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Dining Team Member: The Chowhound


Since this is my “get to know me” post, I figure that I should start with something I’ve never told anyone before.

When I was growing up, I absolutely refused to eat bacon.

Whew! It just feels good to get that off my chest, you know? But before you write me off completely, rest assured, I grew out of it.

I’m a born-n-raised Atlantan (Ok, technically East Cobb) with Alabama roots and, as is often the case with southern families, food was a major part of my upbringing. Some of the most vivid memories I have as a child are of my Grandfather’s fried chicken and helping my mom make the dressing for Thanksgiving dinner. Food took hold of me at a young age.

Shortly after college, I moved back to Atlanta and landed a good job that afforded me more disposable income than a food and drink obsessed 22-year-old should have access to. Nothing crazy, but enough to be dangerous. Predictably, I blew every penny of it. And I blew most of it on food.

Then reality came crashing down on my young, irresponsible head. Suddenly, my financial situation took a turn for the worse and I could no longer keep up with the lavish tastes I’d developed.

That period of my life taught me a few lessons, not the least of which that I should have listened to my parents when they kept bugging me about this thing called a “savings account”.

However, I was also reminded that you don’t have to line up for the biggest name chefs or most expensive restaurants to find food that makes your eyes roll back in your head. I never lost the sense of joy that comes from a sloppy, greasy burger or a fall-off-the-bone baby back rib. My ears may still perk up when someone says “foie gras”, but I’m not scared of a sackful of cheese Krystals or a good slice of pepperoni and mushroom.

I might be a food aficionado, but I’m no snob.

Along the way, I decided to finally put my English degree to use and share my enthusiasm with the world on my blog, Live To Feast. Somehow, through a healthy dose of luck, I’ve found myself as part of the new dining team here at the AJC. To say that I’m humbled would be an understatement.

My job is to spread the word about a class of restaurant that all too often falls under the radar in this town. I’m writing about the restaurants that we visit in our everyday lives. I’m here to tell you about the hole in the wall pizza joint that makes a meatball sub that is so good that you’ll drive—gasp— across 285 to get it. My job is to find the bar dishing out the best fried pickles this side of Louisiana. But most of all, my job is to make you hungry.

Compared to the Atlanta fine dining beat, I’ve got a LOT of restaurants to choose from. And this is where you come in.

What “everyday” spot do you love that deserves some attention? Who’s got the best pizza/BBQ/burgers in your neck of the woods?

I’m all ears.

27 comments Add your comment


October 21st, 2010
7:24 am

Welcome to the Beat – there’s a LOT of hole-in-the-walls around here that should have a column in the sun. I do like the sandwiches at Savage Pizza (along with the pizza) – the Italian sub is right tasty. And Stone Soup Kitchen does a mean tomato bisque, along with some rather good breakfast-lunch dishes.

Good luck with the column – hope to hear good things from the four of y’all.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajcdinecritic and GL, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Dining Team Member: The Chowhound [...]


October 21st, 2010
8:11 am

I’m excited you’re on board. In fact, I’m excited about all the new stuff going on. Very cool. I’m very much the same as you when it comes to food… give me something like veal, etc any day. But from time to time…. I love a slice of greasy pizza or a sackful. Or really just the chili cheese fries ;)

Hungry Gringo

October 21st, 2010
8:57 am

“more disposable income than a food and drink obsessed 22-year-old should have access to” LOL. That’s so me right now. I’ll try to avoid the crash though.

Hole in the walls, eh? ITP: Camelli’s in the Ford Factory Lofts, 28″ dia NY-style pizza. OTP: Old Hickory House, BBQ so good Jimmy Carter got it flown up to the White House and a lurid history of strained families and near-failure.


October 21st, 2010
9:41 am

RIGHTEOUS ROOM! they have fabulous food.

Jon Watson

October 21st, 2010
9:58 am

@ KoPP – I’ll definitely check out Stone Soup Kitchen (for my own personal enjoyment), but I think that might actually be a better fit for Jenny’s beat (Jenny…you paying attention?). However, Savage pizza will make it into the rotation, in one form or the other.

@Hungry Gringo – haha…take it from me: enjoy it (but not too much). Though I made many an un-wise decisions at that age, I don’t really regret any of it. I had a good time and ate like a king. I’ve got my work cut out for me on the BBQ side of things…especially because BBQ, arguably more so than any other kind of food, elicits some very passionate responses from people. I’m sure that I’ll probably step on a few landmines on the BBQ beat, but I can’t tell you how excited I am to get out there and try as many around town as I can. Old Hickory House – noted, and added to the list.

@ Muffin – For all of the times that I’ve been to the Righteous Room, I don’t think I’ve ever actually EATEN there, but I will. I’m usually too distracted by the amazing jukebox and all of the booze ;-)

Thanks guys, and keep ‘em coming!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Erickson, Jenny Turknett. Jenny Turknett said: Dining Team Member: The Chowhound [...]

Mike Fincham

October 21st, 2010
10:18 am

Welcome Jon – I enjoy your blog and you should make a great addition to John’s band of merry foodies. If you want help avoiding BBQ landmines, feel free to reach me via my blog (BBQgeek). I think Bill Addison is the only person who’s eaten at more Q joints than me. Here’s a freebie – skip the BBQ @ the Hickory House – order the country breakfast instead.


October 21st, 2010
10:24 am

First, let me say that I’m totally jealous of your new gig. Congratulations! Now, back to food. I assume wings fall under your beat? The best wings I’ve had in ATL are at Clay’s Sports Cafe in Sandy Springs. I know this probably fall under Jenny’s beat as well, but I have to mention Carver’s on West Marietta St. It’s the definition of a hole-in-the-wall meat and three…maybe you and Jenny could write a joint post/review. Don’t miss the Coca Cola cake.

M. Johnson

October 21st, 2010
11:09 am

Go have Dunch at the Earl in East Atlanta one weekend. Also, I’m a fan of the breakfast scene at Homegrown.

All the best.

John Kessler

October 21st, 2010
12:01 pm

My brother ate nothing but bacon when he was growing up. Seriously…weirdest little Jew out there. But now he’s essentially vegetarian, so go figure…


October 21st, 2010
12:11 pm

JK- i didn’t think it’s possible to OD on bacon… but I might be wrong. ;)


October 21st, 2010
12:11 pm

Or “didn’t think it was possible” rather.

Jon Watson

October 21st, 2010
12:24 pm

@Reds – Trust me, if it were possible to OD on bacon, I wouldn’t be here right now.


October 21st, 2010
12:40 pm


Try the resurrected Nicky’s Seafood on Whitehall. I’m surprised none of the foodiedouchebags (sorry, to me, it’s one singular word) have jumped on it yet as the next hole in the wall.

Steven A.

October 21st, 2010
1:05 pm

My brother and I ate bacon as kids, but we meticulously separated the fat from the lean and left the fat behind. If I had the same tendencies today, I’d be more svelte, but I probably also wouldn’t be hanging out in the commenting sections of food blogs.

Really glad to see you on the AJC payroll, Jon, as I’ve long enjoyed your blog and tweets as much as I’ve enjoyed Gene’s. Go forth and bring us noms, good sir.


October 21st, 2010
1:52 pm

Congratulations on the gig, and glad you’re here! I love the way the AJC’s food team is growing!

I suppose it’s more of a local watering hole than a hole in the wall, but I love Teela Taqueria’s creative fillings. The Southern BLT is a fave, and while I don’t even _like_ beef brisket, theirs is the exception to my rule. They are located in Sandy Springs.

Amy G

October 21st, 2010
4:55 pm

Welcome and Congratulations! I’m a faithful follower and fan of your blog and I’m really looking forward to hearing more from you via the AJC!
My suggestion is for you to try Shorty’s Pizza. They have 2 locations ~ on Lawrenceville Highway in Tucker and at the corner of LaVista Road and North Druid Hills Road. They do Antico-style thin crust and they have some wicked toppings. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Jenny Turknett

October 21st, 2010
5:47 pm

Jon & KoPP – Got it. Stone Soup Kitchen is on my radar! And I do love tomato bisque!


October 21st, 2010
6:40 pm

Welcome aboard! Can’t wait to hear your finds for pizza – I am partial towards that really thin crust new york style charred bottom perfect mix of sauce & cheese and something I can’t define that you can only seem to get on pizza in new york…. For deep fried pickles (Elvis pickles), try Roxx on cheshire bridge. My niece and nephew make a beeline for them every time they visit.

Jason molinari

October 21st, 2010
9:44 pm

Looking forward to you column.
Carvers sucks. Sorry. Mediocre hot line cafeteria style food, and not tasty greasy spoon kind either.

Quan ba 9 on buhi needs some love. I’ve been pushing it for 2 years:) tons of dishes not found anywhere else in town.


October 22nd, 2010
12:34 pm

Best fried pickles EVER-Brickhouse Tavern and Grille in Newnan at Hwy 154 and 34…absolutely terrific! And you must try their meatloaf and mashed potatoes!


October 22nd, 2010
2:50 pm

Welcome Jon, I’m sooo sorry you have to do this day in and day out, it must be awful (dripping in sarcasm and jealousy)! Now that I’ve shown you my 8 yr old side I feel we can communicate more openly.

Pizza- Galla’s or Antico (very different and both very delicious)just incredible.

@ Stone Soup suggestion best Pimento cheese sandwiches in Atlanta, hands down.


October 22nd, 2010
7:10 pm

Congratulations on becoming a big time Atlanta food “critic”. I cant imagine a neater job – getting to go to all the “holes-in-the-wall” food places to eat and to write about it. I’ve long been an admirer of your food escapades, and I look forward to your travels and recommendations in and about the metro area on your food hunting expeditions.


October 23rd, 2010
9:59 am

Welcome Jon. Many of the establishments mentioned on this blog are moderately well-known already. I’m hoping that your and your reader will share places that are “off-the-grid”. Many of us find ourselves in an unfamiliar location with no idea where to eat…so we start to look for places with full parking lots. That works occasionally, but I would rather have a list in my iPhone that…..hey! Maybe you and Kessler can come up with an iPhone app for us so we can geo-locate restaurants that you’ve reviewed!


October 25th, 2010
7:16 pm

Shorty’s Pizza – not just for its pizza, but for the menu as a whole. A little foodie experience without really being a foodie place. The atmosphere (especially Toco Hill location) is fun and the staff is always pleasant.

Tattered Wishbone

October 27th, 2010
1:38 pm

AJs Famous Seafood in Marietta for craveworthy shrimp po boys.