It’s a nice looking bar in a town full of nice looking bars, but one with a casual air, not as high strung as the bars along Ponce de Leon. With 16 taps of good beer, all described on a blackboard above and to the side of the bar, you can drink well here, and the food is entirely respectable.

img_6751

img_6752

I had an Italian beef sandwich when I came, more than enough food for a pub. I like the place, wood and brick walls combine nicely to create a soothing atmosphere.

Melton’s App and Tap
2500 N Decatur Road
Decatur, GA 30033
(404) 634-9112

Melton's App & Tap on Urbanspoon

It’s an older chain and probably one a little under appreciated, given the existence of newer, fancier sushi joints. But sushi isn’t the reason I eat Japanese. I eat for the whole of the cuisine. And yes, if you’re the kind of eater who only eats sushi, and who needs his sushi served from gold bowls and only using the flesh of endangered species jetted in, then you and I have serious differences of opinion.

Entrance to the Ponce Sushi Avenue.

Entrance to the Ponce Sushi Avenue.

Some of the best sushi I’ve ever had was inari sushi, served hot and steaming, made fresh and seasoned just minutes before. It’s not all about the expense of the product. Rice is a modest grain, but it can be grand if handled with skill. The question is, which eaters can distinguish between pomp and circumstance and real skill?

miso soup and some seaweed salad.

miso soup and some seaweed salad.

Calamari. I'd have preferred salmon shio style, but evidently they don't serve it here anymore.

Calamari. I’d have preferred salmon shio style, but evidently they don’t serve it here anymore.

Mixed sashimi.

Mixed sashimi.

The one thing that has impressed me about the Snellville edition of this small chain is its authenticity and the ability to still eat a Japanese meal despite the heavy sushi (and sushi roll) emphasis. You see that breadth at the original as well. Things like noodles of various kinds (nabeyaki udon), donburi bowls, tempura and teriyaki, tonakatsu, agedashi tofu, Japanese pickles all are options at this chain. The foods they provide are not exhaustive, in the manner of a Haru Ichiban or a Shoya Izakaya, but they pass my mother-in-law test, meaning I could take my 100% Japanese mother-in-law to the eatery, and she’d leave happy. The average American can come here and know they won’t get a narrow, limited culinary experience.

All that said, I do prefer the Snellville location. The staff in Snellville are almost all Japanese. That wasn’t true on Ponce. I know the Snellville menu, and we have years of them in drawers in my house. When I ask for things that used to be on the menu in Snellville, I usually get them, rather than getting a “what planet did you come from” look from a Hispanic staffer.

Irony is, the newest member of this small chain is, in my opinion, more authentic than the original. That said, the original is still pretty darned good.

Sushi Avenue
308 W Ponce De Leon Ave
Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 378-8448

Sushi Avenue on Urbanspoon

PS: I’ll mention this again: for those food bloggers aspiring to talk intelligently about the Japanese meal, you simply must have Shizuo Tsuji’s book, discussed here.

Max Mc Gee’s is an Irish pub on Sycamore Street, the “Wall of Restaurants” just south of the Marta Station in Decatur. It is a pretty upscale affair, with a good beer selection, pleasant staff, and it turns out, more than decent pub grub.

In terms of an “Irishness scale”, this pub is no more or less Irish than the others in this city inhabiting this genre. About 80% of the food could be found in any nice pub. Perhaps a fifth of the dishes have an English or Irish cast to them. Various pies, sausages, and other tidbits speak of the Islands, but probably not to the extent to transport anyone to a virtual Dublin.

Mussels, quite good. Tasty broth.

Mussels, quite good. Tasty broth.

Fish and chips.

Fish and chips.

Very good corned beef in this sandwich.

Very good corned beef in this sandwich.

But speaking of what we tried, the mussels were in a good tasting broth, worth dipping. The breaded fish in the fish and chips was dry, and tasty. The serving was large. My daughter perhaps ate a third of it. The corned beef in the sandwich we had was tender and fatty, a bit reminiscent of the brisket at Heirloom BBQ on a good day. The meats we touched were impressive, worth savoring.

In terms of location, the restaurant is to the far side of the Square Pub and can be missed.

Max Mc Gee’s
111 Sycamore Street
Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 377-8050

Mac McGee's Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

The neatest thing about a Victory sandwich is its size. They’re perhaps 3 to 4 inches around, small, perhaps two being a typical lunch portion for a male. One would be fine for someone watching their weight, or in general, a perfect starter for someone going out to a party or dancing. And that’s what I see about Victory that fits. You have a date, you need something, but not too much of anything. A drink might help too. In those circumstances, Victory Sandwich Bar would be perfect.

img_6673

Castro sandwich  on the left, Hambo on the right.

Castro sandwich on the left, Hambo on the right.

The bar itself is on Church Street, maybe half a block or so south of the Row of Restaurants in Decatur, the spots that parallel the MARTA station. It’s more bar with some food than a gastronomically focused spot.

Of the nine sandwiches available that day, we tried the Castro (smoked pork and ham) and the Hambo (prosciutto and mozzarella) sandwiches. We liked both, but of the two we liked the Castro best. There was just more meat in the Castro, and in a small sandwich, that matters.

Victory Sandwich Bar
340 Church St.
Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 377-9300

Victory Sandwich Bar on Urbanspoon

Sawicki’s is in a modest location on Ponce de Leon, near a Taco Mac, and gives little indication that this is one of the more highly regarded sandwich shops in the city. The focus of the shop is on fresh ingredients, and in their better offerings, plenty of them.

img_6683

We ordered a roast beef sandwich, a roasted lamb, a veggie sandwich, and a mediterranean salad. The salad was probably overkill.

img_6687

The roast beef sandwich was a fistful of meat in between bread.

veggie sandwich.

veggie sandwich.

Mediterranean salad. The veggie sandwich and the mediterranean share many of the same ingredients.

Mediterranean salad. The veggie sandwich and the mediterranean share many of the same ingredients.

Roasted lamb. Not as enormous as the other two, but plenty  tasty.

Roasted lamb. Not as enormous as the other two, but plenty tasty.

There is no magic in these sandwiches. It starts and ends with fresh, high quality ingredients. Prices are entirely reasonable, most sandwiches under 9 dollars.

For the folks too new at the blogging game to remember, back in the day Foodie Buddha had a sandwich tour, much as Jimmy once had a pizza tour. Sawicki’s was one of the highest ranked sandwich shops on his tour. In the four years since the tour, the quality hasn’t changed.

Sawicki’s
250 West Ponce De Leon
Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 377-0992

Sawicki's Meat Seafood and More on Urbanspoon

The Iberian Pig is a nice looking restaurant in Decatur, near the Marta station and along a row filled with good restaurants. We went on a day where we had no restaurant specifically in mind. We just wanted good food and the opportunity to be seated quickly. At Iberian Pig, they could seat us within 5 minutes if we could sit outside. Usually that’s the kiss of death for my wife’s asthma, but this day, she was feeling good enough that we managed.

We started with small dishes, were served only one main dish (my daughter’s cabrito carbonara), and otherwise just ate things that appealed. Things we enjoyed included fried eggplant, pork cheek tacos, some octopus (pulpo a la parilla), lamb ribs, and Iberian Pig’s asparagus. My wife had an arugula salad, and we also asked for bread, which took some time coming. By the time it arrived, my wife and daughter had grown bored and started wandering, as a King of Pops cart within a few feet had caught their eye.

pork cheek tacos.

pork cheek tacos.

pulpo a la parilla, a good tasting octopus small dish.

pulpo a la parilla, a good tasting octopus small dish.

cabrito carbonara, a dish with shredded goat.

cabrito carbonara, a dish with shredded goat.

Overall, I’d say we enjoyed this meal. Service ranged from good to sensational at times. When Iberian Pig starts delivering food, you can have as many as 4-5 servers around your table. Our waiter was gracious and funny. Dishes ranged from good to superb (my daughter loved her goat dish). The restaurant is definitely a keeper, and I could easily see us coming back.

The Iberian Pig
121 Sycamore Street
Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 371-8800

The Iberian Pig 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