The three are a portabella, a fish and a gyro taco. All good, but the portabella? Surprisingly good.

Portabella on left, gyro on right. Fish taco in the middle.

Our original review of this restaurant is here.

Teela Taqueria
227 Sandy Springs Place
Atlanta, GA 30328
(404) 459-0477

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Desta Ethiopian Kitchen is in a collection of shops on the corner of Briarcliff and Clairmont Road. It’s a block south of the I-85 – Clairmont Intersection, and on the right as you’re heading south. It’s not easy to see, more on the Briarcliff side of things. When you see what looks like parking, pull off the road and look for it.

There are at least three other Ethiopian restaurants in the area as well. Desta is in a separate building, and you may see the drive through before you see the rest of the restaurant. There is outdoor and indoor seating, and a decent amount of parking by the restaurant. Inside, it’s quite an attractive restaurant, if small, and there are both tables and booths to sit in.

I came here on a Father’s Day, after having argued the merits of 2-3 other places. I had eaten Ethiopian food about 22 years ago, in a restaurant in Philadelphia. On that day, the food was laid on a huge chunk of the Ethiopian bread (called injera, and made with the grain teff) and the food placed over the bread. Injera is spongy, and it is intended to be used as a utensil. We tore up bits of our plate of bread, scooped up the food, and ate it. From what I could see in the newspaper, the arrangement in Desta was going to be a little different.

We ordered chicken, fish, and lamb tibs, and my wife was also curious about their lentil stew. So we ordered a side of that. When the food came, the dishes were served on long rectangular trays, maybe 3 inches wide and perhaps 12-14 inches long. All the meats and fish were cut into small chunks, to be easy to handle. Each dish came with a house salad on the side. And in shallow grey pans came the pale brown injera, rolls of it, as long as the palm of your hand and the roll perhaps an inch to an inch and a half thick.

My wife ended up asking for a fork.

My daughter and I took to the bread easily, and tore off chunks of it to eat the food.  The stew came with a spoon, and I’d pour some of the stew into a chunk of the bread and eat that as well. My daughter loved her fish, which was mild and a little crunchy. My wife liked the chicken quite a bit (it had a yellow color to it and seems to have been nicely spiced) and I liked the lamb dish I chose. We had differences of opinion about the lentil stew. My daughter and I liked it, my wife wasn’t as happy with it.

One thing that is easy to do at Desta is underestimate how much food you’re really eating. The injera ends up being a lot of your meal, and so what seems like a small serving can end up quite a large one. As a consequence, we took home food from every plate that was served to us, along with about six rolls of the bread.

Given the quantity of leftovers, the meal was shockingly inexpensive. Service was generally excellent.

Verdict: Delicious ethnic food served in a way that doesn’t shock as many first time Americans. Highly recommended for those looking for something new.

Desta Ethiopian Kitchen
3086 Briarcliff Rd.
NE Atlanta, GA 30329
(Inside Williamsburg Shopping Center)
(404) 929-0011

Desta on Urbanspoon

Update: Amy on Food’s nice review of Desta features some excellent photos and a review of the foods she tried.

Tastee’s Jamaican Cuisine is a small restaurant in a strip mall one block south of the Highpoint Road-Highway 124 intersection. It sits adjacent to Flame’s Sports Bar and Grill, facing 124. The day I arrived they were smoking their jerk chicken just outside the store.

tastees

Inside, it’s small. There are a few tables, but very few. The menu is scrawled on a whiteboard, there are covered containers of food behind a counter, and on the counter, a heating rack full of patties. They have chicken and beef patties at this place. Patties are cheap, less than $2.00 each. They also have dinner plates, with jerk chicken, oxtail, curried chicken and goat, brown stew chicken and brown stew fish. The dinner plates come in a medium and large size, have peas and rice and vegetables as sides.  Medium plates run about $7 dollars or so and large plates about $9.50 or so.

I was shopping for lunch. My wife only eats patties, so I bought 4 chicken patties and a large plate of curried goat to go. As appealing as the smoked chicken was, I had never had goat and this was an opportunity. We took it home, shared tastes. My daughter had never had goat either and there wasn’t any way she was just eating patties.

Goat is a dark meat, and some compare the taste to lamb or veal.  The curry spices, of course, were the dominant flavors in the dish. The curry was tasty without being too spicy or overpowering. Peas and rice were good, and the mixed vegetables (largely stewed cabbage) were good as well. The patties, in comparison to  Golden Krust, were larger, rounder, and the filling was creamier in texture. The patties had some spicy heat, which wasn’t immediately obvious but would creep up on you later.

Verdict: good first impression, recommended for now. It is inexpensive, as patties are cheap and filling. I will need to go back sometime and try their home smoked chicken.

Tastee’s Jamaican Cuisine
2671 Centerville Hwy
Snellville, GA 30078
(678) 344-7004

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My wife was the one who asked me to check this place out, and in all honesty I was resistant to the notion. But it was an unusual day, I was heading home down highway 29, and it was there, at the southwest corner of Lawrenceville Highway and Indian Trail, just opposite the Tacqueria Los Hermanos. So I stopped.

Before I took a look there I checked in at a restaurant named RJ’s, which is French creole, a fusion of Caribbean and French cuisine. I had no time to eat but it looks too interesting to ignore forever.  I picked up a take out menu and headed into the market instead.

Lilburn International Farmer’s Market isn’t a farmer’s market in the traditional sense. It’s more an oversized grocery, a ethnic market on steroids. In this respect it’s no different from the Gwinnett International Farmer’s Market or DeKalb or Super H Mart, for that matter. It’s maybe a quarter of the size of Buford Highway Farmer’s Market or Super H Mart, but it has a decent collection of vegetables.  There is a competent and useful collection of peppers.  About the only complaint I could have was the cilantro that day didn’t have leaves all in a tight bunch, but was a little leggy. They had habanero, jalapeno, red jalapeno, long hot peppers, poblanos, etc.

But it was the meat collection that most impressed. You could see the butchers behind glass working and I didn’t have any doubts I could get one of them if I needed to. Meats were good looking, sealed in plastic, and at the price you expect when international markets price meat – meaning low low low. Ribeyes were 4.99 a pound. New York Strip was 1.99 to 3.99 a pound – hard to believe that was New York Strip. I bought a nice looking Sirloin for 1.99 a pound. Prices were so low I was pinching myself and asking, “Is that really the right cut of meat?” The sirloin, which I bought to try, certainly looked the part.

I checked some of the other aisles. The beans aisle was merely half an aisle as opposed to a whole aisle, but had most of the essentials. There was one rare find and that one was worth noting: they sell quinoa, and the quinoa is between 2.09 and 2.40 for a package that is slightly less than a pound. That makes it the least expensive source of this pseudocereal so far.

Inexpensive quinoa can be found at the Lilburn market.

Inexpensive quinoa can be found at the Lilburn market.

When I was checking out, the grocery carts I saw were full of meats and greens. The amounts were so large that people must have been doing a week’s or a month’s worth of shopping. This is a trend my coworker, Veronica, identified for me some time ago, this shift to international markets for low priced meats and ethnic butchers taking over for families looking to cut their meat prices.

Verdict? The price of meats alone makes this place worth a drive from Snellville. It’s easy to get to. You can head west down Ronald Reagan and then south down Highway 29 (will end up on your right, as you pass the 29-Indian Trail intersection), or you can head down Five Forks and turn right at Killian Hills, and continue just past the Highway 29  intersection and turn left.

The Snellville edition of Texas Roadhouse is on Dogwood Road, close to the intersection of Scenic Highway (124) and Dogwood. The restaurant is in the same large mall area as Men’s Wearhouse and O’ Charley’s, but on the Dogwood side of things. The steakhouse is actually much easier to get to down Dogwood, as that part of Scenic Highway gets a little crowded with traffic. From Ronald Reagan you could exit Web Ginn Road, head towards Brookwood High School, and then hang a left on Dogwood to get to Texas Roadhouse.

As compared to Outback Steakhouse, which we reviewed recently, the atmosphere here is more informal. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Peanuts are served in small metal buckets, all you can eat. There were times when I had a hungry impatient daughter.  Giving her some peanuts kept her hands busy, kept her from complaining until she received her meal.

Occasionally the waitstaff will dance. I’m not sure what the rhyme or reason is, but it’s entertaining when it happens. Items on the menu, for what it’s worth, go by common names here, as opposed to something made up.  You can order a choice sirloin without any feeling of guilt. Steaks are good, competitive in price in my memory and served with good sides. My wife has had good luck with chicken, or ribs, or some combination of the two. Among the appetizers I’ve tried are the buffalo wings and the rattlesnake bites (stuffed jalapenos), both good. In terms of salad dressings, my wife favors the ranch dressing and I’ve had good luck with the italian. My daughter eats all kinds of things here, though I think lately she’s been getting chicken tenders. Service, in my experience, has been good to very good here. Waitstaff will come by, refill drinks, ask how you are doing, and make food suggestions if you need them.

If I haven’t said, this is a popular place and can get crowded for dinner. It might be worthwhile to choose times carefully if you want to just stick your head in and eat.  But in summary, this is a good steakhouse, worth going to, a bit more informal than Outback. I recommend this steakhouse highly.

Texas Roadhouse
1969 Dogwood Road
Snellville, GA 30078
(770) 985-1450

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I’ve never been much for the fake exotic theme. As exemplified by a swell of ‘Hawaiian’ bars in the 1960s, usually with a name like Kon-Tiki and an emphasis on tropical fruit flavored drinks, these things were as realistic as liquid smoke. And the succession of bad themed restaurants hung with me. It was an association that was easy to pass on. For that reason I avoided Outback for years.

Thankfully, just before reaching Atlanta I tried an Outback. I had the Outback special. I ordered a medium rare steak and I received a medium rare steak. Bread, a salad and steamed vegetables came with the meal. Prior to this time I never ate zucchini, but I devoured the squash Outback provided. The steak was square and a little thicker than I was used to, but otherwise a flawless sirloin. The tangy tomato dressing was fine, a nice riff off of catalina. The service was surprisingly good.

Over the next decade and change Outback has managed to hold onto these fundamentals and the Outback in Stone Mountain (just off highway 78, near the 78 and  East Park Place intersection, completely opposite the Best Buy found there) is no exception. My family was eating at this Outback when we were in Norcross, and we’ve continued since moving to Snellville. Be warned that this is a popular restaurant and if you head here on a mother’s day, you could be waiting 90 minutes to a couple hours.

The steakhouse genre is a crowded one and yet we still prefer Outback to most steakhouses for two reasons. The first is the price, as Outback tends to be a little cheaper for the same amount of food, and the second is generally excellent service. I say generally because this location has on occasion simply had service that was merely good. However, the odds you’ll get great service here are higher than at the other steakhouses close to Snellville.

The menu for Outback has recently changed, adding newer, less expensive items. You can go to the Outback web site and download a PDF of the menu for this store. Most of the favorites are still there. I tend to order the Outback special, my wife likes an off-the-menu item called a Drover’s platter (chicken and bbq combination), and my daughter is fond of  the Royal Port Tilapia. New are things like a new pepper mill steak, a marinated sirloin, and ribs and Alice Springs chicken — this last seems a resurrection, in a smaller serving size perhaps, of the old Drover’s platter.

Other items we’ve had and liked include the rack of lamb, the Outback grillers (shish-kebabs), the towoomba pasta, the ribeye, the prime rib, and the Kookaburra wings. We’ve done mother’s days and birthdays here, times where we wanted to be treated a little better than average and were in no particular hurry. This place is highly recommended.

handy tip:

If it’s crowded, watch the seating around the bar. That seating is first come first served. If you can wait until someone leaves, you can often get seating faster than if you let your server seat you.

Outback Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

I had to work this weekend, and while coming home, decided to stop at the Gwinnett International Farmer’s Market and see if they had red lentils. Now I know that Return To Eden has red lentils; but they’re deep into Atlanta and not at all convenient to the northeast side of town I’m on. I will sometimes shop this farmer’s market because they are a good and cheap source of asian yams and kimchi. Also, if you really want the small single serving size of white rice, in microwave containers, they have them too.

When I went there, I was surprised at the variety and quality of fresh peppers they had on sale, and in general at the quantity of Central American and Caribbean foods they had on sale. There is an excellent collection of Japanese and Korean foodstuffs. There were some Thai spices and foods. I bought mung beans, and a can of coconut milk, to try later, and then sat for a long time in an aisle containing nothing but packaged dried beans. I had never seen the small red bean they called the “frijol rojo de seda“. Later I found it is sometimes called the “silky red bean”. I bought a package of those, to try later.

Mung Beans on the left, Central American red beans on the right.

Mung Beans on the left, Central American red beans on the right.

While looking for general advice on how to cook these things, I ran into this recipe for Drew’s Tres Meat Chili. So in the case of silky red beans, you treat them much like black beans, with an overnight soaking and a couple hours of cooking. Too bad. I’d love another legume that is as easy to cook as lentils.