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Monday, May 27, 2013

King + Duke, A Buckhead Revival (Updated)

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who are unfamiliar with the work of Mark Twain and in particular, Huckleberry Finn.
King + Duke is the latest creation from Ford Fry, the father of JCT Kitchen and The Optimist.  Not surprisingly, the K+D has nothing in common with either of those restaurants, in fact, the foods better.  In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain's most well known novel, the Duke and the King join Huckleberry Finn on his famous Mississippi River journey and Arkansas.  One of their famous schemes was to create fake money to help an escaped slave.  How does this relate to the restaurant?   I have no friggin' clue.  But it sounded insightful, right?

K+D moved into the old Nava space at One Buckhead Plaza (my favorite building that I have worked in).  I was never a big Nava fan, but I have never understood "high end" southwest cuisine either.  Go to Nuevo Laredo and save yourself $50.

One of the great things I like about Fry's strategy is this.  Everybody seemed to have been running away from Buckhead, now Kevin Rathbun and Ford Fry are trying to tap into the sacred land of The Buckhead Life Group.  I guess Richard Blais opened up a Flip Burger in Buckhead, but I still remain unimpressed with Flip and its multiple reincarnations.

Aesthetically, King + Duke doesn't have any peers.  The dining room is cozy and intimate and the kitchen design is to put it bluntly, bad ass.  Diners in that area have a wide open view of the kitchen and there is a complete feel of transparency from inception to completion.  It's not as open as Gunshow, but aesthetically superior.
Steel and Wheels.  Have you ever seen a cooler kitchen?
Ideally I would love to have this kitchen in my house, but the over/ under on catching myself on fire or burning down my house would be 4 hours.  Let us leave this to the professionals.

The one thing I did like about Nava is the patio and K+D have taken said patio to a new level.

Coziness and comfort are the themes here
The food was equally impressive.  The coal roasted onion soup is the best onion soup I've ever had.  Why?  It's made with a Flat Tire Pale Ale, Mahon Cheese and Croutons.  The smoked bone marrow on the side (a common theme at K+D) made it both unique and delicious.  We also had the Candied Lamb Belly which was delicious.  Many places make Lamb Belly too dry, but K+D's incarnation was perfect.
Fat Tire Onion Soup and Bone Marrow?  Wilma!!!

There are so many wonderful varieties of meat on the menu, I tried to request a Meat Helmet to go, but it fell on deaf ears.  One of my favorite comedic quotes remains, "In the Spring we would make Meat Helmets."  "My father also claimed to have invented the question mark."

For our main dish, Dan and I went large.  Both literally and figuratively and ordered "The King."  2nd Warning!  The following image may be paralyzing to vegetarians.

We should have named this thing
"The King" to both Dan and I rivaled Kevin Rathbun's Dry Aged Ribeye, the benchmark for great steaks in Atlanta.  I'm not saying it was better, but it's in the neighborhood, which is one hell of a neighborhood to be in.  The sauce was a mild red wine reduction sauce that was a subtle yet perfect compliment.
The King is in the Neighborhood!
As a comedian, Eddie Murphy at his peak had no rivals, Mr Robinson was one of his finest offerings.  This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be in the company of Lorne Michaels and Judd Apatow, two of the biggest comedic geniuses of our time.  Lorne Michaels was really strange (borderline rude) and Judd Apatow was hysterical and approachable.  You can see his humor in real life come through on the big screen, though "This is 40" may have hit a little close to home at points.  Click the link below only if you want to laugh.

For sides we had the Crispy Torn Potato Salad, Snap Peas (with pancetta of course) and the Mushroon "Wood Roast" with Robiola in a skillet.  The mushrooms were delicious, big and varied in style and size.  The other side dishes were good, but not great.

I wish I could tell you I tried more menu items, but my body wouldn't let me.  If you have never heard of the "meat sweats," you will find out what they are if you order "The King!"

Addendum to the next 3 paragraphs:  I went back to King + Duke yesterday and I can tell you the service was phenomenal.  Even better was the burger.  It's a 9oz Dry Aged Angus Beef Chuck and the onions were sauteed to perfection.  I think it will be a strong "Best Burger in Atlanta" candidate.
It was so good I ate half of it before I took a picture!

Next, I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the service.  I realize it was their first week in operation and there were a few hiccups, but there were too many of them.  My lovely wife ordered a martini that we asked about twice before it arrived.  Near the end of the meal, she ordered a glass of Prosecco that never arrived either.

They also overcooked "The King" so our wives had their main dishes well before ours.  The manager came over and was effusively apologetic and it was much appreciated.  I used to be in the business so I understand circumstances happen.  By themselves, these issues occur, but three times in a night for a place such as K+D is unacceptable as I am sure they would be the first to concur.

King + Duke have put so much of their heart and soul into their restaurant, I have no doubt they will fix this since it is the easiest facet of a dining experience to overcome.   I will be back this week to try their burger for The Dry Rubs "Best Burger in Atlanta" competition.  At which time I will say "Hello Again, Hello."
One word:  Awesome
Click the below link to see Neil Diamond sing in a horrendous jacket in incredibly horrendous fake scenery you would find in some Greek porn taking place in the Acropolis.  But man does he mean it.

In my opinion, there is more than enough room for new and great restaurants in Buckhead.  With the Buckhead Village construction back under way, there is going to be a Buckhead revival soon.  I'm glad to see the King + Duke on the forefront of that movement. I'll be back this week.

Though, this does not mean Ray Lewis is invited back to Buckhead.  Sorry, still bitter.

So go give the King + Duke their due and try out this fine establishment.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Keen's Steakhouse in New York City

Warning:  The following may not be appropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who have no idea who General Douglas MacArthur is

As you will see above, Keens was founded in 1885 as a "smokehouse." It was a Gentleman's Smoking Club and is now the Oldest Steakhouse in New York.
Historical Members of significance from the last century included:  Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Will Rogers, Billy Rose, Grace Moore, Albert Einstein, George M. Cohan, J.P. Morgan, Stanford White, John Barrymore, David Belasco, Adlai Stevenson, General Douglas MacArthur, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. Okay, just kidding on the last two though they are both old as dirt.
Historic Bar
As you can see the bar is stocked with great single malts and plenty of wine.  The decor probably hasn't changed in 140 years.  If you want to impress your father in law?  This is the kind of place to do it.  If your father in law doesn't drink, well it might be time to find a new father in law.
The Moose isn't the only thing embalmed here, you should see some of the women.
This was the room we ate in.  Very comfy, great service and at no time were we rushed.
The absurdly delicious bacon app
When my friend Will saw the thick sliced bacon as an app, it was on like Donkey Kong.  And holy smokes (pun intended), it was delicious, thick and smokey.  I could have ate five of these myself.  Thank god for this picture, because I didn't even notice the vegetables on the plate at the time.

Little Neck Clams are such a underutilized app here in the south.  I'm assuming it's a geographical issue, which is a shame because they are absolutely delicious!  We also had one of my other favorites I don't get very often, Oysters Rockefeller.  Oysters, garlic, cheese and spinach?  What's not to like.

The Infamous Mutton Chop
Keens is known for their famous Mutton Chops. What's a Mutton Chop?  Here's how the New York Times describes it: "a 26-ounce saddle of lamb, skirted with fat and nearly two inches tall."  And they are not "gamey" at all.  In fact, I preferred it to the steaks we had also ordered. It comes with a Mint Jelly, which is not necessary, but it is delicious on it's own.

Overall, the service and atmosphere is something that CANNOT be replicated anywhere else.  As pure steakhouse, I wouldn't put it over the best steakhouses in Atlanta, in fact, I found the true steaks mediocre to above average.  The unique appetizers and Mutton Chops are a must if you come here.  Enjoy Keens for what it is and soak in the history that is literally oozing out of the walls.

Todays Footnotes (there are quite a few):

If you are in NYC and want to try something different, hit Sake Bar Decibel.  It's a Japanese "Speak Easy."  The address is 240 E 9th Street, but it's unmarked and in the basement of a brownstone.  They have light food, but the specialty is Sake and with HUNDREDS to choose from, it's truly unique.
A real life samuri was here

Ethos at 1st Ave and 51st Street was a true treat.  My friend Helen talked us to come in for a couple of apps and some wine.  First the calamari is truly some of the best I have ever had (grilled of course, real calamari should never be fried).  The Octopus was delicious as well. No, I didn't ask, "give me everything with tentacles."  The Seftalia was delicious too it was Grilled Cypriot Meatballs, on Bed of Tzatziki Sauce, Topped with Tomatoes, Onion and Cucumber. And the service was impeccable.

Last Footnote: 

Great food wasn't the only great thing I've had out of NYC recently.  The new Vampire Weekend Album, Modern Vampires of the City.
I have always been a fan of their first two albums, but campiness akin to Weezer always held me back from really loving them.  This album is a maturation of their sound.  They have grown up without having to really compromise.  The tracks "Unbelievers" and "Hannah Hunt" are the types of tracks that showcase this evolution.  "Diane Young," "Finger Back" and "Worship You" may be three of the funnest song they have written and are a throw back to their previous offerings.  "Step," "Don't Lie" and "Ya Hey" are great songs as well.  "Hudson" was about the only song on the album, I wasn't crazy about.  Overall, this may be my favorite album since Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Ghetto Burger at Ann's Snack Bar

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate to children under the age of 13 and people afraid to eat south of I-20

In 2007, the Wall Street Journal declared the Ghetto Burger at Ann's Snack Bar the "Best Burger in America."  Okay, interest peaked, though I'm not sure why the WSJ is dabbling into the food realm.  It's not like I would consult Vogue magazine to see if the Redskins will cover against the Cowgirls.
One piece of advice.  Come Hungry and Come Correct (maybe that's two things)

For my first trip to Ann's, I had three goals:
1.  Get a Ghetto Burger- check (I know a guy that's been twice and has yet to get a burger)
2.  Don't get yelled at- check, though Matt G got yelled at when he tried to pay
3.  Don't get mugged- check

Of course, Ann has her rules and regulations as well.
Basically, you've got to come correct.  Also, cell phones are also banned.
This place is unique, it's on Memorial Drive in the middle of abandoned stores and strip malls.  It's basically the set of Mad Max, only with beef and chili.
Pre-Anti-Semite Mel Gibson was one of the best actors of his generation.  Lethal Weapon?  Hells yes.
Why is it called the Ghetto Burger?  Well the location doesn't leave a lot up to the imagination.  But the name is about as apropos as peanut butter and jelly.
The burger is a double cheeseburger with bacon, but the chili makes it.  The chili isn't overpowering and makes a great companion to the secretly seasoned beef.  And of course it is ENORMOUS.  Our female lunch companions Mary and Jamie could only get through half of theirs.  I'd rather not say whether or not Matt and I finished ours.

The most common complaint I've heard is that Ann takes a long time to make her burgers. And I found out why.  SHE MAKES THEM ALL FROM SCRATCH!   She may be a pain and rude, but she pours her love out into her craft, just as much as Kevin Gillespie or Kevin Rathbun.

I loved the burger and the experience.  It's not for everyone, but if you love burgers it's worth a shot.

Website:  There is none!  But they have a facebook page:

Today's Footnote:  This visit is a perfect entree (pun intended) into"The Dry Rubs" Burger Tournament that will begin in a couple of weeks.  We have assembled a crack staff of burger connoisseurs that are currently coming up with "the field" of contestants.  There will be more to follow after I return from New York next week.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Gunshow: Kevin Gillespie's Masterpiece

Warning:  The following is not appropriate for children under the age of 13 or persons who don't understand the artistry of one Frank Stallone

Leading up to the much anticipated opening, the main question posed about Former Top Chef Contestant Kevin Gillespie's new restaurant is "What is Gunshow?"  Gunshow is one of the best meals I have ever had.  Period.

The truth is Gunshow can't be labeled, it's about how you experience Gunshow.  It's about comfort and atmosphere.  It's about opening up your expectations to a new concept.  So take any preconception of a restaurant and throw it out the window.

Kevin says Gunshow is inspired by “Brazilian churrascaria-style dining and Chinese dim sum.” I truly couldn't be any more confused by that statement prior to our meal. That could also describe one Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat.
One of my favorite aspects was that they did bring out the food "dim sum" style, but the chef's (including Kevin) came out and walked us through the dishes.  And the "food runners" were knowledgeable and extremely attentive as well.

The Kitchen and dining room are almost one.  You can look and see Kevin and his artists at work in a completely transparent process.  The only part of the process you cannot witness in plain view is the dishwasher, and I'm okay with that.  The lighting is bright throughout the dinning/ room kitchen to punctuate just how transparent the experience is.

My favorite dishes?   The Beef Short Ribs and the Hot and Numbing Trout.
The Braised Short Ribs, with lemon spaetzle, stroganoff spice and mushrooms are on the left.  They were incredible.  On the right is the softly cooked trout with brown butter.  It was a good trout dish, but truth be told, it was overshadowed by the "Hot and Numbing Trout."

Admittedly, we tried EVERYTHING on the menu.  The other highlights were the Pork Skin Risotto, which was the freshest risotto that I have ever had.  Shocking, I really enjoyed the Bacon, Eggs and Toast, Veggie Style.  Absolutely delicious and it wasn't even real bacon.  The lamb was very tasty and was cooked to perfection, which to me is mid-rare.  Hell I even really enjoyed the rabbit.

True to their word it really was served like Dim Sum, except without Chinese Food and the broken English. You get a menu and as they deliver your food, your menu gets checked off.  Ours looked like my 5 year olds art project at the end we ordered so much.

I thought the meal was just about perfect, then came desert.
The Old Fashion Banana Pudding was Kevin's Great Grandmothers recipe and it was great.  Those who know me well know  I LOVE Banana Pudding and this may be the best I've ever had.  But then we had the Andrea's Made Something out of Chocolate, which was sweet and salty and magical.  It was the equal, if not better then the Banana Pudding.  The Goat Cheese Cheesecake thing, ah, it was okay, but didn't stand a chance against these other guys.

Also, as of Publishing, they had a very limited Wine and Beer list.  Right across the street they have a wonderful, locally owned Wine Shop called 3 Parks. Sarah the co-owner is was very knowledgeable and friendly, so grab a bottle (or 3 ) and bring it with you!  They did not charge cork fee's (again, as of publishing date).

Overall this was about the perfect "Foodie" experience.  Is it for everyone?  Not quite.  Those who want the "traditional" meal with a salad main course for themselves will probably not enjoy the community/ sharing aspect of Gunshow.  Though you can do that, but the experience wouldn't be the same.  Those who are into trying new things and sharing food, this is your beginning and end.  Seriously, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

I really enjoyed Rathbun's KR Steakbar, but I believe Gunshow was the answer to the question Kevin Rathbun wanted to answer with his latest venture.  The only complaint I had was the bathroom was what we call a "one hitter."  Even though the dining room isn't that big, there could be more than one toilet.

Congratulations Kevin Gillespie, you have created something unique, fun and most of all delicious.  I can't wait to make it back.

Today's Footnote:  People will claim that Gunshow is the sibling of Woodfire Grill since that was Kevin Gillespie's former restaurant.  While I like Woodfire, they are not remotely sibling restaurants.  Well, maybe siblings in the sense of Sly and Frank Stallone or Jose and Ozzie Canseco.

What siblings are the most mismatched?
Clint and Ron Howard?  Clint may have had one of the strangest careers in hollywood.
Clint made a career out of playing freaks, while Ron got all the glory.  Sound familiar?  Check out the next pair of siblings.
No, this isn't an outtake of Miami Vice, it's the Canseco Brothers.  Poor Ozzie.  But if you think Ozzie got the short end of the stick, check out the next pair of twins.
I had no idea Gisele had a twin!  How horrible was her high school existence?  Patricia got the Danny Devito genes (maybe not quite, but you get my drift).
Then there is the greatest sibling of all.  Franky Baby!
Frank is a true renaissance man.  Whom else has benn nominated for both the Grammy's and Golden Globes.  Yea, you had no idea, right?
Great Musician:
Introspective Thinker:
He's a true throwback, a man's man.

Give yourself a treat, go check out Gunshow.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Villains Wicked Heroes- Midtown Atlanta

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 or people that are looking for a healthy sandwich alternative

Sandwiches are to lunch what The Captain is to Tennille.  In other words, sandwiches are the backbone of lunch.  And as you may know, lunch is very important to me.  So when a new restaurant names itself "Villains" and they introduce "Evil Themed Sandwiches?"  I'm all in.
They have sandwiches named "Clubber Lang" and "Odd Job" and their sides include "Henchman" and "Flunkies!"  In truth they had me at "Colonel Kurtz."  Kurtz always gets overlooked as one of the most iconic characters in cinematography history.

I don't think anyone but Marlon Brando could have played this character. He nails the subtle insanity perfectly, which wasn't much of a stretch for him.

But when a establishment goes so strong to push a theme, the quality of the food often suffers for the image. Yea, I'm talking to you Hard Rock Cafe and Hooters. Thankfully, Villains doesn't fix that profile.  The sandwiches we had were good and unique in both quality and presentation.  

The Clubber Lang was my favorite.  On it was slow cooked Italian beef, au jus pickled giardiniera and (Ivan) Drago sauce on a hoagie roll.  LOT's of flavor.  The au jus very very tasty.  

Only if they opened two months ago, The Clubber Lang would have been in the "Best Sandwich in Atlanta" tournament.

The Bugsy Siegel had one of my favorite combinations.  Pastrami and Swiss cheese as well as braised cabbage and Russian caviar dressing on a hoagie roll.  It was pretty good.  The cabbage made it a little too tart for my taste and I would have preferred it on rye, but overall I enjoyed it.  

TDR contributor Matt G had the Megatron with breaded pork cutlet, anise pickled, radish, cabbage and Stinger sauce.  The meat portion was a little small, but it was still tasty.

On trip #2, I had the "Kingpig of Crime" which had porchetta (rosemary stuffed pork), crispy skin, arugula and garlic aioli.  It was really good and tasty, though I could have used a weed whacker for all of the arugula they put on there.

The sides or "Henchmen" as they call them were delicious.   I also loved the presentation in the Chinese to go boxes.  We ordered both the soba noodle & kale salad and the roasted mushroom & whipped brie.  The roasted mushroom and whipped brie was incredible, though it may be a day or two before my breath is tolerable.

The aesthetics were pretty cool.  Each wall had a different theme that stayed true to character.

And the open air bar is a great touch.

My one complaint?  How could we leave out the #1 Villain of All Time, Darth Vader?  It could very well be a copyright issue, but would "The Lord Vader" not work?

"Luke, do not order the veggie Zartan sandwich, becoming a vegetarian will lead you to The Dark Side."  

Or Dr Evil?  He had the greatest Villain Monologue since Colonel Kurtz!

Or how about one Buffalo Bill?  He may also go by Jame or Jamie Gumb.  I know Hannibal Lechter is the obvious "villain" choice from "Silence of the Lambs," but nobody blends the darkness of evil with the unintentional comedy of one Jame Gumb.  Poor Ted Levine, he never really escaped the shadow of this character.  Levine is actually of Russian Jew, Native American and Welsh descent.  Does his Indian name translate to "Dances with Drunk CPA?"
Warning:  If you listen to the next song, it may be stuck in your head all day.

I highly recommend Villains.  It's a great lunch spot with both an original concept and the QUALITY to match!

The Dry Rub is going back Monday for some additional tastings.  Check back then for an update!