The local supermarkets, perhaps encouraged by Nam Dae Mun, are now offering a more interesting selection of meats.

Buffalo sirloin.

I was curious about bison. Ted’s serves it, as did the now closed Ruby Tuesday. It tends to be tastier than beef, but in the portions shown, a bit expensive. 8 ounces of buffalo steak cost me about $6.80, close to 14 dollars a pound.

I prepped the steak in a traditional way, dry spicing before sealing in a pint bag. This went into the sous-vide pot for four and a half hours at 131 F. The result?

This was the most tender steak I’ve ever prepped by this method. Utterly delicious.

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This is a topic, I’ll note, covered nicely on the Sous Vide Supreme blog, in a recipe supplied by Richard Blais, but my take on lamb as steaks is that you can treat them pretty much the way you would treat beef steak. This lamb was something of an impulse buy. I’m short of fresh herbs, so I made do with the powdered stuff I usually use on steaks these days.

I sealed the meat in a Food Saver bag. This isn’t necessary, a good Ziploc will do.

The steak was cooked at 130 for two hours, then 131 the remaining three. Note that with my setup (a PID controller), I have a peak temperature initially 2-3 degrees higher than my nominal setting. This steak peaked at 132 F. Afterwards it was spiced (kosher salt, cracked black pepper, garlic, onion powder, a little cracked red pepper)

then finished on the stove, 45 seconds a side at a high heat. With a red wine reduction, the final result looked something like this.

As a side, I tried a steamable edamame I found at the local grocer.

This product tasted better than it looked coming out of the microwave. Be warned.

They call them flats, but they look like pizzas to me. They’re oblong ovals, covered with a light sampling of toppings. Mine was an Italian sausage flat, and it was crisp, tasty, and certainly worth the $9.50 I spent to get it.

I wasn’t intending to go to Urban Flats. All I wanted to do was find it. It turns out to be in the same mall area as Red Robin and Ted’s Montana Grill. If you head to Red Robin, you’ll pass Urban Flats on your left.

It was a peculiar time of the day. No one was around, but once I stepped inside I had to see a little more. This is a place with some very promising reviews (here from the AJC and here from Chow Down Atlanta). And it is pretty. Urban Flats has high ceilings, a kind of industrial roof. Most of the clientele this time of the day were female, with cell phones glued to their ears.  Below the roof it has a kind of modern look. I asked to sit at the bar, as it made some sense. They have inside and outside seating, for those wanting some breeze with their food.

Urban Flats is part wine bar, part restaurant and by my count, they had 24 wines on tap, and about 10 different beers on tap. The wines.. I don’t know wine well, but I’m sure they have something you like if you’re into that kind of thing. Beers on tap included Yuengling, Guiness, Bass Ale. In bottles they have a wide range of beers, from Bud Light and Corona to exotic microbrews. I ordered a Guiness and their Italian sausage flat. Atop the glass doors and steel enclosing the wines being tapped is a selection of liquors and liqueurs (I recall a nice big bottle of Drambuie, which my father favors).

Service was very good,  considering the hour I arrived. I had no trouble getting attention when I wanted it, but staff were chatting among themselves, since it was so slow. I can’t give you any indication of how it would be at, say, 9pm at night.

Prices are better than you might expect. If you compare Urban Flat’s prices to Red Robin or Ted’s, they’re about the same. If you compare their flats to Mellow Mushroom‘s small, once you add toppings, they’re about the same. The flatbreads are not competitive with Mellow’s medium or large pizzas, but then again, that’s an entirely different market altogether.

Verdict: I haven’t been here enough to call this more than a first impression, but the restaurant is pretty, the food is good and competitive in price with surrounding restaurants. The beer collection is quite good. Highly recommended if you like wine or beer with your food. Especially recommended if you’re younger and want the possibility of a social scene with your food.

Urban Flats Flatbread Company
1250 Scenic Hwy SW
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
(678) 344-2022

Urban Flats Flatbread Co. on Urbanspoon

When you’re walking the riverfront of Savannah Georgia, and your feet hurt, your body aches, and your stomach is asking for a little attention, this restaurant delivers. For one, the inside walls are beautiful: cracked masonry that reminds me of my grandfather’s houses, or a drive into Amish country in Pennsylvania. For another, the food they serve comes at a cost that doesn’t induce immediate fear and panic.

This was our third visit to this restaurant, overall, and there was a wait this time, a short one. And once we were seated there was an argument as to whether we had sat in the exact same seat the last time. That ended when the waiter came. I ordered the stuffed flounder, my daughter and wife ordered shrimp po boys. We also ordered a soup to begin, the crab chowder.

The chowder isn’t the pure white you might associate with a New England clam chowder. Instead there is an ounce of yellow in the color, along with bits of potato and small bits of crab. I liked it, my daughter really liked it, my wife didn’t like it – there was a ‘taste’ in it, she said.  But my wife is picky about her food, and even more so when milk or cream is in food.

The po boys were large, not huge, with several large shrimp each. They came with a potato side (french fries, or baked potato). My dish came with a steamed vegetable side as well as a potato. The fish in my dish was a bit more football shaped than I anticipated, but that didn’t affect the taste. The flounder was stuffed with deviled crab, covered with red spice and tasty. My wife finished her sandwich. My daughter was feeling picky, so she ate the shrimp, but otherwise picked at her food. Maybe she was thinking of Savannah’s Candy Kitchen a little further down the street.

We ended with a bourbon pecan pie, which wasn’t bad at all, though I was wishing it were a little richer in pecans.

Service is largely good here. Our waitress was attentive and when we were asking about desserts, quite helpful.

Verdict: The Cotton Exchange delivers reliably good food for someone prowling the riverfront. Though nothing on Savannah’s riverfront is cheap, you won’t feel as if you’ve overpaid for the scenery here.

Cotton Exchange on Urbanspoon

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

Texas Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

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