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Grace 17.20 Restaurant Review, Norcross

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Myth: Chain restaurants offer a better value.

This is but one of the ten myths Grace 17.20, a contemporary American restaurant located in Norcross, works tirelessly to dispel. Named after a bible verse (“… Nothing will be impossible for you”), this spot opened in 2004, one of the first upscale independent restaurants in the area. Despite opening to a fanfare of positive press, the restaurant still faces the pressure of operating in an area where chains dominate, hence the glossy brochures entitled “Top 10 Myths about Grace” enclosed with each bill.

Review by Jenny Turknett

Review by Jenny Turknett

Apparently, the “myths” list was created to entice foot traffic from stores at the Forum, the open-air shopping mall where Grace 17.20 is located. While not the lone independent eatery in the complex, the restaurant competes with chains like Ted’s Montana Grill, California Pizza Kitchen and J. Alexander’s.

Myth: Only for special occasions.

Myth: Must be really expensive.

Chef/co-owner Barbara DiJames says folks often mistake Grace 17.20 for a special occasion destination. It’s easy to see why. The creamy-neutral color palette juxtaposed with dark-wood beams and soaring french doors exudes elegance and polish. A handsome patio follows suit with a gurgling fountain and a fire blazing in a stacked-stone fireplace.

The price point may also reinforce or refute these myths, depending on your budget. DiJames tells me that neighboring chain J. Alexander’s sells a fish dish for $10 higher than hers. That said, for many, a restaurant where dinner entrees range from $17-32 would qualify as a special occasion spot.

These myths may also be reinforced by some aspects of service. Waiters trained in table-side service stand before you to fill a bowl containing a melange of thinly sliced portobello, shiitake and white button mushrooms with a full-bodied shallot-and-cream-based mushroom soup ($5 cup). Additionally, waiters carefully heat coffee cups before pouring the wonderfully rich and smooth J. Martinez & Co. coffee.

On the flip side, a consistently grumpy hostess, waiters with little knowledge of the wine list and extended wait times to settle the bill undermine this level of service. Likewise, other details betray a more casual approach like daily get-you-in-the-door specials and the seemingly out-of-place gold-foil wrapped butter pats that don’t do justice to the crusty loaf from Buckhead Bread Co. or housemade spiced pumpkin bread.

Myth: A burger is not a good option.

Myth: You can get a better steak at a steak house.

In an attempt to widen its appeal, much like a chain restaurant, Grace 17.20 promotes its steaks and burgers. At lunch, the meat-and-potatoes set can choose from a simple Prime Angus burger with a briny caper and sweet pickle tartar sauce ($12) or a finely ground lamb burger, a little mealy in texture, with fresh herbed yogurt ($14).

The "Cluck" sandwich with thin and crispy sweet potato chips.

The "Cluck" sandwich with thin and crispy sweet potato chips. (All photos by Becky Stein/Special)

Yet, I’d challenge diners here to take advantage of the originality that can be found in independent restaurants with chefs like DiJames, who attended the Culinary Institute of America. On a mostly safe menu (by design), seek out the dishes with a little playfulness, ones like the “Cluck,” a three-way chicken sandwich ($16). This two-fisted, diet-busting double-decker sandwich contains layers of sweet, mayonnaisy chicken salad, salty fried chicken and buttery fried egg, which find harmony in their combination.

Spicy chopped chicken spring rolls

Spicy chopped chicken spring rolls

Try the spicy chopped chicken and sweet slaw spring rolls ($10) with a jalapeno honey sauce. The sauce could sport a bit more kick, but it balances the flavors of the salty chopped chicken, pumpkin seeds and crunchy sweet slaw oozing with melted jack cheese. This one will get you excited about the meal ahead.

Look for dishes with flair and creativity like the citrus-crusted market fish ($26). You’ll marvel at the crackly citrus crust on the striped bass and puzzle over the vanilla in the citrus beurre blanc. And although smoked salmon chunks in the mashed potatoes blight the voluptuous lingering of the beurre blanc on your palate, it will linger in your memory.

And whatever you do, don’t miss Grace’s cheesecake ($8), with its creamy, pillowy-soft texture and sticky caramel sauce. Savor the sea salt crystals that provide a satisfying crunch and a little zing.

Burgers and steaks may get folks in the door, but it’s the dishes with a unique signature that will bring them back. After eight years in business, it’s no myth that Grace 17.20 is achieving its aspirations to be a “nice neighborhood restaurant for nice neighborhoods.”

GRACE 17.20
5155 Peachtree Parkway, Norcross. 678-421-1720.
$ Food: Contemporary American neighborhood restaurant
Service: Varies from highly attentive to neglectful
Best dishes: Spicy chopped chicken and sweet slaw spring rolls, Berkshire pork chop, Grace’s cheesecake
Vegetarian selections: Assorted salads and pastas
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Price range: $$-$$$
Credit cards: All major credit cards
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays
Children: Another of the myths on the list is that kids aren’t welcome. I wouldn’t take mine, except maybe at lunch.
Parking: Yes, weave around to back of complex to park behind restaurant and avoid competing with shoppers for a spot in front.
Reservations: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: High when restaurant is full
Patio: Yes
Takeout: Yes
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8 comments Add your comment

Jason

April 5th, 2012
10:26 am

I have always enjoyed my meals here, mostly at lunchtime, and everyone I’ve brought here always likes it and is surprised they’ve never heard of it. One odd thing is that I’ve often been one of the only guys in the restaurant. Most of the clientele seems to be of the Buckhead Betty variety, or whatever the equivalent out there is (Norcross Nancy?). Maybe that is why they’re trying to draw attention to steaks and burgers, to try and diversify the crowd. Regardless of that, definitely the best dining option in the Forum by a long shot, if a bit more expensive.

Stephen page

April 5th, 2012
11:49 am

KDOGDELICIOUS

April 5th, 2012
12:53 pm

I can’t say I liked this place, in fact I though the people here to be rude. Perhaps I should have showered before my meal, my odor can get quite offensive much like this review.

[...] be impossible for you”), this spot opened in 2004, one of the first upscale … Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) Filed Under: Fine Dining Tagged With: Central, cuisine, Delicious, excellent, offers, service, [...]

keith

April 6th, 2012
10:26 am

2 stars? I really think rating too negative based on my own experience here.
I have a business around the corner and visit frequently and would rate much higher. To that end would make a few points.
1- I have NEVER found anyone there to be rude
2-They have some outstanding items here that keep me coming back like the sweet potato chips and the lamb burger (one of my favorite things in the world) also some of the soups are a standout here. The Tuna club, Shrimp wrap… all great options for lunch.

Chefs like DiJames and places like this… are an oasis in a place like Norcross. In this neighborhood and at these prices … this place is really something special.
You have to excuse the kitschy promos … that is how a place like this one survives in this area. Personally I appreciate the variety the specials .

Fmrbosnowatl

April 7th, 2012
4:27 pm

My wife and I have been dining at Grace 1720 for several years – about once a month or so. As a matter of fact we have a reservation tonight. Food is wonderful. Nicely plated and well prepared. Some of the dishes have a Southern flair – that porkchop Jenny pens as a best dish comes with stone ground grits and spicy collard greens – yummy, one of my favorites.

Barbara, Richard and the team make us feel welcomed at every visit. Never has the service been “neglectful”. That had to have been an aberration. Rather, I find it quite professional. My only gripe – a minor one – is that the bar is not stocked with Tangueray, my favorite gin.

josh

April 8th, 2012
10:26 pm

was surprised to see this negative review for one of the best restaurants in Norcross. I go here for lunch at least once per month, and I’ve always had very friendly, attentive service and good food, albeit a little higher priced than most other options in the area.

I find Grace to have a great lamb burger. I was also surprised that there wasn’t more positives about the soup, as I find they have some of the best soup in town, whatever the flavor of the day.

Jenny Turknett

April 9th, 2012
6:29 am

Josh, you’re right. It is one of the best restaurants in Norcross. The two star rating indicates that it’s a good spot for the neighborhood, just not one that merits a drive across town.