Consider this scenario. You spend the weekend with a friend. Your friend plays the gracious hostess and she can cook. She may not have formal training, but she has a palate and the skill to execute her vision in the kitchen. Throughout the weekend, your friend delights in assembling fresh salads, sandwiches and the like for you. She uses produce and ingredients carefully gathered from well-regarded local sources.
That friend is Jenny Levison, known to many as “Souper Jenny.” With the opening of Cafe Jonah and the Magical Attic in Buckhead, Jenny welcomes you into this 1960s home, named for her 7-year-old son, to join her for some “fresh food, coffee and inspiration.” You are invited to make yourself right at home amid cork boards of Jonah’s artwork and black-and-white family portraits of Jenny and Jonah.
Cafe Jonah doesn’t vibrate with quite the same energy as its sister restaurant, Souper Jenny. Instead, you’ll feel a calmer vibe here, where you might bring a book to swap for another from the Community Bookshelf, relax with your Batdorf & Bronson coffee in the library or take a quiet stroll in the rear garden. Your hostess also recommends a journey up to the Magical Attic for a little “inspiration.”
The heavy scent of burning sage wafts down the stairs from the attic. Your inspiration may include a psychic reading, astrology session or reflexology appointment — all available for purchase. House experts happily inspire — or entertain? — guests with stories about how they came to have the “gift of sight.” Do they rely on this sight to alert them when a restaurant critic comes a-knockin’?
You won’t need any gift to notice the care that has been taken to purchase the freshest produce and secure the finest local products. The restaurant serves Just Add Honey artisanal teas, Highland Bakery pastries, Best Bread Baking Co. breads, Sally’s Bakery’s gluten-free products, Fairywood Thicket Farm’s jams and items from many other local purveyors.
You’ll marvel at the freshness of the produce purchased from the State Farmers Market. No dish exemplifies this more than the colorful fruit bowl bursting with the very plumpest and sweetest of berries. A simple touch of Greek yogurt and honey ($6.95) makes this breakfast heavenly.
At lunchtime, spying the eclectic bowls of assorted salads might tempt you to fill your plate with three ($12.50). If you’re lucky enough to travel through on a day when the Georgia butter bean salad graces the menu, add it to your stash. Soft and creamy butter beans shine among fresh herbs, feta cheese, oil and vinegar. When available, dish up the local greens dotted with edible nasturtium flowers. The flowers add color and a peppery zing to the salad.
Complete your trio with the chunky chicken salad with celery and what appears to be a frightening amount of binding. Not to worry — the binding isn’t mayonnaise. It’s Greek yogurt dressing that perfectly complements the grill flavor of the chicken.
The ever-changing spread also includes an array of sandwiches, each with layers of cleverly paired ingredients. One such sandwich, the prosciutto panino ($8.95), satisfies sweet and salty cravings. Served on aromatic rosemary bread with creamy brie, the salty prosciutto cuts the sticky sweetness of the apple-rosemary jam. Didn’t I mention your hostess has a palate?
Before your weekend is over, allow her to prepare Sunday brunch for you. Her kitchen will pull out all the stops. The foyer becomes the modest bakery, the center table laden with pastries such as Highland Bakery doughnuts, blueberry scones and scrumptious sweet potato biscuits topped with brie, strawberries and lavender jam. ($20 brunch donation recommended; a percentage goes to the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency.)
The interior serving counter converts to a homey buffet of lukewarm hot plates and crock pots filled with thick-crusted fluffy quiches, roasted veggie frittatas and Jenny’s toothsome steel-cut oatmeal with flax seed and wheat germ. These items are as healthful as they are fresh. You won’t accuse this kitchen of over-seasoning.
You’ll appreciate the hospitality, the care with which ingredients are selected and the ways in which they are combined. Your warmest compliments will be reserved for the sandwiches and salads, items assembled with care. And, like me, you’ll thank this gracious hostess by visiting again the next time you travel to the area.Cafe Jonah and the Magical Attic 3188 Paces Ferry Place, Buckhead 404-343-4107 Food: Coffee, pastries, salads, sandwiches Service: Courteous Best dishes: Salads (butter bean, fruit, chicken, tuna) and sandwiches (roasted eggplant, prosciutto panini) Vegetarian selections: Many sandwich and salad options Price range: $-$$ Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, Discover Hours: 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays Children: No children’s menu, but a grilled cheese will be made upon request. Parking: Yes, small lots in front and rear. Parking attendant 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Reservations: No Wheelchair access: Yes Smoking: No Noise level: Low Patio: Yes, front and rear Takeout: Yes