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Horseradish Grill restaurant review, Buckhead

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Every restaurant has a story. But few have one as long and rich as Horseradish Grill.

Its story starts early in the 20th century when the property held little more than a country farm stand. Slowly over several decades, the stand transformed into a restaurant, which saw multiple incarnations over the second half of the century.

Review by Jenny Turknett

Review by Jenny Turknett

Our story focuses on the last two decades when the restaurant called the Red Barn Inn became what is now known as Horseradish Grill. In 1994, Steve Alterman, formerly of Rio Bravo and Ray’s Restaurants, purchased the restaurant, transforming it into the genteel yet rustic space that we enjoy today.

The restaurant boasts a rich culinary history. Gerry Klaskala of Aria consulted on Horseradish Grill’s concept development and famed Southern chef Scott Peacock opened the restaurant, bringing it early success. Other chefs including Tom McEachern, most recently at Ray’s on the River, and Dave Berry led the kitchen after Peacock left for Watershed. And, until four months ago, Alterman’s son Daniel led the culinary team after moving up through the ranks in the kitchen since he was 13 years old. Now the restaurant runs under the direction of Daniel’s two sous chefs.

Pecan-crusted trout (photos by Becky Stein)

Pecan-crusted trout (photos by Becky Stein)

Horseradish Grill’s website explains that it offers “guests a glimpse of yesteryear.” That it does — sometimes too literally. The restaurant changes its menu twice yearly, with many items developed by former chefs. According to Alterman, “We reached back in our history for recipes.”

The she crab soup ($8), for example, an oversize bowl of clunky flavored cream, is attributed to McEachern. He also receives credit for the tempura fried okra ($9), which has a refreshingly light and crispy batter — a nice contrast to greasy cornmeal versions. Yet, battered and fried whole, the Achilles’ heel of okra emerges: the sticky, mucousy interior best known as okra slime.

Another holdover, North Carolina barbecue pulled pork appetizer ($10), has also long occupied the menu. This dish, developed by Dave Berry, pairs sweet and tangy pork with a buttery and fluffy cornmeal-green onion pancake. The pancake and milky fresh coleslaw offset the slow burn of the spicy sauce. This sophisticated cousin to the sloppy joe deserves to remain on the menu.

Horseradish Grill’s signature North Georgia mountain trout ($24) with two rotating seasonal versions also has a permanent place in the lineup. In the spring and summer, the trout is grilled whole. In the winter months, it is served filleted and pecan- encrusted. I might prefer the summery version because on the winter offering, the overground and mealy pecans tank under the weight of a decidedly yesteryear oily butter sauce.

Similarly, the vegetable sampler ($20), which originated with Peacock’s early farm-to-table initiatives, presents a plate of vegetables including bok choy, squash, zucchini and mushrooms slathered in butter, masking any natural flavor of the vegetables so carefully grown in the garden out back. To further the demise of these veggies, they suffer from the long overcooking that you can only forgive of your elderly grandmother.

Kentucky oatmeal spice cake

Kentucky oatmeal spice cake

A time-tested family recipe restores confidence for dessert. The Kentucky oatmeal spice cake ($9) from the restaurant’s original menu stood in for chocolate desserts such as Peacock’s delightfully moist and — true to its name — chocolately chocolate chocolate cake ($9) that kept melting in the summer heat during the restaurant’s first year. The recipe for the warm and aromatic spice cake belonged to an employee’s Kentucky grandmother and it tastes of a solid home-cooked favorite.

Like the details of a family tale that become more muddled with each telling, the recipes of yesteryear may have lost some of the nuances that once made them sing.

Instead of simply rehashing the past, it might be time for Horseradish Grill to advance its story.

HORSERADISH GRILL
4320 Powers Ferry Road, Atlanta; 404-255-7277
1stars5Food: upscale Southern
Service: Knowledgeable about the menu. Many servers have worked there a number of years.
Best dishes: barbecue pulled pork, oatmeal spice cake
Vegetarian selections: salads, vegetable sampler
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover
Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Sundays, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:30-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Saturdays.
Children: yes, well-behaved ones
Parking: valet
Reservations: yes
Wheelchair access: yes
Smoking: no
Noise level: moderate
Patio: yes, a lovely outdoor space
Takeout: yes

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30 comments Add your comment

PapaDoc

December 8th, 2011
9:25 am

Wow. Slash and burn. Have not been there recently, used to go all the time and enjoyed it. Your review makes me question my plans for a Christmas visit.

PJ

December 8th, 2011
9:26 am

We lived up the street from there for a year (almost 10 years ago) & loved that we would walk in for a good meal. We always enjoyed the BBQ pork appetizer – definitely our favorite thing on the menu, so I understand keeping that one on the menu. We went mostly during the summer when there were some great, fresh veggie options from the garden.

A

December 8th, 2011
10:23 am

Beating a dead horse here but still hate your star system. A one star means under no circumstances will I spend my hard-earned money in that establishment.

Art

December 8th, 2011
10:26 am

Wow! Pretty harsh! How many times did you visit in the process of writing this review? Thankfully for Horseradish, it has a loyal following.

james

December 8th, 2011
11:00 am

Ate here recently and would have to agree with this – this may in part have to do with the fact that there are now several great southern farm-to-table restos to compare them to.

Wonderful atmosphere, though, and a very friendly staff. I sure hope they can step it up a bit with the food (though they do seem to benefit from a loyal following of locals).

Laura

December 8th, 2011
1:12 pm

Always enjoy Horseradish Grill – was just there last week and the mussels were to die for! There were 6 of us and we all enjoyed everything we ordered. I completely disagree with this review.

eatoutatlanta

December 8th, 2011
1:44 pm

I guess Horseradish Grill did not advertIZE in the ajc

Jenny Turknett

December 8th, 2011
3:02 pm

Hi Art. I went three times and took people with me each time so that I could try as much of the menu as possible.

jals

December 8th, 2011
8:38 pm

This review is waaaayyyyy off base and totally discredits this blog IMO.

Sandy S

December 9th, 2011
7:03 am

I live right down the street from Horseradish Grill and I have to say it has been a disappointment. I have had lunch and dinner there several times over the past few years, and have found the menu to be old fashioned and out dated. In addition, the food is either to “heavy” or just average. When I dined at Horseradish Grill 10-12 years ago, it was outstanding. With its proximity to Chastain and the beautiful piece of land it is on, I want to love it. I hope they consider a major update.

Wine Gal

December 9th, 2011
8:54 am

Being a restaurant owner myself, it is unfortunate that so many diners rely on a reviewers opinion for their dining destination, i have been to HG many times and have always enjoyed it.
There are several restaurants, mine included, that do not have high paying executive chefs. I think that reviewers pick on these type of restaurants assuming that the food could not possibly rate more than a star or two.
I have learned that your loyal customer base is who you want to most please. With all of the new eateries around town, it is hard to compete in the big picture. However, there are not a lot of mom & pops left that you can actually see and talk to the owner. My customers will be the first to tell me if a dish is off or not up to par. This enables me to fix a wrong.
I just hope that HG can overcome this unfair rating, recover & have a prosperous holiday season. We could all use a strong month to overcome this horrible economy.
My advice is for HG’s diners to decide for themselves if the the experience is worth the effort or not. I think you will find that you will enjoy your meal. Just my opinion.

JW

December 9th, 2011
9:14 am

Horseradish Grill has always been a favorite of mine. Steve Alterman has helped the careers of many, myself included. The food has always been honest, good true flavors.

kh

December 9th, 2011
10:42 am

@wine gal – Restaurant owners, or anyone providing a service to the public, should be able to take constructive criticism and build on it. As you say, when a diner informs you that something isn’t up to par, you don’t makes excuses, you adapt. This case is no different.

Baltisraul

December 9th, 2011
3:07 pm

HG IS A GOOD SOLID PLACE. Thus the 1 Star rating. A good addition to the neighborhood. What seems to be the problem?

Art

December 9th, 2011
6:30 pm

Thanks Jenny for the feedback… Sounds like you did your “due diligence”. I think your review was probably spot-on. I’ve eaten at HG several times and found the food to be pretty good but not great. That said, I think the overall dining experience at HG is very good as the restaurant itself and seasoned waitstaff really add a lot to the equation. I think the rub, for me at least, lies with the 1 star rating and, for that matter, the star ratings as a whole.

Bill

December 9th, 2011
9:47 pm

I really do not understand this review. I will also say that I’ve never been to the Horseradish Grill. But, the focus of this article seems to be that they haven’t changed their menu enough for the reviewer. Why is this an issue? Some people, including my wife, enjoy going to restaurants she’s familiar with precisely because she knows what is on the menu and what to expect. If the food is good and the service and atmosphere are good then what more do you want? The reviewer attacks the okra apparently because she doesn’t like okra – she describes it exactly as it is unless it is overcooked.

The reviewer describes menu items as ‘holdovers’, etc. She does describe some of the menu items as being not quite up to par due to overcooking, to oily, etc., but overall the review seems very much tainted by items not having to do with the food itself.

I usually don’t comment on such things because I use reviews to guide me and not make decisions for me, so in the scope of things this is a very unimportant matter. But this review is,I belive, entirely too harsh! Maybe the restaurant did deserve one star – I wouldn’t know, but let’s make it about the food and not the freshness of the menu.

James

December 10th, 2011
7:49 am

@Bill – I think the point of the review was that tradition shouldn’t trump taste.

Gene Warren

December 11th, 2011
2:50 pm

Does HONEST mean ‘harsh’ ??? Not that I’m aware of …….
It’s refreshing to see an honest food critic, too often they are in the pockets of the very places they critique.

Albert

December 11th, 2011
4:01 pm

I don’t know if my comment went through or not, so I’m posting again. Your reviewer IS way off base. I have been to the Horseradish Grill several times over the last eight years ago. I had never been there before that. It has never disappointed me; the food is excellent. Your reviewer is clearly biased against old recipes. Perhaps it’s the generation gap idea that if something is old it isn’t good. An item supposedly has to be new or recent to be worth anything. What a load of bull!

Albert

December 11th, 2011
4:04 pm

Sorry, that should have read “the last eight years or so”.

Lazy Review

December 11th, 2011
4:31 pm

This review reads like someone who hasn’t been doing this for very long and is trying to make a name for herself by trashing a traditional Atlanta restaurant. One that, it should be noted, usually gets high reviews and has been on numerous “Foodie” shows. In fact, this reads like a tired Eleanor Ringel review of a Will Ferrell movie, i.e. trashing something in an effort to show superiority. It is also worth noting that Ms. Turknett claims to have eaten there three times but only strung together one meal. I suspect she pieced together the portions of each of her three meals to which she objected. Her review reads more like “a family tale that become more muddled with each telling” than an objective review of a restaurant that, by all other accounts and assessments is a fantastic place to eat. Anyone who is dissuaded by this article should go anyway and order the fried green tomatoes, the shrimp and grits or fried chicken, and any dessert. You will not be disappointed.

learn to read a review and star system

December 11th, 2011
5:12 pm

Personally, under this system the most I could possibly rate this place is two stars, but i’ve only eaten there once….I’d say my meal was more like a 1 1/2 star. So based on multiple meals (3) the author, from what she experienced, could only rate this one star. There is NO WAY this place “merits a drive if you are looking for this kind of dining” (3 stars). No way. People need to get over the fact they cant comprehend that a 2 star place is actually worth visiting, and with improvements, Horseradish Grill could become a 2 star restaurant…….

Clif Grant

December 11th, 2011
5:12 pm

Have always enjoyed food and service at Horseradish Grill. To me, some of the newer restaurants are ‘way overrated.

BobDog

December 11th, 2011
6:18 pm

It’s been years since I have been to HG. At the time, I liked it, but my wife didn’t care for it. The picture of the trout in a mound of mashed potatos doesn’t look too appealing. The reviewer was probably a bit harsh, but maybe HG needs to take a look at itself and sharpen things up a bit.

Jo Bling

December 11th, 2011
8:52 pm

The star rating system is absurd. What if a restaurant is flat-out poor in every regard? Do you just not review those? To all of mankind, when you give something a rating of one star it means one thing only: total failure. But to the AJC, one star means something different. Why?

learn to read a review and star system

December 12th, 2011
12:41 am

its not just ajc. ever read a ny times restaurant review. so you are saying a one star michelin restaurant sucks because it only has one star? man you’re stupid.

Jenny Turknett

December 12th, 2011
5:28 am

Thanks, Art. You’re right that the restaurant has experienced servers and that’s an asset. They just need to work on the execution and consistency.

Jo Bling — there are two levels below a one star rating. A restaurant that receives no stars will receive a rating of fair or unsatisfactory.

Ed

December 12th, 2011
10:32 pm

I guess if regulars want the same old tired dishes and mushy vegetables, HG serves them well (pun intended). There was a time when that sort of thing was grand. But that was 20 years ago.

Baltisraul

December 13th, 2011
6:46 am

Jo Bling……if you have trouble with the “star system’, math must really be hard for you!! lol

PJ

December 13th, 2011
4:01 pm

One star means it is a worthy addition to the neighborhood, but food is inconsistent, which means some good & some not so much. One star seems dead on for this place – it has a loyal following of those who live in the neighborhood, like we did at one time, & it offers some good dishes.