Cakes & Ale's move to larger, tonier digs on the southeastern edge of Decatur Square has not unhinged its personality: The atmosphere remains warm and welcoming. It's hard to categorize chef-owner Billy Allin's inquisitive, globally influenced personality. He creates the most seasonally focused menu in the metro area, though you can never quite predict what Allin will do with his pristine ingredients. He may evoke Italy with pillowy, ephemeral gnocchi, which he sometimes pairs winningly with an herbaceous rabbit ragu. A South Carolina native, he does his roots proud with dishes like pork ribs over rosy slices of pork loin and corn puree that are surrounded by roasted corn, okra, shell peas, and mustard greens deep-fried to a translucent crisp.
The move includes a sunny bakery next door, where you can linger over well-made coffee drinks and an ever-changing selection of cakes, cookies, croissants, and other pastries. But the bakery's biggest draw is David Sweeney, the former chef-owner of Dynamic Dish who cooks lunch Tuesday to Friday. Sweeney is a master of salads and light sandwiches. Try his nourishing signature—the "grain bowl" (often quinoa) layered with a sprinkling of feta, heirloom beans, and diced vegetables.