It’s a seafood market mostly. It has a couple tables and it will cook seafood for you, for a fee. In this it greatly resembles New Orleans Seafood on Pleasant Hill. Lawrenceville Seafood is just a little smaller, the crawfish are a little less spicy, and the eatery is closer to those of us near Lawrenceville.

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My daughter and I had some of their crawfish for lunch recently.  Good stuff. Not a bad place if you’re wanting something spicy to take home to the  missus.

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Lawrenceville Seafood
2785 Cruse Road
Lawrenceville GA 30044
770-638-7517

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Umaido is a restaurant with some buzz and I expect the buzz to only get hotter in the coming weeks. First blogged by Gene Lee and then followed on shortly by Chloe Morris, the story of this ramen shop has been told and told well on those blogs. Now, there are places in town that serve ramen, and do it well. Haru Ichiban comes to mind. But I don’t recall seeing anything at Haru that looked like the pork ramen product on Gene’s or Chloe’s blog, and after mentioning this shop to my wife, she was very interested in trying this place.

We came on a weekend after having a heavy lunch, and were planning on having something lighter for dinner. Umaido is just off the Lawrenceville-Suwanee exit of I-85N, to the east, in a strip mall full of interesting Korean eateries, and just a little before Super H Mart. It’s near a Cafe Mozart, which might be easier to spot on first glance than Umaido itself.

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Inside, the long grey concrete walls and totally unclad roof make me feel as if Umaido is industrial, designed by Beethoven, as the theme is as subtle as the intro to the Fifth Symphony.  Otherwise the eatery is thin, with one long table in the middle surrounded by bar stools, and smaller tables otherwise set against the bare grey walls. The place where the ramen is cooked is open to view, prompting Chloe’s comment that the cooking is well worth the watch.

Staff is dressed in black, and they have headbands with .. not sure if it was red kanji or a rising sun motif. Service was plentiful and good. Almost everyone in the restaurant at the time was Asian, or part Asian. The table was stocked with plenty of extras.

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In the metal jars, there were thin red pickles and garlic. In the 2 liter container was tea. Soon we ordered, and so we ordered the gyoza (dumplings), the chasyu rice bowl, and three ramen soups, two miso and one spicy. We ordered drinks as well. Since they didn’t have any diet drinks, I ordered green tea:

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The gyoza arrived first (sorry no photos; they were eaten too quickly), but they were obviously grilled and plenty good. The rice bowl came with it, and no, it didn’t survive the end of the meal either. The meaty squares are pork, tasting of marinade, ginger and other spicy influences.

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Soon after the ramen came.

miso ramen.

miso ramen.

spicy ramen.

spicy ramen.

Both kinds were good. My wife didn’t eat the egg (perhaps shocked at the color) but nothing else survived the carnivorous side of the family. My daughter pretty much ate everything, and as they were offering free extra noodles, I added those to my broth and took care of those as well. The egg was actually mild, and nothing to shock anyone who ever ate an egg sunny side up.

By the end, everyone left happy, full, and pleased. My wife was talking about how this place is going to collect a huge lunch crowd and I hope so. It would be a nice plus for Suwanee and Greater Atlanta for this eatery to become a huge success.

Verdict: Good, tasty, inexpensive, worth a drive. Very Highly Recommended.

Umaido
2790 Lawrenceville Suwanee Rd
Suwanee, GA 30024
(678) 318-8568

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I’ve made several lentil soups whose results I’ve documented (also here and here) on this blog. I hadn’t much success with urad dals (Buford Highway Farmer’s Market sells them as urid dals), a kind of black lentil, because they needed a substantially longer cooking time. Most recipes that use urad dals speak of soaking overnight and then cooking for 3 hours.  So, I decided to try again, and the results are worth reporting. As I’m inclined to improvise, we’ll talk about ingredients as we use them.

We started with a cup of urid dals purchased from Buford Highway Farmer’s Market. Those were soaked overnight and set to simmer in the morning with 6 cups of water. I usually start another pot simmering with nothing but water, so that I can add hot water if the dish requires it.

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After 2 hours I tasted the dals, which seemed soft and probably edible at that point. I added 1/2 cup of bulgur (I would have preferred pearled barley but couldn’t find any) and 2 bay leaves, some hot water and started prepping vegetables. I cut up a yellow bell pepper, 3 stalks of celery, some carrot, equivalent to 1-2 full sized carrots, 3/4 of a large yellow onion, and 1 jalapeno pepper, with seeds. These we sauteed in olive oil for 7 minutes (until the onions begin to turn transparent) and added to the pot (after 2 hours, 15 minutes). We let it simmer for 40 more minutes.

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One characteristic of the Indian recipes is that they wait until the very end and then sautee aromatic spices, garlic, etc in ghee (clarified butter) and add that to the soup. In the same spirit we prepped 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and deveined, 2 large cloves of garlic, thin sliced, 3 decent sized shallots, and a handful of destalked fresh spinach. These we sauteed in olive oil until the spinach was limp and dark green and the shallots were turning transparent (ca 3 minutes), and we added that to the soup, and let it cook 5 more minutes.

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The soup that resulted is vegan, creamy, rich, and full of flavor. All I added was some salt substitute before I served it. Others may choose to add spices of their choice.

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I’m not 100% sure whether the soup grew so rich because of the dals themselves, or because the bulgur acted as a thickening agent. In many of these soups, (great examples are here, here, and here) potatoes can be added to give it a vegetable component, and that will thicken the stock over time.

Havana South Restaurant and Bar is just off I-985 and exit 4, to the west maybe one block, just south of Buford Drive. I’d call it a little place but it isn’t small, really. My recollection is a bar, and maybe 10-15 tables and booths. However, this not-so-large restaurant does a lot of things right, including its outsized effect on your taste buds.

Entrance to Havana South.

Entrance to Havana South.

We dropped by for lunch. After a few minutes with the menu, I chose the black bean soup and a Cuban sandwich, and my daughter chose their masitas puerco. Maduros (sweet plantains, fried) came with the Cuban.

I have to say, the more I have black beans, the more I like them. They are earthier in flavor than kidney beans or pinto beans, and Havana South’s bean soup did not disappoint:

Black bean soup.

Black bean soup.

My daughter’s dish contained large chunks of marinated pork, a side of black beans, and yellow rice.

Masitas Puerco

Masitas Puerco

The serving size I’d judge as large. The pork was really good, crispy and chewy on the outside, soft, hinting of the marinade inside. Everything on her plate was the opposite of plain. The beans had flavors that just baking won’t give, hints of onions and other influences I couldn’t entirely tease out, but mixing well with the dark flesh of the beans. I thought her beans were even better than my bean soup. The yellow rice came across the same way, a full body of flavors, more than just something simmered in a pot.

The Cuban I liked as well.

Cuban sandwich and maduros, fried sweet plantains.

Cuban sandwich and maduros, fried sweet plantains.

The sandwich was made with good quality bread, and had a nice balance between the pork and ham. The pickles and cheese only added to the flavor mix and the serving size was large. The maduros were good and sweet, though I know my wife, who likes most things well done, would prefer her maduros a little crunchier.  That said, I’m pretty sure I could take her here.

In short, the meal was great. The only thing I’d do differently if I came back again is get the side of black beans. In my opinion, they’re better than the soup.

Service was very good throughout the meal.

Verdict: Quality food with flavors that surprise on almost every bite. Staples done exceptionally well. Very highly recommended.

Havana South Restaurant and Bar
4060 Buford Drive
Buford GA, 30518
(678) 546-2252

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Chow Down Atlanta has an excellent review of Havana South. You might think she’s praising Havana South too much, but in my judgment, she’s actually on the mark.

Pure Taqueria isn’t your Dad’s Taco Bell. It isn’t your Mom’s Del Taco. It’s a shockingly good place to eat, with food that looks as if it could be on the menu of any fine restaurant. Pure Tacqueria is also in the process of becoming a chain. They openly promote franchise opportunities on their website, and there are two  locations now, one in Alpharetta Georgia and one in Woodstock Georgia. This review will cover the Alpharetta location.

I came during a lunch hour recently, and the first thing I noted was the total lack of parking at the site. There are about 10 parking spaces by the restaurant. About 1 block down Roswell Street, there is public parking, and plenty of it. And I’m thankful for that, because I then seemed to be in a foot race with 6-7 other people to get into Pure.

Once there, since there was one of me, I was quickly seated. People with larger groups were taking longer this day, maybe 5 minutes or so. Once seated, I had waitstaff asking for drinks almost immediately. To note, the look of the staff is pretty casual. The waiters, bartenders and cooks are dressed in T-shirts. And although the eatery is built from an old wooden frame house, the tables and chairs are of a modern, clean design.

The menu is a single laminated sheet, with one side reserved for drinks and the other a list of foods. Food here isn’t cheap, nor is it expensive. Appetizers run from $5 to $12, and entrees run from $8.50 to $15.00. A typical entree is about $10. Tacos, which run about $10, come 3 at a time at that price. I called my coworkers (this was a work day) and took orders. As for myself I was going to eat there, and ordered the Pescado Veracruz.

Chips came quickly. They were a little thicker than some corn chips, but dry and crisp and tasty. The salsa that came with it was bright with cilantro and moderately spicy. I can see some Atlantans complaining about the heat in this salsa, but I loved it, myself.

The Pescado Veracruz surprised me. I was expecting a fish dish, not fish surrounded by 8 mussels. The look of the meal was fantastic. And the taste was there too. I love mussels, and the fish was really fine as well.

As far up Highway 400 as this restaurant lies, Pure Taqueria isn’t convenient to Snellville. But there is a buzz about this place. It’s currently the #1 restaurant as ranked by Urban Spoon, and throughout lunch, there were people coming into the place. For those who work along “IT corridor” during the days, or have time on weekends, this place would be a worthwhile investment in time.

Verdict: Great little restaurant, really good food and a casual air. Highly recommended.

Pure Tacqueria
103 Roswell St
Alpharetta, GA 30o09
(678) 240-0023

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It can be scary what a bachelor (or in my case, a husband in a family with a working wife) can do if they master a few techniques. I don’t cook many different foods, but quinoa is very easy to prepare and tastes good even if it’s plain. Quinoa salads are one popular way to prepare foods with this pseudocereal, but I’ve been fond of a recipe.. no, more a way of cooking that the blogger Feed Yourself demonstrated and I like to use. Although Feed Yourself called it a pilaf, it’s really more of a stir-fry.  This time the point was to make something good tasting out of vegetables I had to cook or let spoil. Oh yes, and also leave enough behind to do lunch the next day.

Ingredients:

4 ounces quinoa (rinse if necessary)
carrots, several of the “bite” sized pieces, diced
celery (rescued pieces), equal to about 2 stalks
1/3 large red onion, diced.
4-5 mini bell peppers, halved, deveined and deseeded, and then thin sliced
2 cloves of garlic, thin sliced.
2 sprigs each, oregano and thyme.
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil.

Get a 2 quart saucepan and add quinoa and the cup of water (and some soy if you want), cover, heat until simmering,  ca 15 minutes, when the water is gone. Set the quinoa aside. Prep the veggies you need. To note, the combination of onion, carrots, and celery is common enough it has its own name. And in my case, the onion had sprouted, the celery had bad spots, the peppers were showing their age, and the oregano and thyme were almost dry (but smelled so good it was a shame not to use them). I cut the bad pieces out and threw them away.

Put one tablespoon of oil in the frying pan, let it heat on high (I like a drop of water in the pan, to tell me when the pan is hot enough to use. The drop will boil off and that’s your sign). Add vegetables, and turn the heat down to medium. Stir until the onions just begin to change color, about 5-7 minutes. Add quinoa, and the leaves of the spices. Stir for a minute or two, so the quinoa is nice and warm. Pour into a bowl, season to taste, and serve.

Two servings of a quinoa stir fry.

Two servings of a quinoa stir fry.

Notes: on the blog Pink Spots, there is a very nice looking pineapple cashew quinoa stir-fry. The blogger Au Naturel has a recipe she calls an Asian quinoa stir-fry. The blogger Fat Free Vegan has a nice recipe she calls vegetable fried quinoa. The blogger Adventurous Eater likes adding a bit of egg to her quinoa stir-fry.

Fresh Air is an inconspicuous restaurant in Macon Georgia, that is near exit 167 on Interstate 75. If you exit 167 while heading south, turn right on the feeder and follow it for 2-3 miles. When you see a Gold’s Gym sign and then a Longhorns, start looking. Fresh Air is a bit behind the Longhorns.

The location of the restaurant is good, near the intersection of I-16 and I-75, and it is the winner, by far, of a AJC blog article that asked what the best barbecue in Georgia was. We have been traveling a bit recently and decided to stop here while passing through Macon.

Inside, it’s as modest a restaurant as it was outside. There was an equally modest menu, with three plates, a BBQ plate, a pulled pork plate, and a chicken plate. My wife ordered the rib plate (around $9.20), I had the pulled pork plate (less than $7.00), and my daughter had their pulled pork sandwich ($2.49 iirc). On the table there were two barbecue sauces, one hot and one mild.

The pulled pork was moist and tender, and covered a bit with a reddish sauce. When I first tried the pork, the taste hit me and I wasn’t quite used to it. After trying the hot barbecue sauce, it became apparent that the sauce (and therefore the pulled pork) had a really big vinegar based kick. And though the first sensation you taste in the sauce is the sour of the vinegar, the sauce then gives a fair amount of spicy heat, showing a bit of complexity.

I’m not much for vinegar sauces, but I liked Fresh Air’s sauce. I’ve never been able to eat Brunswick stew before, but I could eat Fresh Air’s Brunswick stew. My wife loved the beans she had. All the sides were good, in our estimation.  The ribs were not bad, not the best. They were tender, but didn’t have as much smoky flavor as I’d like. My daughter gobbled down her sandwich. She obviously wasn’t complaining.

Overall, I thought the restaurant was good. The inexpensive plates and especially the pulled pork sandwiches make this restaurant a great value, especially for families on a budget.

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