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Monday, July 30, 2012

The Steamhouse

Warning:  The following may be unsuitable for children under 13 and people that don’t eat food due to “texture”

The worst thing about Atlanta isn’t the traffic, it’s the fact that we are landlocked.  Even worse than that, there is a shortage of casual and affordable seafood.  The Steamhouse in Midtown does the best job of filling that void.  Others have come and gone, but the Steamhouse has survived the demise of Buckhead (thank you Ray Lewis) and rose from the ashes to an even better “lived in” venue in Midtown.
The cold Papa John’s “Famous” Crab Dip is a must. And the “We Shuck’em, You Suck’em” Oysters are of course Oysters, but here they are at the very least, consistent  in a city where you can’t get oysters.
My staples are the Lobster Roll and the Blackened Grouper Sandwich with Tater Tots.  And then the magic secret is Old Bay on the Tater Tots.  Why don’t more places do this?
And on Monday’s they have 1 lb of Crab Legs for $12.  I almost feel guilty putting this in writing because I don’t want the secret to get out!
It does make you miss the time when we would head to the Steamhouse after work, have some drinks with friends and Kitty the Bartender (who still tends bar in Midtown) and then head to Rose n’ Crown for a few pints and then hit Tin Roof for a little Francisco Vidal. 

Then a little East Village Grille for a late night meal.  Oh a little memory lane.

So if you want some good seafood and a great venue with some of the best deck seating in Atlanta go to the Steamhouse.  They also throw the Oysterfest in February, which is truly one of the most underrated Atlanta events. 
The Chargrilled Oysters won’t remind you of Drago’s in New Orleans, nor are the Crab Legs like Phillips Seafood in Ocean City, MD, but being 4-6 hours from a good beach, this will do. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Colonnade

Warning:  The following may be unsuitable for children under 13 and people who avoid Cheshire Bridge Road

I’m embarrassed to tell you that I’ve been in Atlanta 16 years and just went to the Colonnade for the first time.  We had our wonderful guide Leslie to guide us through the subtleties of the 80+ year old restaurant.  I now feel like I had a Picasso in my basement only to discover it years later.  But with a lot of cornmeal and butter.  And I mean a lot of butter.
When you first get there, grab a drink at the bar and sit in the lounge.  Leather couches adorn the 70’s style living room and it’s a great place to hold a conversation.

You may soon see this picture on or Saturday Night Live, circa '82
Cheshire Bridge is such an eclectic area, the clientele on a Thursday is an unbelievable mix of people from all walks of life and the Colonnade is a perfect place to launch a great night.  The age range is from 2 to 80, leaning more towards 80.
The dining room is straight out of 1975, but spotless.  I was expecting Lee Majors to jump out to serve us collard greens.   We made sure we had their top server, Eric.  Eric even has a dessert named after him!  Only at the Colonnade.

The Fried Chicken is what they are famous for and that’s what we had of course!  And it was some of the best homemade Fried Chicken I have ever had.  If you listen closely, you may hear my arteries closing.  Let’s just hope I make it through the rest of the article.  I would add a picture, but the Chicken was more delicious than photogenic.
I also had Tomato Aspic for the first time.  Basically a Gelatinous Bloody Mary Mix with Mayonnaise.  It may sound disgusting, but it’s a must try!  My favorites though were the Crowder Peas.  My Grandfather used to grow Crowder Peas and I had them for the first time since he died in 2000.  And they were delicious.
And the dessert was great. The homemade Coconut Iced Box Pie with Hot Fudge may be illegal in some states.   The Peach Cobbler was perfect as well.

If you’ve never been, please go.  And if you know Leslie at WSB (The Dry Rub doesn’t give full names), take her with you.  She’s basically Merrill Stubbing giving you a personal tour of the Love Boat. 

And if anyone wants to grab a drink and have some good conversation, call me I found a great place.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dining With Children (or Avoiding it)

Warning:  The following may be unsuitable for children under 13 and Pandas
As a father of three (ages 4 and under), dining out is not an easy option.  So I must ask the logic of my timing to start my blog.
Living on the Westside of the ATL, I will give you the best options for dining with children or the places to avoid children all together.

Snoop:  “Westside is the Best Side”
Rule #1 is to avoid all fine dining establishments with small children.  People are paying good money to go  out for a nice dinner and to not have calamari tossed at them by a young Tim Hudson belly laughing about it.  Of course, I have broken this rule I’ve taken my daughter to the Palm and Miller Union.  So if you feel the urge, you better know the Owner/ GM and go early, like 75 year old dinner time early.  I also at some point will have a Miller Union review.   It’s the best “farm to table” restaurant in the city.  I love the term “farm to table.”  I feel “organic” is played out and is more a marketing tool for people to feel better about buying a product.  Am I supposed to feel better about eating a cow that eats better than most children in Africa?  I don’t see the logic.  I grew up eating “non organically” and I don’t have a third eye or nipple.  I do have a second chin, but that has more to do with barley and hops than with injected hormones.
Back to the theme!  My daughters favorite restaurant is La Parilla, decent Mexican, cheap and they embrace children with balloons and treats.  I would also recommend Salsa on Howell Mill.  Really good food, neighborhood feel and they have white paper as tablecloths for the kids to write on.  The Paella and Tacos are great.  The Howell Mill Food Park is also ideal.  How can you make a mess outside?  Go with the whole family and sh*t the place up.  The NY Deli is also great.  Great service, real deli sandwiches and a very underestimated breakfast.  If you are willing to roll the dice, get the Heart Attack Breakfast Sandwich.  Taylor Ham is the most underused of all deli meats.  If you don’t know, now you know.
Then of course is Chik Fil A.  All kids love CFA, the service is great, the product is great and you have a playground in some of them for them to play in after lunch.  Of course as of late they have decided to enter the arena of expressing their moral opinions.  Listen, I like you better when the fat cow was telling me to “eat more chikin.”  You’re a fast food joint, give me a chicken biscuit (preferably spicy) and keep the opinions to yourself.
Later this week (hopefully) we’ll have Fox Bros and the Colonnade.   Could be a big week for me and my 2 followers.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why the Cheesecake Factory Sucks

Warning:  the following may be unsuitable for children under 13 and people who like to wait over an hour for mediocre food.  Everybody else, join in.
Good friends don’t let good friends go the Cheesecake Factory.  A good restaurant doesn’t do 150 completely different dishes well.  Think about it, it makes ZERO sense.  Bruce Jenner won the decathlon because he was decent at multiple events, but he couldn’t hold any individual Olympians jock if he wanted to.  Now look at him, he’s a botoxed puppet in a family known for not having jobs.  A sports car is a sports car because it hauls ass, not because it hauls a family of five.  You can’t be everything to everybody.  If you try, you’ll fail (my first fortune cookie moment).
Take the Havana Sandwich Shop, they make the best Cuban sandwich in Atlanta.  They don’t offer you Filet Mignon on page 8 of the menu.  The Vortex makes burgers, if you order something else you deserve food poisoning.  But if you want to try a burger, try Muss and Turners, trust me (more to come on that during “Burger Week”). 
Know what you are, nobody epitomizes this more than Johnny’s Hideaway.  They pour the heaviest drinks and you better be ready to dance (with somebody 55+ of course).  As my friend Jeff says “Johnny’s is like a 401k plan if you find the right sugar moma.”

When I’m ordering food, I don’t want to have to refer to page 10 across from the DUI Lawyer's ad to order Fish and Chips which is right above Pad Thai.  If you want Fish and Chips, go to Fado.  If you want Pad Thai go to Nan (though I would recommend the Red Snapper or the Pad Prik Sea Bass).  In fact, any decent Thai restaurant makes a decent Pad Thai.  Annie’s Thai Castle is probably the best lunch value for Thai.  Sorry for the tangent, I like Thai Food.
You know what they are probably good at?  Cheesecake.  Stick to what you know.  Don’t embarrass yourself.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cafe Agora

Warning:  The following may not be suitable for Children under the age of 13 and anyone that does not like baba ganoush.  Everybody else, welcome aboard

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There are two restaurants that I would implicitly allow to order for me.  Mr. Chows in Beverly Hills and Café Agora in Buckhead. 

“Big” Al Ozelci is the owner, host, waiter, cook, philosopher and apparently dabbles in used weaponry.  I tried not to get into the specifics of that, nor would I want too.  Let’s also not ask what’s in those big barrels in the back.
Al will always start you off with a Maza Platter that has the best baba ganoush and hummus that I have ever had.  It’s homemade and has a unique smoky flavor.  Whether or not that flavor derives from Marlboro, I don’t know and never want to know.

Most people order the lamb gyro which is delicious and his homemade tzatziki sauce is delicious.  But his strength lies in the traditional dishes such as Iskender and his Lamb Shish Kababs with the meet on the skewers ready to go.  If you want to try it, the Iskender is great, but you may need angioplasty within the hour since the butter is a big ingredient in this  piece of heaven. 
The décor is “different” as well.  You do feel you have been imported to a gritty place in Istanbul or a bad music video.

So make a trip, listen to Al’s stories and let him order for you.  You will not be disappointed.  Even my picky daughter loves this place.  We had it to go last night and she wouldn’t let me touch the Maza Platter (except for the eggplant)! 

And for the love of god, have the Baklava afterwards too!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gary Danko in San Francisco

Warning:  The following may not be suitable for Children under the age of 13 and anyone with a righteous mullet.  Everyone else, join the party
Every year I go on a guys trip centered around a sporting event.  This year it was the US Open in San Francisco at the Olympic Club.  A vast improvement over being INSIDE of an F4 tornado during last years trip.

Then this happened.  Gary Danko on Saturday night.  One of the best meals I have ever had. Then, in a coincidental twist, my favorite travel website, (not a paid sponsor) decided to get into the restaurant review business and ranked GD’s the #2 restaurant in the country last week.  I love tripadvisor, but do we need another food critic?  Oh yea, that’s awkward, carry on. 
Anyways Gary Danko.  If you name a restaurant after yourself you are either a GREAT restaurant or you are a supreme douchebag.  Well the food was truly great, but I guess he could still be a douche, didn’t meet him.   Best appetizer I ever had was the Oysters covered in Caviar, just decadent.  The Soft Shell Crab, Lobster Risotto, Duck, Scallops, it was all unbelievable.  If you ever go to San Fran, you have to go here.  I thought the décor was a little strange.  I thought the top restaurant in San Fran might have a little more edge since this place was conservative.  The service was impeccable, though our waitress was a little over the top in a “this is going to be the best meal you will have or I’m lacing your cappuccino with LSD “ type of way.  Of course, I thought Joe’s Crab Shack in South Beach has the décor of a nice Cafeteria, but who gives a shit when the Stone Crabs hit your lips.
The Embarcadero was a Culinary Mall of Goodness.  From the Slanted Door down the hall I may have gained 10 pounds.    

We also ate at Tommy’s Joynt, right across the street from where we stayed.  It was on Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives and had mouth watering homemade Pastrami and an unbelievable beer selection.  And it was very reasonable.

Since we spent a good amount of time at the Olympic Club, we didn’t eat at too many other places.  I did meet Tiger’s Mom at the 7th Green and it took everything not to drop a tasteless “Did Tiger really come up with Gatorades slogan “Is it in you?” 
Anyways, loved the City by the Bay and can’t wait to get back. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Introduction to "The Dry Rub"

Warning:  The following may not be suitable for children under the age of 13, vegetarians and people that consume frozen drinks.  Everybody else, welcome aboard.

I've been giving my unsolicited food opinions for so long I decided to share them with the world or the 5 people who will be reading this. If you want standard restaurant opinions please stop reading. If you want a good steak in Atlanta, go to Bones. That's like saying that new BMW 5 series is a good looking car or that Brooklyn Decker is hot. Though if you want great Lobster Bisque you do need to try it at Bones. Did I just break my rule at paragraph 2? 
You will not find anything on chain restaurants, just like the movie Prometheus they visually look great but the ingredients will most often disappoint. Though I am partial to Houston's if you HAVE to do a chain (I just did it again!).
I myself am fallible as well. Two weeks ago at the Fisherman's Wharf in San Fran I had a "shrimp" dish that had shrimp so small I felt empathy for what midgets must feel like in a pick up hoops game at the YMCA. I fell for the tourist trap and I knew it. But what the hell., I was hungry and the beer was cold.
I am not a great cook, but I do know a good meal when I have one.
So why am I doing this?  I have become friends with somebody who runs and I helped her out with a project and thought it would be fun!
I will have restaurant reviews, trip reviews and just general thoughts on food and maybe touch on life in general.
For example:  When ordering food keep it simple. If you go to the Vortex, order a hamburger don't get cute even if the fish basket sounds good. If you're in Italy order a basic gelato, the special flavors all suck. Trust me. If you take a date to the Lobster Bar and she orders a salad, relationship OVER don't pass go do not collect $200 and don't get dessert. In fact give her cab fare home.
I also would like to help tragedies like Chopstix in Buckhead from closing.  Best Americanized Chinese in Atlanta closed after 20-ish years of delicious food.  It's still too soon to talk about it for me. 
                                                                          RIP  Chopstix
So join me and hopefully I can make you laugh or even piss you off.  Either way, let me know!