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A mission to save Mondays at Monday Night Brewing

Local beer drinkers have fallen for Monday Night Brewing’s trifecta: the Eye Patch Ale IPA, the Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale, and the Fu Manbrew Belgian-style Wit, and the same is true of the brewery itself. Located off Howell Mill Road on the Westside, the company founded by Jeff Heck, Joel Iverson, and Jonathan Baker is a great post-work hangout, just as it was when the trio began brewing beer about seven years ago in the garage. A self-described group of white-collar guys with ties, they eventually followed their hearts (and palates), trading in the buttoned-up collars for the business of brew.

The Apostle of Pizza

The phone rang in Mike Virga‚Äôs office in Union, New Jersey, one morning three years ago: ‚ÄúI hear somebody going, ‚ÄėI want some of that good Lioni mozzarella. Come on, sell me some. It‚Äôs me, Giovanni.‚Äô"

The Optimist

Ford Fry has a knack for creating likable, trend-driven restaurants that I've found capable but overly safe. His first, JCT Kitchen & Bar in the Westside Urban Market development, opened in 2007. Its tame versions of shrimp and grits, chicken and dumplings, and deviled eggs draped with ham helped usher in the era of that now-cliched genre, Southern farm-to-table, but they lack gutsy soul.

No. 246—Fry’s snazzy Decatur venture with executive chef Drew Belline—launched mid-2011 when fresh hot spots were a rarity amid the draggy economy. It satisfies its nightly crowds with busy pastas, Neapolitan-style pizzas charred in a wood-burning oven, and other Italian comforts. There, too, I hanker for more gusto, for more reach and spark to the cooking.

Cardamom Hill

It might be easy at first to doubt the authenticity of the cooking at Cardamom Hill, Atlanta's first regional Indian fine-dining restaurant. In what other South Asian place have we seen such precise knife skills, or exquisite sense of composition, or range of colors? And who thinks of sliced beets with spiced yogurt, marinated boneless chicken thighs fried in lacy batter, duck and plantain croquettes with figs and cinnamon, or colorful salads topped with tropical fruit as part of the Indian culinary lexicon?

Drink Up: Perrine’s Wine Shop

Too many wine shops in Atlanta, no matter how choice their inventories, display all the decor appeal of a storage warehouse. How wonderful, then, to step into the breezy serenity of Perrine’s Wine Shop, which opened in August on the Westside. Gauzy curtains, whitewashed columns, and even a showcased French skin care line make the place feel more like a boutique clothing store.

Quinones at Bacchanalia

I walked into Quinones at Bacchanalia, glanced around, and realized I was the only fellow wearing a suit. This surprised me. After all, Quinones is the most formal restaurant experience left in Atlanta. Situated on the lower level of the Westside complex that houses Bacchanalia and Star Provisions, the hushed Southern Gothic dining room holds only eleven tables. It serves a nine-course set menu (no choices, but it changes weekly and includes several bonus noshes) that costs $125 per person‚ÄĒ$195 if you opt for wine pairings with seven of the dishes. It is a restaurant engineered for lavishness. Why not dress for the occasion?

Bacchanalia

A server at Bacchanalia set down an orb of crabmeat bound in a bronzed coating of breadcrumbs, arranged over splayed avocado slices, and stippled with orange and grapefruit sections. Vanilla beans speckled a shallow pool of vinaigrette at the bottom of the bowl; the maternal warmth of their aroma and flavor calmed the precocious jolts of Thai pepper essence that bounced among the ingredients. Every sweet, hot, mellow, and tingly nuance harmonized with the crab. The effect of the dish was akin to the reprieve after an evening thunderstorm that dissipates the Atlanta summer heat. My heart felt lighter afterward.

Miller Union

The braised rabbit at Miller Union looks homely, as many of the South's finest dishes do. Shredded meat, sauteed mushrooms, russet-colored gravy, and a moat of grits make for an unglamorous collage of earth tones. But, oh, the taste. Bite after bite, this entree reminds me of Nat King Cole‚Äôs voice: velvety, soothing, timeless. The rabbit is cooked for two hours with carrots, celery, and fennel in chicken stock and red wine before being pulled from the bone‚ÄĒa step that helps squeamish eaters disassociate their meal from the cuteness of bunnies. No fancy seasonings mar the Logan Turnpike grits from North Georgia. They are simmered in water and milk and finished with salt, pepper, cream, and butter. The mushrooms add pleasant murkiness, and the braising liquid, acting as gravy, curtails the richness. This is food in high definition, a vivid sequence of flavors that reflects the agrarian roots and ingenuity of our region‚Äôs cooking.

Bocado

Watching Atlanta's Westside develop has been the urban equivalent of witnessing a new mountain range emerge in fast-forward: So much fresh geography, so many uncharted nooks. What is currently the area‚Äôs most fertile corridor of businesses‚ÄĒbetween the junction of Northside Drive and Marietta Street and the intersection of Howell Mill Road and Fourteenth Street‚ÄĒfelt forsaken just five years ago. Now you can stop for Thai curry at Spoon, pick up cupcakes in a dozen flavors at Caryn‚Äôs Cakes, grab panini at Toscano & Sons Italian Market, and disappear into the clump of businesses dubbed the "Beer-muda Triangle": 5 Seasons Brewing Company, retailer Hop City, and Octane, which serves Belgian ales and microbrews alongside coffee. This stretch also claims its share of destination restaurants‚ÄĒBacchanalia, Abattoir, and the just-opened Miller Union among them.

Abattoir

To Anglo ears, the word "abattoir" has an almost spiritual chime. Without knowing its meaning, one might guess that it refers to a labyrinth of monastic cloisters, or the dwelling of a particularly devout ascetic. But it’s French for "slaughterhouse," the term being derived from the verb abattre, meaning to shoot, knock down, or demoralize. Abattoir is one of the least onomatopoeic words ever adapted into the English language.

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