Near Atlanta


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.

Shorty’s was an impulse try one evening when my wife wanted something new in our repetoire. This is a restaurant whose reputation is heavily influenced by Jimmy, who reviewed it in Eat It Atlanta’s pizza tour. In his review of the restaurant he says:

Everything was in balance though. The dough wasn’t soggy. There was a noticeable amount of sauce. You could taste the mozzarella. And the pizza with toppings tasted fresh and didn’t weigh down the pizza.

I’m mentioning this now because this comment has set my expectations of Shorty’s for a while.

And having set the scene, I’m going to diverge for a bit and talk about Shorty’s plates. They have small plates, tapas inspired, and large plates. One of the large plates has 4 falafel and those caught my wife’s eye. Turns out, this was the best thing we ate that night.

Crunchy. Delightful.

Crunchy. Delightful.

The falafel were crunchy and delightful. The restaurant in general has a good eye for ingredients and tremendous creativity in terms of their various plates and pizza combinations, pizza names for that matter. What I have never been able to do is duplicate the eating experience as in the Jimmy quote above.

Great ingredients. Hilarious names. Ordinary crust.

Great ingredients. Hilarious names. Ordinary crust.

What I get in a Shorty’s pizza (I’ve been three times, twice to the Tucker location and once to the Decatur location) is some crisp around the edges and a soggy mess in the middle. It’s frustrating. You get the impression they know about good crisp crusts, but the pizza chefs, when I’ve been there, couldn’t execute. In terms of quality, I’d say that Hearth Pizza Tavern has a better crust and is far more consistent. And it makes me want to do this to their pie sometime, to see if it’s recoverable.

So I recommend this spot with some cautions. The inventiveness and creativity of the menu makes it worth a trip, but be warned, I’ve yet to see the crust and pizza that Jimmy thought so much of.

Shorty’s Pizza
2884 N Druid Hills Road
Atlanta, GA 30329
(404) 315-6262

Shorty's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Shorty’s Pizza
3701 Lawrenceville Hwy
Tucker, GA 30084
(770) 414-6999

Shorty's Pizza on Urbanspoon

This establishment has been in/near Peachtree Parkway and Holcombe Bridge for what seems like the longest time, in the same strip mall as Dalia’s. I hadn’t chosen to visit it, as it seemed yet another variety of the steakhouse/teppanyaki joint that so many suburbanites favor. My mother-in-law is Japanese, and so I don’t need a gentle, safe introduction to Japanese food.

Happy Sumo, though, has a sushi bar and that’s what interested my boss. He asked me to accompany him after work, as he has dietary restrictions that do not include fish. So this is a review of Happy Sumo as a place to eat sushi and sashimi. For those interested in Happy Sumo’s teppanyaki, you can try this review by Marie Let’s Eat.

Happy Sumo can serve up a pretty temaki roll, a cone shaped sushi oft favored by the Japanese housewife.

Happy Sumo can serve up a pretty temaki roll, a cone shaped sushi oft favored by the Japanese housewife.

I tend to judge sushi places by the quality of the fish in nigiri sushi. This variety, thick slabs of fish atop vinegared sushi rice, is the purest test of the quality of the fish in a sushi house. You can’t hide discolored fish, as you can in a stock roll. The simplicity of the presentation makes it a more extreme test of quality.

Tuna and salmon sashimi plate.

Tuna and salmon sashimi plate.

So we sat, we talked, we ate sushi. I was generally pleased with what we ate. We had nigiri, hand rolls, and a nice big plate of sashimi. Happy Sumo has a tuna and salmon sashimi plate I can highly recommend, and their hand rolls are a visual delight. Service quality in the sushi bar is quite good. Staff are friendly and service is constant.

Would I go back? Probably not for teppanyaki, as I see no reason to do teppanyaki when my family doesn’t favor the style. But the sushi at Happy Sumo is quite good, service is pleasant, and it’s totally suitable for a business dinner or a casual respite.

Happy Sumo
135 Peachtree Parkway
Norcross, GA 30092
(770) 248-0203

Happy Sumo on Urbanspoon

Chai Pani is a newcomer to the Decatur food scene, one featuring Indian street food, and for the time being, very well received. It occupies the space in Decatur that Watershed vacated, the one next to Farm Burger. If you’ve not been to this part of the world before, please note it’s useful to take along ten or so quarters. A lot of the parking close to this restaurant is metered, and parking adjacent to the building hard to come by.

img_6397

Outside.

Inside.

Inside.

Mango lassi.

Mango lassi.

The style of service in this restaurant changes depending on when you arrive. If you go during lunch on a weekday, it is counter top service. You help yourself to drinks, cutlery, and a number is placed at your table for delivery. At night and on weekends, they have staff take your order at the table.

Okra fries. Recommended in general, reminiscent of good fried okra. Good for those with carb limits.

Okra fries. Recommended in general, reminiscent of good fried okra. Good for those with carb limits.

One thing I’ll mention up front is that this isn’t the easiest place for a diabetic to be. Most dishes are heavy in starch, and wraps and rolls tend to contain rice. All is not lost. The chicken burgers and lamb “sloppy joe”s are workable entrees and as a not-so-starchy side, I’d recommend Chai Pani’s okra fries. There are, of course, large dinner salads, that in our experience, are good.

Bhel puri. Puffed rice, chickpeas, flour crisps, onions and cilantro.

Bhel puri. Puffed rice, chickpeas, flour crisps, onions and cilantro.

Corn bhel. Also really tasty.

Corn bhel. Also really tasty.

The real draw here, are the chaat, the street snacks, a kind of eating I’ve not run into before. When I took my daughter and the bhel puri arrived, she said, “I’ve seen this served in a cone on television”. Both bhel puri and the corn bhel are reason enough to come here. A plate of this, some roti, a soda and a couple samosas would leave my wife happy as can be.

Sloppy Jai (lamb sloppy joes). The shoestring fries are excellent.

Sloppy Jai (lamb sloppy joes). The shoestring fries are excellent.

Chicken burgers, again, with those excellent fries. My wife finished the fries off.

Chicken burgers, again, with those excellent fries. My wife finished the fries off.

If there’s one consistent effect when you come here and eat, it’s that there is an amazing “first-bite-wow” effect when eating here. Americans aren’t used to hot Indian spices. They get the majority of Indian food from buffets, where all the aromatics have been steamed off the food. But here, with almost every bite, you get a hit of fresh spice, recently ground or cracked, and often cooked in oil or ghee to release the aromas and the flavors. This “hit” is what is so intoxicating about this place, especially when you first bite into a dish you’ve never tried before.

Kathi kabab roll, and bowl of daal., The daal runs a little thin.

Kathi kabab roll, and bowl of daal., The daal runs a little thin.

Papadam, a hand sized spicy cracker. The  other bread offering is roti, a tortilla sized unleavened bread.

Papadam, a hand sized spicy cracker. The other bread offering is roti, a tortilla sized unleavened bread.

Samosa.

Samosa.

What can we recommend? Almost everything seems good at this point. I wasn’t as pleased with the kabab wrap because it had more rice than I could handle for a meal, but the grilled chiken was excellent. Sloppy Jais I think everyone should try. The more timid maybe can go with a chicken salad, a samosa or two, and one of the bhels. Spend as much time as you can with their chaats, because those really are the star here. And oh yes, the beers here are good, with half a dozen respectable craft beers available.

I’m coming to think this is a great place to be introduced to Indian food. Have a friend who is a little picky? Take them here first, before throwing them into the whole of Indian cuisine. Yes, a tandoori chicken spot isn’t a bad first time spot either, but those are often mom and pops with a hole in the wall ambience. This place is clean, brightly lit, fun. Worst case, your friend has a glass of wine or a beer, nibbles at a chicken burger, downs some fries and maybe have a bite or two of a chaat, all in good fun.

Chai Pani is very highly recommended.

Chai Pani
410 West Ponce De Leon Ave
Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 378-4030

Chai Pani on Urbanspoon

The Oak Street Cafe is an “in” thing for a group of Roswell foodies, to the point they claim for it “Best Burger in Town” honors. On top of that, a coworker of mine loves the place. I can’t visit him without him asking me to try it. So I did.

img_6382

To get there, head north on Roswell Road, and start watching street signs after you pass Spiced Right. At the corner with the Krispy Kreme, turn right. Oak Street Cafe will be a block or so down on your right, at the first strip mall you see on your right.

Oak Steet Cafe is pretty inside, lots of wood, plenty of space between tables. The service is counter style. You go to a counter, make the order and sit. No number cards, they remember where you sit. Staff are in black Ts and jeans, a good look. Clientele were, for this lunch, largely female and largely well dressed.

img_6384

The burger was fine, made well, and I can see where the claims of best burger come from. The product quality puts it there. But it was grey meat with a hint of pink when I ordered a medium rare, and that loses a point on a five point scale for me. If I could get more consistent doneness, then yes, I’d be happy to reconsider.

I’m told by my friend that there are large crowds for Oak Street’s brunch, that lines can extend outside of the eatery. It’s a small eatery, less than 20 tables, perhaps, and I can easily see a line forming here.

Recommended, especially suitable for a mixed sex casual lunch.

Oak Street Cafe
45 Oak Street
Roswell, GA 30075
(770) 594-1300

Oak Street Cafe on Urbanspoon

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 best thing about Baby Jane’s might be their stuffed salmon patties: thick as the tip of my thumb, as round as a quarter, browned and a little toasty. They were breaded salmon goodness, evoking memories of sucking the last little bit of flavor out of a stuffed crab.

img_6367

img_6368

Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, chicken fried steak, salmon patties.

Or it might be Baby Jane’s cheesecake, rich and delicious.

img_6370

img_6369

Almost everything we tried was good; one exception was the brussels sprouts (overcooked, really impossible to avoid in a buffet). If you stuck to vegetables that can handle steaming over a period of time (greens, cabbage, corn), then the veggies were entirely satisfactory. The meats? There was plenty of fried chicken, but they also had good pork chops, a good fried fish, and the aforementioned salmon patties.

My wife, something of a picky eater, went back three times for plates of food. Drinks here are huge and often refilled. Staff were a pleasure.

Baby Jane’s Home Cooking
2054 Main Street East
Snellville, GA 30078
(678) 502-7055

Baby Jane's Home Cooking on Urbanspoon

« Previous PageNext Page »