The Christiane Chronicles: Stop asking me, “Have you dined with us before?”

Plus, why I love restaurants that have their own grocery stores
Christiane Chronicles
Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Just give me the menu
Of all the ways a server can make a guest feel insecure, the one that irritates me the most is the very dated, very pretentious “Have you dined with us before?” A phrase coined at least a decade ago to prepare customers for then-novel ideas like tapas, the question has now become superfluous and snobby. Servers might as well ask, “Is everyone at the table a rube?”

There’s no getting around the question either. Say “no” and endure an over-the-top retelling of the restaurant’s mission statement as well as instructions on how to locate the appetizers, entrees, desserts, and cocktails on the menu (on the back, we can read). Say “yes” and the server will still blab on about his or her favorite dishes. If I want recommendations, I’ll ask. I wish I could snap back with, “Just give me the menu,” or “What difference does it make?” But I can’t because then I’d be the snobby one.

Tempo Doeloe and Batavia
Picks from Tempo Doeloe, Batavia

Photograph by Rawan Althomali

Dinner and a grocery
Restaurants with their own grocery stores are particularly dear to me. You know about Star Provisions, where cheese, charcuterie, ocean-fresh seafood, stellar bread, and (pricey) wine are all available at the footsteps of Bacchanalia. I tend to favor more modest grocery stores attached to ethnic restaurants. From Al-Amin in Doraville, a Bangladeshi eatery with its own butcher shop, to Euro Gourmet Grill in Lawrenceville, which owns an impressive Bosnian supermarket next door, these places make shopping and dining complementary pursuits.

At the terrific La Carretta, a mostly Latin restaurant in Marietta, I can stock up on necessities like tortillas, fresh cheese, and (cheap!) avocados. Indonesian restaurants like Tempo Doeloe and Batavia in Doraville have a vast selection of homemade Indonesian crackers, plus every condiment you need (sambal, shrimp paste, dried fish) if you ever want to prepare rijsttafel (an Indonesian feast of small plates). Most Vietnamese places, including Lee’s Bakery on Buford Highway, also sell fresh tofu, bread, and sticky rice.

Next to Persepolis on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs is another favorite of mine, Shahrzad, a wonderful Persian grocery that stocks premium almonds, tangy sumac, pomegranate molasses, and aromatic long-grain rice.

Field notes

  • The latest epidemic spreading among bartenders? Man buns. Apparently no one can make cocktails anymore without first putting their hair into a topknot.
  • Recipe request: The Bob Armstrong chili con queso at Ford Fry’s Superica is incredible, a mix of chorizo, guacamole, and sour cream served with warm chips.
  • For a surprisingly authentic taste of the South, stop by any outpost of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams for one of her newest flavors: spoonbread sweet corn ice cream.

This article originally appeared in our April 2016 issue.

Our Bad: The previous version of this story erroneously stated that Superica’s Bob Armstrong dip was named after the pro wrestler. The dish was actually named after a former Texas Land Commissioner.