decatur Ga, no one would blink an eye.

When we went, we were told there would be about a 40 minute wait. Clever positioning of tables led us to getting seated in 15 minutes instead. I like the staff here, aware and responsive to customers and their needs. Working with us while handling 3 parties well in excess of 12 people each was appreciated. It’s a smaller restaurant. Those three groups used up the majority of tables in the place. It has bar seating (where we eventually ended up), brick walls, black wooden roofs, and track lighting.

Breakfast options are reasonable and flexible.

Bay Street Scramble.

Bay Street Scramble.

Mayme's Omelette.

Mayme’s Omelette.

The Big Salad. Terrific balance in  this salad. It may have been the best of the breakfast items that day.

The Big Salad. Terrific balance in this salad. It may have been the best of the breakfast items that day.

I had an omelette, my wife had a salad, and my daughter had their well regarded Bay Street Scramble. All the main items were 9 dollars or less, and drinks and other extras entirely reasonable. I’d go back – plan to actually – to B Matthews, and I’d have no problem having three meals at a place this well run.

Cobblestone Cafe
130 West Lower Factors Walk
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 231-0701

Cobblestone Cafe on Urbanspoon

B Matthews Eatery
325 E Bay St
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 233-1319

B. Matthew's Eatery on Urbanspoon

Notes: The blog “Outside the Den” has a visually appealing review of B Matthews.

Saint Patrick’s at Murphy’s? I’d love to say this was meticulously planned, but it was more of a Saturday whim executed on Sunday than a fully thought out excursion. We were originally looking for a eatery in Inman Park, but many of the famed steakhouses there are closed on Sundays. And Murphy’s — where is that? Isn’t it a little east of Decatur, sort of near where the original Alon’s sits? And isn’t it a steakhouse mainly, formal dining and such? And since we didn’t know, we made reservations early on Sunday, just to be sure we could get into the door.

Grilled artichokes.

Grilled artichokes.

Okay, so we map the site and from a Snellvillian perspective it’s really close to Little Five Points. From Ponce de Leon and Briarcliff facing west, head one more block west, then turn north on Highland Avenue. That really crowded corner, about 0.6 miles down the road, with all those eateries? That’s Virginia, the corner of which names the Virginia Highlands. Funny how going to eat can teach you new geography.

The road on the way there is full of bars, and on this day, full of people wearing green and having a good time (note to academic self: look up growth of adult holidays such as Halloween and Saint Patties). On the corner itself, there are plenty of restaurants whose names I recognize (note to blogger self: must come back). It’s a casual section of town, and on this pretty spring-like eve, folks were out walking their dogs in ways I’ve only seen in around Taqueria Del Sol in Decatur, and oh yes, the aforementioned Alons.

There is complimentary valet parking, and as small and crowded as the roads are around here, please use it.

img_6373

Before we went, we had downloaded Murphy’s menu, and targeted some small dishes and an entree or two. Murphy’s menu is versatile and the prices, overall, are excellent given the quality of the food. I was a little shocked. In many respects it’s cheaper than Buckhead Diner. The median price point for entrees is probably high teens, with no more than 3 dishes this day over 20 (iirc, Murphy’s changes menus seasonally). Things like calamari and mussels are closer to 10 than 20 and Murphy’s burger, dinner version, runs about 15.

Walk in the restaurant and we were soon seated. We were in the dining area, and large French style doors were open to the outside, as the weather was suitable for that kind of display. Otherwise we were greeted with loudspeaker feedback, as a singer was getting set up to play. At this point the restaurant wasn’t full. Soon staff arrived and we ordered drinks and appetizers. Oh yes, on the way in, a green chalkboard had announced specials, one of which was lamb stew.

“I claim dibs on the stew!” said my daughter.

As the music starts, the lilt of Irish accents floats over from the nearby table, whose men are formally dressed and whose women are wearing green. And oh yes, the cute ten-something daughter is sitting in dancing getup, while smiling and posing for pictures.

And somewhere around now, after I’m half way into my beer for the night, it strikes me that on Saint Patrick’s, I’m listening to a lady sing Irish ballads, surrounded by well dressed folks with distinct Irish accents, in a famed Atlanta restaurant named Murphy’s, along with wife and daughter. How iconic is that? It was, to a first approximation, pure accident. I just wanted a nice place to eat.

And if the food had been mediocre, then yes, this would have been something of a downer, but nothing we experienced in our stay at Murphy’s did anything to dent the reputation of this eatery. The artichokes were excellent, the broth in which the mussels sat was superb. It didn’t hurt, all the tasty bits in the broth as well: bacon, onions, thumbnail sized potatoes. Murphy’s mussels are inexpensive, and perhaps the best version of this dish I’ve had in this city.

Sometime around now Irish soda bread appears.

img_6375

We had Irish soda bread muffins at Sweet Tomatoes the day before, so we had some idea what to expect: a mildly sweet bread with some raisins. This bread was superior to the muffins at Sweet. The bread wasn’t as hard or dry, and the hints of spice we caught that night in the bread just wasn’t there in the ST product.

Lamb stew - tasty.

Lamb stew – tasty.

Vegetable plate.

Vegetable plate.

img_6378

Tender ribeye, perfectly cooked.

The lamb stew was tasty, hints of tomato and spice, and a real lamb flavor. The ribeye we ordered was a perfect medium rare, and was tender, even if it didn’t look like the inch and a half thick slabs of meat my dad would grill on lazy Louisiana afternoons. My daughter and wife stole all the potatoes on the ribeye. The only downside of the evening came with the ravioli that accompanied the vegetable plate. My wife just didn’t favor the filling.

Around this time, the Irish tunes became more dancelike, and young girls began to dance to the tunes of the singer. Families would come up with cameras and phones to take pictures of their daughters, and the more dancelike, marchlike tunes reminded me of Garry Owen, and one of the scenes from one of the most historically inaccurate and yet delightful moves I’ve ever seen (General George Armstrong Custer was neither this prescient, nor this good looking):

 

Desserts:

We won’t say too much about these as they were excellent. We had a white chocolate creme brulee, an everything-from scratch banana pudding, and a cheese plate. Hard to go wrong with cheese, especially blues for me, as it reminds me of moments when I would bring a chunk of blue and some pumpernickel to Vallhalla at Rice, to eat after my bartending shift was over.

White chocolate creme brulee.

White chocolate creme brulee.

All from scratch banana pudding.

All from scratch banana pudding.

Cheese plate. That slice of blue was key to my happiness. Bread was crusty and good.

Cheese plate. That slice of blue was key to my happiness. Bread was crusty and good.

 

Thoughts: a terrific meal, timed just about perfectly for us. We saw some of the day’s revelry but were never trapped in it. The food was excellent, the extras were on point, and now I realize that Murphy’s can be encapsulated in the two Vs: versatile and a great food value. In terms of the atmosphere, it wasn’t the more formal steakhouse we expected, but more, as Urbanspoon puts it, bistro eating.

Murphy’s
997 Virginia Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30306
(404) 872-0904

Murphy's on Urbanspoon

The new Watershed is next door to a Uncle Julio’s, a good thing, as Watershed itself isn’t that easy to see, or for that matter, all that easy to get to. We went recently to try their brunch. It’s a solid brunch offering, perhaps not as over the top as some other brunches we’ve had. It’s a little more ordinary, a little more sedate.

img_6340

Biscuits were excellent, my wife ordered more after receiving her first.

img_6341

Seafood melange, a mix of seafood in a bowl that otherwise had a brown gravy and grits, was also pretty darned good. No one in the family are grits eaters, but were were eating those.

img_6344

Perhaps our favorite was the smoked trout salad, with rich smoky flavors in the fish and plenty of tender spinach.

img_6343

img_6342

With it being brunch, we really didn’t get to the kinds of dishes that made Watershed’s reputation initially. That said, service was excellent, and the restaurant is beautiful, certainly suitable for a date.

Watershed at Peachtree
1820 Peachtree Road
Atlanta GA 30309
(404) 809 – 3561

Watershed on Peachtree on Urbanspoon

Scott Serpas is one of the name chefs of this city, and his restaurant has certainly been on my wish list for a long time. This Sunday I finally made time to visit. I took my family, and we were all pretty happy we showed.

It’s a roomier restaurant than I expected. It isn’t cramped, the tables have plenty of space. The restaurant has a long bar that occupies maybe a fifth of the total space, never entirely straight, bent at angles. Tables and walls are finished in natural wood. It’s a nice look, clean and modern. Staff are dressed in brown, with aprons, and staff were excellent this day. There is complimentary valet parking if you eat at Serpas. The valets were a pleasure to deal with.

Beignets (excellent).

Beignets (excellent).

Oyster appetizer.

Oyster appetizer.

Bread Basket, with a scoen and some cornbread peeking out.

Bread Basket, with a scoen and some cornbread peeking out.

Food: we enjoyed it. Everything was good. We may have enjoyed appetizers most of all, with a good bread basket, good fried oysters, and beignets that left the table arguing about whether they had better in Breaux Bridge or not. My wife ordered pancakes, as she’s recovering from oral issues, and my daughter ordered fried oysters eggs benedict. I ordered the creole omelet.

img_6309

img_6310

Eggs benedict or eggs florentine?

Eggs benedict or eggs florentine?

There was little to regret with the entrees. Yes, I wish I had a bit more andouille in my omelet, and my daughter complained of sour flavors in her eggs benedict (or are those eggs florentine, really). But overall the experience was excellent, the feeling was the food suggested an understated expertise in preparation.

Serpas Restaurant
659 Auburn Avenue #501
Atlanta, GA 30312
(404) 688-0040

Serpas True Food on Urbanspoon

Next Page »