Seafood


Las Costas Nayaritas is unique. There is nothing like this restaurant in the city. It is an eatery focused almost purely on coastal Mexican seafood combinations. The closest to this theme was the old U.S.S. Vallarta, now long gone from Gwinnett Place Mall. There was a restaurant similar to this that I saw in Dallas, Big Shucks, but Big Shucks was largely oriented towards shrimp cocktails of various kinds, inexpensive beer, and futbol on large television screens.

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I showed up at this restaurant a day before their Grand Opening, at a time when their lunch menu was also their dinner menu, and so the lunch I had may not be the lunch offering you get. What I saw were a lot of staple seafood varieties and not a lot of exotica. There were things on the menu like crab, clams, oysters, shrimp, and octopus. Fish included tilapia, salmon, and perhaps a flatfish or two. There aren’t many exotic or rare items.

Tortillas are large, crisp, corn based and a little granular on the tongue. The tostada appetizer is better than anything I ever had at Lobster House.

Tortillas are large, crisp, corn based and a little granular on the tongue. The free tostada appetizer is better than anything I ever had at Lobster House.

The plates of food tend to be expensive, relative to prices you might see at a Red Lobster. But by way of compensation, the serving sizes are *enormous*. No other word for it, enormous. This is a place to feed a lot of people with a few plates of food.

Unless you eat Thai bird peppers for fun, be sparing of this hot sauce.

Unless you eat Thai bird peppers for fun, be sparing of this hot sauce.

What I ordered was the filete relleno, which Google tells me translates to ‘stuffed filet’. In fact this is a filet of tilapia over which a mixed bag of seafood and white cheese is poured. Again, the serving easily could have fed two and for the price, was actually a generous amount of food.

This photo doesn't really give the viewer any feel for how large this plate really is.

This photo doesn’t really give the viewer any feel for how large this plate really is.

I spent a lot of time fishing the interesting bits out of the white cheese and trying them out. The dish was delicious. The octopus ran a little chewy but it was sliced so thin that wasn’t an issue. In the mix were things like fish, shrimp, octopus, crab meat, sauteed mushrooms, and various vegetables.

The sheer novelty of the restaurant has me contemplating it still. I think what would work best for most folks is to go in groups, buy one or two plates and share. I don’t think it has small amounts of food for small eaters. Serving size tends to be enough for two normal eaters (or one Chloe Morris).

Update 9/8/2013: as Emily of Spatial Drift points out, the style of this cuisine is Nayarit. A nice introduction to Nayarit cuisine online can be found here.

Las Costas Nayaritas
1555 Pleasant Hill Road
Duluth, GA 30096
(678) 635-6000

Las Costas Nayaritas on Urbanspoon

Bahama Breeze surprised me a little. I thought it was a singles bar, but turns out to be a casual food concept, with a lot of space, wicker furniture, reasonable if not ambitious eats. It affects a bit of island influence, but is hardly that. Food similar to what they serve here can be found in Cheeseburger in Paradise, Frontera’s, and some of the simpler dishes from Red Lobster.

The lack of ambition is heralded up front when the chef’s special the night I came was wood grilled fish. In fact, that’s what I had when I came here, a beer and their wood grilled salmon. Understand, wood grilled fish isn’t the special on most seafood places, it’s a central part of the repertoire. I can get a decent cedar plank salmon at Shucks in Loganville and theirs comes served on the plank of wood. Not so at Bahama Breeze.

Wood grilled salmon.

Wood grilled salmon.

That said, it was a good plate of fish. The salmon had a lemony balm, the vegetables were decent, the service was very good to excellent. The bar, where I sat, had wry understated staff, very likable. It’s a perfectly good restaurant as long as your expectations aren’t exceptional and you avoid any really ambitious dishes. Otherwise, your dining experience could end up like Chloe’s, here.

Last, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how the driving habits of Bahama Breeze patrons affected everyone for some years. It was typical for Bahama Breeze patrons to stop in a no stop zone at the corner of I-85 and Pleasant Hill, waiting for enough traffic to clear so they could cut across three lanes of Pleasant Hill Road traffic in about 100 yards. Why they didn’t just continue on to the light, turn right and then do a quick 180 off a local lane, I never understood. But it happened so often and so frequently, it was easy to hate this restaurant. The recent redesign of the bridge and all the intersections nearby has eliminated a lot of these issues.

Bahama Breeze
3590 Breckinridge Blvd
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 935-6509

Bahama Breeze on Urbanspoon

This Memorial Day we headed out to Savannah, not having been in ages (in fact, the last Savannah trip we took predates my last camera). It was an emotional necessity. After arriving, I pretty much ate and collapsed, sleeping hard almost all of the night. I want to compose my thoughts and offer specific suggestions in a couple follow up posts, but for now, I’m trying to sort through thoughts and such and talk about more general issues in terms of a Savannah trip.

Sights and sounds unlike most American cities.

Sights and sounds unlike most American cities.

If you’re looking for a cheap place to stay near Savannah, your best bet is out by the airport. Hotels close to River Street tend to charge around $200/day during the peak (summer) season. You can beat this in part by coming off peak (e.g. February and March), but I can’t promise you any bargains anymore. The inexpensive hotel I used to use is now a grassy field.

Of course, with a 4 hour drive from Atlanta to Savannah, Savannah is suitable for a one day tour. Drive in, fight for parking, and leave, either to home or parts north and south.

If you want places to eat that appeal less to the tourist and more to the foodie in you, the walk along Bay Street will be more accommodating than River Street itself. Yes, there are bargains along River Street but you have to look. Nice seafood places tend to run high 20s to low 30s for their fare, and after having great experiences in Tybee Island and indifferent experiences along the River (the Cotton Exchange being a welcome exception), best to save your seafood dollars for a jaunt towards the Island.

I highly recommend the Discovery Map rendition of Savannah, and you can get one in advance here. Don’t click on the state. The Savannah map is in the dropdown below. If you’re already in Savannah, you might check out Dub’s Pub, because that’s where I picked up my copy of the map. Another resource is the work of Michael Karpovage, a Roswell GA resident. His Savannah Historic District Illustrated Map“map of Savannah is available on Amazon.com.

Connect Savannah is a tabloid format publication that appears to mirror Creative Loafing in many regards. When we arrived their “Best of Savannah” issue was on the news stands. They have a web site, and “Best of Savannah” has a prominent place on their front page currently.

Almost completely over the top are the candy stores along River Street. If you have a child from age 6 to 60, it is very hard to resist Savannah’s Candy Kitchen or River Street Sweets. These have become must stops when we show, and when my daughter was little, she cried so hard when we were trying to leave, it took us another half hour to get home.

Yes, well known Atlanta foodies with small children, I’m waiting to hear about the response when your youngsters see the place.

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The collection of children's books here is phenomenal.

The collection of children’s books here is phenomenal.

Bookstores: There is a spot called Books on Bay that deals in antiques. In particular, they are very interested in old children’s books and series. Things like old Oz books, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and to my once 12 year old mind, a surprisingly large collection of Tom Swift books of various and sundry kinds. I was a voracious reader of Tom Swift Jr and have always held a certain desire to read a few of Tom Swift Sr’s books. They have quite a few of these there. Yes, Grant Goggans, if you like comics, I suspect you could get lost in this store.

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Biggest surprise in Savannah? In many respects, It might been Dub’s Pub, also called Dubs, a Public House. It was near where we were staying, easy to access via stairs and an alleyway. They are advertised on Urban Spoon as a gastropub, though it was hard to tell when we went. They were down to only tacos when I arrived. Their beer selections are good, however, and they sell beer flights. A flight is 5 different selections of beer, 4 ounces each, all for a reasonable price. I had never had Tybee Blonde before, and sandwiching that between a Bells and a Allagash wasn’t so bad at all.

Pork and shrimp tacos from Dub's Pub.  The shrimp, if I recall, had a delightfully spicy bite to it.

Pork and shrimp tacos from Dub’s Pub. The shrimp, if I recall, had a delightfully spicy bite to it.

The tacos at Dubs were really good. The vibe is more that of an upscale sports bar, with some quality food. I didn’t eat enough to pass judgement on “gastropub or not”, but nothing I saw or had would lead me to think otherwise.

It was nice enough that on a quiet day, I’d not have any issue taking my family to Dub’s.

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen
225 East River Street
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 233-8411

Savannah Candy Kitchen on Urbanspoon

River Street Sweets
13 East River Street
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 233-6220

River Street Sweets on Urbanspoon

Dubs a Public House
225 West River St
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 200-3652

Dubs a Public House on Urbanspoon

PS – Savannah Red reviews Dubs in an article titled “Low Tide and Zombies at Dub’s Pub“.

O’Shucks is the sister restaurant to Oyster Bay, found just off Highway 78 heading towards Athens. The emphasis is on sustainable seafood, especially oysters and shrimp. It’s a smaller restaurant found in a strip mall named Old Loganville Square, next to a pizzeria. Given the crowds we saw on a Tuesday night, O’Shucks is rather popular.

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As we went to Oyster Bay for lunch, we tried O’Shucks for dinner. We started with fried oysters, and a cup of she crab soup. Fried oysters were tender and tasty, the she crab soup delightful and rich.

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I had a cedar plank salmon, my wife and daughter had po’ boys. My po’ boy photos are lacking, and as the same po’ boy is served at Oyster Bay, you might check out that review for a better photograph. The salmon had a hint of crustiness, and was a pleasure to eat. Po boys were devoured.

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My daughter rates the fries as exceptionally good at O’Shucks. They’re crusted, the way some fast food restaurants do it. Staff were dressed in black, efficient, cute.

Despite some eater reports to the contrary, these restaurants are clearly affordable. There are plenty of seafood and other options in the $7.50 to $11.00 range, good value for this kind of eating.

Yes, we’ll be back, especially as my wife can’t eat meat on Fridays these days. This place, and Oyster Bay, are good enough to be part of the regular rotation of seafood eaters within a reasonable drive of their locations, as an original and casual alternative to Red Lobster and Bonefish Grill.

O’Shucks
3939 Atlanta Highway
Loganville, GA 30052
(770) 558-1617

O'Shucks on Urbanspoon

Tip: Oyster special on Wednesdays.

Oyster Bay Cafe is a restaurant found on Lawrenceville Square, whose focus is fresh sustainable seafood with plenty of oyster and shrimp options. Classed as a gastropub on Urban Spoon, I’m not sure I see that. To me, it evokes an Atlantic Ocean seafood shack, perhaps crossed with a little Vortex style kitsch.

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The Inside is bigger than it appears from the outside.

The restaurant is long and thin inside, and bigger than it appears from the outside.

We came for lunch, were feeling a little cautious and not hungry enough to push the dinner offerings, so my daughter went with a bacon shrimp po boy and I got a shrimp and fish fried basket, broccoli instead of fries. We had 6 steamed oysters to start with, tender and good.

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Later our plates arrived.

Fish and shrimp basket, with slaw.

Fish and shrimp basket, with slaw.

Bacon shrimp po boy, paired with some excellent fries.

Bacon shrimp po boy, paired with some excellent fries.

The fried fish was well cooked, dry, hot, and tasty. The po boy was good. My daughter leaves food she doesn’t care for, but she took what she couldn’t eat home, including the fries. Fries at Oyster Bay have a light crust (I think I’ve tasted similar at Checkers), and she liked that crust a lot.

Staff here are good, homespun and chatty, a fine complement to the food.

Oyster Bay has a sister restaurant in Loganville, O’Shucks. We’ll be reviewing that restaurant in a later post. But for now, know that a good inexpensive seafood option is available in Lawrenceville, and if you’re close, I suggest you go often.

Complementary review: The 285 Foodies thread on this restaurant.

Oyster Bay Cafe
125 West Crogan Street
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
(770) 910-7521

Oyster Bay Seafood on Urbanspoon

Tip: 60 cent oysters on Tuesdays.

Buckhead Diner has a way of reminding people what a good dining experience is all about. The little things: asking your name as you enter, whether you have reservations or not, of then using that name in every conversation staff has with you. There is the uniform, with tie, that all staff wear. There is the constant graceful service that follows being seated. There is the manager, who makes sure your meal was right for you. There is the way, when you have food issues, the staff and chefs will work with you to get the whole meal just right. Metaphorically, Buckhead Diner is a fine vintage automobile, reminding people that yes indeed, some folks know how to put together a well oiled machine.

The other thing a reader needs to understand is that it’s easy to read glowing reviews of Buckhead Diner and think, “There is no way a mere diner can be that good.” I’ll suggest that, just as the green of the tropics, so green you might think the photos are retouched, that no, most reviews of Buckhead Diner are actually pretty sober affairs and the superlatives are in fact earned. This isn’t your neighborhood IHOP folks, this is about as close as anyone in Atlanta can get to a walk-in fine dining experience.

Amazingly thick and rich.

Amazingly thick and rich.

We’ll start with the milk shake my daughter received. It was so thick that if you dropped a quarter on it flat side, that the quarter would float and not sink. It was so good my daughter wasn’t able to drink most of it, as my wife started stealing bites of it routinely.

Buckhead Diner's fried chicken, perhaps the best entree we ordered.

Buckhead Diner’s fried chicken, perhaps the best entree we ordered.

There was the fried chicken, sold only on Sundays and Wednesdays, that when my daughter took a bite, she could help but say, “OMG, so good!” And I’m sure the more cynical of my readers are saying, “Chicken? Give me a break!” But the deal is, Buckhead Diner marinates that chicken. It isn’t the packaged bird from Kroger rolled in panko, it’s something supercharged to another flavor level.

Chiki thai calamari. Grteat tasting, though the sauce was more a classic sweet and sour  style than recognizably Thai.

Chili thai calamari. Great tasting, though the sauce was more a classic sweet and sour style than recognizably Thai.

Are there things to complain about? Sure. For example, we had Buckhead Diner’s chili thai calamari, and though the calamari was good, and the mix of peppers, octopus, breading and sauce tasty, the sauce itself more resembled the sweet and sour sauce found in any generic American-Chinese restaurant, as opposed to a distinctively Thai style flavoring. My daughter wasn’t altogether fond of the cheese used on their mac and cheese. But you have to get down to this level of detail before you can begin to find fault with the food.

table breads.

table breads.

Under the pepper, portobello, and asparagus is a fine bit of lamb.

Under the pepper, portobello, and asparagus is a fine bit of lamb.

Other things of note. It’s easy to forget the bread they bring to the table, but the breadsticks and small jalapeno cornbreads are worth some time and trouble. My entree was a lamb shank, braised until it was fork tender, served with vegetables and a brown sauce. The serving was considerably smaller than the bowl it came in, but tasty and still tasting like lamb.

Serving sizes are ample and we didn’t have room to get to the desserts, which are highly thought of.

Some notes on pricing. I think burgers start around 12 and go up, dinner salads around 15. A main dish may start about 16, tend to be 18-22, and the most expensive thing I saw was a fine steak around 30 dollars. Given the quality and the almost anytime access, I think the food here is reasonably priced. But I would suggest that, for those who use plastic to pay for meals in this price range, to bring enough cash to tip the staff in cash. They’re worth it.

Buckhead Diner
3073 Piedmont Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 262-3336

Buckhead Diner on Urbanspoon

 

Access from Snellville: Google Maps suggested an excellent route to this diner, one easily summarized. Take 78 into town until the N Druid Hills split and head down N Druid Hills. Turn left when you reach LaVista Road (there will be a Steak N Shake on the left). Take LaVista until it becomes Lindburgh and turn right when Lindburgh intersects Piedmont. 1.2 miles later on your right you will see Buckhead Diner. Don’t be surprised if you see Fogo De Chao first, as it’s a taller building and nearby.

Hammock’s is a cozy place, living in repurposed space, and with nothing really like it nearby. In terms of having a deft versatile menu, it compares well with No 246, which we recently reviewed. It’s not as exotic a menu as 246, but has both tapas style dishes and main courses, and plenty of variations of oysters, clams and shrimp.

It’s really good looking inside and could be used for a variety of purposes. You could eat a burger, get a brew and watch some sports – they have a large screen or two. You could eat light, exploring the various seafood options this restaurant provides. And it is upscale enough for a business lunch or a sales presentation.

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Staff here have been excellent when I have visited, one of the strengths of this restaurant.

Hammock’s Trading Company
7285 Roswell Road
Sandy Springs, GA 30328
(770) 395-9592

Hammocks Trading Company on Urbanspoon

It’s a seafood market mostly. It has a couple tables and it will cook seafood for you, for a fee. In this it greatly resembles New Orleans Seafood on Pleasant Hill. Lawrenceville Seafood is just a little smaller, the crawfish are a little less spicy, and the eatery is closer to those of us near Lawrenceville.

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My daughter and I had some of their crawfish for lunch recently.  Good stuff. Not a bad place if you’re wanting something spicy to take home to the  missus.

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Lawrenceville Seafood
2785 Cruse Road
Lawrenceville GA 30044
770-638-7517

Lawrenceville Seafood on Urbanspoon

In Richardson, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, they have a seafood spot called Big Shucks.

This isn’t a place to eat and watch football, unless your game is fútbol. But it does offer some Latin influenced dishes. This shrimp cocktail, rich in cilantro and tasting more like a juiced up salsa, is one of them.

Big Shucks
103 S Coit Rd
Richardson, TX 75080
(972) 231-8202

Big Shucks on Urbanspoon

I’ve already reviewed the Local Republic, but I hadn’t gone to the LR for dinner so far. I corrected that. It’s as nice at dinner as it is at lunch, but more crowded and a little louder. If you want parking on the weekends, try to arrive before 7pm. It’s always a bit tough to park around Lawrenceville Square.

Lamb burger

Jerk Chicken

Hummus plate, along with crawfish sliders.

If you’re within a 30-45 minute drive of Lawrenceville Square, just go sometime. This is one of the best, and most ambitious eateries in the area.

Local Republic on Urbanspoon

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