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A visit to Parish

photo 3I have long been meaning to make it back to Parish Foods & Goods — the Inman Park restaurant that went up during the building boom along Highland Ave. a few years ago.

Actually, it didn’t go up but in fact it was the last remaining structure from an 1890s pipe factory that once dominated the streetscape. This long, weathered brick building has good bones, and  Parish uses the space well. The front entrance leads to the warmly funky top floor, which is a full-service restaurant. The back entrance takes you down to a market/cafe with a great communal table, sandwiches and salads, coffee and pastries, and lots of fun clutter to look at.

While I’ve enjoyed the cafe many times, I hadn’t been back to the restaurant since the opening chef Nick Melvin left (to go to Empire State South, and then Rosebud) and a new chef, Joe Schafer, took over. With Schafer, the restaurant subtly but definitively steered away from its Louisiana menu and toward a more general Southern one.

Our meal was a bit of a mixed bag, starting well but not following through.

photo 1We loved this salad with beets, pecans, oranges, crisp homemade bacon and burnt honey vinaigrette. That bacon had the same crackle as good duck skin.

photo 2Also scrumpdillyicious: this savory cheesecake of the evening (the flavor changes) with chicken and sausage and a sauce the waitress described as Worcestershire cream. We fairly attacked it.

photo 1But trouble came with entrees. This fried chicken breast was like rawhide on the tapered end, parching and stringy in the thickest part. We speculated it was a twice-cooking technique gone awry. The bed of grits had one of those skins you could peel off wholesale.

photo 3The whole fish, a loup de mer, was fresh and succulent, but the garnishes pitched a fierce battle for attention. That’s butternut squash, vinegared raisins, capers, spinach and a ferociously sweet/tart lemon sauce. Not sure why it’s brown.

photo 2Best was this square of pulled pork, compressed and crisped in hot oil. Its onion butter helps to moisten it, though that endless mound of braised cabbage and cornbread were both forgettable. That pork could star on a more interesting plate of food.

We ended with a chocolate tart with an impossible-to-cut crust. My daughter, determined not to let any sweets go to waste, kind of used her fork like a chisel to break it up. But not a great last impression.

I’d give Parish another shot at dinner sometime, but I’ll gladly keep going to the cafe.

19 comments Add your comment

Billie

March 22nd, 2011
10:10 am

Sounds like it hasn’t changed much since it opened. Thanks, John!
Unlike my favorite Italian standby. It’s so so gratifying to see that all is still well at Sotto Sotto.
If not better than ever. The favorite entrees are still there, especially the woodfired grilled chicken, and the pastas are still ethereal enough to read a large-type book if not a newspaper through.
New since my last time: absinthe-based drinks, now legal in the U.S. again, and a tweaking of an already formidable all-purpose Italian menu; specifically, an over-the-top beet salad with pistachios, arugula and the fabulous house vinaigrette — with TWO kinds of fresh cubed beets. It was so delicious as to elicit raves from self-professed beet-haters at the next table over.
My i-primi/entree of tagliatelle with mushrooms also exceeded memories and expectations. Simple, yes, but savory and silky perfection on a plate!
My companions’ raviolis stuffed with gourmet greens and anointed with gorgonzola were equally succulent and quickly disappeared as our table exchanged forkfuls of everything.
Good thing we had to park so far away on a Friday night or our sated palates might have caused us to nod off; as it was, we regretfully refused desserts and coffees.
Good to know that some things, though they change, remain superb!

FoodFan

March 22nd, 2011
10:34 am

Had a terrible meal the first time we went when Nick Melvin was still there, but we were willing to chalk it up to a bad night & wrong selections. After a couple of years, we went back with a large group recently and had a great meal. We did enjoy the apps better than our mains, though. The BBQ shrimp (with the heads on & in more of a worcestershire BBQ sauce) were great, and the pork pate in a jar were both standouts. I’d go back & just get some apps with some bread & good cocktails and call it a night.

AJ

March 22nd, 2011
11:01 am

Never been for dinner, but have had several great brunches there!

holland

March 22nd, 2011
12:14 pm

Ive had some amazing meals there and am a huge fan of Joe’s….saving our pennies for the dinner during Food & Wine fest that pairs him with Sean Brock!

Lisa

March 22nd, 2011
12:19 pm

I think Parish has made leaps and bounds. As Inman Park residents we werent huge fans when it opened, but since the new Chef has come, it is really top notch. We probably go once a week for either brunch or dinner. We love his housemade charcuterie and whole fish. It is really consistent and the specials are always amazing.

Wino

March 22nd, 2011
1:29 pm

Not sure why we got a Sotto Sotto review in the comments to a Parish review.

Billie

March 22nd, 2011
1:44 pm

It was about change, Wino. Sorry!

M. Johnson

March 22nd, 2011
2:13 pm

Billie, you should join the Food Blog team!

Billie

March 22nd, 2011
2:58 pm

Thanks, M. Johnson!
I did think it was ok to post reviews here. . . didn’t mean to intrude! :-)

John Kessler

March 22nd, 2011
4:39 pm

No intrusion at all, Billie! Lovedd your review.

VickiF

March 23rd, 2011
7:26 am

I do love the market downstairs at Parish and sometimes dip in there when we’ve gone to dinner elsewhere. The bakery things are nice and it’s a great place for a quick and yummy lunch…good coffee too. There’s housemade ice cream in unusual flavors to take home. They put the bakery things on half-price after a certain hour.

LoveFood

March 23rd, 2011
8:58 am

Sounds about right. I’ve been there three times with both chefs and had terrible food each time. I wanted to give them a chance because of the menu and they failed. Service is terrible as well. No reason to ever go back. And before anyone says anything – the service was bad with four servers on the floor and only two tables. We should have had stellar service. The place sucks.

Grasshopper

March 23rd, 2011
9:11 am

Parish has always seemed a little too pleased with themselves; it’s like they said ‘we have a great space in a great part of town with a hip clientele and a menu that should work beatifully.’

But then they stop working and the food kind of falls flat — in your belly. I ordered a brunch item, some type of suicide sandwich (I should have known better) with eggs and green tomatoes and burger and bacon and who knows what else. Ate half and felt like a bomb was ticking inside. Urp.

I’ll take your advice next time John and stick with apps, drinks and dessert.

Susan

March 23rd, 2011
9:41 am

I was so excited when this restaurant opened not far from where I live. My husband and I went for dinner and our food was so salty we could hardly eat it. Plus they stuck us at this tiny two top table under a chalkboard against the wall so everyone was staring over our heads the entire meal. Not very comfortable! We have never returned…even when we had a half off Scoutmob.

James

March 23rd, 2011
12:31 pm

“Parish has always seemed a little too pleased with themselves; it’s like they said ‘we have a great space in a great part of town with a hip clientele and a menu that should work beautifully.”

@Grasshopper – I went to Parish recently with my wife and made a very similar comment to her while we were eating there. There were maybe a couple of hits that night, but the overall feeling was of disappointment…style over substance is also a personal pet peeve.

I do hope they can get it together, though. If the substance can ever match the style, it’ll be an outstanding restaurant.

SS

March 23rd, 2011
12:35 pm

Parish is consistent in one thing – disappointing me! I’ve never had a good meal, or good service, upstairs or down. I’ve forever written it off.

Intowncook

March 23rd, 2011
2:53 pm

just a reminder. Nick Melvin wasn’t the opening chef for Parish.

John Kessler

March 23rd, 2011
2:55 pm

Intowncook – Thanks, and fixed.

Edward

March 24th, 2011
2:12 pm

I recently went to Parish for brunch with some friends. We were all very underwhelmed. The menu is creative but the execution left a lot to be desired. Every dish was mediocre, at best. The service was also haphazard. We had gotten there after the heavy brunch crowd (on a Saturday, at that), there were many empty tables, yet we still had to beg for normal service and actually one of our party had to get up and go find someone to refill water glasses. When the waiter brought the check without even asking if we’d like a dessert, I knew I wouldn’t be back. To add even more insult, we decided to venture downstairs to check out the market. Baskets of nice-looking breads just baked looked inviting. One of my friends picked up a loaf to purchase and was loudly told, “that’s not for sale, its for a private party later.” When we asked what WAS for sale, we were told, “nothing now.”
No, there are way too many good restaurants in Atlanta, and in that neighborhood, to put up with such issues.