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Archive for February, 2011

The new cheese fritters at Pico Autentico

Courtesy of Pico Autentico, credit: Erin Gray

Courtesy of Pico Autentico, credit: Erin Gray

Last month, Andy Badgett and The Condiment Group closed Southern-inspired Relish Restaurant and in its place opened Pico Autentico, serving authentic Mexican fare.

Fans of Relish questioned the move, particularly in light of the national recognition it received for the fried black eyed peas (Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”) and pimento cheese fritters with five-pepper jelly (TLC’s “Best Food Ever”).

Locals also lamented the loss of items such as the Krispy Kreme bread pudding and the cucumber lemonade martini. Both of those items have found their way onto Pico Autentico’s menu, likely due to their popularity.

But what about those fritters? They have been reinvented for Pico Autentico’s menu using pepper-jack cheese, chorizo and roasted poblano peppers — with that same pepper jelly. While I wanted to give the new restaurant some time to settle in, I had to stop in to try the new cheese fritters. Pull one …

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In the news: El Cabrito closed, Basha Bistro open

elcabritoEl Cabrito – CLOSED

The OTP Mexican restaurant off the little section of Buford Highway I dub “no man’s land”, has closed. The stand-alone restaurant that was known for their tacos de chivo (goat) looks like it has been closed for a while. I ventured out there and confirmed it for myself, but it got dark pretty quickly so I took a few snaps with the camera and scooted off.

6530 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta. 770-300-0364 – DISCONNECTED.

In other news:

Basha Bistro

A reader wrote to inform me that a new Mediterranean restaurant called Basha Bistro has opened on 14th Street (midtown) by the mosque. The menu boasts a variety of chicken and beef dishes in shawarma or kebab form. For hungry vegetarians, the Basha mezze platter comes with grape leaves, hummus, baba ghannouj and falafel, which can be ordered for just $10.

11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Sundays, 420 14th Street, Atlanta. 404-254-5611, $.

Sonny’s Place

Shakshouka with home fries

I wrote about Sonny’s opening last week and made a trip over the …

Continue reading In the news: El Cabrito closed, Basha Bistro open »

“Waiter, there’s a watch in my salad.”

AJC Staff

AJC Staff

CNN’s Eatocracy blog recently told the unfortunate tale of a “sender-backer.”

“A what?” you ask.

A sender-backer, as in a cretinous man who makes a habit of cadging free meals from restaurants by sending back mostly eaten entrees. The CNN reporter who wrote the post had the (mis)fortune of sitting next to this man in a New York restaurant. After the guy sent back his steak, he explained the technique to his date. After sending back a small remaining portion of his dish, most waiters will ask if he’d prefer a replacement entree or having the item removed from the bill. He always chooses the latter.

People like this are doubly odious. One, because most restaurants operate on paper-thin profit margins and they can’t afford to entertain jerks. Two, because he makes a bad name for the rest of us who send food back for good reason.

Most people I know never send food back. Even my wife demurs, preferring not to make a fuss because she’d never want to be …

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Fulton County responds to street food shutdown

The Fulton County Office of Environmental Health — a division within the Department of Health & Wellness — issued a press release explaining its shuttering of three mobile food operations in Poncey-Highland yesterday.

Apparently, an “AJC blog” alerted them to the existence of these street vendors. Um…

From the press release:

On February 19, 2011, Fulton County Environmental Specialist Kimisha Griffin conducted an investigation into allegations of suspected illegal mobile food vendors. Fulton County officials received notification from the Georgia Department of Community Health, Environmental Health Division of suspected illegal food vendor operations identified from a blog on the Atlanta Journal Constitution website.

As a result of Specialist Griffin’s investigations, 3 legal notices were issued. One was issued to the vendor known as The Fry Guy and 2 were issued to Pure (sic) Vida for operating 2 mobile stations outside of their establishment. These vendors were cited for …

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Fulton County orders abrupt shutdown of street food vendors

The Burro-Pollo street food vendor after being shut down

The El Burro Pollo street food vendor after being shut down

An enforcer with the Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness made the rounds of Poncey-Highland’s burgeoning street-food corridor today and shut down all vendors serving hot food in the middle of their lunch rush.

“We were told we could serve our food as long as we weren’t preparing it on the street,” said Leslie Santiago, who runs the weekends-only El Burro Pollo burrito stand with her husband, Hector.  “But today they told us we needed to have a license, even on private property.”

The Santiagos, who also operate a morning French toast stand, quickly moved the operation inside to their Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop across the street.

Also shut down was the Atlanta Fry Guy, one block away. The King of Pops, an ice pop push cart, stayed open.

Santiago named a supervisor at the Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness whom she was told had ordered the shutdown. Calls to the health department went …

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Las Arepas de Julia dining review, Lilburn



Walk into the vibrant Colombian restaurant Las Arepas de Julia and you’ll instantly feel a warm familial vibe. Walls are painted bright orange, and owner Julia Cardona and her employees are posted behind the restaurant’s front counter happily chatting up the constant stream of Latin customers. As the name suggests, the Lilburn restaurant specializes in arepas – thick, soft tortilla patties made with ground cornmeal.

Review by Gene Lee

Review by Gene Lee

Arepas come in various forms at Julia’s. The ones that appear the most are grilled circular ones made with white cornmeal. The tortillas have slightly charred surfaces and are used as buns to anchor the kitchen’s various protein pairings. Arepitas, smaller coin-sized arepas also made with white cornmeal, are served stand-alone as accompaniments to other dishes on the menu. I’ve worked my way through a lot of the arepa combinations and found them to be a bit monochromatic, but I found myself swooning over the restaurant’s other traditional …

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Holy Taco dining review, East Atlanta Village


When I vetoed the cheese dip, my family looked ready to kill me. Here we were past our normal dinner hour on a school night in a Mexican restaurant, sniping from hunger. That’s precisely the situation cheese dip is made for, right? You sit down, and within seconds you’re mindlessly dipping crunchy chips into pacifying goo.

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

And, yes, there was a version of cheese dip on the menu at Holy Taco. But there were also so many dishes begging to be mindfully eaten. How about an apple salad, or a roasted onion soup, or a plate of lamb sausages? This taco business was but a jumping-off point for a far more interesting agenda.

Chef Robert Phalen and his business partners opened Holy Taco three years ago in East Atlanta Village – the former Iris location – with a straightforward neighborhood taqueria menu. Everyone likes a good taco (or a bad taco), a margarita and a seat on a pretty patio, right? Right. The neighbors came, they crunched, and they drank …

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Are you a picky eater?

Swallow at the Hollow macaroni & cheese, credit: Jenny Turknett

Swallow at the Hollow macaroni & cheese, credit: Jenny Turknett

Is your child a picky eater? Are you?

My parents might say I was a picky eater as a child. There were foods that I would not eat.

I didn’t eat bread other than biscuits — not even pizza — until I was in my late teens. (Now, bread is a major weakness for me.) I also have memories of sitting at the table on “hash night” staring at my plate long after everyone else had abandoned the table. Hash was out.

My husband was a picky eater as a child, as well. An often-told story in his family is about how he first ate chicken when the power went out and he couldn’t see what he had been served for dinner.

The product? Our child is a picky eater. I’m not joking when I tell you that the foods she eats can be counted on your fingers. And some of those items come from very specific places. For example, she loves macaroni and cheese… but ONLY from Swallow at the Hollow. And only after the “toppings” are removed — …

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Georgians among James Beard Restaurant Awards semifinalists

james_beardThe James Beard Foundation Award For Excellence season is upon us, and once again a number of prominent local chefs are among the semifinalists, which were announced today. Most categories list 20 semifinalists, though a few have more.

Restaurant award judges throughout the country (of which I am one) will vote from this list to determine the five finalists in each category. The finalists will be announced on March 21.

The Georgians cited today are:


  • Aaron Russell, Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta
  • Cynthia Wong, Cakes  & Ale, Decatur


  • Mike Klank and Eddie Hernandez, Taqueria del Sol, Atlanta


  • Steven Grubbs, Five and Ten, Athens


  • Kevin Gillespie, Woodfire Grill, Atlanta


  • Hugh Acheson, Five and Ten, Athens
  • Billy Allin, Cakes & Ale, Decatur
  • Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta
  • Hector Santiago, Pura Vida, Atlanta

Congrats to all.

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Top Chef All-Stars recap, Episode 10: Brought to you by the letter (deep)V

Credit: Bravo TV

Credit: Bravo TV

Psssst…..spoiler alert.

As we jump back into the stew room, immediately following Fabio’s departure, Blais looks like someone just ran over his puppy. Broken hearted over the loss of his bromance, Richard vents, “I wish he would have consulted with me. I run a burger restaurant!”

That is probably very true, but you can’t fix everyone’s dishes for them Richard. But that is sweet of you.

Back at the bar, Dale and Richard form a season 4 alliance. Side note – I love that every time we see the chefs at the bar, Dale is ALWAYS one of the only ones drinking a real cocktail instead of coffee.


The chefs walk into the Top Chef kitchen and, after an awkward spoken word version of the theme song from Padma, up pop the characters from Sesame Street! The guest judges for the Quickfire challenge are Sesame Street all-stars Elmo, Cookie Monster, and….that purple guy? WTF? Was Grover booked or something? (Purple guy’s name is Telly, and I don’t …

Continue reading Top Chef All-Stars recap, Episode 10: Brought to you by the letter (deep)V »