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Meridith Ford


Drink This: Lawn Dart

Lawn Dart
Lawn Dart

Photograph courtesy of Old Fourth Distillery

The base for this citrusy liqueur from Old Fourth Distillery is a cane sugar spirit, which brothers Jeff and Craig Moore infuse with lemons. “We hand-peel 75 lemons per run,” says Jeff. Then it’s blended with spicy cold-pressed ginger juice. Even more lemons are added during the maceration stage to give the spirit its canary color.

Although Old Fourth released Lawn Dart last December, its refreshing taste makes it perfect for summer parties and porch-front sipping. Crack open a bottle, pour a couple ounces, and drink it straight, like its Italian cousin limoncello.

You can purchase Lawn Dart at Green’s; Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits; or Citi Wine and Spirits.

This article originally appeared in our June 2017 issue.

Our 13 favorite feel-good dishes in Atlanta

Best comfort food Atlanta
Caramel cake from Southern Sweets (bottom left; center) and The Bonzo from Murphy’s (top right)

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

Caramel Cake
Southern Sweets Bakery
In the pantheon of Southern baking, there are few sweet stuffs that spark more nostalgia and debate than caramel cake. Every baker seems to take a different approach. Brown sugar or white? Cultured butter or no? And the cake . . . well, the proof is in the crumb, right? It has to be buttery and light, but sturdy enough to hold that heavy caramel mantle. Look no more. Indeed: Bake no more. Southern Sweets’ caramel cake is hands down the finest anywhere—ever. Layered with moist cake (remember to catch the crumbs in the tines of your fork) and golden, creamy caramel, it’s the kind of sweet goodness that goes beyond comforting to downright habit-forming. 186 Rio Circle, Decatur, 404-373-8752

The Bonzo
Murphy’s weekend brunch sets the industry standard for the perfect cross between comfort and classic. There’s little here that won’t feel satisfyingly familiar, from crab cake Benedict to shrimp and grits. But hold off on those spicy Bloody Marys a little and save room for dessert. Murphy’s Bonzo cake—a classic to Atlantans—is really not a cake; it’s actually a brownie layered with cheesecake layered with chocolate mousse that’s topped with whipped cream. Whew. 997 Virginia Avenue, 404-872-0904

The No. 246 Meatball
No. 246
Scratch the surface of Italian American cooking, and you’ll find the meatball. Scratch the surface of chef Drew Belline’s fresh Italian menu at 246, and you’ll arrive at his version of the classic. It’s just the right size for sharing as an appetizer or hogging for yourself (the latter is recommended). Tender meat spiced with parsley is smothered in tomato sauce that’s seasoned with red wine, garlic, and herbs. It’s also perfect for ordering to-go. 129 East Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur, 678-399-8246

Best comfort food Atlanta
Yeast Rolls from The Colonnade

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

Homemade Yeast Rolls
The Colonnade
Blue hairs and bikers alike enjoy this Cheshire Bridge bastion of comfort food, where there’s enough fried chicken and pot roast for the table, and a strong martini or two to accompany. But it’s the rolls—pillowy, butter-laced, and light as air—that’ll get you hooked. 1879 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-874-5642

Farm Egg Baked in Celery Cream
Miller Union
Chef-owner Steven Satterfield may be one of our most quintessentially Southern chefs, but his cooking style at Miller Union’s kitchen borrows much from classical French techniques. The farm egg has become such a menu staple that customers would rise up if he ever removed it. It’s the sort of dish that seems too simple to be as good as it is: fresh farm eggs, gently coddled, then baked in a cream steeped in celery, thyme, onion, and bay leaf, just until the whites are done. This leaves the yolk blissfully runny and perfect as a dip for the crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-centered grilled toast. 999 Brady Avenue, 678-733-8550

Farm Cheese Fondu
Kevin Gillespie has come a long way since his days at Woodfire Grill, but much of who he is as a chef can be traced to his time with Michael Tuohy in that first restaurant. Tuohy’s California sensibilities and focus on fresh, local ingredients brought farm-to-table dining to Atlanta long before the term became a cliche. Gillespie’s second restaurant, Revival, embodies this vibe, with a prix fixe family meal and dishes such as fried catfish and bacon-wrapped meatloaf loading up a small but hearty list. Each creak in the wood floor, not to mention the framed family photos on the walls, says “comfort” as much as the menu items do. It’s easy to bypass an appetizer of “farm cheese fondu” for stout offerings of fried chicken and bone-in pork chops. Don’t. Cheese and cream, enveloping luscious wild mushrooms, come paired with grilled toast that’s part French, part farmhand, and all comfort. 129 Church Street, Decatur, 470-225-6770

Best comfort food Atlanta
Busy Bee Cafe

Photograph by Patrick Heagney

Banana Pudding
Busy Bee Cafe
Busy Bee has been a bustling soul food diner for generations of Atlantans, who flock to its doors (and wait in line) for myriad comfort go-tos, from fried chicken to meatloaf (only on Monday) and old-fashioned liver and onions. But the creamy banana pudding is the kind of cookie-and-custard combo that makes face-diving hard to resist. 810 M.L.K. Jr. Drive, 404-525-9212

The Tomminator
Fox Bros Bar-B-Q
Okay, okay—we know about the barbecue. The beef brisket alone is worth its weight in, well . . . barbecue. But then that special guy breaks up with you. Via text. And the car runs out of gas. And the next song on your playlist is R.E.M’s “Everybody Hurts.” Face it: It’s Tomminator time. Crispy tater tots smothered in Brunswick stew and a heaping of melted cheese will have you bouncing to “Shiny Happy People” in no time. 1238 DeKalb Avenue, 404-577-4030

Brisket Breakfast
Ria’s Bluebird
Ria’s has been slinging breakfast for 16 years, earning a following that extends far beyond the boundaries of its Grant Park digs. It’s a “folks” kind of place that accommodates just about everyone. The menu is a mashup of gratifying breakfast offerings, from biscuits and gravy to vegetarian specialties and seasonal pancakes. But the brisket breakfast? Whether you’re nursing a hangover or ravenous, the slow-roasted beef—super tender and shredded in a lightly spiced gravy—served with a couple of poached eggs is just about perfect. Add some French bread for sopping up every last drop, and if you’ve got a spot, this will hit it. 421 Memorial Drive, 404-521-3737

Best comfort food Atlanta
Chicken and Dumplings from Ration and Dram

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

Chicken and Dumplings
Ration and Dram
The new American fare dished out by Andy Minchow and company caters to the kid inside all of us. Case in point: The chicken and dumplings are exactly like Grandma’s. Find tender pastured chicken shredded and swimming in a soup of carrot, celery, onion, and thyme, with fluffy biscuit dumpling squares that offer a little bit of chew before giving way to melt-in-your-mouth wonderfulness. 130 Arizona Avenue, 678-974-8380

Cheese Sandwich
Seven Lamps
The label “cheese sandwich” doesn’t do justice to what’s actually brought to the table during lunch at chef-owner Drew Van Leuvan’s restaurant. Housemade buttery brioche enrobes egg, Gruyère, Monterey jack, fromage blanc, onion, and avocado. The whole affair is griddled like a toad-in-the-hole, creating a perfect indulgence when a salad just isn’t going to cut it. Shops Around Lenox, 404-467-8950

Fried Jumbo Shrimp
Baltimore Crab & Seafood
This slick seafood joint in Cascade, sister to BCS Pearl Lounge in Castleberry Hill, is the place to go to get your fry on. You know, lightly crisp, a little salty. Just enough breading to enhance, not overpower. Shrimp so big and juicy they pop in your mouth. And no cocktail or tartar sauce needed (even though it’s here). This is step-away-from-the-table-before-you-eat-anymore fried shrimp. Mac and cheese bits and banana pudding are optional. 1075 Fairburn Road, 404-505-2900

Best comfort food Atlanta
Kerala Fried Chicken at Spice to Table

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

Kerala Fried Chicken
Spice to Table
Asha Gomez’s fried chicken recipes have been published in everything from Bon AppĂ©tit to her just-released cookbook, My Two Souths, in which her South Indian roots meet up with American Southern cooking. So why does this spicy brined beauty always taste better at her restaurant? Maybe it’s the brine, full of ginger and garlic, soaked in buttermilk. Then she brushes the chicken with coconut oil and crowns it with fried curry leaves. When the craving hits, nothing else will do. Schedule your urges appropriately, though; this KFC is available only on Tuesday and Saturday. [Editor’s Note 2/6/17: Asha Gomez announced that Spice to Table will close on February 24, 2017, and she will be serving a spur-of-the-moment menu daily until then.] 659 Auburn Avenue, 404-220-8945

This article originally appeared in our January 2017 issue.

9 Atlanta comfort food favorites you can order to-go

Atlanta comfort food to-go
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit’s breakfast sandwich
At this grab-and-go biscuit joint, the scrambled (or fried) egg with cheese and bacon (add avocado for 50 cents) pressed between a buttery biscuit is worth blowing your daily calorie count for. 1004 Virginia Avenue, 404-330-8285

The General Muir’s matzo ball soup
If matzo soup soothes the soul, this broth of herbs, veggies, and matzo is downright mollifying. Emory Point, 1540 Avenue Place, 678-927-9131

Casseroles’ classic beef Bolognese lasagna
It’s comfort food, Italian­style. At this Morningside spot, you can grab portions of this cheesy, meaty meal to bake at home. 1393 North Highland Avenue, 404-228-3260

Zoës Kitchen’s Yaya’s handmade chocolate cake
Remember chocolate cake in a pan? Grandma called it “sheet cake,” and it was a cross between fudge and air. Zoë Cassimus has a grandma, too, and Yaya makes a mean version. Multiple locations

Gu’s Dumplings’ dan dan noodles
As dan dan goes, Gu’s is not the hottest, nor the spiciest. But when you’re in the mood for a night in with a good tearjerker, these grab-and-go noodles—laced with hints of soy, sugar, and sesame—hit the spot. Krog Street Market, 404-527-6007

Ton Ton’s tebasaki wings
Tebasaki wings are the Japanese cousin of Buffalo—without the intense heat or blue cheese. Fried, crispy, and seasoned with sesame, these tender tidbits are found at Guy Wong’s ramen, yakitori, and sushi bar. Ponce City Market, 404-883-3507

Community Q BBQ’s mac and cheese
This Decatur barbecue spot sets the standard for good meat eats, but it’s the three-cheese mac and cheese that will make you say “more.” 1361 Clairmont Road, Decatur, 404-633-2080

Chef Ticha Krinsky’s tres leches cake
Those of us who are old enough to remember Tierra in Ansley Park have been wishing and waiting for the return of chef-owner Ticha Krinsky’s tres leches cake since the restaurant’s shuttering. The wait is over: Krinsky will make for you her heavenly mix of meringue and sweet mayhem. Just give her a week’s notice, then plan your binge accordingly.

Arepa Mia’s arepas
Crunchy masa on the outside, moist spoonbread on the inside—arepas are what you get when Venezuela’s version of a grilled cheese is combined with a griddle cake and stuffed like a pita. Arepa Mia offers a variety of these pacifying patties, but go with the pernil, a 12-hour roasted pork with caramelized onions topped with cilantro sauce. Multiple locations

A version of this article originally appeared in our January 2017 issue.

Commentary: Why the Decatur Dairy Queen is so beloved

Decatur Dairy Queen
(L-R) Nisar Momin; his sister Nadera; my daughter, Harper Ford; and Rasul Momin at the newly opened Decatur DQ

Photograph by Meridith Ford

In the pantheon of iconic buildings that are demolished or abandoned in the wake of development, the Decatur Dairy Queen hardly ranks in the same category as say, the original Wembley Stadium in London, New York’s Singer Building, or even Atlanta’s own Turner Field.

But try telling that to the residents of Decatur. The old “barn-” style building dated back to 1969. Located within a couple of block’s walking distance from the Decatur Recreation Center and DeKalb County Courthouse, the DQ had been a safe haven for decades. Families—literally generations of kids—flocked there after Decatur High School arts and sports events.

When I was in high school back in the ’70s, my girlfriends and I would walk there on our breaks from drill team practice at the Rec Center for chocolate-dipped cones and my favorite–Mr. Mistys. When I moved with my daughter to Decatur in 2004, she and her friends continued this tradition, and we spent many afternoons together there after her choral or musical performances at DHS, or just stopping by for an after-school treat.

Though I never knew the original owners, my daughter and I came to know the eventual franchise owners, the Momins, and they came to know us, although not by name. Nisar Momin, his sister Nadera, and her husband Rasul instead remembered us by our favorite sweets. Rasul had a classic way of turning my daughter’s Blizzard upside down—as if spilling it—just before he would hand it over to her, which always made her giggle crazily as a child. I never strayed from ordering my chocolate-dipped cone. (Mr. Mistys were eventually rebranded as “Arctic Slush,” and somehow that made them seem different to me.)

If you were looking for someone in Decatur, chances are you’d find them at the Dairy Queen. We almost always ran into friends there, and my daughter would often see schoolmates each time we went. It was a place to say “hi” to folks not seen in a while, or catch up on the last parent meeting I missed as a single working mom.

But in February 2014, the DQ closed to make way for a mixed-use development, the Arlo. Though my daughter and I had heard the business would be closing (everyone had), we didn’t have a chance to go by one last time before it closed. Instead, she simply came home from school one Monday and told me the word was that the old barn had shuttered over the weekend. Even though we knew it would happen sooner or later, it still came as a shock.

I honestly teared up. I could get a chocolate-dipped cone at any other DQ in the United States. What I couldn’t get was the honest integrity and hospitality of the Momin family. And while swarms of other Decatur residents had gone by to “pay their respects,” I felt guilty that we didn’t say goodbye. It felt wrong, somehow, not to let them know how much we would miss them. And I felt a tradition–just as my daughter soon would be leaving the nest I had so carefully feathered for so many years–slip away.

Nisar bought the DQ in 1986, and the family had been operating it for 33 years when it was announced it would close. The Arlo’s development company offered the Momins a space in the new building, and the city was deeply involved in negotiations to work out a deal. But regardless, a part of our lives was suddenly just gone.

When my daughter came home from college this Thanksgiving, she told me that she and her best friend–also home from school–were heading to the newly opened DQ. We had moved away from Decatur since she graduated from high school, and I didn’t even know that the business had reopened on Halloween. Busy with a new life, new job, and an empty nest, I had somehow let the whole idea of it returning slip my mind. But when she told me, I was jealous. The Arlo’s buildout had kept the Momins away for 32 months, and now they were back; I wanted to see them.

We finally paid them a visit together this past week. The new space inside the Arlo lacks the warmth of the old barn, and it’s still sad to us that a building we both shared as high school students is gone. The sleek, modern look, the self-serve drink station, the cool tiles that line a separate dining area away from where the ice cream is served; it all has a corporate feel. And it was so easy (and fun) to just pull in at the old location and hop out of the car; even with 30 minutes of free parking in the Arlo garage, the feel of it just isn’t the same.

But the Momins are there: Nadera smiling and giving out hugs, and Rasul still using his “spill trick” to make customers laugh. The minute we walked in they recognized us, Rasul pointing to my daughter and saying, “Oreo Candy Cane Blizzard, right?”

Anyone can dip a cone in chocolate. Not everyone can make friends for a lifetime.

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