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Archive for October, 2010

Southside for lunch

Pork and eggs à la Dai Loi

Pork and eggs à la Dai Loi

So it finally happened.

Leaving the airport today after dropping someone off, I took a wrong turn and ended up plying the southern-edge service roads until I found my way onto 285. As my mind is wont to do, it went to food and I realized I was but 10 minutes away from Jonesboro Road in Forest Park.

A few years ago this area was starting to shape up as a Buford Highway South — an exciting mix of varied Asian and Hispanic restaurants and food markets. The poor economy has taken its toll on the area, and some of the more promising operations have gone out of business.

Still, I love the Mexican ice pops at La Estrella de Michoacan and am always heartened whenever I stop for lunch at Pho Dai Loi. While the Buford Highway offshoot — Pho Dai Loi #2 — gets a predominantly Vietnamese clientele there for the beef noodle soup, this original location has grown into a grander restaurant with fantastic service and an amazingly diverse clientele. You hear as much …

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Where is this?

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Miller Union and Bistro Niko on Esquire’s Best list

Image of Esquire from

Image of Esquire from

Esquire Magazine’s roving dining critic John Mariani compiles an annual list of the 20 best new restaurants across America — always a useful snapshot of the state of high-gloss dining in this country.

This year two Atlanta restaurants made the cut:

Additionally, Mariani named chef Joshua Hopkins of Abattoir one of four “chefs to watch” around the country.

The article was not on the Esquire website when I last checked, but you can see the full list on

Kudos, all.

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Column: Halloween candy angst

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

The Halloween Grinch assumes control of this week’s column.

A friend of my daughter’s came over the other night holding a full bag of candy corn and snacking directly from it.

My first thought was, “Yum! Candy corn, ” for this is a seasonal food I look forward to almost as much as the spring’s first asparagus. In fact, if anyone wanted to make the case for high-fructose corn syrup, I would say that the existence of candy corn offers a pretty good a priori argument.

But then my second thought was, “Halloween candy? Already?” It wasn’t even October, and that annual orgy of ubiquitous cheap candy had started. Every year I hate it more.

I know exactly how it will play out in our house. Within the week, my wife will come back from the market with three enormous bags of candy, chirping merrily about how she got it purchased ahead of time. One of these bags will contain a mixture of the kind of sugary effluvia that sinks to the bottom of the trick or treat bag — the …

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Behind the Review: Persian Roundup

Chicken kebab from Fanoos in a takeout container

Chicken kebab from Fanoos in a takeout container

Even in today’s economic climate, there are enough restaurants opening to review a new place every week. Yet that approach doesn’t give readers any kind of perspective on the city and its many surprising pockets of great dining.

So periodically I’m going to eschew the standard review format for a roundup, such as this piece on the small concentration of Persian dining spots in Sandy Springs. Because I’m already familiar with these restaurants, I visited each only once (and occasionally sampled the fare from takeout containers), so no star rating is attached.

However, I’m never 100% certain as to what readers consider useful global information and what just feels like rehash.

I’m curious to know if you find these kinds of alternate reviews helpful. Were you aware of all the Persian places in Sandy Springs? Would it have been more helpful to include other metro area Persian restaurants, but with shorter descriptions of each?

If …

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Dining review: Persian Roundup, Sandy Springs


Fanoos (credit: Becky Stein)

How would you describe Persian food to someone who has never tried it? Probably with a metaphor. It’s the caramel-dipped phrasing of Sade singing “Smooth Operator.” It’s the shimmering vibrancy of a huge Georges Seurat canvas composed of pastel-hued dots. It’s the overstuffed chair upholstered in buffed leather that you feel you will never stop sinking into. Persian restaurant cooking is meticulous, elegant and without any hard edges.

I can’t imagine there’s a human being on the planet who wouldn’t like this food – both vegetarians and carnivores, both people who insist on eating light and those looking to get stuffed, both sensitive palates that eschew hot spice and curious ones that look for intrigue.

While there is any number of Persian places in and around greater Atlanta, the largest concentration can be found on Roswell Road just north of I-285, and this is where you should start exploring. Each of these four restaurants along this stretch …

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Fox Bros. BBQ: the good stuff

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Beef short rib (available Thursdays)

Two Chicago Tribune journalists — Kevin Pang and Keith Claxton — have been on a fast-and-furious barbecue road trip, cutting their way through the South in a company sedan, eating vast quantities of meat and documenting their baptism by smoke in an ongoing blog.

I was happy when Pang — one of my favorite food Tweeters — asked if I would join them for lunch on their swing through Atlanta en route to New Orleans. Considering the nature of their quest, there really seemed to be one place that said “Atlanta barbecue, circa 2010,” and that was Fox Bros. BBQ. You may say there’s better around the city, but there’s no other spot with that custom blend of robust business, ambient smoke, diverse crowd and devil-be-damned cooking — that feeling of what life in Atlanta is about.

Truth be told, I’ve hit Fox Bros. a few times as a regular customer and never been its biggest fan. The food has always been too rich and waaaaay too salty for my blood. But …

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Alternative recipe for collard greens

Credit: University of Maryland

Credit: University of Maryland

It was cold enough this morning that it got me thinking about the first morning freeze. I’ve always heard that winter greens picked just after a hard freeze are the best and sweetest you’ll have all years.

While the first freeze is still weeks away, the idea got me hankering for some collard greens. I can’t wait until I pick up my first two-foot-long bunch and get a batch going. I’m a Yankee born and bred, so you probably won’t find a ham hock in the pot.

My idiosyncratic recipe goes more like this:

  1. Wash the leaves well and scrub the leaves with one of those green-sided scour sponges. I’m not sure why this makes them taste better, but it does. Perhaps whatever phytochemicals protect the greens from the elements are a little bitter.
  2. Remove the stems and chop the leaves into one-inch squares.
  3. Saute a big yellow onion in olive oil in the bottom of an 8-quart pot.
  4. Add three or four minced garlic cloves and a minced jalepeño, stir for a second or …

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Fish on the bone: Jun Ju Korean Restaurant


Do you enjoy a dressed catfish? Not a catfish fillet, but a whole skinned cat fried to a keee-runch on its bone?

Then you might like Jun Ju — a Doraville Korean restaurant that specializes as far as I can tell in all varieties of bone-in fish.

I can’t tell much because this restaurant (located next door to Sushi House Hayakawa) doesn’t have an English-language sign and no one staff spoke enough English for me to chat up. That said, the staff is very nice, and they don’t blink twice if you order the weirder stuff on the menu, of which there is plenty. This place is refreshingly hardcore.

Case in point: the first four lunch specials are different kinds of fish. On the waitress’ recommendation I ordered the Spanish mackerel ($7.95, above in all its blurry glory). I pulled the backbone off this half fish and with it came the potato-chip-crunchy surface that I picked clean.  Inside, the fish was moist and naturally oily with all kinds of crispy edges.

ban chanI really loved the pinkish, …

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Former Atlanta sushi master garners two Michelin stars

AJC Staff

AJC Staff

Soto Japanese Restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village has earned two stars in the 2011 Michelin Guide to New York City Restaurants, the New York Times is reporting. It is one of only 10 restaurants in New York to hold the coveted rating, which is much harder to earn than a one star rating. Only four restaurant hold the highest rating of three stars.

Chef Sotohiro Kosugi ran the restaurant for many years in a Buckhead shopping center before relocating to New York several years ago.

Those of us who recall his brilliant small plates and raw-fish creations know the honor is well deserved.

Congratulations, chef!

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