The Christiane Chronicles: Atlanta needs more Eastern European restaurants; and where to find rich butter

Raves and rants from veteran dining authority Christiane Lauterbach
Illustration by Caroline Kilgore
Illustration by Caroline Kilgore

As hard as it is to believe, there was a time when naysayers thought that Atlantans weren’t willing to pay top dollar for corned beef, pastrami, and pickles. Then along came the General Muir; deli crisis averted. Now let’s continue rounding out our patchy dining scene, starting with Eastern European restaurants. Where are the Poles, the Slovaks, the Czechs, the Bulgarians, the Romanians, the Ukrainians, and the Russians? I still haven’t gotten over the closing of New Odessa on Clairmont Road, nor can I remember the last time we had a proper Hungarian restaurant. Was it Hal’s (not the steakhouse) on Pharr Road? Also: Where’s my proper biergarten serving real German food and rivers of beer?

Photograph by Caroline Kilgore
Photograph by Caroline Kilgore

I grew up in Paris, where people buy butter as carefully as they buy cheese, weighing its origins (Normandy, Brittany, Poitou-Charentes); its saltiness; and even the degree of fermentation, which gives brands like Beurre d’Échiré a rich and tangy edge. If the only butter you know is a banal little stick wrapped in waxed or foiled paper, you must visit the Buford Highway Farmers Market, where more than 50 butters (domestic and foreign) are stocked in two separate coolers.

With imports from France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, and India, the dairy section includes compound butters, clarified butters, and even goat butters from all corners of the globe. Among my personal favorites are the rich, smooth, sweet-cream Kerrygold from Irish cows; the distinctly cultured French D’Isigny; and the supremely delicate, lightly salted Charentes-Poitou from Sèvre & Belle creamery. One quip: The market stocks plenty of high-fat domestic butters such as James Farm and Plugrá, but not our own Georgia spread—the slow-churned, small-batch Banner Butter favored by local chefs like Linton Hopkins and sold at Whole Foods, Candler Park Market, and area farmers markets.

A bit of advice: Once you’ve brought your butter home—no matter the brand or country of origin—be sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, or risk absorbing all sorts of fridge odors. A crusty baguette is butter’s ideal life partner, but if you’re in a pinch, saltines will do.

Field Notes

  • A proper Baltimore crab cake is all meat and no fillers. Hat tip to the Baltimore-born owners of Vine & Tap in Buckhead and Greenwood’s in Roswell, where the dish is pure delight.
  • New York transplants can finally stop whining about how much they miss their pizza. The thin, crisp slices at O4W Pizza in Irwin Street Market should do the trick. Or, for something heartier, try the square Grandma Pie cooked in a cast-iron skillet.
  • To the bartender at Victory Sandwich Bar who poured a bit of grapefruit juice into my Emergency Drinking Beer from Wild Heaven Craft Beers: I adore you.

This article originally appeared in our October 2015 issue.