Some meals are like flipping through an old photo album.
Food evokes emotion, nostalgia and memories — some that make you smile and some that make you cringe. Such was the case with my recent visits to Grinds & Wines in Peachtree City.
Grinds & Wines, whose website promises stellar coffee and wines, has been trying different hats since it opened in 2006. Originally a coffeehouse, the restaurant gradually added lunch and dinner, shedding breakfast altogether. During this evolution, the “grinds” were downsized to a limited selection of espresso-based drinks, and the wines became a short list of mostly commercially available products. As I struggle to unravel the identity of the restaurant, I am reminded of many past meals.
My stroll down memory lane begins with a pizza. The Margherita pizza ($12) takes me back to days of giddy excitement when frozen pizza and TV dinners first hit the freezer section. Like a cardboard sponge, the pre-made crust absorbs globs of grease oozing from the cheddar cheese, a disappointing replacement for the expected mozzarella. This is the pizza of my childhood, back when the novelty of home-heated pizza rendered its lackluster taste irrelevant.
During another meal, I revisit my early teens when the local mall’s Ruby Tuesday was the place to be seen. My friends and I would claim a booth and gorge on appetizer sampler platters. At Grinds & Wines, the Mediterranean Sampler ($14) fits this bill. Gone are the fried mozzarella sticks of my youth, now replaced with well-seasoned Italian meatballs, flavorless spanakopita, soft mushrooms stuffed with large chunks of crab and sparsely adorned bruschetta. But the white cups of marinara and garlic olive oil anchor the platter just as I recall.
My album then flips to a page of prom memories — times when only the “fanciest” restaurants would suffice. Entrees at Grinds & Wines mirror those we thought upscale in those days. The bacon-wrapped Filet au Bleu ($22) would be refined enough for any sequined promgoer, especially with the chopped herbs frosting the plate like a sprinkling of glitter. The well-seasoned beef is cooked to a perfect medium rare, dressed for the ball with a wedge of thick bacon and a varnish of melty Gorgonzola.
As teens with pinkies outstretched from our water glasses, we might also have ordered the Trout Almondine ($16.50), laden with toasted almonds and an overpowering avalanche of garlic nearly bobbing in a pool of oily sauce. The accompanying long-cooked vegetables may just be mushy and greasy enough to make them palatable to a vegetable-averse teenager.
And prom night wouldn’t be complete without dessert. Grinds & Wines delivers the requisite Mocha Java Pie (then called mud pie). The pie ($5.50) is just as I remember with the crunchy Oreo crust and soft coffee ice cream until a bite doused in an artificial tangy-sweet strawberry sauce interrupts my reverie.
I’m relieved when my path meanders toward college days — hours of studying in cafes while munching on sandwiches and loading up on caffeine. I might have noshed on Grinds & Wines’ satisfyingly simple chicken salad sandwich ($9.50), crunchy with celery, onions and sweet relish, on toasted thick-cut sourdough bread. Accompanied by a giant mug of coffee, the likes of which I haven’t seen since Ross and Phoebe sipped lattes at Central Perk, I would be set to pull a pre-finals all-nighter.
Inching toward the present, the lobster mango ceviche ($10.50) garners our attention. A tall martini glass balances on a plate surrounded by mounds of slightly stale tri-colored tortilla chips. Giant hunks of stringy lobster that would fit on no fewer than four chips jut out of a surprisingly acid-less mango and red pepper syrup. We fare better with the soft-shell mahi-mahi fish tacos ($10). The moist fish is charbroiled and layered with lettuce, fresh pico de gallo and a kicky jalapeño-white sauce that the restaurant sells in jars.
After mentally thumbing through these snapshots of days past during my meals at Grinds & Wines, I’m left with the sense of an awkward teen struggling to find an identity. The restaurant, complete with a drive-through window and decorated with burlap coffee sacks, still feels like a coffee shop but is priced like an upscale restaurant. While Grinds & Wines may fill a need in the community, it currently seems to be playing dress-up — wearing shoes that are still a bit too big.GRINDS & WINES 290 Ga. 74 N., Peachtree City 770-486-6390 Food: Casual bistro with salads, sandwiches, pizza and a range of entrees Service: Scattered, seemingly without table assignments or a plan Best dishes: Chicken salad sandwich, mahi-mahi fish tacos Vegetarian selections: Bruschetta, hummus, salads and roasted veggie sandwich Price range: $$-$$$ Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily Children: Yes Parking: Yes Reservations: No Wheelchair access: Yes Smoking: No Noise level: Moderate Patio: Yes, nice front patio Takeout: Yes, drive-through