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.

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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

This place had come as a recommendation of an Indian friend of a work colleague, and so one weekday I waited for my party to show so we could try the place. It is one of a few eateries in a modest strip mall on Johnson Ferry Road, close to where Ashford Dunwoody merges into this road. It’s also not all that far from Peachtree Industrial as well, so either major road can be used to get to this eatery.

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The mall itself hosts a number of small eateries, none I recall being reviewed. So this whole area is gold for a food blogger.

good naan.

good naan.

lamb curry, lunch serving.

lamb curry, lunch serving.

This place is favored as a lunch spot by my coworkers in Dunwoody, and in that role, I think it’s more than adequate. The vindaloo one of us ate was regarded as pretty mild – note that vindaloos shouldn’t be mild, they should be able to raise sweat on your brow, but staff were affable, and the foods were otherwise quite good. I had a lamb curry that day and I enjoyed my dish. Other than vindaloo, my partners had samosas that day and tandoori chicken and enjoyed them.

I will note that my party had one ethnic South Asian (who was the one who wanted more heat in the vindaloo), and the other had no ability to handle hot and spicy foods. So if you have a party with varying tolerances for heat, this might be a good choice as well.

Moon Indian Cuisine
2144 Johnson Ferry Road
Atlanta, GA 30319
(770) 817-1097

Moon Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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

I really enjoyed the Wrecking Bar. Nice location, pretty inside, good waitstaff, good food, superb beer, to be considered in any “best of” pub list in this town. I came because they honored Atlanta’s own curmudgeon, DING, of Ding’s Beer Blog. DING is a pain to local brewers, at times curt and insensitive, but he’s a sharp guy (author of some well respected books on chemistry) and in general, for things he’ll bother to fight about, has a reasonable point of view. The Wrecking Bar actually made a brew, 3.7% ABV, an English Bitter that because of its low alcohol content, is classed as a session beer (DING’s position on session beers is nicely stated here). This is, as far as I know, the only time a blogger in Atlanta has had a beer named after him. What’s more, it’s a beer worth drinking over and over.

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Other than the DING, I had their stout and their porter, both good beers. Both are drinkable and not in the overkill category a lot of brewers seem to aim for these days.

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The food? I had a bratwurst, their kraut and a pastrami sandwich. The sandwich was gooey and full of great meat, but ran a little oily. Had the bread been dry I’d have been happier. That said, I’d suggest they have some ambition in terms of their food, I was certainly happy with what I ate. A pastrami has the problem of being a big sandwich with really juicy meat. A number of pubs I eat at have issues making a dry pastrami.

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It would be hard to understate the quality of the atmosphere in this bar on a lazy weekend. It comes close to perfection.

It’s very clear this place is aiming to be the best in town. It’s *almost* there. A little more work on the execution of dishes and it will be there, with superior small brews and food to remember. The combination of great beer, some serious food ambition, and a terrific location make this a must stop for any foodie who fancies a pint now and then.

Wrecking Bar Brewpub
292 Moreland Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 221-2600

Wrecking Bar Brewpub on Urbanspoon

PS – Easy to miss, from the road the Wrecking Bar looks like a Colonial mansion or part of a palatial golf course. The columns of the 18,000 foot structure are easy to dismiss when driving by. But to note, the ground floor is for events. The bar is in the basement, with the entrance on the side. Jon Watson has a fine discussion of how this building was renovated, worth reading.

Festival on Ponce was something of a surprise. We were driving past it trying to get to a well known Little Five Points eatery, saw the tents, found parking a block from HD1 and hoofed it over to the festival.

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There were plenty of food trucks, some tent setups, with Williamson Brothers BBQ doing a tent as well as Red Brick brewing. I had Red Brick’s amber ale, a good beer for a warm spring day, and a pulled pork sandwich from the Williamson Brothers booth. later, I had a few bites of the turkey leg that Williamson Brothers were offering. I felt it was the best of the barbecue offerings we tried.

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I’ve had plenty of turkey legs at Renaissance Festivals over the past 25 years or so, and I’ve yet to have a turkey leg as good as the one the brothers were serving this day. The difference was that the turkey was smoked, and the smoked flavor came through clearly in the meat. The pulled port was decent. There was bark and smoke flavor in the pulled pork, though clearly that product was aimed to be tender as opposed to richly smoked.

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I also ate at the Yumbii truck this day. They do Korean tacos and they’re good ones. Not blow you away good but respectable food. Unlike some other Korean tacos, these are not drowned in a sweet sauce. Further, the rich serving of leaf lettuce makes these tacos a desirable choice for someone like me, with carb issues.

Williamson Brothers:

Williamson Brothers Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Yumbii Food Truck:

Yumbii 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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