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Archive for August, 2010

Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop

photo 2Hector Santiago — the mad genius behind Pura Vida Tapas — has a great sense of the possible. The flat, two-tiered rooftop to his restaurant’s Poncey-Highland building became the perfect venue for a self-irrigating  pepper garden, nourished by both rainwater and runoff from his HVAC unit. The parking lot across the street became an ideally visible spot to stage a weekends-only outdoor burrito stand that he christened Burro-Pollo.

Now, the small dining room around the corner from his restaurant that he once dreamed of turning into a high end dining destination has found its raison d’être as Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop. Open for lunch Tuesdays-Fridays in a hilariously cobbled-together space, it’s a true original.

When you enter on Blue Ridge Ave., you climb a small staircase to the Pura Vida prep kitchen, which has been outfitted with a cash counter. You place your order and return downstairs to extremely pleasant small dining room to wait for your food.

I recently ate at …

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Sunday Column: Dining on both sides of the Perimeter

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This way to good food

In yesterday’s Sunday Column, I summarized the ITP/OTP slapfest that broke out on this blog recently.

TAKING SIDES

It seemed a simple enough request.

As I announced last week, we are busy assembling a group of local food writers to help contribute restaurant reviews and blog items as we work to expand our footprint and deepen our coverage of dining throughout the metro area.

So I ran a call-out for applicants in the Food and More blog a couple of weeks ago that specified we were looking for a writer familiar with restaurants outside the Perimeter. We also said we wanted someone who could cook, use blogging software and knew the difference between “flare” and “flair.”

But that OTP clause makes sense, right? There’s a lot of ground to cover in this megalopolis we call home. Though we try to cover Dixie like the voracious boll weevil here at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, we’ve done a better job of chewing intown.

Alas, that brief mention of the …

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Revised star rating system

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Please make note of a small but significant change in the star rating system we use at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Now, restaurants with a one-star rating are recommended, even if they tend to be hit and miss. Restaurants with two-star ratings are more consistent, but best appreciated as a neighborhood option rather than a destination.

Why the change?

Because I feel that restaurants should earn the stars one by one based on merit rather than having stars assigned as a spot on the bell curve. If a restaurant is only fair or worse, then it makes sense to indicate this with a zero-star rating. I also believe this system helps us parse out the merits of neighborhood restaurants better, which will be a huge push in our dining coverage thanks to the team of reviewers coming on board soon.

The new rating system also helps us avoid grade inflation. We will be much more careful about assigning three, four and five stars and will hold restaurants at the top of the food chain to …

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Veranda Greek Taverna dining review, Roswell

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No more than a dozen diners fill the rooms of Veranda Greek Taverna, and yet somehow this meandering space with its mottled concrete floors, yellowish lighting and dark furnishings doesn’t feel empty. It feels alive. A few parties populate the dining room, patio and lounge areas, and occasionally a curtain opens to a back room where a poker league gathers around a spotlit table.

Flaming saganaki (all photos by Becky Stein/AJC)

Flaming saganaki (all photos by Becky Stein/AJC)

Waitresses congregate by the potted plants at the entrance foyer, conversing in Russian. Two husky-voiced women edge closer to two young men at one corner of the bar, and soon the bartender is popping Mythos beers for the party.

Into this scene walks an a cappella men’s choir. They briefly consult the manager, break into a rendition of “Yesterday” and leave.

“What was that about?” I ask the bartender.

“No idea,” he laughs. “They just asked if they could use the space to rehearse.” The bartender has just come to our corner of …

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Falafel duo: Cafe Posh and Cafe Sababa

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It appears that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s new offices sit right in the heart of the Great Northern Falafel Belt. We’re a stone’s throw from both Hovan Gourmet and OU For U, which I think are two of the city’s best venues for these fried balls of ground, seasoned chickpeas. Now I’ve learned that if I venture just a little farther afield, more goodness awaits.

Following the advice of readers responding to my recent falafel post, I checked out two places nearby. Cafe Posh in Sandy Springs is a bright, clean, upscale coffee shop with an appealing line up of sandwiches, salads and soups offered at lunch. The falafel salad seemed a bit dear at $9.99, but I enjoyed every bite. The falafel balls themselves are bright green with parsley and have a cakey texture and a fresh taste. Five of them came perched atop a romaine salad outfitted with cukes, tomatoes, onions, feta cheese, roasted red pepper strips and thin, creamy-textured grilled eggplant slices in a tahini …

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Front Burner: Chef Gary Mennie heads to Woodruff Arts Center, Empire State South to open

Courtest Morningside Farmers Market

Courtesy Morningside Farmers Market

We’ve been very bad here of late at bringing you delicious batter-fried nuggets of restaurant news, but here’s a good one, along with two choice dipping sauces:

Legendary Partners of Atlanta — the group that was recently awarded the contract for dining and concessions at the Woodruff Arts Center — has tapped Gary Mennie (left) as its new executive chef. Mennie was most recently executive chef at Livingston Restaurant & Bar in the Georgian Terrace Hotel, but you may remember him from his Brookwood Plaza restaurant Taurus or his long tenure at Canoe. No word yet on what Mennie’s and Legendary Partners head honcho Tony Conway plan to do with Table 1280, the Woodruff’s oft-empty restaurant. (”No shame in a great cafeteria,” he mutters under his breath.)

  • Empire State South — the first Atlanta venue from celebrated Athens chef Hugh Acheson — opens August 30, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu reads like a gourmet meat-and-three — an …

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Burger to the rescue: The Counter

photo-42Have you ever gone somewhere for a meal, realized it wasn’t working out and decided to call it quits and get burgers instead?

My family and I did just that recently. We were at a restaurant where the service was slow and the food not very good. Luckily, it was a small-plates format. When our first few dishes eventually came, we were hungry and grumpy. After a few desultory bites, I said, “Let’s get out of here.”

Soon we were at The Counter — a national burger chain with an outpost in Roswell. The idea here is that you build your own burgers by ticking off choices on a checklist. I opted for a beef burger (hormone- and antibiotic-free Angus, purportedly humanely raised) on an English muffin with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, green chiles and scallions. Man, this was a good faceful of food. The diced chiles were kind of bitter, but they mostly fell out of the increasingly messy burger as I ate. At $8.50 without any side items, it’s a little pricier than your average …

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Q & A: The AJC’s new restaurant reviews

Courtesy assembly.learn.net.in

Courtesy assembly.learn.net.in

I can see there are some questions out there about our new set up for dining reviews, and what it means now that I return to a role that requires more anonymity.

I’m going to survey the group and pick out a few questions. Feel free to ask any more in the space below.

Yes, you, skeptical-looking gray-haired man with the goatee in the back row.

Q: Kessler, your picture has been all over the paper. Can you really write an honest review when everyone knows your ugly mug?

A: Good question! I will tell you: this situation is not ideal. Obviously, recipes don’t change and waiters don’t learn better manners because they recognize me. But I get a much better sense of a restaurant’s ability to handle volume and prepare consistent food when I’m not dining as a known critic. That said, most reviewers are well recognized after a couple of years on the job. I’ll do what they do: make reservations in friends’ names, keep a low profile and pay with …

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Sunday Column: The AJC has a new(ish) restaurant critic

egoIn yesterday’s print column in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I announced that I will be resuming the role of principal restaurant critic.

BACK TO THE TABLE

Nearly six years ago I wrote that it “was time to put my fork in the dishwasher” and stopped reviewing restaurants for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. At that time my kids were young, my girth was expanding at an alarming rate and my brain was a little worn out from 13 solid years of critiquing food here and elsewhere. It seemed the right time for a change.

But nothing is permanent — not even change. Friday, I will resume the role of principal restaurant critic, replacing Meridith Ford Goldman, who left the paper earlier this summer. You can read my reviews every week in the AJC’s Friday Go Guide and at ajc.com on our Food and More blog, where you will be able to comment on them. I look forward to some spirited discussions online and am busily applying skin-thickening agent as I type!

Now here’s the best news: My …

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Which pubs have interesting menus?

beer1Yesterday’s post on Salt Factory got me thinking about the pubs around town with menus that go beyond the typical offerings of burgers and fish and chips.

My wife and I often end up at Leon’s Full Service in Decatur when need to grab something late for dinner — often carrot hummus and an I.P.A. for me.

If they were closer to home, I bet we’d just as often hit the Porter Beer Bar in Little Five Points and Young Augustine’s in Grant Park. I’m much less familiar with the good pubs O.T.P. but would love to hear about some.

Where do you go when you want a comfy booth, a pint and something for dinner that will make your palate happy without breaking the calorie bank?

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