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Table & Main restaurant review, Roswell

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After years of settling for “quaint,” Canton Street in downtown Roswell has finally emerged as “exciting.” People dress up to come here. They hop from restaurant to restaurant looking for a spare table if they don’t have reservations. They brave the chilly air of November nights to sit out on patios under heat lamps and knit blankets, just to be part of the scene.

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

The brick walkways, the glow of street lamps, the wafting smells of food, the ambient strains of live music, the luxury cars idling along the narrow two-lane strip: This setting makes every restaurant more desirable simply for being part of it.

That said, Table & Main has wasted no time in establishing itself as the most accomplished of the bunch. A canny renovation of a 1910 house (most recently an antique store), it opened this past August with a confident vision for its tight, noisy quarters. Owners Ryan Pernice and Ted Lahey (the chef) make magic with this property’s footprint, taking advantage of its front porch and bricked-in patio for added seating, while keeping the two interior rooms and wonderfully cozy side bar just this side of cramped. There’s such good energy here, and such good service to back it up, that it seems an instant neighborhood classic.

Lahey’s food – the Southern bistro fare that today’s Atlantans demand from their hot new restaurants – fits into the scheme well. Fried chicken and collard greens keep company on the menu with hanger steaks and wedge salads, and the kitchen strikes a good balance between homey and cheffy, between comforting and impressing. Lahey has a fine palate and shows good technique, though I do wish he’d put down the playbook a little more and establish a stronger point of view on this familiar bill of fare. He’s got the chops.

Bartender Cindy Miller at Table & Main bar (photos by Becky Stein)

Bartender Cindy Miller at Table & Main bar (photos by Becky Stein)

Consider a bowl of Charleston she-crab soup ($9) sharpened with dots of chili oil and a fine dice of celery – pinpricks of spice and texture that open up the flavor so you really taste that sweet funk of crab behind the cream and sherry. It’s a standard dish, but this restaurant’s own, and I haven’t found a better one in the city.

Likewise, Lahey’s meatloaf meatballs ($9) don’t exactly break new ground, but then again they do. These three tender and exceptionally well-seasoned mounds of ground beef come with a ketchupy, vinegary glaze in a classy cast-iron casserole. It’s comfort food elevated, and exactly the kind of dish on which a Southern bistro like Table & Main makes its name.

Meatloaf meatballs

Meatloaf meatballs

If other appetizers don’t have the sparkle of these two, they seem perfectly correct. Enjoy a finely mixed Rittenhouse rye Manhattan ($8) with a Preservation Platter ($14) of cured meats, Sweetgrass Dairy cheese and accompaniments. Factor in the excellent (and complimentary) house cheese straws and you can take an express train to Happy Camper Land. A spinach and pear salad ($9) with blue cheese and candied pecans has the right dressing for sweet ingredients – thin and gently applied with a penetrating tang – though you know you’ve had this salad dozens of times. And, well, it is that same baby spinach you buy by the box at Publix. How nice it would be if a chef somewhere made the effort to source flavorful, crenulated mature spinach. Surely it still exists.

This kitchen might up the ante on its choice of ingredients, particularly in light of the reasonably high prices charged. A duck breast ($25) fanned in tiny slices over a heap of roasted parsnips and Brussels sprouts comes a full degree more cooked than we request, but it’s no wonder. The kitchen uses smaller Maple Leaf Farms White Pekin ducks, which are better suited to roasting whole. The larger and more flavorful Muscovy breed is what you want for a rare duck breast that impresses in Atlanta today, particularly at $25. A $16 vegetable plate offers some nice grilled artichokes in the center position, but a bit of bland arugula salad and greasy root vegetable hash do little to fill out this meager meal. I love a good veg plate if it doesn’t make you miss meat.

Lahey does have a way with fried chicken ($17) – huge quarter pieces that he brines, deep fries and piles on a plate alongside creamy potato salad and apple slaw in a towering portion. It’s impressive stuff, though my personal taste runs to smaller pieces of chicken with hot sides.

As long as it’s true confessions time, I like hush puppies that are sweet, yellow and taste of dehydrated onions and spices. The version here ($6) – crunchy fried orbs of savory, whole-kernel-studded corn bread – doesn’t hit my hush puppy spot at all.

But generally the food appeals. Tasty grilled grouper ($24) and a fat Wagyu beef burger with cheddar ($13) won’t win awards but won’t disappoint. Country-fried veal ($24), misidentified as tenderloin on the menu but actually top round, sports a clever biscuit breading to go with its creamy sawmill gravy (Get it? Biscuits and gravy?). If you don’t mind the utter lack of crunch in this dish, you’ll appreciate its spirit of dreamy richness.

Biscuit-breaded veal tenderloin

Biscuit-breaded veal tenderloin

You will also appreciate the smart beverage program, starting with a long list of bourbons and rye whiskeys. The wine list makes ample room for the alternative whites – grüner veltliner, vermentino, riesling – that best match the Southern frying and roasted vegetables that define this menu. In fact, the wine list had me at hello with a Château de Campuget Rhone rosé by the glass ($8).

The slim dessert selections, though, need work. Neither dull chocolate pudding served awkwardly in a cocktail glass ($5) nor a doughy pie of uncooked apples ($7) appeals. Bourbon butter pecan ice cream from High Road Craft ($5) steps in to save the day. I’ve noticed that more restaurants rely on this excellent local producer.

I’d love to see what else chef Lahey can do once he rotates a few safe dishes off the menu and expands his definition of Southern bistro cooking. Table & Main is for now an appealing, well-run restaurant with a nice, if not forceful, personality. But I think it could be a real destination.

More people need to come to downtown Roswell and see what’s going on.

TABLE & MAIN
1028 Canton St., Roswell. 678-869-5178
2stars5Food: Southern bistro
Service: Knowledgeable and attentive; you’re well taken care of here.
Best dishes: Charleston she-crab soup, meatloaf meatballs, country-fried veal with sawmill gravy
Vegetarian selections: There’s a vegetable plate, but it needs some additions to make it a meal.
Credit cards: all major
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 5-10:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 5-9 p.m. Sundays.
Children: I wouldn’t take small children here. The space is tight and noisy.
Parking: Problematic. The small lot in back fills quickly. After that, you’ve got limited street and public parking nearby. The local businesses would be well-advised to find a communal solution.
Reservations: yes
Wheelchair access: yes
Smoking: no
Noise level: An issue in the back dining room but more manageable in the front. The conversation will likely get around to sound-dampening technology.
Patio: seating in front and in the side garden
Takeout: Not encouraged, but will accommodate patrons who ask.
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20 comments Add your comment

Ryan Pernice

November 24th, 2011
9:22 am

What a happy coincidence that this review gets posted today, Thanksgiving Day 2011. Thank you, John, for dining with us. And, most importantly, Thank You! to all of our wonderful guests who have given us such amazing support as Table & Main matures. We will continue to strive every day to earn your business and your friendship. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

PS- (Full disclosure: I’m T&M’s owner!)

Scott Miller

November 24th, 2011
9:57 am

What Ryan and Ted have done on Canton Street in such a short time warrants the drive as well as an additional star. Great job guys, keep it up!

Ron Cowles

November 25th, 2011
11:49 am

Roswell’s other restaurants on Canton St need to take note. Table & Main has upped the ante on approachable, high quality, gourmet comfort food. Creativity and consistency are hallmarks of this amazing welcoming restaurant reinforced by a well conceived wine list that only further enhances the overall dining experience. Decatur and Atlanta’s Westside should not be the only desireable destinations for this area’s foodies.

jack trent

November 25th, 2011
1:31 pm

Shame this review came out on a holiday week. People will just forget about it. Sad and unjust.

George P. Burdell

November 25th, 2011
1:57 pm

It’s nice to see the Canton Street restaurant scene blossom. Parking is definitely problematic. The last time I tried this area, there were no parking places anywhere. It’s too easy to give up and find places in the Roswell/Alpharetta area with reasonable parking. With many of these restaurants on Open Table, its easier to find a table than a parking spot.

Sarah Pierre

November 25th, 2011
6:15 pm

I have heard nothing but wonderful, and amazing things about T&M. I am looking forward to dining at this restaurant. I definitely feel that a two star does not do this place justice. Minimum three star, as I, and the rest of the Atlanta dining scene, would feel comfortable saying that Table and Main “merits a drive if you’re looking for this kind of dining.”

Oh no!

November 27th, 2011
6:22 pm

You need to get away from using the stars rating. People see the two stars out of five and automatically assume it’s bad. Can’t you think of something a little better? Or maybe use the stars rating the way it is used everywhere else.

Doug Watkins

November 27th, 2011
10:31 pm

i think your editor should raed and correct soem tpyos.

if cindy miller is there all is good! sounds like a cool place!

Mike D

November 28th, 2011
9:19 am

Great review — captured some of my personal favorites about the restaurant, the space, and the feeling and personality of both! We love the great food and come back for the cozy neighborhood feel and attentive service.

Keep up the good work!

Kristen

November 28th, 2011
9:57 am

Really think we need another star here. While I live in East Cobb and the drive to Roswell is an easy one, I’d gladly drive a ways to eat here. This picky foodie thinks Table and Main is amazing. Consistently great food, wonderful service, and homey atmosphere have made T&M a second home for my husband and myself. And Kessler, with all due respect, you’re crazy – that chocolate pudding is like crack.

Susan Hollowell

November 28th, 2011
10:03 am

Morning Susan! This review is for the restaurant Table & Main I was telling you about in Roswell. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

RK

November 28th, 2011
10:27 am

The 2 stars is also confusing, as the byline reads “could become a real destination in Roswell.” That alone sounds like 3 stars in this system.

Can’t say I agree with “the Southern bistro fare that today’s Atlantans demand from their hot new restaurants” — it has been done to death and isn’t terribly interesting.

John Kessler

November 28th, 2011
10:34 am

Thanks for reading, everyone. When Table & Main does actually become a real destination for me — which I suspect will happen — then it will definitely be worth another star in my book. And thanks to you, Ryan, for chiming in. Very nice of you to do so.

[...] Pernice, owner of the recently reviewed Table & Main in historic Roswell, credits Sally Johnson of the Historic Roswell Merchants [...]

Elizabeth

November 29th, 2011
10:54 am

Ate here last week and it was great! Highly recommended.

Vic

November 29th, 2011
12:05 pm

I give it 3.5 stars! I am so tired of restaurants that don’t know what they want to be when they grow up and this young restaurant knows exactly what it is and delivers exactly what you expect. I can’t believe the reviewer missed the “Hog’s and Quilts” which are very unique and very good.

Roswell (Canton Street) is truly turning into a really cool place…one of very few walking neighborhoods…I imagine that we will see the addition of some women’s boutiques, home stores and hopefully a men’s store (like Miller Brothers or Sid Mashburn)

Dave

November 29th, 2011
6:31 pm

I have not eaten there but do now their pie comes from The PIe Hole across the street who makes the most incredible pies I have ever eaten. As far as doughy, one of the great features of their pies is they are not baked until the crust has the look of mahogany and the texture of dried plaster. They are the most perfect pale golden color and the filling is recognizable as fruit as opposed to mush. None better anywhere including my mother’s kitchen. In my opinion most pies, cakes, breads, cookies, and pastries are way over baked. Everyone has their own tastes.

Jackie Vienneau

November 29th, 2011
10:25 pm

“More people need to come to Roswell downtown Roswell and see what’s going on” and taste the exceptional good, fresh food that Ted and Ryan are serving up in a small-town friendly environment. I wholeheartedly disagree with John about the mediocrity of the pudding. For me this dessert hearkens back to Grandmo Lil’s kitchen where we used homemade butter cookies as spoons and washed it all down with room temperature milk served with no small measure of pride from jelly glasses. The pudding is only bested by those meatballs and a sturdy pour of the bourbon of your choosing. Were it not for the small-town appeal of Canton Str” very few ITP-ers ever had a reason to break out of the ring. Until now Table & Mainis a noble destination for a darn good meal.

Peggy Easter

November 30th, 2011
3:13 pm

I had dinner at T&M last night. Split the Fried Chicken with another in my party and added an extra side. I don’t understand someone not loving the Hush Puppies. We get them almost every time. It is great to see a home town young man bring his vision and experience back to Roswell. And it is fun to be along for the ride.

Ashley Blencoe

November 30th, 2011
11:41 pm

Love, love, love T&M. Addictive and delicious (meatballs!!). Stellar attention from the waitstaff. Definitely deserves another 2 stars.