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Food 101 dining review, Sandy Springs



“Why is it called Food 101?” we wonder as we dissect the menu. After four visits, I still puzzle over the name, finding little that is elementary about the food — until I learn its history.

Review by Jenny Turknett

Review by Jenny Turknett

Though its name is unchanged, Food 101’s menu today bears little resemblance to the one it opened with 11 years ago. The meatloaf and fried chicken are the last remaining vestiges of its original down-home-style menu. With Chef Justin Keith now at the helm, the restaurant serves food with what it calls “urban polish.”

Some dishes, such as the pulled-pork barbecue sandwich ($11), on paper may sound like 101 intro-level items, but tasting them betrays their graduate-level status. The barbecue sandwich is more sophisticated than its standard foil-wrapped cousin. Here, the pork is slathered with mustard and hickory-smoked in-house for eight to 10 hours. Topped with lightly dressed coleslaw, the pork drips juices and spicy-sweet sauce into the challah bun. This is one of few sandwiches I don’t mind rolling up my sleeves to eat.

I also savor the catfish ($13), coated in a surprisingly light and delicate cornmeal-flour batter. Not your basic catfish, it pairs nicely with a very lemony aioli and peppery arugula. The grits served with it, however, are too heavy and an uncomfortable partner for the citrus aioli, deflating the freshness of the dish. Don’t miss the catfish — just try a different side.

At dinner, Food 101 offers house-made snacks including boiled peanuts and pickled vegetables. Looking for the urban polish, we opt for the pickled-shrimp jar ($7). Beautifully presented, the jar sits atop a footed wooden board with a spray of saltine crackers. I spear shrimp and chunks of crunchy carrot, celery and onion out of the fennel-lemon-celery-seed brine. I appreciate the bold-tart flavor of the lemon brine but find the shrimp to be a bit rubbery.

We also try the bibb lettuce salad ($7), where the genius lies in the thoughtful plating. A creamy herb-buttermilk vinaigrette lines the plate. Bibb lettuce, slices of pink grapefruit, avocado and shaved Parmesan dance on top. With the dressing on the bottom, salad ingredients remain light, fresh and unencumbered.

An enthusiastic waiter sells us the enormous Kobe beef brisket burrito ($20), an item that might have been too “exotic” for the original menu. The beef is enveloped in a mole sauce with peanut butter, dark chocolate and brewed coffee. Alas, a heavy hand in the peanut butter jar flubs the dish. The dominant peanut butter imparts a heavy-earthy tone that overwhelms the beef and is oddly paired with the burrito’s thin-buttery queso and jammy-tomato relish.

Stuffed French Toast (photo by Becky Stein)

Stuffed French Toast (photo by Becky Stein)

I am more pleased with brunch, where the kitchen gets playful with standard breakfast fare. I order the lobster omelet ($16) and am surprised to find a deconstructed version of the classic omelet. I peel back the egg to reveal delicious mounds of lobster, Boursin cheese, avocado and arugula.

On the sweeter side, the not-too-eggy brioche French toast ($10) dazzles us. Stuffed with a rich-cinnamon cream cheese, it is studded with chunks of persimmon and tart dried cranberries. But it’s the tangy-sweet pomegranate-maple syrup that elevates the French toast to star status.

While the name Food 101 may no longer aptly describe the food, it is part of the restaurant’s evolutionary past — an evolution that will likely continue and possibly stretch Food 101 beyond its current neighborhood niche.

FOOD 101
4969 Roswell Road, Atlanta, 404-497-9700
Food: American
Service: Servers enthusiastic and knowledgeable about wine
Best dishes: Barbecue pork sandwich, cornmeal-crusted catfish, brioche stuffed French toast
Vegetarian selections: Appetizer salads, soups, roasted-pumpkin ravioli
Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. Sundays, 11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. and 5:30-11 p.m. Fridays, 5:30- 11 p.m. Saturdays
Children: No children’s menu but high chairs available; best to bring them for brunch
Parking: Shared lot
Reservations: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: Low
Patio: Yes
Takeout: Yes

17 comments Add your comment

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Auntie Alli

March 3rd, 2011
6:42 am

Yum, makes my mouth water – glad I’m heading back to Atlanta today maybe I’ll head there this weekend, thanks Jenny!

[...] original here: The AJC reviews Food 101, Atlanta | Food and More with John Kessler Uncategorized 101-4969, appetizer, atlanta, barbecue, brioche-stuffed, food, french, [...]


March 3rd, 2011
10:13 am

I haven’t been to Food 101 in a while … thanks for reminding me what a gem it is. I’ve only gone to dinner there in the past (which has always been fantastic!), now I need to try that Barbeque Pork Sandwich and go for the brunch.


March 3rd, 2011
10:17 am

Food 101 is one of my favorite dinner and lunch spots! Now I think I will add brunch to the list. The french toast looks, sounds amazing!


March 3rd, 2011
10:39 am

I am a big fan of Food 101 for a nice lunch. The housemade chips with carmelized onion dip make for a soul satisfying starter. I’ve tried many of the sandwiches over the years and have loved them all. It has been a very long time since I’ve done diner there, but looking at the menu again, I’ll have to venture back soon.


March 3rd, 2011
10:44 am

I live in the Sandy Springs area and dine at Food 101 quite frequently and LOVE it. I dream about the Tuna Tostada appetizer! I can’t wait to try brunch now…..that French Toast looks amazing.


March 3rd, 2011
4:12 pm

I go to Food 101 about 2-3 times a month, and I love lunch dinner, and brunch there. I am going to have to call out this review for not knowing enough about the food reviewed to review it correctly. I have had grits all over this town, and Food 101 is in the elite among the stone-ground style, and they accompany the catfish in a grand way. The burrito is a different kind of delicious; I actually loved the peanut butter flavor. It is simply a difference in taste preference. You have obviously never had pickled shrimp. To give 2 stars to one of Sandy Springs’ favorite “relax, drink, and eat good food” spots is crazy. Food 101 defines excellence in local dining. At least 4 stars!


March 3rd, 2011
4:55 pm

JoJo – I’ve had that burrito there – to cover up that beautiful beef (which I couldn’t even taste) with peanut butter is just sooo wrong. Save some money and make yourself a PBJ.


March 3rd, 2011
6:38 pm

Please review everything I stated before you comment – “The burrito is a different kind of delicious; It is simply a difference in taste preference.” I have seen many people try it. Some absolutely love it, and some don’t care for the cobmination. It’s fine to not like it, but don’t hate the greater number of friends that thank me for telling them to try it.


March 4th, 2011
11:17 am

based on the grading scale, to give this restaurant only 2 stars is an understatement. It is better than average and from reading your review, your enjoyment of the experience exceeds 2 stars. give them their 3rd star. I have seen this restaurant continue to grow and evolve over the years and it continues to get better. It is a great restaurant with a friendly atmosphere and service staff. The food is consistently good and creative. No other place like it in that area. Blows Horseradish Grille out of the water.

John Kessler

March 5th, 2011
9:38 am

cornbread – It was a high two stars in my estimation, and the bar operates at a 3-star level. The food I had there was very nice for the neighborhood. But based on the dishes I sampled, I wouldn’t yet tell people to drive across town for it, as I would for Miller Union or Woodfire Grill. Thanks for reading, JK

Berkshire Dawg

March 5th, 2011
9:54 am

It should be obvious by now that Food 101 is in the city of Sandy Springs, rather than north Atlanta or Buckhead. Yes, this is quibbling.

John Kessler

March 5th, 2011
12:05 pm

Thanks, Berkshire, fixed. Old habits die hard


March 5th, 2011
7:06 pm

Food 101 does have a second location in Virginia Highlands…..


March 6th, 2011
1:29 pm

@Lisa, the highlands location was bought by the chef Ron Eyester about 3 years ago. It is now Rosebud.


March 6th, 2011
3:20 pm

Food 101 is one of my favorite restaurants, and has been for many years. Service is excellent. Wine list is great. The breadth of menu provides plenty of choice for any palate. I always feel appreciated and warmly welcomed. For me, a third star is definitely in order.