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Jennifer Zyman

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5 of our favorite sandwiches in Atlanta

Atlanta is synonymous with Southern food, but our sandwich game deserves just as much attention. You can find a good version of nearly every type of sandwich somewhere in the metro area, from bahn mi to po’boys to fried chicken to Philly cheesesteaks. There’s a artistic process to sandwich construction, and the following five have that down perfectly. Whether you want something spicy, crisp, cool, or gooey, these are just a few of my favorites that are guaranteed to satisfy. Go ahead, try to resist them.

5 Favorite Sandwiches in Atlanta: Italian Grinder at Fred's Meat & Bread
Fred’s Italian Grinder

Photograph by Lauren Vereen, Salut Media

1. The Italian Grinder at Fred’s

Chef Todd Ginsberg’s version of this classic at Fred’s Meat & Bread uses housebaked Cuban rolls to cradle paper-thin folds of provolone, mortadella, salami, and roasted pork shoulder. The meat is topped with tangy and incredibly spicy chopped peppers and a mound of shredded iceberg lettuce dressed in olive oil and red-wine vinegar. The blend of flavors is so classically Italian American, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to a grinder shop somewhere in New England. 99 Krog Street, 404-688-3733; 75 5th Street

2. Cheesesteak at Mad Italian

Along a nondescript access road, you’ll find this stalwart serving one of the most perfect cheesesteaks around. Griddled onions and gooey, white, melted, American cheese smother thin slices of tender steak. All of it is stuffed inside an airy but strong “proper roll”—bread so important that it has its own page on the Mad Italian website. 2089 Savoy Drive, Chamblee, 770-451-8048

3. The Roasted Lamb at Alon’s

The success of this sandwich starts with the country French bread made in-house at the Dunwoody location (the original Alon’s is in Morningside). Between the bread, perfectly rosy slices of lamb redolent of garlic couple beautifully with sweet red-onion marmalade—a flavor combination that should be as classic as lamb and mint jelly. 1394 North Highland Avenue, 404-872-6000; 4505 Ashford Dunwoody Road, 678-397-1781

4. Just Veggin’ at LottaFrutta

The Just Veggin’ is further proof that meat is hardly a prerequisite for sandwich perfection. The shop’s Latin-style, grilled “sanduches” are served on soft, sweet, toasted bread, and this particular variant is composed of avocado, tomato, cucumber, sprouts, and warm, creamy Havarti cheese. It’s hearty, healthy, and totally dreamy. 590 Auburn Avenue, 404-588-0857

5 Favorite Sandwiches in Atlanta: Buena Gente Cuban
Buena Gente’s Cuban

Photograph courtesy of Buena Gente

5. The Cuban at Buena Gente

No other Cuban sandwich comes close to this version from peripatetic food truck Buena Gente, whose daily stops are announced weekly on Instagram. A boneless shoulder pork marinates overnight in homemade mojo and roasts for four hours. The pork then joins ham, Swiss, mustard, and pickles on crusty bread slathered with salted butter, and the whole thing is compacted on a sandwich press weighted down with foil-wrapped bricks. The result is a crackly exterior like creme brulee that gives way to the salty, porky filling. buenagenteatl.com

This article appears in our July 2019 issue.

Review: Pancake Social—come for the pancakes, stay for the breakfast sandwich

Pancake Social review
Chocolate and buckwheat stack with dark chocolate sauce

Photograph by Cori Carter

Back in the early 2000s, Atlanta had meager options for those who use “brunch” as a verb. Sure, there were places to go eat breakfast on the weekend: Flying Biscuit, Thumbs Up Diner, Java Jive, Goldbergs. But they didn’t exhibit the same reverence for morning cuisine as the brunch specialists who’ve arrived in recent years.

And now we have Pancake Social, which slings bougie brunch options such as avocado toast with soft-cooked egg and a Dutch baby pancake with apple and Gruyère—not just at weekend brunch but all day every day.

That isn’t to say that Pancake Social, located on the southeastern edge of Ponce City Market, is breakfast perfection. With an all-star team stacked with Anne Quatrano (Bacchanalia), Tony Riffel (Octane), Dan Jacobson (Chick-fil-A), and Steven Chan (Tin Drum), the restaurant should be operating much more smoothly. One Saturday morning bottleneck was so maddening I found myself coaching the overwhelmed hostess on how to handle the crowd.

Once you finally get to eat, you’ll find that executive chef Evelyn Ling (sous chef at Bacchanalia) knows how to push breakfast boundaries while still hitting the sweet spot. The menu features 11 types of pancakes, crafted from, say, buckwheat or gluten-free ancient grain. The buttermilk pancakes are as good as they must be for a place that has “pancake” in its name; they’re fluffy and just sweet enough to keep from being cloying once dressed with syrup. The kitchen keeps said syrup hot in an electric warmer on the pass, ready to be poured into a ramekin. It’s a nice touch. And bread nerds will appreciate that the sourdough waffle batter uses a starter created more than 20 years ago at Bacchanalia, the fine-dining bastion.

You’re probably here for one pancake variation or another, but the best dish on the menu is the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a homemade English muffin. It might be the most sublime breakfast sandwich in town, with gorgeous, thick-cut Cheshire bacon, American cheese, and a meticulously folded egg (although you can get it sunny-side up, too) served on a near-pillowy English muffin that almost resembles a griddle cake. Amid a table groaning under the weight of the dishes we ordered—including middling beignets—I endured a battle of the bites with a seven-year-old over that sandwich. (She ultimately won.)

Rating
★ ★ ★
(Good)

Vital stats
675 Ponce de Leon Avenue
678-609-8696
pancakesocial.com

This article appears in our August 2019 issue.

Review: District M brings ambitious, high-end Japanese to Sandy Springs

Review: District M
Otoro tartare

Photograph by Savanna Sturkie

Every few weeks, we offer our “B Review,” a short take on restaurants that are (sometimes) casual and (typically) not too pricey—and occasionally neither.

Sandy Springs used to be a culinary wasteland. But in recent years, restaurateurs eager to capitalize on the city’s many well-heeled residents have opened places that are finally kind of exciting. (See: Peter Kaiser and Kevin Rathbun’s Kaiser’s Chophouse, L.A.-based Jinya Ramen Bar, and il Giallo from the Veni Vidi Vici team.) To that list, you can add sushi and omakase spot District M.

Located in the slick Modera complex, District M was a smart move by chef Jackie Chang, who previously worked at high-style, minimalist Umi in Buckhead and dramatic, crowd-pleasing O-Ku on the Westside. Chang has replicated a little of each of those vibes at his new, industrial-ish restaurant.

The 16-seat sushi bar surrounding an expansive, open kitchen offers a front-row view of the small staff that turns out the ambitious menu. It’s not common in Atlanta to see Edomae-style sushi (a precise preparation served within 45 seconds) and uni tastings featuring three varietals (which could be from California, Japan, and Maine). A beautiful serving of Otoro tartare is packed into a bamboo box, artfully arranged on a bowl of ice alongside vessels of black caviar, wasabi, creme fraiche, puffed rice, toasted sliced white bread, and truffle yuzu sauce.

The fish is flown in daily from Japan and elsewhere, and if you’re looking to lay down some serious cash, a single piece of nigiri (live scallop, for instance) can go for $15. You can also take the omakase route, starting at $60 for a four-course meal, $90 for six courses or for 14 pieces of nigiri, and upwards of $120 for the Benzaiten (“chef’s freestyle”) feast.

It’s clear Chang hopes to capture some of the sushi fanatics who frequent Umi. The difference in the quality of the actual sushi is negligible, although Umi gets the edge on design and service (the tempo of District M’s service can be clunky). Still, for northsiders looking to avoid the Buckhead throngs, District M is a destination sushi restaurant in a part of town that’s no longer a culinary snooze.

Rating
★ ★ ★ ★
(Very Good)

Vital stats
6125 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs
678-974-2820
districtmatl.com

This article appears in our July 2019 issue.

Review: Japanese barbecue chain Gyu-Kaku gives Atlantic Station some dining cred

Review: Gyu-Kaku

Every few weeks, we offer our “B Review”—a short take on restaurants that are casual and (typically) not too pricey.

It used to be easier to find parking at Atlantic Station than a decent meal. The recent arrival of Gyu-Kaku has changed that. The Yokohama-headquartered chain, which operates more than 700 restaurants globally and nearly 60 in North America, has the concept of Japanese barbecue down to a science (even if it can feel a little canned at times). Now, if only they could help me score a parking spot.

For the uninitiated, Japanese barbecue (or yakiniku) is similar to Korean barbecue, without the complimentary side dishes. You can order a bunch of different cuts of meat (as well as seafood, tofu, and vegetables) that you cook yourself on a gas grill with ventilation built into the table. Small plates like salty and spicy pickled cucumbers, fried pork dumplings, and surprisingly tasty Japanese fried chicken brightened with a squeeze of fresh lemon are also on offer.

Gyu-Kaku’s prix-fixe meals are a convenient way to explore the different cuts and marinades. Meals start at $48 for two people during happy hour; the $170 Shogun option feeds six. Some of the meats served in the prix-fixe meal taste like they’ve sat in the marinade a little too long, but they’re generally tasty. (You can skip the marinated meats by ordering plain premium cuts like filet mignon from the a la carte menu, but that can get expensive.) The prix-fixe option also comes with a selection of starters—edamame, the fried chicken, watery miso soup, house salad bathed in a creamy dressing—and ends with a s’mores kit you roast over the grill on a bamboo skewer.

Kirin beers on draft come in comically oversized mugs, and the service is friendly though sometimes takes a minute to find its rhythm. Given the dearth of decent dining options at Atlantic Station, which is currently being revamped and renovated, Gyu-Kaku stands out from the other chains. It’s your best bet for a pre-movie steak and beer.

Rating
★ ★ ★
(Good)

Vital stats
265 18th Street,
404-253-2989
gyu-kaku.com

This article appears in our June 2019 issue.

The verdict on 3 new Atlanta restaurants: Feedel Bistro, Santorini Taverna, and Slutty Vegan

Slutty Vegan Atlanta
Slutty Vegan

Photograph courtesy of Slutty Vegan

Slutty Vegan
Bring a friend. Bring a book. Just be prepared to stand in line at Slutty Vegan, the southwest Atlanta take-out–only burger stand serving plant-based patties to thousands of people every week who wait up to an hour (or more) for the experience. The Westview brick-and-mortar location of Pinky Cole’s viral-sensation food truck serves cheekily named burgers—hello, One Night Stand and Menage a Trois—that have drawn orgasmic reviews from celebrities like Tyler Perry and Snoop Dogg. The patties are created by the Impossible Company, a California start-up that’s recreated the heme molecule that makes meat taste like, well, meat. Slutty Vegan isn’t the only Atlanta restaurant to serve Impossible products, but none of the others have generated the buzz that Cole’s burgers have. The 10 burger and sandwich options on the menu come with toppings including vegan bacon, vegan cheese, vegan shrimp, and caramelized onions (the $19 Menage a Trois has all of those atop an Impossible patty; perhaps it should’ve been called the Menage a Cinq), and all but one of them is doused with Slutty Sauce. I went with the Super Slut, an Impossible burger patty on a vegan Hawaiian bun loaded with caramelized onions, guacamole, jalapeños, vegan cheese, lettuce, and tomato, with Slutty Sauce seeping from the edges. The burger and crinkle-cut fries, included with every order, held up just fine on my five-minute walk home; a neighbor who’d yet to brave the line joked that he considered forcing me to surrender the burger to him. Gloriously sloppy and convincingly meaty, the Super Slut was indistinguishable from the classic burgers you find at the best walk-up joints. 1542 Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, 678-732-3525  —Thomas Wheatley

Feedel Bistro
As the newest of three (yes, three) Ethiopian restaurants at the intersection of Briarcliff and Clairmont roads, Feedel Bistro signifies the size and strength of Atlanta’s Ethiopian community—but it also faces a challenge. How does it differentiate itself from its next-door neighbor, the no-frills and long-reliable Bahel, and its across-the-street one, the acclaimed Desta? For starters, Feedel Bistro is technically Ethiopian and Eritrean, though the cuisines of the bordering countries are nearly identical. A bigger difference is Feedel Bistro’s stylish dining room, all decked out with distressd shiplap walls and black rattan pendants. The space is tasteful and curated, and so is the concise menu, which has fewer options than Desta’s or Bahel’s and is a little easier to navigate. It’s a bit pricier, too. The supremely comforting “mom’s special,” gomen be’siga, combines cubes of tender lamb and velvety collards in a mildly spiced butter sauce. The kitfo—a beef dish traditionally served raw but also available here lightly sauteed or fully cooked—is evidence of the kitchen’s delicate balance with spice (the meat is neither overwhelmed nor underseasoned) and its deft knifework (the raw beef version is perfectly minced). Whatever you do, order the vegetarian sampler platter of spiced red lentils, brown lentils, yellow split peas, collards, cabbage, and house salad. It’s one of the best vegan meals around and a worthy addition to the spread, even at a table of carnivores. 3125 Briarcliff Road, 404-963-2905  —Mara Shalhoup

Santorini Taverna
The owners of Gyro City Grill (with locations in Dacula, Hiram, and Roswell) have migrated closer to Atlanta with Santorini Taverna in Sandy Springs. The restaurant serves straightforward and simply prepared Greek classics, such as a soothing, lemony bowl of avgolemono (egg and orzo soup), and American dishes with a Greek accent, such as a Philly cheesesteak heaped with gyro meat. The menu is composed of a head-spinning 14 sections, but you can cut down on your perusal time by looking for the more creatively named plates, including Greek Peak Combination “Most Popular” (gyro, chicken, and pork souvlaki, served with tzatziki sauce, onions, tomatoes, and stuffed dolmas) and the Largest & Best Gyro in Town “Award Winning.” The latter is indeed oversized. Across the board, in fact, Santorini’s portions are exceedingly generous, as are its hospitable owners. It’s a welcome, family-friendly addition to the neighborhood. 4600 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, 678-705-8772  —Jennifer Zyman

This article appears in our May 2019 issue.

How Ammazza, Gu’s Kitchen, and Nina & Rafi stack up against their original locations

Ammazza Decatur
Margherita pizza

Photograph by Cori Carter

Ammazza Decatur

314 East Howard Avenue, Decatur

The backstory
In 2017, after nearly five years in business, things came crashing down at Ammazza—literally. Within one month, two cars careened into the Edgewood Avenue building, and the beloved Neapolitan-style pizza joint has been closed ever since. The void in the Atlanta pizza-scape was palpable.

The comeback
Ammazza Decatur opened in November, picking up where the Edgewood location left off. (The original location is supposed to reopen this year.)

What made the original great
The brothers who founded Ammazza previously had ties to Antico over on the Westside. But unlike the fiercely Italian Antico, Ammazza offers a wide range of toppings and plenty of opportunities to customize.

How the new guy stacks up
While pizza is king here, Ammazza Decatur also offers handmade pasta such as a fresh, al dente spaghetti with tender beef meatballs drenched in a slightly sweet spaghetti sauce. As for the pizza, it’s very close to the original. The same pickled Calabrian chilis and Spotted Trotter’s spicy soppressata appear on the beloved Inferno, and the vegan pie continues to be a surprise hit, but the best bet remains the straightforward margherita. The pizzaiolos make ideal use of the restaurant’s Acunto ovens, lending the perfect kiss of char to the pizzas’ thin crusts.

Gu's Kitchen
Chengdu noodles

Photograph by Cori Carter

Gu’s Kitchen

4897 Buford Highway, Chamblee

The backstory
When Gu’s Bistro arrived on Buford Highway in 2010, it drew a cult following to its accessible (but still fiery) Sichuan cuisine. When it closed in 2015, many a ma la–loving heart was broken. A Gu’s Dumplings stall had opened in Krog Street Market in 2013, and it continues to offer some of Gu’s Bistro’s most beloved dishes. But many of them fall short of their Buford Highway forebears.

The comeback
In November, the Gu family returned to Buford Highway with a new concept, Gu’s Kitchen.

What made the original great
Spicy Dried Eggplant (like eggplant fries but slightly numbing thanks to a liberal dose of Sichuan peppercorns); flat, Zhong-style dumplings; and Chengdu noodles that struck the ideal balance between spicy and sweet

How the new guy stacks up
You won’t find a resurrection of Gu’s Bistro at Gu’s Kitchen. But the new spot does serve many dishes you can’t find on Krog Street. The Chengdu noodles arrive on a cool contraption, with the noodles draped over chopsticks seemingly floating in the air. But the dish is so cloying that it reminded me why I seldom eat at the Krog Gu’s. It’s not uncommon to add sugar to Sichuan dishes to counteract the heat, but the amount of sugar at Gu’s Kitchen can be excessive. Instead, order the eggplant, the Handmade Sweet and Spicy Thick Noodles, and the Spicy Crispy Fish, heavily dosed with garlic, ginger, chili oil, sesame oil, and Sichuan peppercorns.

Nina & Rafi
The Detroit Pie

Photograph by Cori Carter

Nina & Rafi

661 Auburn Avenue

The backstory
In 2015, the city fell hard for New Jersey native Anthony Spina’s O4W Pizza—and his square, pan-cooked grandma pie in particular. A year later, Spina closed the Old Fourth Ward outpost and decamped to Duluth. For the next two years, intown pizza-lovers were in mourning.

The comeback
Spina joined forces with restaurateur Billy Streck (Hampton + Hudson) to bring his pizza back to the Old Fourth Ward. They opened Nina & Rafi in November, directly on the BeltLine across from Bell Street Burritos.

What made the original great
Everything, but especially the grandma pie

How the new guy stacks up
Nina & Rafi sits just steps from where the grandma pie became an Atlanta culinary icon, but this new endeavor is its own animal. Grandma may pay Nina & Rafi an occasional visit, but her home remains in Duluth. Spina’s Detroit pie (thick and square but light and airy) and his Super Margherita (a classic round) are meant to grab the spotlight here. The Super Margherita has a flavor profile similar to the grandma; it’s made with the same sauce, cheese, and love. But the crust intentionally isn’t as rich. The Detroit pie is actually the one that gives grandma a run for her money: The crust is like a cross between a Sicilian and a cloud, and at its edges, there’s a raised lip of absurdly addictive, burnt-to-a-crisp cheese that will haunt you.

This article appears in our April 2019 issue.

Review: D92 brings excellent Korean barbecue to Decatur

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D92 Korean BBQ

Every few weeks, we offer our “B Review”—a short take on restaurants that are casual and (typically) not too pricey.

Ask me where to go for Korean barbecue and I can come up with at least five solid suggestions. Whether you’re looking for pork, beef, or offal cooked over charcoal or—gasp!—gas, Korean barbecue is all over the map in metro Atlanta. Well, some of the map. There hasn’t been much quality Korean barbecue inside the Perimeter since Mirror of Korea on Ponce de Leon Avenue closed forever ago. D92 Korean BBQ set out to change that when it opened in Decatur last August. It offers the kind of Korean barbecue that typically warrants a trip to the suburbs. Plus, there are cocktails (including a Smoky Yuzu Margarita)—something most of those other places don’t bother with.

D92 Korean BBQ
Smoky Yuzu Margarita

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

D92 gets instant cred because one of its owners, James Kim, also opened 9292 in Duluth, which tops my list of charcoal Korean barbecue spots. D92’s space is large even for a Korean barbecue restaurant, where tables have to accommodate inset grills (gas ones rather than charcoal, in D92’s case) and drop-down exhaust fans. The absence of charcoal aside, D92 has core offerings that mirror those of its big sister, including a quality selection of prime beef and pork. In addition to barbecue, there are homestyle dishes, such as beef japchae (stir-fried clear noodles), and trendy ones, including Korean fried chicken, served spicy or soy-seasoned. Everything, including the banchan (little side dishes of kimchi and snacks such as seasoned soybean sprouts and simmered quail eggs), is made in-house. The bulgogi marinated in soy and golden kiwi is a bestseller among the cuts, but it’s best to order an assortment of meats, which will be cooked at the table by a friendly and super-attentive server. Vegetarians and pescatarians need not miss out on the fun; there are main-course barbecue options such as portobello mushroom caps and whole squid, and the unlimited banchan—complete with gooey Korean corn cheese and soufflé eggs—is itself enough for a meal.

Kim recently opened a third restaurant, 9292 Gopchang in Duluth, which serves specialty items like tripe and pork skin. (Wondering what’s with all of the numbers? In Korean, “92” sounds like “grilled.”) He’ll also be opening a hot pot restaurant there, as well as a Korean barbecue spot with D92 co-owner Justin Lee in Athens. Kim’s ever-expanding empire will no doubt make good Korean grub easier to find—and make my list of recommendations even longer.

Rating
★ ★ ★
(Excellent)

Vital stats
225 East Trinity Place, Decatur
404-514-6759
loc8nearme.com

This article appears in our March 2019 issue.

Here’s why the Grandma Pie is off the menu at Nina & Rafi

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Nina & Rafi Grandma Pie
Pepperoni pizza at Nina & Rafi

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman

When O4W Pizza owner Anthony Spina first told me he wasn’t going to serve his fan-favorite Grandma Pie at Nina & Rafi, the new BeltLine restaurant he and Billy Streck opened at the end of 2018, I was surprised. As someone who thought the Grandma Pie was coming back to the neighborhood where it first gained a cult following (the restaurant moved from Old Fourth Ward to Duluth in 2016), I was admittedly disappointed. But Spina’s reasoning to leave the Grandma Pie at O4W is sound—he doesn’t want to be known for just one thing.

“The success of the Grandma Pie was unexpected. I didn’t come to Atlanta expecting to sell Grandma pizza,” says Spina. “Whenever you bring something original to Atlanta and it’s good, it’s a no-brainer win-win.” But win or not, Spina is not the type to pigeonhole himself as a chef. “I get bored easily and like a challenge,” he says.

Grandma Pie O4W Pizza
The Grandma Pie at O4W Pizza

Photograph courtesy of O4W Pizza

Beyond the creative reasoning, Spina also noted that the cast-iron pans he uses to make the Grandma Pies are also increasingly hard to find. Spina says he has been digging through old restaurant supply stores in New York to find pans. “I’m hurting in Duluth with running out of pans. That scared me [as Nina and Rafi’s opening neared] and made me put the brakes on.”


“We didn’t want Nina & Rafi to be defined by one pie because Anthony’s super talented,” Streck adds. Instead, the restaurant serves Jersey rounds, a new “Super Margherita” that has a similar flavor profile to the Grandma but is round and cooked on the oven’s surface, and Detriot-style pizza, which has a lighter yet thicker crust than the Grandma Pie. “I’m more proud of the crust on the Detroit than the Grandma Pie because it’s a lot harder of a crust to achieve and keep airy.” Spina says. “A lot of people confuse it with a Chicago-style pizza because of the [crust’s] thickness. But in reality, Chicago pizza is [baked in] a deep dish; it’s not a thick crust.”

Spina likens the way the cheese bakes around the sides of the Detroit crust to his childhood favorite—Pizza Hut. “Honestly, I’ll tell anybody … Pizza Hut crust can stand up with pretty much anybody’s pizza crust,” he says.

If you are still not happy about Grandma’s absence, the partners say they may have her “come to town” on certain days as a pop-up, but the focus at Nina & Rafi is larger. Rather than a pizza restaurant, Spina and Streck aim for it to be a true Italian-American restaurant. “That’s what we both grew up on. I’m from Albany and Anthony’s from Jersey,” says Streck. “You might come just for the [pizzas], but you’re also going to come in to try all these other creations that Anthony’s coming up with like the lasagna and eggplant parm.”

For Spina, the menu direction is all about nostalgia. “I’m Italian, but I’m Italian-American. I used to get sent to school with spaghetti sandwiches. That’s all I eat,” he says. “I’m a red sauce guy, and that’s what I really wanted to focus on.”

“When I think of being a kid, it makes me happy, so I want to give everybody else that same opportunity.” he continues. “We wanted to create that feeling like Grandma’s cooking—she puts her love into her food. When I cook, I just want to make people happy.” 661 Auburn Avenue Northeast, 404-549-8997

Review: Estrella channels Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula from a BeltLine-adjacent rooftop

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Estrella
Yucatecan pork

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Every few weeks, we offer our “B Review”—a short take on restaurants that are casual and (typically) not too pricey.

Restaurants specializing in specific regional Mexican food—ranging from the hearty and meat-heavy dishes found on the ranches of the north to the rainbow of moles that hail from the state of Oaxaca in the south—are rare in Atlanta. But we now have Estrella, a restaurant inspired by the cuisine of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. First, however, you have to find it.

Estrella
Fried oyster tacos

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

After weaving your car through the maze behind Two Urban Licks, you’ll eventually make your way to the BeltLine-adjacent Bazati complex, which is also home to the Brasserie. Before you reach Bazati’s high-end retail stalls, climb the stairs that seem to be leading you the wrong way. Once you find the neon green sign, you’ll know you’re in the right place. Beyond the nondescript door, the indoor-outdoor rooftop space is cheery and chic, with bright white walls, woven basket lampshades, and blue-and-white tiled floors evoking a boho mix of Marrakesh and Mexico. The indoor dining area and bar are small; the patio with a panoramic view of Atlanta and the BeltLine is the place to be.

Estrella
Margarita rimmed with Tajin

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Estrella
Yucatecan pork

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

That view—along with the quality of the small plates—helps justify the somewhat steep prices. Two people can easily spend $100 on a modest assortment of dishes and cocktails. Tangy tamarind margaritas rimmed in Tajin (a mix of dehydrated lime, salt, and chili pequin peppers that’s good on everything) reduce the shock of paying $14 for a quesadilla topped with griddled shrimp in a pool of mornay sauce. A trio of crispy fried oyster tacos on small corn tortillas is surprisingly complex thanks to a smear of dzikilpak, a rich sauce made from roasted pumpkin seeds. Estrella’s tortillas aren’t housemade, but they’re strong and fragrant and arrive blazing hot in a napkin pouch alongside a plate of crispy, golden rectangles of Yucatecan pork belly served over radish pico and avocado puree. Across the menu, you’ll find dishes utilizing key Yucatecan ingredients such as annatto seeds (referred to as achiote, for the tree bearing the fruit that produces them) and recado (a seasoning paste that Estrella prepares with charred ancho chilis and other spices).

Part of what makes the BeltLine so useful is that it encourages exploration of pockets of the city that were once overlooked. At Estrella, not only do you get to explore one of those pockets—you also get a taste of a region far more remote.

Rating
★ ★ ★ ★
(Very Good)

Vital stats
550 Somerset Terrace,
404-795-8341
estrellarooftop.com

This article appears in our January 2019 issue.

Saltwood’s weekday salad bar is Midtown’s best-kept lunch secret

0
One big salad.

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman.

The Midtown lunch crowd has been pretty good at keeping this lunch secret to themselves. But I’m not very good at keeping food secrets—especially when they include big salads in commercial stainless steel kitchen bowls. That’s right. I said big salads. This is not a drill.

During its weekday lunch service from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saltwood Charcuterie and Bar at the Loews Atlanta Hotel has an amazing salad bar that is $13.50 and all-you-can-eat. Head to back the of the salad bar room, where you’ll grab a metal mixing bowl that looks like it can hold enough for a family of four.

Start here.

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman.

Choose your toppings.

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman.

Pick your protein and get your salad tossed.

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman.

Choose your base from a mix of greens (spinach, romaine, mixed greens, kale, etc.) and then pile on a variety of whatever you’d like from about a 100 different mix-in items—veggies, cheeses, grains, salts, peppers, eggs, tuna, sprouts, dried fruits, nuts, and a bunch of different olive oils, vinegars, and dressings. The final step is choosing your protein from chicken, shrimp, steak, or a combination of those, and after which a team member will toss the salad together. You can get your meal to go or enjoy it at the restaurant. If you are staying in, your salad will be plated on what looks like a big white platter.

Iced tea comes with a flight of simple syrup.

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman.

To drink, I suggest getting the ice tea only because you get a flight of simple syrups in flavors such as lavender to drizzle in your tea. There is also a dinner roll station and a rotating dessert (sticky toffee pudding, flan, cake, etc.) if you need a carb fix in addition to the unlimited of thick and crunchy housemade potato chips that come with your salad. But from the looks of the crowds, the secret is getting out about this killer lunch deal, so hurry in if you want to be the first among your friends to try it.

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