Fine Wines and Beers


Niko’s was one of the first shops I reviewed when I started this blog. I remember thinking that I hoped he’d make it. I haven’t been back in a while, and not only has Niko survived, but he’s also expanded into the square in Lawrenceville. Recently I went into Niko’s, to window shop and pick up a bottle or two, and ended up with a case of assorted beers. For me, that day, yes, his selection of beers was that good.

Niko’s has singles, four packs and six packs of beer. There are cold beers in the fridge, and the brown carousel to your right has plenty of quality Belgian ales.

I find his tastes complementary to the supermarkets, and also a complement to Summit’s Tavern. There isn’t a whole lot of overlap between the three. So I would suggest it’s worth your while, especially if you’re into Trappist ales and Belgians, or simply a change of pace, to take a gander over to Niko’s, and cruise the beer section of his store.

Niko’s Wine Corner
2050 Scenic Highway, Suite G and H
Snellville GA, 30078
(770) 979-3111

Niko’s Wine Corner
178 Crogan Street, Suite 210
Lawrenceville GA, 40046
(770) 962-0348

It’s a store and eatery with a modest front on a strip mall, a bit to the east of the intersection of Five Forks and Killian Hill Road and very easy to miss. The outside shows a bit of outdoor seating and pretty red stone. The inside is much larger than the outside appears, as this is a deep restaurant, with a long bar, some seats, a sofa or two, plenty of wine and a refreshingly casual air.  It reminds me,  in some small ways, of San Francisco’s City Lights bookstore.

It was a little confusing when I arrived, perhaps because there was a wine tasting going on, and I arrived in the  middle of it. Staff were worried about the people trying wines, so it took a minute or two before staff found me.

“Inside or outside?”

“The outside looks pretty, great light, let me eat  there.”

In retrospect that was a mistake. The light was fantastic, and it let me get some great food shots, but it was cold outside. I wasn’t dressed for it, and even after moving back inside, I never really warmed up the whole day, until I fell asleep.

Inside, though, I had a much better feel for why you might want to come to TBM, and I’d say it’s really friendly, very social, and a great place to talk and eat. There is an engaging owner/chef, Matthew, who has opinions but doesn’t come off as opinioniated, and a crew of regulars who seem happy to chew the fat. The bar is long and deep, and if you’re here to say your hellos, please find your way to the bar, shake the hands of staff and say hello to the owner.

There are six good beers on tap, and not just a wine list, but a fine beer list as well. The salad  I had was tender and the chunks of bread nice and crunchy. I ate too many of those, but they were a bit too tempting. The salmon was tasty and tender,  the skin was indeed crisp. Prices ran a couple dollars more than the local chains, but of course, you’re dealing with a single outlet small eatery.

So, if you’re eating just to eat, and you want a lot of food at a great price, then one of the local buffets will serve you well. There are plenty of those in the Snellville/Lilburn/Lawrenceville area. Small local restaurant with an engaged owner chef? Those are as rare as four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. And while good social spots like Leon’s in Decatur and Holcomb and Finch are common inside the loop, a place with a smart owner, intelligent clients and a Cheers-like atmosphere are pretty rare in the ‘burbs, and this place appears to have all that.

Very highly recommended. Good food, stellar atmosphere, friendly and smart without any pretense.

Three Blind Mice
1066 Killian Hill Road, Suite 101
Lilburn, GA 30347
(770)-696-4139

Three Blind Mice Restaurant and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Last Sunday, August 2, We went to Frontera in Snellville and they featured a mariachi band.

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The band, we were told, shows up every other Sunday at the Snellville Frontera. That makes their next visit into town about August 16, 2009. Their trumpet player is quite good. I played that instrument at one time, and you don’t do what he did without plenty of practice and endurance. They go to 12 other Frontera restaurants I’m told, which seems an awfully busy schedule.

Frontera also has some new foods, such as this catfish ceviche. They also have old favorites, such as their burrito al carbon.

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Some locations near Snellville I really need to write some reviews about in upcoming days:

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Some of these places I’ve eaten at and need to try again to nail down an opinion on. Others I’ve not tried yet.

Some views from inside Total Wine, which we have spoken about before.

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One of the prettiest views of a restaurant in all of Atlanta is the view of the California Pizza Kitchen in Lenox Square from the level just above it:

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And of course, one photo of Guam boonie peppers. Even the runt boonie is adding leaves these days.

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The closest Kroger to me is the one at the corner of Five Forks and Oak Road, just south of the Five Forks exit on Ronald Reagan Boulevard:

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And no matter what people think of other elements of Kroger, these stores have had a good wine and beer selection for some time now.

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New to Kroger is the Mix a Six idea, where you get to pick what you want in your six pack and take that home with you. I have to admit, that perked up my interest in their products immediately.

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Also new at Kroger are products from New Belgium Brewing. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting to see “Fat Tire” in my neighborhood supermarket that quickly. It was just a month ago when a New Belgium representative was giving away free samples at the Vortex.

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So give kudos where kudos are due. The mainline supermarkets can be innovative. And this is to the benefit of those of us on the edge of town, in suburbia and exurbia, and not within range of specialty stores.

Kroger
3050 Five Forks Trickum
Lilburn GA 30047
(770) 978-9264

Total Wine is an expanding chain with 3 locations in Georgia, and after almost driving past the place I decided to check it out. This will be a very brief review, as a blogger with a *good* camera needs to haunt this place.  It’s located near Perimeter Mall, and this one is just about opposite the Super Target on Abernathy Road.

What I saw: It’s large, with about 5 aisles, 2 of them so wide that stock was being placed between the aisles. One middle of an aisle had a lot of good beer (I’m no judge of wine), such as Abita brands and a nicely priced 24 pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. In yet another aisle they have dozens, perhaps hundreds of individual bottles of beer in a mix-and-match arrangement, and opposite some relatively exotic six packs such as Smuttynose brews. If you like alcohol and are in the Perimeter area, this is a place to check out.

One of the neater things they feature is a small canvas sack with six slots for beer or wine:

Total Wine's canvas bag has six slots, to keep nice beers and wine.

Total Wine's canvas bag has six slots, to keep nice beers and wine.

I certainly was impressed enough to buy one of the bags (and a couple nice beers).

Total Wine and More
Perimeter Square Center
124 Perimeter Center West
Atlanta, GA 30346
(770) 395-1678

Niko Patel is a slim, polite man of medium height whose new store in Snellville, Niko’s Corner, features “fine wine and beer, organics and tobacco”. In all honesty I never saw the tobacco, and because there was some remodeling being done when I arrived, I didn’t spend a lot of time with the wine. I did notice a refrigerator with some rounds of cheese, and the organics spoken of are beauty aids of some kind. I have to admit not knowing wines well, but I know enough about beer to hold my own in a Taco Mac.

Among the beers I saw were a number of American and Georgia based microbrews, some varieties of Sam Smith’s ale, a nice jug of Mississippi Mud’s Black and Tan, seasonal beers from Sam Adams, Kingfisher (an Indian beer), a good looking IPA or two, and Belgian ales, including Chimay. Chimay is a Trappist beer, made by monks in a Trappist monastery. It has a history with Georgia beer aficionados because for many years, Chimay could not be sold in Georgia (as a beer, at least). Georgia laws restricting the alcohol content to 6% or less blocked its sale. In 2004 this law was repealed, and these days you can get Chimay in Georgia.

The lambic beers are prized because their brewing process (using spontaneous fermentation) results in a rich complex flavor. My glance was brief, but I’m pretty sure Niko has those too. And although you can occasionally find beers like Chimay at the liquor store on the corner of Highway 29 and Indian Trail, it’s not consistent. Niko’s appears to me to be the most reliable place to get high end ales and beers short of Hinton’s Wine Store on Holcombe Bridge Road.

Two beers that Niko's Corner sells. A Coke can is provided for comparison.

Two beers that Niko's Corner sells. A Coke can is provided for comparison.

I picked up Niko’s card before I left. It says he’ll take special orders, and there are case discounts available. And even if you only want to look at a bottle of Chimay (it’s a big bottle), please drop by. Niko is a pleasant person to deal with and happy to talk about what he sells.

Niko’s Corner is located at 2050 Scenic Highway, between the Oak Road and Dogwood intersections, roughly across the street from O’Charlie’s.

In the same strip mall as Nikos is an incarnation of Jersey Mike’s subs. While not a to-die-for favorite of mine, I had a colleague, Jeremy, who just loved the place, to the point where if people went and were not coming back, he’d scavenge their visit cards so he could collect enough visits to get free subs. In my case this means I’ve been to Jersey Mike’s (the Jimmy Carter location) exactly once. I thought I would try this one. It’s not a bad sub shop, roughly in the same class and caliber as Quiznos.

Things to note: very clean and neat. The servers were well groomed, polite, efficient. I had an Italian sub, with mustard, on wheat bread. The bread was a wider cut than say, Subway, and it was fresh. Jersey Mike’s has three sizes of subs, small, regular and giant. Regular is more than big enough for me.  Would I eat here again?  Yes. I can happily recommend Jersey Mike’s.

Jersey Mike's Submarines on Urbanspoon