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Cakes & Ale

A few bites into the fried okra brimming out of a paper cone, I relaxed; the move to larger, tonier digs on the southeastern edge of Decatur Square had not unhinged Cakes & Ale's personality. Stubby little purple okra pods sheathed in crackly batter popped with the same playfulness I remembered from Septembers past. So did the menu’s only mainstay: arancini, two-bite spheres of fried risotto stuffed with melty sheep’s milk cheese.

No. 246

I thought I'd stumbled onto a private party for the local food glitterati the first time I visited Decatur's No. 246 in July. It was the restaurant's inaugural Monday, six days after opening for business. The full house generated such a clamor that the noise bouncing off the white brick walls vibrated in my hands and feet as well as my ears. High-profile chefs like Kevin Rathbun and Empire State South’s Ryan Smith shouted happily, twirling pastas and sharing pizzas among wine distributors and off-duty managers and servers from other restaurants. What drew them—and the unremitting crowds that have shown up night after night since then—so immediately?

Watershed

Note: This location is now closed and has reopened in Buckhead as Watershed on Peachtree.

If we were to play a restaurant version of word association, what would come to mind if someone shouted "Decatur"? My instant response is "Watershed." It has stood solid for twelve years, becoming an anchor of the community as condo buildings materialized along West Ponce de Leon Avenue and Decatur’s dining scene found its burger-and-craft-beer-loving soul.

Drink Up: Pappy Knows Best

“Two cubes?” asks Corina Darold, the bartender at Cakes & Ale in Decatur, before she pours my glass of Pappy Van Winkle’s 23-Year Family Reserve. I nod. Water unlocks the aromas and flavors of bourbon, but I particularly like the way slowly melting ice awakens the character of this unusually mature whiskey. Drinking it is like lingering over a world-class pastry chef’s ace creation: Apple and toffee scuffle for taste-bud space with sneaky spice and vanilla. A flash of orange peel shimmers through each sip’s afterglow.

Discovery: Afghani flatbread at Alosta Bakery

If Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford, coauthors of the extraordinary Flatbreads & Flavors, ever come to Atlanta, I want to take them straight to Nazifa Garib’s humble bakery. The hand-painted sign above the door and the improvised nature of the space would remind them of their fieldwork documenting traditional recipes from around the world. We would tear into large, flat rounds of simple bread just peeled from a freestanding tandoor and share a vivid and timeless moment.

Iberian Pig

Federico Castellucci III understands hospitality. He appears at our table moments after we're seated at his Decatur restaurant, the Iberian Pig. Wearing glasses with thick but modish black rims, he looks like an olive-skinned Clark Kent—and radiates that character’s earnestness, too. "Folks, thanks for stopping in," he begins, smiling and extending his arms. "I’m a fifth-generation restaurateur. My family has been in this business for a hundred years. So if I’m not doing something right, there’s definitely something wrong."

Opening Soon: The Yogurt Tap

Walking around in downtown Decatur on a recent blazing hot July afternoon, I made a beeline when I spotted signage for The Yogurt Tap, a new frozen yogurt shop that Micropundit put on my radar a couple of weeks ago. Sadly, there was still butcher paper up on the windows in the former Houseworks space on Church street, and I peeked inside to find a contractor hard at work on the unfinished space.

Method Coffee: A scientific attention to detail

It isn’t easy for independent coffee shops to fight corporate giants that crowd the market and deliver a uniform taste. Some independents rely on the personality of their baristas, the quality of their furniture, the ease of their Internet connections, and the extent of their merchandising. Many pride themselves on having better, more ethical beans. But what distinguishes a newcomer in the Emory Village, a place so focused and so good that some coffee nerds are waving bye-bye to their usual haunts, is primarily a technique.

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