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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Smokebelly in Buckhead: Really?

Warning:  The following may inappropriate to children under 13 and those who enjoy their ribs smoked

Smokebelly has a lot going for it.  Perfect location, the proprietors of two very quality spots in The Big Ketch and Tin Lizzy's and the venue is aesthetically perfect.  Tavern 99, the previous tenant had a great venue and Smokebelly improved on it.

So when I had an extremely mediocre meal I was left both hurt and confused (okay, maybe just more confused).  This place should have the pedigree to do well right?

Our great server (and he really did a good job) recommended the Disco Q Fries as a great appetizer.  When it came out, we were all disappointed.  Maybe The Tominator and  The Lopez at Fox Bros set the bar so high that a great BBQ app is now out of reach, but this couldn't even touch their ankles.

Ours didn't look this good
We then tried the Ribs (no smoky taste), Brisket (dry), Pulled Pork (ok) and the Sausage (this was really good).

Their array of sauces was extensive and they had something for everyone.  I preferred the savory, but the Carolina Gold was good as well.

Could it have just been a bad day?  Highly unlikely. The meats were just not cooked well.  And if I were to guess, the ribs were partially cooked in water.

If you are in Buckhead, I would hit the Greater Good on Roswell Road.  And if geography is not an issue, Fox Bros and Community Q are the other great choices.  And if you want unique, give a Heirloom and their brisket with Korean BBQ sauce a try.

BBQ is a hard genre to be consistent with.  I just don't think they have a handle on this yet.  Hopefully they get there.  Everything else is in place to make this successful.  If I hear that they turn it around, I will be there.

This got me thinking.  Who are the all time "They aren't what we think they are" All Stars?

Obviously, Milli Vanilli.

Jennifer Love Hewitt.  Wasn't she going to be the biggest star at one time?  Still scratching my head.

In Sports it has to be Bosworth, right?

Though this guy is knocking on Bosworth's door (yes, let the hate mail begin!)

Though the All Time "He is not who we thought he was" has to be The Juice, right?  How do you go from America's Pitchman to America's enemy?  Well, I guess you start by killing your wife and her boyfriend and getting away with it.  Ladies and Gents, your greatest fraud of our generation.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Shake Shack in Buckhead: A First Look (of many)

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who didn't try the meatloaf at John Harvards in the old Buckhead District

The Shake Shack anchors what is the new Buckhead.  What is the new Buckhead you ask?  It's like taking the old Buckhead and constructing the complete oppostie.  As the old Buckhead was full of dive bars and great restaurants, the new Buckhead is full of stores I will never set foot in and couldn't even tell you what they are.

Brunello Cucinelli isn't a wine bar, Jimmy Choo's apparently is not a noodle house and Hermes is not a disease that goes away with antibiotics.  But Shake Shack is a keeper.

I had the infamous Smoke Shack Burger.  It's topped with Applewood baker and the most ingenious topping of all, TOPPED CHERRY PEPPER.  Anyone who know Gino's or Pat's in Philly knows what this is.  It is the secret weapon for the countries best cheese steaks.   How has nobody put this on a burger before?  Pure genius.

As you can see, the imperfect form is one of the unique aspects.  It's cooked to order and takes 7-10 minutes to pop up.  Oh and there can be a line and it has the reputation to be a long one.

Now as good as the burger is, it's not Holeman and Finch (though the bread comes from them), Boccado or Miller Unions.  The quality of meat doesn't compare.  But for $5-10, you can't expect that either.  It's a great affordable burger that is in the class of Grindhouse Burgers or the Vortex.  Only a slight margin better.  The options are more numerous at both establishments, but I challenge you to find a better burger on their menu than the Smoke Shake.

The crinkle fries are delicious as well.

Cripy on the outside, moist on the inside
The cheese on the fries was okay.  I will go sans cheese on the next go round.

Overall, I was very happy with my burger.  The aesthetics of the restaurant were extremely impressive.  In fact, the architecture of the New Buckhead is one of the best urban designs I have laid my eyes on in Atlanta.  Anchored by what is going to be a five story Restoration Hardware, I would put the architecture up against any city district in the country.  It's almost perfection.  Now if they could only get a retailer I would actually shop at.

So for my next hangover, you will find me sitting in line at 11:30 eagerly anticipating the Smoke Shack.

Today's Footnote:

Seeing the new Buckhead unlocked my memory bank with reflections of the old Buckhead.  It was known for its own unique culinary traditions.  The burger at the Racoon Lodge was a staple of my post drinking cure.  Their Thursday Turkey and Gravy special was one of a kind and often challenged my ability to stay awake at work that afternoon.

The watering holes were almost too numerous to name.  CJ's Landing, M&A, Steamhouse, Rose n' Crown (were we saw some really crazy stuff), Tin Roof, Havana Club, Dixie Tavern, Tongue and Groove, the Living Room and Kevin Cassidy's favorite, Uranus.  All the above provided much color to my mid twenties canvas.

The Steamhouse and John Havards had the best food in the district.  And the Atlanta Beer Garden had the worst beer ever, as well as the most ironic name.  Two sips from their microbrew gave you a hangover in 2 hours.  You could find a better watering hole in Lebanon. In fact, two of their "homemade" beers made your head hurt and your ears ring like you were witnessing "The Running of the Tanks" in downtown Beirut.

So thank you Ray Lewis for January 30th, 2000, "The Day Buckhead Died."  So instead of the half naked coed swinging in Mako's, we are staring at $500 high heeled shoes in the same space.  I guess this is called progress.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

5&10 in Athens, GA, Southern Perfection

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who think the Parthenon is in Athens, GA

5&10 in my mind was kind of a mythic restaurant since I haven't been there and I do spend a decent amount of time in Athens. Here is what I knew:  5&10 is Hugh Acheson's signature restaurant.   Somehow I have frequented and reviewed The National, Empire State South and Cinco y Diez.  This leads to one obvious question.  What is wrong with me?  How did I skirt around this place for so long?

What is the equivalent of this omission?  Frequenting San Antonio and pretending the Alamo doesn't exist?  Visiting Peru without seeing Machu Picchu?  At the end of the day, I realize I'm just embarrassing myself.  There is no good answer.

I will say this Hugh Acheson has earned every accolade and deserves every morsel of success he and his restaurants have enjoyed.  And this new-ish location is a perfect backdrop for his signature establishment.

For appetizers, we had the Pimento Cheese made with Bacon Marmalade which is delicious.  We combo'd that with their signature Boiled Peanut Hummus which was outstanding.

Then my friend Parker suggested, no insisted, we have the Roasted Octopus made with sweet peppers, fairytale eggplant, pickled watermelon rind, mushroom broth and lamb’s quarter.

My favorite local appetizer
Outside of Thomas Keller's "Oysters and Pearls" at The French Laundry in Napa Valley, I don't recall having a better appetizer.  I mean EVER.  I cannot think of a higher praise, nor a better recommendation.  If you aren't the type to try octopus?  Then I really pity you.  Like Mr T pity.

Then the waiter highly recommended the "Sock Eye Salmon" with pistachios, charred peppers, petite potatoes, grilled scallion, yogurt and oregano.  Yet again, I was blown away with the dish.  I have never had salmon prepared and as tasty as this dish.  Again, I mean EVER.
Top 5 All Time Entree
To call the 5&10 meal a success would be a monumental understatement.  I had two dishes that absolutely blew me away.  I'll be in Athens a few times in the next year.  Take a wild guess where I'll be dining.

I don't have enough superlatives to describe my experience.  Just go.

Our own "A" Team
This dinner was to celebrate the endowment of two UGA/ Grady Scholarships that ABAC, the Atlanta Broadcast Advertising Club has executed during the last two years.  It was also an extension of the countries largest Advertising Mentorship Program that we administer as well.  It's been quite a journey with the folks at UGA the last few years and, outside of having my children, has been extremely fulfilling.

More information on ABAC and the Mentorship Program can be found here:

And feel free to like our Dry Rub Facebook Page as well:

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Nori Nori Sushi- Sandy Springs, GA

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate to children under the age of 13 and those who think that Golden Corral is fine dining.

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Nori Nori goes against what I believe in.  It's a Sushi Buffet in Sandy Springs that is such a massive operation that if should be a complete disaster.  And somehow they pull it off.

I know, when you think of an asian buffet, this type of establishment pops into mind.

But this is really what it looks like.

And the exterior presentation tells you your are entering a great establishment.

The Sushi Menu is pretty extensive and they make some really good specialty rolls as well.  The hot and cold non sushi items give it a rounded menu that doesn't make you exclude the non sushi eater, which all of us have in our groups, right?  There is a sauteed curried squid that may be my favorite thing on the "non" sushi side.

Now, the one thing you can't escape is that it is a buffet.  Nobody is getting your food for you and it eats into your conversation time (which may be a plus at times too!).

But it is $17.50 at lunch, so you do pay for what you get.  I have no problem with that as long as they deliver.

So I would basically call this a sophisticated buffet.  It's the buffet that can do it all.  Basically, the LeBron James of buffets, though I would avoid a sushi buffet in Cleveland, though Cleveland has some great culinary tradition of it's own!

Come hungry and try everything that you can.  It's worth the trip and definitely worth the price.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Atlanta's Best Taco: Hankook's Taqueria's Pork

Warning:  The following may not be appropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who feel taco's are purely a Mexican food item or Panel Judge Dan Martinez

So let it be written, so let it be done, Hankook's Pork Taco is the Chosen One.   We have reviewed Hankook in the past as well. 

We instituted a unique approach to the Final Four.  We took our panel of judges and we barnstormed the taco establishments left in the competition.

From Left to Right:  Bobby D, Paulie C, The Blogger, El Capitan, MB and BMac 
We started out at Bone Garden Cantina whose Barbacoa went up vs Nuevo Laredo's Mole Pollo.

Judge Paul's take, "In my opinion, based on what I think a taco is … I think Bone Garden wins vs Nuevo’s mole pollo taco.  But by the slimmest of margins.  Primarily because Nuevo’s taco was missing a crunch and freshness factor.  Don’t get me wrong, their mole is out of this world.  And the mole pollo plate is one of my all-time favorite go-to’s there.
But they (Nuevo) needs to add finely diced Spanish onion + cilantro to bring some freshness to what is a very heavy/rich dish.  Simply putting a large (unshredded/chopped) chicken breast in a tortilla is not a taco to me.  Was the chicken tender?  Absolutely.  But a taco, to me, needs accouterments to round out the perfect bite."

Nuevo Laredo's Chicken Mole

Judge Robert's take, "Barbacoa Bone Garden (lacked sufficient filling, but tortilla was the best out of all)
and Nuevo's Mole Pollo (presentation was lacking.. too heavy on the mole.. needed the chicken to be shredded and tossed in the mole)"

BGC's Barbacoa, "Where's the beef?"
Judge Marybeth's take, "Mole Pollo- full of flavor… not too bitter and not too sweet.  The portion size was enormous but I felt like it was missing something.  Onions?  Cilantro?
BGC's Barbacoa- the meat really didn’t have a flavor in my opinion.  If it wasn’t for the verde salsa and raw onion to give it flavor, this taco would have been really bland.  However, the overall texture of this taco was my favorite.  You had the moist meat and the crunch from the cabbage and onion.  The corn tortilla was also soft but didn’t get soggy."

Judge Brian's take, "I agree with her"

So basically, it was a tie.  I would break the tie by saying Bone Garden's Barbacoa was the slight edge.  If Nuevo shredded the chicken and added a little onion for texture, it would win.  I love the mole, but it's basically a chicken breast on a tortilla.  But they do make the best Mole in Atlanta.

Taqueria Del Sol did not put the Philly out as their special, they are automatically disqualified.  Sly will not be happy.

"Yo, youz guyz put the Philly as the special!"
But UNANIMOUSLY Hankooks Pork “dae ji gogi” was everyone's Top Taco!

The Champion
Judge Marybeth's take, "Hankook's pork taco- meat was moist and was full of flavor.  It had a kick at the end but didn’t leave an aftertaste.  Meat ratio really made it worth it .  You get the bang for your buck."

Judge Brian's take, "I agree with her."

Judge Robert's take, "Hankook Pork (Great flavor, the pork was a little too crock pot wet, but still edged out the competition overall)"

Judge Paul's take, "With that said, it then comes down to Bone Garden (beef barbacoa) vs. Hankook (pork).

And for all the things I said above with accouterments … the juiciness of the meat (although I wish they would strain out some of the added “crock pot” juices … and the overall amount of meat/price ratio … the levelness of the heat … and the overall balls to do something different … Hankook is my winner.

I really wanted to go with Bone Garden because they had some of the freshest ingredients (accouterments) and that tortilla!!!  But the meat, which is the star of any taco, was a little flat (and scarce)."

So there you have it, Hankook produces Atlanta's Best Taco with their Pork “dae ji gogi”offering!  Next up Hankook vs Dan's Shrimp Taco's!

The reality of the situation is I had to bring in a panel, because I knew from the beginning that Hankook's Pork was the best.

Congrats to Hankook!

At least Sly's sidekick, the Pork won...

Friday, June 13, 2014

McKinnon's Louisiane Restaurant- a Buckhead Institution

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and people that don't appreciate "Formica"

Mckinnon's Louisiane opened in 1972 and I'm not sure much has been done to it since.  Thank god. This is a true institution in Atlanta.  I really can't believe I have lived here since 1996 and have never stepped foot into here.  Plus they address the severe lack of Cajun Creole Cuisine in the ATL.

Just remember, Ron Burgandy is not walking through that door, though it looks like he might.

You feel like this could happen at McKinnon's
When telling friends the Dry Rub 4 was going to MiKinnon's, almost everyone said "I've always meant to go there, I'm dying to know how it is."  or "I haven't been there in at least 15 years."

In fact the female contingent of the DR4 tried to do a "bait and switch" the day of the dinner for Lusca!  Jeff and I were determined to stay on course and enjoy the restaurant for what it is, a true Atlanta gem.  The concern is McKinnon's doesn't fit the mold of what is "hot" in Atlanta.  Thankfully, we did not give in.

McKinnon's is a a true throwback to a time when men were men and................(okay I won't alienate most of my audience).

So throw on the Aqua Velva and make a night out of it!

Before Sex Panther, there was.......
And in true Creole fashion, we went all seafood.

The apps were pretty good.  The waiter claimed they had the best calamari in Atlanta.  I generally don't eat fried calamari, but theirs was pretty good.  The breading was light, which is good, but I wouldn't say it's the best.  Bocca Lupo may have something to say about this.

The Crab Claws Piquante tossed in a hot spicy cream sauce were better and also happens to be their signature app.  As you can see, they did not skimp on the portions.  Not pictured, were the Oysters Rockefeller we ordered, one of my all time favorites and theirs didn't disappoint.

Their signature Grouper Louisiane is a boneless filet sautéed with jumbo lump crabmeat, toasted almonds, and hollandaise.  It was the MVP of the night.  We almost didn't order it, but Jeff and I talked ourselves into it (okay it wasn't that tough).  And thank go we didn't!  If you go, this is the "must order" on the menu.

Well this picture is atrocious
The Amberjack blackened with corn relish and green onion aioli also came with hot peppered shrimp was pretty good as well and much better than the horrid pic came out.

Yep, the photography from tonight leaves alot to be desired
The Seabass was my 2nd favorite dish and was their special of the night.  It was perfectly cooked and maintained the flakiness seabass should have.

The Tuna because my pictures suck
Leslie has shellfish allergies, so we also ordered the Tuna in a soy sauced based glaze.  It was surprisingly delicious.  I found myself eating the hell out of it, though there was nothing cajun about it.  Nor did it look like Bill Parcells.

The bathroom was a little scary

I envisioned Michael Corleone in there looking for his gun to kill Sollozzo.  The restaurant was born in 1972 and obviously, the decor hasn't changed.  I'm sure the formica was of the highest quality, but they could do a couple of upgrades.  Or maybe that's the charm of the joint.  It's all subjective.

Charles Bronson would have been a tree in the forest here
Overall this was a wonderful meal.  The ambiance gave it a great throwback feel and our server Ebi was absolutely top notch.  I would put Ebi up against any waiter in the city.  He was energetic, knowledgeable and on top of our service without being on top of us.

And of course the food made it even more memorable.  We made sure both Leslie and Beth apologized to us multiple times for their skepticism.  With all the "farm to table" and the Ford Fry's throwing up restaurants with "trendy ambiance" at break neck pace, it's always good to take a step back and remember there are some wonderful establishments that have withstood the test of time.  And also take note that there is a reason they have been around 32 years.  They make a great product and they do a great job in delivering that product to the diner.  Some of these places should take note and look a little longer down the road.  Let's just hope they don't hire away Ebi.

Today's Footnote:  I was reading about the luminaries who have been through the restaurant and accidentally mistook Paul Coverdell for David Coverdale.  I couldn't have been more dissapointed.  But here I go again on my own.  Going down the only road I've ever known.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lusca: A First Look in Buckhead

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate to children under the age of 13 and those who haven't had a late night dessert at Cafe Intermezzo on Peachtree

Lusca is a new restaurant in Buckhead that just opened 5 weeks a go.  I had lunch there today, but not enough of a meal to make a comprehensive entry.

I will say this.  The food was delicious, the staff was knowledgeable and you could tell they were conscientious in their efforts into making each meal memorable.

We had the Beet Tartar and a dozen oysters to start.

Beet Street Breakdown
The egg made this dish a great combination.

Patt had the Lobster Roll.  The description made it sound like The Optimists poor excuse for a lobster roll, which is really lobster salad, but this game with very generous chunks of lobster meat.

My new-ish foodie partner Terry and I ordered the same thing, which is not surprising after dining with him multiple times.  We had the Veal Tagliatelle.  

The sauteed onions and mushrooms were a nice touch.
The location is in South Buckhead, a couple of doors down where Cafe Intermezzo was in Buckheads heyday.

I look forward to having dinner here and doing a full write up.  This location isn't the best around, but I really hope these guys make it.  You can feel a genuine love for the product and experience that rivals Miller Union.

Today's Footnote:  We have two more entries coming up.  The Final Four of the Taco Tournament will end with a Barnstorming of the remaining taco joints.  There will also be a stop at Buckhead Institution McKinnon's Louisiane Restaurant.

So from an earlier reference.  A little Beat Street for BMac

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Atlanta's Final Four Best Taco's

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and people that view "On the Border" as fine dining

Click on Bracket to Enlarge

After much deliberation, we are down to Atlanta's Final Four Best Taco's.  Here is a rundown of the Last Taco's Standing:

Bone Garden Cantina's Beef Barbacoa Taco is representing the Clint Eastwood Division.
It's made with slow-cooked BRISKET topped with salsa verde, cabbage, cilantro and onion.  It's a great taco and even a better venue.

The Bone Garden Cantina was reviewed by the Dry Rub Previously and has "Atlanta's Best Quesadilla" as well.  You have to try the Adobe Steak Quesadilla as well.

I'm still not sure how "Over the Top" didn't catapult arm wrestling into the mainstream
The Philly from Taqueria Del Sol is representing the Sly Stallone Division, though it's an obscure special. For the love of all that's holy, please get this Taco back into the rotation people.

"Quality Carnita Steak, Grilled Onions, Mushrooms and Melted Queso"
Taqueria Del Sol has also been reviewed by us before as well.

The Mole Pollo Taco at Nuevo Laredo is representing the Erik Estrada Division.  Their Mole sauce without question is the best I have ever had.

Nuevo Laredo has received the Dry Rub Treatment previously as well.  More known as our "Best Mexican in Atlanta."

The Pork Taco at Hankook Taqueria is representing the Bruce Lee Division.
“Dae ji gogi” pulled pork with spicy korean bbq sauce is pretty close to perfection.

Hankook has been featured on The Dry Rub as well!

Good luck to our Final Four Contestants!  Again, the winner will face off against Dan Martinez's Shrimp Taco's.
Dan and his shirt await the winner