The Diner is a place we’ve spoken about before. If the sign is correct, they have a catfish special they are running these days.

The Diner is pure eye candy if you’ve never been, with a classic US diner style (very unlike the popular Greek-American hybrids in Atlanta).

The Diner
730 Indian Trail Road
Lilburn, GA 30047
(770) 923-2961

Diner on Urbanspoon

Watershed is a pretty and graceful restaurant, whose building is nonetheless a converted garage. The paint scheme is a light green and blue pastel. The roof is industrial; the walls are adorned in abstract paintings. In the back, there are rows of wine racks, and the tables are covered in white craft paper and surrounded with chairs in a tan natural wood color. There is a bar, and by the restrooms and in the restrooms are dozens of reviews of this eatery, dating back perhaps a decade. Their head chef, Scott Peacock, is a James Beard winner and was mentored by the legendary Edna Lewis, so this restaurant has pedigree down cold.

I found this place by getting lost looking for the Brick Store Pub and heading absolutely the wrong way. In the process I also walked past Sawicki’s (which Foodie Buddha has reviewed) and Taqueria Del Sol (which Adventurous Tastes has reviewed). The whole area is just full of food. Parking is hard to come by in this part of the world and when I came back, with wife and daughter, I was pleased that Watershed had parking of its own.

The lines in Watershed are legendary, and luckily on this Saturday afternoon there were no lines at all. There were so many tables we were told we could pick one.  After choosing a place to sit, we took a look at the menu. My wife had been here before, with a coworker, and strongly recommended the hummus appetizer. So we ordered that. I ordered a salad, the “Shed”,  and the salmon croquettes. My daughter ordered a pork sandwich and french fries. My wife had their hot vegetable plate. She had good luck with it the last time she came.

The table next to us ordered the catfish appetizer, and when it arrived, the two large, beautifully fried catfish left me wondering if I hadn’t ordered the wrong thing. But it wasn’t long before the buttery hummus arrived, with lots of veggies, some feta cheese, and a pita to scoop up the hummus. The hummus was mild, with just a hint of spice, and it worked well with the celery and bits of squash that came with the dip.

Fairly soon after our entrees arrived. The salmon croquettes were smaller than I expected, but as I’m on a diet these days, I was actually happy the serving size was small. The dish came with grits and spinach. The salmon was really good, perfectly cooked. The grits were fine, and the spinach just right. My wife’s vegetable plate had creamed corn, squash, fried okra, and black eyed peas. The pork sandwich was really nice looking, with thick chunks of pork and greens peeking out from underneath the slices of a good looking bread. My daughter took a bite and said:

“It’s good. It’s weird. It’s really chewy.”

and after another couple more bites decided it was okay. The fries were excellent.

My wife was picking at her plate, eating mostly the squash and peas. I know she does not like a lot of okra, and creamed corn has cream, which doesn’t go well with her at all. I tried her vegetables, and liked every one of them.

The service was excellent.

Although my wife wasn’t as happy with her veggies as she was the last time, and my daughter would probably pick something else the next time we come, this eatery gets so many things right and the cuisine is so region friendly I can easily see taking aunts, uncles, cousins, or even my father here. I wouldn’t have to worry about what they could eat. They would find something. Watershed does homage to the cooking of the South, and manages to be innovative as well. I’m really really impressed by this restaurant, and that doesn’t happen all that often.

Verdict: Fine food, often exceptional food. Excellent service. Very highly recommended.

406 West Ponce De Leon Avenue
Decatur, Georgia 30030
(404) 378-4900

Watershed on Urbanspoon

To get to Watershed from Snellville, head south down 78 until it becomes Scott Boulevard. Turn left (south) at Clairmont Avenue, turn right at Commerce, then turn right again when it crosses Ponce De Leon. Watershed will be on your left after a couple blocks.

When I was younger my father would gather the whole family and go for hours to get to an “all you can eat” fish joint.  They could be nice looking or run down shacks. The only common thread between the places he would choose were lots of fish, simple fresh water fish (perch or catfish), good cornbread, usually in the form of hush puppies, and a reasonable price.

One of the things I’ve never been able to successfully locate in the Atlanta area is a simple, reliable place like that. My father made it seem as if the South (or Michigan, for the few years we lived in the Upper Peninsula) was littered with these kinds of restaurants. After all, he could find them just about anywhere. When I’ve looked, it’s been hard to get fried catfish that was also not greasy. Dry fried catfish is a bit of a find these days.

The Blue Marlin is located on Pleasant Hill Road, a couple blocks east of the I-85 – Pleasant Hill Intersection.  I can say that the catfish in Blue Marlin — in my experience — has been both well fried, well spiced, and dry. No, I haven’t tried the entire menu. I could care less about their lobster. I stick to deviled crabs, fried perch, and their salt and pepper catfish. Ok, I tried the flounder once, and it was good too. But mostly I go to this place to remind me of every hole in the wall my father would drag me to.

The hush puppies are good, good enough I’m asked to order extra when I take this food home. Service I’ve had here has generally been good, though with the staff turnover I’ve seen here, I can see why people have complained about the service in the past. To put a slightly different face on it, one of the best dining experiences I ever had came in my first visit here. The waitress was from New Orleans, gabby and excellent. Simply phenomenal. But, as I said, they have a high turnover and I can’t guarantee you’ll get a great waiter or waitress.

Blue Marlin Seafood on Urbanspoon