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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Sunday Column: Dining on both sides of the Perimeter

FLOODING 4

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 Perimeter was one part of the entire post that got people talking. It didn’t take long at all for camps to square off on either side of I-285.

The comments started rolling in:

“Great. Just what this place needs is reviews of TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s and Chili’s. Don’t forget Outback and Red Lobster for those special occasion meals …”

Such was the initial volley from an intown reader. People joined in the jeering section, reeling off the names of chain restaurants that dot the suburban landscape and bestowing their greatest contempt on Denny’s. (One satisfied Denny’s customer felt compelled to point out the breakfasts are “memorable.”)

I thought it was curious that people complain so much about chains in suburbia when the same ones line Peachtree Road, Piedmont Road, Ponce de Leon Avenue and North Druid Hills Road. But, you know, whatever …

Then came the first riposte:

“OTP rules! and I don’t mean Chili’s”

The intown folks didn’t buy it:

“Ya sure OTP rules. Top restaurants and Chefs make it a habit to open their establishments in places with low population densities and low disposable incomes.”

Uh-oh. Battle lines had been drawn.

“Up here in redneck Johns Creek we know nuttin about good eatin or any kind of money. Lucky for us [Country Club] of the South has outside bathrooms. I think most of the money IS in North Fulton, you morons.”

It looked like war was about to break out on the blog. But then some reasonable souls started actually naming restaurants in the northern suburbs — from the upscale Trattoria One 41 to the down-home Greenwood’s on Green Street. A number of people made the unassailable claim that most of the best Korean, Mexican, Chinese and other ethnic cuisines are to be found outside the Perimeter.

“I don’t know anybody with deep roots in the area who lives or eats exclusively ITP or OTP. There’s great pho in Norcross, authentic Mexican in Jonesboro and Conyers, and killer BBQ all over the place, just for a few examples … [I]f you can’t find a great meal on either side of the Great Divide you just ain’t trying.”

One comment, from a parent of a child in a sports league, really caught my eye:

” If you have kids, you are always toting them to some game or tournament at the other end of tarnation. The consolation to the hour-long drive was going to eat someplace new.”

That really got me thinking. People who live intown often find themselves in the ‘burbs looking for food after a soccer match, or a trip to Lumber Liquidators, or a test drive at CarMax. They stay on busy streets and highways filled with shiny new construction where they see nothing but chains. They don’t know where to go, so they end up at Chili’s. They may not know, for instance, that there is such a place as downtown Alpharetta, filled with locally owned restaurants.

People who live in the suburbs and come intown to eat do so because they’ve heard about the restaurant. Maybe it was reviewed in the paper or created some buzz on the blogs. They may have a good meal, or they may stumble into a place that can’t keep up with all the attention. And then they think, “I could’ve had just as good a meal without the hour of driving.”

Before they know it, the “T” word is forming on their lips. “Trendy.” Who needs it?

Not everyone has the perspective of this commenter, whom I would like to hug, given half a chance:

“It’s just a highway, people. It means nothing. It doesn’t separate good restaurants from bad, or wealthy people from poor ones, or chains from non-chains.”

That said, I’m ready to dive into this debate. Head first.

110 comments Add your comment

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Food Lover

August 30th, 2010
9:33 am

I love going ITP for good food. I hate going ITP to get mugged. I especially like ITP when I get to see all the grown “adults” that need a roommate to live ITP to have the honor of saying they live ITP. ITP folk love to pretend they’re the enlightened hip bunch but it’s just ignorance, vanity, conceit and anger at having to pay house prices to live in a bedroom off Ponce. There are great restaurants intown though…and just as many OTP if the ignorant weren’t too cool to drive outisde their own neighborhood.

Rodney

August 30th, 2010
9:35 am

Just recently I found myself OTP at a “going-away” dinner for a long time friend. Yep, it was way OTP (Marietta address, I believe). Yep, it was a restaurant in a strip mall.

Aside from that, everything else about this place (I won’t give the name because I don’t want to be accused of pushing some resto) was well within my “I like it” criteria for a good meal.

It was hip and trendy, sure. The decor and the music and the clientele were mostly the same as I see in in-town restos. The food (was a small plates/tapas kinda place) was surprisingly good. As a table of six, we ordered pretty much every plate, kinda like our own tasting menu. Aside from a few missteps, everything I ate was quite tasty. And original. And, I enjoyed it.

I think that most people consider OTP restos as “kid friendly” and while I try and avoid family restaurants or anyplace with a kids menu (I do not want to dine with children, be it ITP or OTP) but there’s gems out there, too.

I’m excited about the new OTP reviews! I look forward to comparing my own opinion with someone else, and of course finding new places I’ve never heard of.

Thanks for thinking outside the ITP box, John.

Reds

August 30th, 2010
9:51 am

I live, work and play OTP. I’m glad to hear that we are going to be seeing more reviews for places OTP… because sometimes the good places go unnoticed cause of those big chains. But there are some great places in Alpharetta and Marietta that I frequent. Just hope the ITP folks don’t read about them. They can stay ITP ;) Kidding!!!

Me Jane

August 30th, 2010
9:55 am

@Food Lover – Wow. That’s a whole lot of judgment and generalizations about us ITP city dwellers. Wow.

Ima Glutton

August 30th, 2010
9:55 am

JK, good job bringing back the sanity. I live OTP, but work in Chamblee, and I love the dining in both places. Roswell restaurants are second to none. My wife and I NEVER go to a national chain OTP, and almost always find a wonderful meal (Rue on Canton St is the exception in 10 years of Roswell eats).
At the same time, I really enjoy the crepes at Ron des Vous (sorry about the spelling) in Chamblee on Windsor Pkwy, and dim sum at the Canton House on Buford Hwy.
ITPers, do not limit yourself to only dining within walking distance. MARTA comes to the ‘burbs. Hop on and enjoy the meal!

AtlantaNative62

August 30th, 2010
10:02 am

If you still need someone for the OTP writing, I’m a native of Atlanta and I grew up in the Majestic Diner on Ponce. (My dad owned it in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s). I live in Sandy Springs. I eat out both OTP, ITP, and OTR (over the river) and know great places in all the areas. Plus, I can spell……check. People who think there are no great restaurants OTP, OTR, AND ITP just don’t know Atlanta. From dives to diners to gourmet, it is available in all areas of Atlanta.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cathlyn Choi, Cheryl Hayes. Cheryl Hayes said: Sunday Column: Dining on both sides of the Perimeter: Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)… to help contribute re… http://bit.ly/bIp6rn [...]

stilldefiant

August 30th, 2010
10:21 am

I vote for AtlantaNative62!

Rodney

August 30th, 2010
10:32 am

lol @ IMA GLUTTON – love the name …

real foodie

August 30th, 2010
10:56 am

I was born downtown, raised in Toco Hill, and now live in Sugar Hill. I have been from one end of the area to the other. I like some places ITP; but, since most of my time is OTP, that is where I eat. My gripe is constant reviews of places ITP that are way too expensive for me, and in that sense, not worth the drive. I also do not seek out the “new” or “trendy” stuff-heck, I won’t even touch calamari. I will give you a great example of a very fine restaurant in the heart of Buford-Aqua Terra Bistro. Yes, it is just one example; but, they have set the standard “way up here” for many years, now.
Let’s start somewhere.

Hungry Gringo

August 30th, 2010
10:59 am

I grew up OTP and moved ITP during college. There’s great food on both sides of the Perimeter, although it’s a little harder to find the authentic restaurants OTP. The trick is to get as far away from the interstate as possible.

Also, if there is a place that truly is a soulless suburban wasteland where Chili’s and Applebees are the ONLY options, it’s not in Metro Atlanta… it’s Birmingham, AL.

Ima Glutton

August 30th, 2010
11:00 am

Thanks Rodney…..just a guess, but does the place that you dined at have a couple of pianos?

Rodney

August 30th, 2010
12:06 pm

I found out later that it does, but THANKFULLY that wasn’t the case when I was there. I’d probably have a different opinion if it were. :) Note to self: check for piano night if returning.

Ima Glutton

August 30th, 2010
12:58 pm

Then I know the spot and your review was, on-the-nosey. Good job

Ima Glutton

August 30th, 2010
1:09 pm

Oh, 1 more thing Rodney, we’re also with you on the, child-free dining. Please parents, leave the “little darlings” at home, unless they are very well behaved in public.

To any other OTP diners, is the Thai House across from the U-Haul place any good? It’s been there as long as we’ve been in Roswell, but we always go to Rice or Thai Emerald.

Leslie

August 30th, 2010
1:10 pm

As always, you find balance. OTP or ITP, there’s good eating to be found all over Metro-Atlanta. But here are a few of OTP to start with: Milton’s Cuisine, Mayfield Road, Alpharetta witrh former Chef and GM from Rainwater. Food, service, perfection! Smokejack in “downtown” Alpharetta on Main St for Q and music. Sweets: White Windmill Bakery, Buford Highway. A cross of Asian and French patisserie. Also Alpharetta: One Star Ranch on N. Main St, sloppy and delicious ribs. Pampas Steakhouse State Bridge Rd. Eat on!

Andrew S

August 30th, 2010
1:45 pm

@Ima Glutton -

Coincidentally, I ate at the Thai House for the first time about a week ago (that dreadful rainy Friday). The decor is nothing special but the green curry I had was, while certainly not the BEST around, pretty damned good.. (It was too sparsely populated at the time for me to get a good look at anything else coming out of the kitchen though. so YMMV.) Prices are very reasonable so it’s worth a shot.

NeilW

August 30th, 2010
1:51 pm

Amen to checking to see if it’s piano night. Could not hear the person sitting across the table on that night. Great little neighborhood place in s strip center.

Ima Glutton

August 30th, 2010
2:19 pm

@Andrew: Thanks for the heads-up. We’ll give ‘em a shot.
@Leslie: love Milton’s, but miss the original carrot cake:-( The one they have now is very good, but the cc they served when they first opened made us weak-in-the-knees.

SP

August 30th, 2010
2:56 pm

I live ITP. I work OTP. I REFUSE to eat at chains because I prefer my money be spent locally. That said. It’s slim pickings for quality restaurants OTP compared to ITP. Do any of Atlanta’s Top Chefs have restaurants OTP? I will be curious to see what your OTP food blogger chooses for OTP restaurants and reviews because what I’ve found is crap. So for now, I’ll save my money and support the ITP restaurants.

Edgewood Adam

August 30th, 2010
3:36 pm

I find the big difference in ITP and OTP dining is getting quality for the money. I grew up in Alpharetta and moved to the city about 5 years ago. Since living downtown i find it almost staggering the amount of quality cheap places to eat. A few examples are The Rightous Room, Lunacy Black Market, Osteria, etc. I was never very impressed with the fine dining in Alpharetta either. It seems the menues were often dumbed down to satisfy the taste of soccer moms. There is nothing in downtown Atlanta though that can touch the asain food in Norcross.

Kathy W

August 30th, 2010
4:03 pm

I like to eat anywhere that is good whether ITP or OTP. Live OTP so I am really looking forward to hearing about anything new that is good! It’s nice to see that someone realizes that Atlanta has a lot to offer both ITP and OTP.

Jeff

August 30th, 2010
6:05 pm

I think as “ethnic Atlantans” (Japanese, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, Mexican…) have migrated outward over the past 20 years, so has most of the interesting food. If you’re looking for the best really expensive pecan-crusted tilapia with a side of way overpriced organic asparagus with some fancy smancy wasabi-dressing, then you’re probably going to have drive inside the perimeter.

SalMonela

August 30th, 2010
6:40 pm

What seems clear from the preceding remarks is that a great many ITP’ers rarely venture outside I285, just as many OTP’ers are loathe to risk life, limb, or (worse!) automobile, by coming inside the Perimeter.

There may be great restaurants in Dunwoody, but telling me (a self-confessed ITP’er) about them is like telling me that there are great restaurants in Chicago or Los Angeles. Unless they’re worth the price of a ticket on Delta, I don’t really care – any more than many of the OTP commenters care about the latest gastro-pub opening in Inman Park.

So… is the AJC just going to end up pleasing none of the people all of the time? Is this just another symptom of the paper’s own recent flight to the burbs? Does this represent an opportunity for Creative Loafing or some other publication to focus on, and subsequently capture the intown dining interest(and accompanying advertising dollars), leaving coverage of the hinterlands to the AJC?

No answers, but a boy’s gotta wonder…

mike

August 30th, 2010
8:17 pm

I think, when speaking about ITP v OTP there is a big difference between Dunwoody and Sandy Springs versus Cumming and Buford. It also depends a lot on the type of food. If you’re talking upscale, 5-Star dining, there really isn’t a debate, it’s all ITP. Between the higher disposable incomes of Buckhead residents, etc… and the expense account money of business travelers it just wouldn’t make any sense for an award winning chef to locate up in Johns Creek or Buford.

Is there really a reason to drive up to Stoney River or Pampas, when you’ve got Chops, Bones, Hal’s and Rathburns?

Now as far as barbeque, breakfast and midrange restaurants, I don’t think ITP has any advantage over OTP. Like someone else mentioned, I enjoy venturing OTP for Greenwoods and Asian restaurants.

Chris

August 30th, 2010
8:24 pm

I live ITP I work OTP. I usually eat near home because the last thing I want to do is get back on the f-ing connector to go eat. I do think there are tons of good places OTP as well and love to try new places when I can.

Emily

August 30th, 2010
8:25 pm

My husband and I prefer to do our dining “OTP-style” in order enjoy a quality meal in peace and in safe, clean, law-enforced, civil areas without being surrounded by rude, foul-mouthed, chest-thumping, loud-talking, free-meal-scamming hoodlums with “Obama” stickers on their tacky automobiles that are backed poorly into the establishment’s parking spaces and who are too busy “keeping it real” to tip their hard-working restaurant servers.

You can have your precious ITP dining “experience,” in-towners.

fildawg

August 30th, 2010
8:31 pm

If you want OTP reviews – get an OTP paper. This is the ATLANTA journal. ATLANTA is entirely ITP!

A

August 30th, 2010
8:38 pm

Ponce de Leon does not have a Denny’s or a Red Lobster or a Chili’s. No TGIFridays, no Denny’s, no Applebees. This is a fact.
Also, I am sure there are lovely places to eat otp but then I would have to dine with otp-ers like the above “food lover” and lots of spitting children. Thank you, no.

A

August 30th, 2010
8:40 pm

Emily, you should just give it up and move to Germany.

A

August 30th, 2010
8:45 pm

I’m sorry, real ‘A’. I got carried away. I’m the mean A. The real A is a nice person who likes to read this food blog. I am just a big troublemaker.

fildawg needs a geography lesson

August 30th, 2010
8:55 pm

Hey fildawg, where is the “Atlanta” paper located?

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
223 Perimeter Center Parkway.
Atlanta, GA 30346

Oh, that’s right. Outside the Perimeter. There are ATL mailing addresses OTP.

Needabailout,too!

August 30th, 2010
8:59 pm

I think it’s interesting social commentary how we are so quick to draw lines between ourselves in this Atlanta society–whether its who rules, ITP or OTP; “Northerners, why don’t you go back North”; and now Emily, with her thinly cloaked rant on racially different ITP diners! Can’t we all just get along, if only in the food columns?

Emily

August 30th, 2010
11:01 pm

Needabailout, too! -

Being loud, rude, obnoxious, unhygienic, a poor driver/parker, inconsiderate of your fellow diners, chewing with your mouth open while talking, disrespectful to restaurant management and/or “too good” to tip your server who bends over backwards to ensure your culinary experience is nowhere short of exquisite has absolutely NOTHING to do with anyone’s’ race, age or sexual orientation.

People in this country’s current economic climate work far too hard for their overtaxed dollars to have a lovely dinner out at a nice restaurant ruined by the most uncouth among us.

Please take your racially divisive agenda to somewhere other than the food blogs, and enjoy your meal.

Thank you.

Panda

August 30th, 2010
11:30 pm

Germany is far too nice a place for Emily. Maybe Venezuela would be better.

Foodgeek

August 31st, 2010
7:40 am

How is someone uncreative enough to need to steal the name “A?”

Emily, I fail to see the correlation between people who dine out ITP and poor tipping practices or anything else that you mentioned. For one thing, you’ll see more children in restaurants dining OTP than dining ITP, so by default you’ll see more open-mouthed chewing, inconsiderate behavior and such. And people who live ITP generally tip more than those who live OTP simply because they dine out more often. If you work as a server for a living, trust me, you’re going to do much better working in a restaurant in town than you will out in the suburbs.

Where are you getting these stereotypes?

grits

August 31st, 2010
7:41 am

I don’t normally comment however I read JK’s blog religiously even seeking out a few of the restaurants he has reviewed. I live ITP and 80% of the time my family will dine ITP unless I read a review that warrants a planned outing OTP. That said you know the over generalizations on both sides are grating to say the least. Everyone works very hard (even higher income folks) for their money and no one wants a bad dining experience.

Art

August 31st, 2010
9:01 am

This used to be a really interesting food blog…. Occasionally someone would make a friendly jab at someone else but everyone knew it was all in good fun. With these latest posts, the comments have become mean-spirited and downright nasty. If I wanted to spend my time immersing myself in this sort of negativism, I could go out and drive around on these roads that we’re pretending define where good people and good food can be found. No thanks! I’ll spend my precious free time elsewhere until the conversation gets back to food.

Potty Pot Pie

August 31st, 2010
9:17 am

Art – excellent post. Nailed it.

RK

August 31st, 2010
9:51 am

I don’t care where it is — I care about how long is takes to get to. I love Decatur, but it’s a pain to get to, so I don’t go often.

Muffin

August 31st, 2010
10:02 am

A – there was an IHOP on North Avenue for many, many years, as well as the TGIF by Piedmont Hospital that just shut down after many years, and there are currently two Chili’s intown located on Piedmont Road!

Vaughn

August 31st, 2010
10:34 am

In addition to several of the reasons Emily mention as to why I dislike dining ITP, any restaurant that forces its patrons to use a mandatory valet service loses my business.

I go out to dinner with my buddies and ladyfriends for a nice culinary event, not to be mistreated by rude, condescending servers who critique what we do or don’t order as happens had far too many ITP establishments.

kc

August 31st, 2010
11:28 am

wow. emily did an excellent job pinpointing the exact reason i hate dining OTP: being surrounded by diners like her. (except BuHi, et al; i doubt she + her ilk would be caught dead anywhere around there.)

A

August 31st, 2010
12:46 pm

Foodgeek, I don’t know how it happened, suddenly there was another one of me. As I said, this other A is the nice one. I’m trying to decide on another initial but I’m not done yet.

Also muffin person, I specifically said Ponce de Leon. Not North. Not Piedmont.

Also, Emily: just wow! Because I live itp I am now “loud, rude, obnoxious, unhygienic, a poor driver/parker, inconsiderate of your fellow diners, chewing with your mouth open while talking, disrespectful to restaurant management and/or “too good” to tip your server who bends over backwards to ensure your culinary experience “? I’m sorry but I have to go with nazi on this one.

SP

August 31st, 2010
1:52 pm

To Emily – you are so ignorant. If you knew anything about Atlanta dining, you would know that Atlantans are some of the highest tippers in the country (fact!). I’m sorry when you worked at Cracker Barrel, you weren’t tipped but you probably were a crappy waitress and the food sucked.

And you might want to check the crime reports coming out of Gwinnett before you start spouting more nonsense that you know nothing about and only fantasize.

As for parking at the fine ITP restaurants, it’s called “Valet” and it comes complimentary at almost all restaurants ITP. You just have to tip, which we do, and gratefully because good food ITP is worth the trip. My guess is from your self-parking and loud diner rhetoric that you were at a chain restaurant near a mall. Sad…

You clearly have poor social skills and poor tastes in quality food and restaurants. We dont want or need people like you ITP. So enjoy your lunch at Applebee’s!

Ima Glutton

August 31st, 2010
2:20 pm

People, people……food should unite us, not divide us. As that wonderful example of civic obedience asked, “Can’t we just all get along”?

Rodney

August 31st, 2010
6:12 pm

Someone opposes valet parking? Good grief – I prefer valet vs. trying to find a spot. :)

PJ

August 31st, 2010
6:48 pm

I am thankful that there are great restaurants all over Metro Atlanta – ITP & OTP. Both have great, original restaurants with amazing eats. I enjoy nights out at Rathbuns, Woodfire Grill, Miller Union, Pura Vida, Cafe 101, etc., as much as I enjoy my nights at Greenwood’s, Relish, Rice, Bistro VG, Honey Pig, Tasty China, etc. Buford Highway’s international delights span ITP & OTP. With amazing options everywhere, I feel fortunate to live in a city with great food in every price range, in every area and with every different type of atmosphere.

Leeeatup

August 31st, 2010
7:25 pm

Interesting. You folks (on both side of the shouting match) don’t even know how to read a map. How does a Perimeter only go north? According to you, if there is food worth eating, it must be a tad northeast or northwest OTP. Everyone knows (AJC seems to) that south of town, past the Airport anyway, is a wasteland. Or so you would think, reading these blog comments. Come on folks, most of those recent movies reported by the AJC as being made in “metro Atlanta” or “here in Atlanta” are being made down here in Fayette, Coweta, South Fulton, Clayton etc. counties, and those movie “stars” and crews are eating “down” here and doing just fine with it. We love seeing them out and about. Y’all come, we have lots of one-of-a-kind restaurants OTP south, believe it or not. And we’re no farther out than Roswell or Alpharetta for you ITP folks.