Today marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. If everything goes according to tradition, my wife and daughters will leave the house early this morning to take advantage of Black Friday shopping sales, and I will stay home, happily snuggling with the turkey carcass.
Alas, I know the day will soon come when I will have to broach the unfamiliar territory of shopping malls and meander through various perfume, clothing and jewelry departments in search of their Christmas gifts. The shopping season is upon us — all of us.
As much as I hate malls, I always remember I have the consolation prize of lunch: not just any old lunch, but a splurge that somehow seems justified in context. Maybe a dozen oysters, or a steak and a martini, or one of those crab cakes the size of a softball. If I have to look at pashmina shawls, I deserve it, right?
The Lenox Square/Phipps Plaza area offers the perfect one-two punch for the lazy shopper. That said, I’ve yet to find a restaurant inside one of these malls that feels like a splurge. But it’s a quick drive to Fogo de Chao, that Brazilian churrascaria where gauchos roam the dining room with impaled joints of spit-roasted meat. I’m not so sure I want all that endless meat at lunch, but the salad bar is splurge enough. The price ($22.50) seems high, but wait till you see that salad bar! Hearts of palm, fat asparagus, great Parmesan cheese, smoked salmon, fresh mozzarella: These are just the calling cards. Add a basket of hot cheese bread, and you’ve just found the best buffet in Buckhead.
Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. 3101 Piedmont Road, 404-266-9988.
This Cobb mall just inside I-285 is a shopping destination for the northwest suburbs. Just in its shadow is a Japanese restaurant that should be a destination for sushi lovers throughout the area. Tomo Japanese Restaurant looks like any strip mall sushi joint and, at first glance, the menu will seem run of the mill. You should ask to see the dinner menu and feast on one of chef Tomohiro Naito’s seafood specialties. Try the snow crab wrapped in thin cucumber sheets with garlic-jalapeño emulsion ($18) or melt-in-your-mouth tempura of kinmedai ($16) — golden-eye snapper. Save room for a dessert prepared by the chef’s wife, Kimiko Naito. The mango jelly with coconut panna cotta and crepe strips ($8) looks exactly like a fried egg with a rasher of bacon. It’s as hilarious as it is delicious.
Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays. 3256 Cobb Parkway, 770-690-0555.
You can’t go far in Atlantic Station without finding something to eat. But, really, if you’ve spent an hour in the young miss section at H&M, you really want to get outta there. Not far across the 17th Street bridge lies the Oceanaire Seafood Room — a big, goofy-expensive chain restaurant decorated to bring to mind a Gilded Age cruise ship. There are really only two things you need to know about this restaurant and its menu. One: The jumbo lump crab cake ($16.95) with mayonnaise-mustard sauce is a big ol’ scoop of goodness, with sweet chunks of snowy meat and a minimum of binder. Two: The daily selection of oysters (usually $2.25-$3.75 apiece) are unparalleled in town.
Lunch 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. 1100 Peachtree St., 404-475-2277.
A perennial leader in the Atlanta Zagat Survey, McKendrick’s Steak House gets everything right — the wine program, the service, the comfort, the easy indulgence of a great steak house. This is where you should get that nice little steak — maybe a 6-ounce prime filet mignon ($23.95) with a tasty side, such as creamed corn or brussels sprouts ($7.95 each). On the other hand, there’s a kinky burger you shouldn’t miss if it appeals at all. The “surf and turf burger” ($18.95) holds chunks of Maine lobster in a ground rib-eye patty. It comes with a toasted bun, lettuce, ripe tomato, pickles and a big dollop of béarnaise sauce. It’s a very weird, very delicious mess — as pure a splurge as you could hope for.
Lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. 4505 Ashford Dunwoody Road, 770-512-8888.