It’s a smaller shop and hard to see from the road, famed these days for being the original home of Peter Chang’s spicy cooking. We came on a weekend, to check it out and see. I didn’t even see the place until my daughter finally said, “Dad, turn HERE.”

Inside, we arrived right as several large groups must have left, and there were several large groups still eating. We were seated quickly, but then we had to wait for service. There was no cutlery on the table once we were seated. None arrived until we explicitly asked for it – after we were served food. Given that there appeared to be two staffers working the tables, I’m not entirely surprised. Overwhelmed, you  know?

Once we started ordering I think half the time we were told, “I’m sorry, we’re out of this dish. Can you order another?” I know for a fact this cut my wife out of some dishes she really wanted to try, the dry fried eggplant being dish #1 in her eyes.

We started with a tofu and mushroom soup. It was good. Nothing mind blowing, but good.

We also had mushroom with wild pepper. It’s a cold dish and if you’re not prepared for the cold dishes, they’ll seem off putting to you. But I like the variety of mushrooms you can get in a Chinese restaurant.

We ordered Shan City chicken, as my daughter has decided the various incarnations of this dish around the city are “her” food. This was an excellent version, reason enough on its own to come here.

I tried a duck dish. It ended up deep fried, and I felt something of a disappointment. I don’t think fried duck has as much appeal as oven based treatments, where it’s possible to have very distinct texture and flavor differences in a single bite of food. Duck skin can be very different from duck fat, and in turn you have the richness of the meat. Frying makes it all the same.

It has to be noted that all the dishes looked like they were being prepared for the eyes. They’re visually fantastic. Colors are striking on the plate and the food always seems to look like an explosion of rich color.

In all we had a highly mixed experience. Some  of it was just the day. We arrived just past a peak and were dealing with an overburdened staff and shortages in the kitchen.  Certainly not ideal, in any sense. I’d say that the plusses were enough to recommend the place, but the minuses are substantial. If you need excellent staff and any dish on the menu, regardless, this isn’t the place to choose. If you don’t mind a hit or miss meal with a few “knock you dead” dishes, this place can deliver.

Tasty China
585 Franklin Road
Marietta, GA 30067
(770) 419-9849

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Large chunks of lobster and Alaskan king crab swim over the top of this enormous bowl of seafood soup. It was a gift, to my daughter, for making an unexpected ‘A’ in school.

Not everyone was as thrilled with this dish as my daughter was. My wife felt it a bit too salty. But with serving sizes so large we were bound to take food home, no one went away hungry.

Marietta Diner
306 Cobb Parkway
Marietta, GA 30060
(770) 423-9390

Marietta Diner on Urbanspoon

Pappasito’s Cantina is a Mexican edition of the Pappas family empire, a chain of multiple restaurants across seven states. This particular location is on Windy Hill, in Marietta. The location is raised and a little hard to see, but is almost immediately on your right as you exit I-75 for Windy Hill. A version of Pappadeaux’s is next door. If you end up in Pappadeaux’s, the two parking lots are connected, towards the rear.

Once a year my alma mater holds its Texas Independence Day festival. This year it was in Pappasito’s. Unlike other years, it wasn’t a shared celebration, but one with just our school. Evidently we had enough attendees to manage it this time.  As a consequence this isn’t your average review. I will note for those who wonder about those things, I did see a fajita plate while leaving, and Pappasito’s uses a heavy plastic plate with a metal liner. No comal, but you can’t have everything in a busy restaurant.

We were served in the back. Plates of chips, yellow queso, and tamales were on all the tables initially, while we gathered.

After some time, trays were filled with food. Chicken, beef, sides. This was a pleasing respite, as pretty much everything but the cheese was verboten to a diabetic before this point.

The meats were quite good, tender, smoky, flavorful. I went back for seconds. The pico de gallo had to take the place of chips and tamales, so I ate heaps of it. The jalapenos were sometimes hot, sometimes not. There were not enough grilled vegetables.

Staff was around, well dressed, constantly refilling drinks. Tortillas (all flour) were  tender, steamed, fresh. The food is classic Tejano. Yellow cheese. Emphasis on meats, with the faijita as the centerpiece. The tamales were thick and full of beef. They were well received, but I didn’t think of taking photographs when I first arrived. I was trying to get my hellos in at that time.

Verdict: Classic Tex-Mex, served with some panache.

Pappasitos Cantina
2788 Windy Hill Road
Marietta, GA 30067
(770) 541-6100

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The Marietta Diner is an Atlanta icon, the model on which most diners in the city are based. It isn’t a product of random fame, but rather a function of it performing better than the competition. It starts with a good staff, dressed in white shirts and tie, staff that is courteous and cooperative. Having more than one staff member work with your table seems routine here. It continues with a deft handling of a large menu. Food isn’t all staples, nor is it boring.

The diner has a good looking outside, though the combination of chrome, glass, and gray cinder block is an interesting one. The Marietta Diner is part of a family of restaurants, the sign announcing the sister restaurants clearly visible from the diner parking lot. Inside, brown wood is supplemented with a color scheme dealing in burnt oranges and reds, resulting in a more subdued look than many neon and chrome diner interiors.

On this day I had a series of dilemmas caused by the menu, which I mostly solved by making the most conservative choices I could. There was an Irish lamb stew in the specials, which looked really good. But did it have potatoes? If so, how many? So, I chickened out and had the Mediterranean panini instead. Yes, it had sweet potato fries on the side, but I didn’t have to eat them. It came with a soup, so I chose cream of spinach, trying to avoid the pastas of, say, chicken noodle. The soup came out quickly.

I tasted creamy, buttery, and cheesy flavors in the soup. The flavors of spinach were more hinted at than dominant. This isn’t a food I’ve had much of, since my diet pretty strictly limits my fat consumptions, and the soup was quite rich.

The panini was an interesting dish. There was far more cheese in it than chicken, and the vegetable slices were thick and delicious. The chicken that was there added a distinct grilled flavor to the sandwich and the gooey cheese acted as the glue that held it all together.

The serving of fries was huge and enticing. I had one fry. I couldn’t resist. In general, dishes in this eatery were enormous. The wings plate and the chicken fried steak plates served next to me could easily feed two people. Take out bags looked like grocery shopping bags. Desserts, in glass and chrome display cases, were huge.

This diner brings back memories, as the first place I stayed in Atlanta was a couple minutes away from this diner. Age seems to have enhanced the reputation of this eatery. Guy Fieri’s visit made it much easier to get my family here (no photos of that visit though). And the sheer efficiency of the place, the quality of service, the easily accessible menu keeps people coming back for more.

Verdict: An iconic diner that easily holds up to its reputation. Highly recommended.

Marietta Diner
306 Cobb Parkway South (i.e. US 41)
Marietta, GA 30060
(770) 423-9390

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Notes: Other blog reviews of this diner include one by John Bickford, another by Amy of Amy on Food, and also the blog Vainas Varias.