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Rise -n- Dine restaurant review, Emory Village

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On a recent trip to New York I skipped the expensive breakfast at my hotel each morning and instead went around the corner to a perfectly good-enough diner. The menu there seemed to have changed little in decades, and I found it funny that the words “health” and “healthy” were always doled out with a scoop of cottage cheese for lumpy punishment. That cottage cheese healthified a bunless hamburger, a salad and even an egg-white omelet.

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

I can’t imagine a life of egg white and cottage cheese omelets is one worth living, but I guess I shouldn’t knock it until I try it.

Still, it bums me out that restaurants ghettoize the healthier options on their menus behind a wall of veiled contempt and medical data through which no joy or flavor can pass. Isn’t it possible to find a meal dense with good nutrients and appropriate caloric content that also tastes good going down and ends with a feeling of satiety? Call me crazy, but I don’t think we’re talking the holy grail of face-stuffing here.

In fact, come and have breakfast with me at Rise -n- Dine, and I’ll show you how it’s done. This Emory Village diner not only serves one of the most sensible morning menus in town, but also one of the best. It does so with real hospitality, good ingredients and smart, out-of-the-box ideas about how to start the day.

Some of the inspired breakfast side items (photos by Becky Stein)

Some of the inspired breakfast side items (photos by Becky Stein)

Owner Stephanie Panek, who opened shop four years ago, sets a friendly stage. The room is a little kitschy retro (but not too too), with rose-pattered blue tablecloths, old furniture and a dress dummy tucked into the corner. Bright morning light floods the room. If you’re breakfasting with a newspaper for company, enter through the rear door from the parking lot and you’re sure to find a stool along the counter that fronts the kitchen. You’ll have a cup of fantastic Counter Culture coffee ($2) in your hands in seconds flat.

I crush hard on the standard breakfast ($6) that begins with two eggs any style (including a reliably soft scramble). But here’s the fun part: The two sides range from toast to biscuits with (great homemade) jam or gravy, to pancakes, hummus, sliced tomatoes, vanilla yogurt, grilled Indian flatbread and roasted sweet potato.

But wait, there’s more. For a surcharge of 50 cents, you get to choose a premium side from List B, which means bacon, a fine homemade chicken sausage, a grilled chicken breast, mixed berries, granola, a croissant and sage-quinoa grits that I always order and always want to bury my face in. The only thing missing from this list is cottage cheese.

Are you with me? Whatever your diet, your bent, your personal weirdness, there’s a breakfast plate for you. And I’m not going to bore you (any more than I normally do) with talk of “Quinoa: Nature’s Miracle Grain!” or “incorporate more vitamin-rich orange vegetables into your diet” or “a high-protein breakfast will provide the best energy for another day of slogging in front of a computer.” This is all tacit. But you get the idea, right? You get to customize, and there’s none of that potatoes-and-toast-with-every-order thing going on. You eat purposefully here.

But I must stress: This is no health-food restaurant but an actual diner. Remember, there’s bacon — good crisp/chewy bacon — and huge pancakes with enough syrup to drink, should you care to.

The buttermilk pancakes are certainly fine, but I’m a fan of the house specialty sweet potato pancakes ($2.50 for one, $4.50 for two, $6 for three). Thin, crisp-edged and dense, they pack a lot of flavor. Pancake purists will call them gummy; sweet potato pie fans will have a new favorite breakfast. I much prefer these pancakes to the dry, chewy and seemingly reheated buttermilk waffle ($4.95) I tried.

AM Tacos

AM Tacos

Rise -n- Dine satisfies all my sundry morning food cravings, and when I flip through the menu I usually have an aha moment. Yep, I want nothing more than the AM tacos ($5.50) with individual, bursty black beans and pepperjack cheese scrambled right into those soft eggs. For a final touch, the flour tortillas that cradle the eggs are crisped on the grill. This joint often gets that right final touch that makes a plain-sounding dish memorable.

It also gets that no diner is pickier than an American facing breakfast, and so the house granola and oatmeal are infinitely customizable to particular likes and dislikes. Sliced bananas, dried cranberries and 2% milk? Done!

The restaurant serves lunch, and I like it fine. “Mediteritos” ($7.75) bring two tubes of hummus, feta, cucumbers and olives rolled in Indian roti bread like fusion taquitos. Better is the Polish pierogi bowl ($8.95) with caramelized onions, apples and a small dollop of sour cream that you will parse out bite by bite. All these ingredients figure into a breakfast omelet that I’ve never been hungover enough to consider ordering.

Panek has tried to extend the diner’s hours to dinner a couple of times, but it never caught on with patrons. She has also, sadly, decided to retire the seasonal dishes, such as the weirdly wonderful farm-to-table omelet. Most recently it arrived stuffed with mounds of shredded parsnip and carrot.

OK, you may not share my enthusiasm for parsnip omelets. But I’m sure you will be thrilled with the standard breakfast, customized to your needs. And I bet you will choose a healthy breakfast without even thinking about it — the kind of breakfast that will get your day off to a brilliant start. Try the sweet potato. Trust me on this.

RISE -N- DINE
1565 N. Decatur Road,  404-377-4407
3stars5Food: Breakfast diner fare with more healthy options than you might imagine
Service: Always excellent, though the kitchen does back up a little
Best dishes: AM tacos, pierogi bowl, sage-quinoa grits, any of the egg dishes
Vegetarian selections: Out the wazoo
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, Discover
Hours: 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Children: Fine
Parking: In lot behind building and on the street
Reservations: No
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: Can get pretty noisy when the place is full
Patio: No
Takeout: Yes

ratings_key_febUSE

28 comments Add your comment

Hungry Gringo

May 19th, 2011
8:33 am

Last time I went there I got sick, but it was because I drank 5 cups of that delicious coffee. Great review!

VickiF

May 19th, 2011
8:52 am

Great pictures of the choices, too.

Steve

May 19th, 2011
9:15 am

Well-deserved review. Rise-N-Dine is a fantastic place for breakfast.

Steve

May 19th, 2011
10:01 am

John, I hope you’ve gotten a chance to sample the amazing Pangaea. It keeps me coming back week after week. This place is great!

SP

May 19th, 2011
10:24 am

pierogies? I am so there!

Tonja

May 19th, 2011
11:30 am

The sweet potatoe pancakes are great, and the prices are even better.

mary

May 19th, 2011
11:39 am

I only went there once when they first opened. Waited at the counter for over 1/2 an hour for the breakfast I’d ordered. Nothing.It was crazy busy and couldn’t get anyone’s attention. I heard people complaining about their food being cold so I just left. It sounds like its worth giving it another try.

Jessica

May 19th, 2011
11:53 am

Was just here Tues. Really great food, and I didn’t feel like I had to skip a meal later that day

Really?

May 19th, 2011
12:29 pm

Sorry I couldn’t get past the previously unknown verb “ghettoize”. What does that mean? And does it have anything to do with Jews’ pre-concentration camp Nazi determined living quarters? Yeah, I didn’t think so. You’re a decent writer, I often read this column without apprehenstion and you’re usually able to articulate your opinions without making up words or being offensive. So please do us all a favor and try again.

John Kessler

May 19th, 2011
12:32 pm

Sorry if I offended you, Really.

Grasshopper

May 19th, 2011
1:24 pm

Granola and bacon gets 3 stars?

Must be something.

What is wrong with some ppl?

May 19th, 2011
1:42 pm

Thanks for the review, as I passed this diner yesterday and remembered I’ve been meaning to try it out. So good timing, thanks. Ghettoize is a synonym for isolation, and any interpretation other than what Mr. Kessler was trying to convey is ridiculous. The word is obviously not made up, and I’m certain, wasn’t meant to be offensive. Read the article for what it is, a restaurant review. It’s unfortunate that so many ppl are not content unless they have something to complain about, and in this case, Really? offers us a senseless, arbitrary point of view that is the only offensive text on this page.

Mark

May 19th, 2011
1:42 pm

OK John: this one really sends me over the edge.

It’s your star system. I know you’ve tried to explain it in the past, but this is just plain irrational. I like Rise n Dine. I live about 1/2 mile away and go there frequently. It’s a cute, more than adequate little breakfast/lunch place.

So how in the %^*# does this rate the same three stars as, oh for example, Miller Union??? Or Woodfire Grill??? Or Local Three???

Come on John. Unless you’ve decided that the ability to eat a meal for under $10 outweighs criteria like food quality, innovation, atmosphere, wine program, bartender creativity, and all the other things that I look for in a special meal, then the three stars here make no sense. RnD is a great place to grab a quick bite on the way to work. MU and WF are places that can make the pedestrian activity of eating into something like great music or literature or art, with rewards that go beyond “that tasted just fine.”

Either RnD is 2 stars, or MU and WF are 4 stars. Or you need a six point scale. (where Blackberry Farm is six, Bacchanalia is five, WF and MU are four, and RnD gets 3. Or maybe 2, just like Sprig).

What is wrong with some ppl?

May 19th, 2011
1:46 pm

Thanks for the review, as I passed this diner yesterday on my way to dinner, and I remembered that I’ve been meaning to give it a go. Ghettoize is another word for isolation, so obviously it was not a made up word, and any interpretation other than what Mr. Kessler was trying to convey is ridiculous. Read the article for what it is: a restaurant review. It’s unfortunate that ppl are not content unless they are able to complain about something. In this case, Really? offers a senseless and arbitrary point of view, which is the only offensive part of this entire post.

What is wrong with some ppl?

May 19th, 2011
1:53 pm

Why can’t I post anything?!

FoodLover

May 19th, 2011
2:53 pm

The specialty coffee drinks are very good, too! Nice foam work and it tastes great. The Counter Culture Coffee is awesome!

JRC

May 19th, 2011
11:32 pm

Mark – Is this really so hard? Read the damn review. Do you really think anyone is trying to draw a direct comparison between Rise and Dine and Miller Union? It is entirely reasonable to grade a restaurant in context, against its peers. It is in no way trying to be Miller Union, but it is very good in the space in which it is competing. Dining is not a strictly vertical landscape, with the top occupied by the rarefied and expensive likes of Miller Union and the rest cascading down from there. The way we eat is more complicated that, and I for one am glad these reviews continue to capture that complexity.

Mark

May 20th, 2011
8:51 am

@JRC: I did read it. And, if you read my comment, you’ll see that I appreciate RnD for what it is, and in no way postulate that high end dining is the only reasonable expression of restaurant craft. And indeed, your comment actually confirms my point.

Dining is indeed “non vertical,” and there is excellence at all levels. That’s EXACTLY why I find John’s insistence on “dumbing down” his reviews by using an arbitrary and inadequate, star system to be the problem–NOT the fact that he is willing to review places like RnD, which like you I applaud. There is a virtually exact analogy with how Robert Parker has laid waste to the craft of wine reviewing with the introduction of his 100 point scale. To suggest that the complexity of a wine can be reduced by one self-appointed savant to a two digit number, is as unrealistic as it is to suggest that the complexity of the dining experience can be adequately represented by a one to five star rating.

What John encourages is the same behavior you’ll see at any wine store in town: “Um, excuse me, do you have any Parker 95 wines in stock?” Not, “I’m looking for a casual quaff on the deck red wine, lots of fruit, something non challenging that is under $15.” So what we get is “let’s go to RnD, instead of Sprig, because they got one more star.” How does that capture complexity?

And finally, along the RTFM lines you reference, 3 stars means “merits a drive if you’re looking for this kind of dining.” What percent of RnD diners will drive across town to eat, compared to the percentage of diners at MU who drive across town to eat? Why would a Westsider drive 30 minutes to RnD, when West Egg is next door? Is there really that much of a lure? Conversely, would a Decaturite drive cross town to eat at MU? We sure do.

All I’m asking for is clarity, or lacking that, a recognition that this in fundamentally a flawed, though popular, way to rate restaurants. Can the stars. Maybe then folks really will read the entire review.

FoodLover

May 20th, 2011
9:57 am

@Mark – get a life!
@JRC – exactly!

JRC

May 20th, 2011
10:11 am

Mark – It sounds like you and I are on the same page. We could argue whether RnD is worth the drive (I am a Westsider and a regular at West Egg, but do from time to time make the pilgrimage to RnD, both for the wonderful coffee and the welcoming staff), but that is a matter of opinion. More important in this is that we agree that the content and tone of the review are more important that the stars at the top.

I suspect, and would love it if John chimed in here, that there exists an editorial requirements for stars. The Times even stoops to them. Judgement and rankings make better news than thoughtful reflection, as evidenced by….well almost any journalistic comparison you can make. I am just glad the AJC re-hired a decent writer to reflect on our restaurant scene. I can live with the stars to read well crafted and thought through prose.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to grab my Opus One out of the cellar and head to Miller Union for lunch. ;-)

foodphotog

May 20th, 2011
11:56 am

@VickiF- thanks for the compliment! ;-)

Angela Sutton

May 20th, 2011
11:59 am

The review is a great one and I hope to get to the diner very soon, however, ghettoize is a new term for me. Please define the word. Thanks!

John Kessler

May 20th, 2011
1:41 pm

Hey, guys -

Yes, I much prefer just writing the reviews than assigning stars, but for the latter I think it’s best to come up with a system and stick to it. I don’t want our system to automatically favor more ambitious or fancier restaurants but to judge the places on their own merits. I think Rise n Dine sets out to be a good neighborhood joint but exceeds these goals with a breakfast menu that others should emulate. I do know people who make it a point to drive out of their way for breakfast here because it satisfies so well. So, yes, I am saying I think that this place merits a drive. Woodfire Grill tries to define excellence in local dining. Based on the meals I had there at the time of the review, I don’t think it achieved that goal, but I do think it’s worth driving for if you’re looking for innovative Southern fare from a talented chef.

Thanks for reading, and happy weekend to all.

Mark

May 20th, 2011
2:08 pm

@JRC: you hit the nail on the head, more eloquently than I. And you point out the most important thing, which is that John’s reviews are consistently worth the effort to read in total. Well put. No MU for me, still recovering from the two bottles of burgundy last night at Woodfire.

Jimmyz

May 20th, 2011
3:47 pm

John, Don’t worry about it, most of us get it. I just read the review, and see if it’s a place I should try, or not.
As for the Ghetto comment, you were perfectly correct in your usage. To say otherwise would take political correctness to an entirely unreasonable level.

Art

May 20th, 2011
8:16 pm

@Mark and @JRC, thanks for your posts. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about John’s rating system. For once, we’ve had a meaningful dialogue rather than someone using this blog as their own bully pulpit. John, I enjoyed the review and also agree that breakfast places are often destination restaurants. Years ago, before Thumbs Up Diner gained its popularity and proliferated, I would drive from the north side of town to College Park for fried catfish and eggs. And finally, speaking of breakfast fare, can someone tell me where to get really good corned beef hash? I love the stuff! Great weekend to you all.

JRC

May 20th, 2011
11:32 pm

@Art, The Original Pancake House on Chesire Bridge has some good hash. I won’t tell you it is the standard bearer, but it is damn good and scratches the itch, particularly if your itch was caused by an ill advised last call scotch at 2 AM.

Art

May 21st, 2011
6:08 pm

@JRC, have you been spying on me… several times??? ;>) Thanks for the recommendation!