So, there you are, driving through suburban Roswell in your eco-friendly hatchback, 12 minutes into an epic guitar jam, when your head snaps to the strip mall on Woodstock and Holcomb Bridge Road. Dude … does that say Phish Phood Café?
But before you throw on your old “Summer Tour ’96” shirt and a splash of patchouli, be warned: This “Phish” has no relation to the jam band, nor is it a rogue one-trick-pony Ben & Jerry’s shop.
Rather, this cafe in Roswell is the evolution of chef and owner Dave Fast’s faith-based catering service, Phish Phood Event Services. The name is actually a reference to the fish-like Christian symbol, the ichthys. However, before the non-religious among you scoff, nothing about the atmosphere is preachy. Save for spying a cross or two on the wall, the Phish Phood experience is really about the food.
Known as “Chef Dave” to regulars, Fast brings over 25 years of industry experience to the new homegrown fast-casual restaurant, including stints with the Buckhead Life Group. Opened originally as a breakfast and brunch spot last October, Fast quickly listened to the feedback from patrons clamoring for a dinner menu. Over the first few months, he phased out breakfast, now serving it only during the consistently packed brunch service on Sundays.
Fast’s menu goes far beyond a few heady veggie burritos and grilled cheese. Instead, you find an eclectic blend of international cuisines. On one visit, as our food reaches the table I realize that our meal for four includes Southern, Korean, Thai, Creole, Greek and Cuban inspired dishes. While Fast’s range of influences spans the globe, when they intersect on the same plate the contrasts are often subtle. The end result isn’t quite fusion, but definitely not traditional.
An order of flash-fried Thai blueberry wings ($8.95) doused in a blueberry-infused sweet Thai chili sauce is a perfect example. Aside from being nearly irresistible to order out of shear curiosity, the fruity glaze with just a hint of chili is mild enough to please heat-sensitive palates, but unique enough to satisfy most wing fanatics. You’ll be hard pressed to find a wing like it in town. But if you must feel the burn, you want the try to spicier Sriracha hot wings ($8.95).
For some Southern comfort food in overdrive, try the Pig & Grits ($8.95), swapping out shrimp for a nest of smoked pulled pork served in a bowl of grits. The grits can be a little on the bland side, so be sure to start this dish with a swipe of your knife through the fried egg draped over the top, soaking the pork in runny yolk. Grab a buttered toast wedge and soak to your heart’s content.
The Ricky Ricardo ($8.95), their take on a Cuban sandwich, gets a few Euro-American twists with slices of melted Muenster cheese, smoked pork loin, sweet honey ham, and spicy dijonaise mustard. These tweaks may not make for a reinvented Cuban, but they make for a tasty one. Fast stays closer to the traditional with the Zorba ($8.95), a perfectly acceptable gyro sandwich, adding only a hint of key lime in the tzatziki sauce.
Perhaps the biggest mishmash of cuisines, incorporating aspects of Cajun, American and Mexican influences, are the Blackened Phish Tacos ($11.95), melding blackened tilapia, chipotle salsa, jicama slaw, key lime, cilantro, and dirty rice.
By far, the most frustrating yet flavorful dish has to be the Bulgogi Beef ($12.95) The Korean-inspired flank steak comes paired with sautéed edamame and a side of ginger rice. The steak arrives cooked to the requested medium, and the spices work well. But at first glance I spot a fatal and hopefully isolated flaw — the beef arrives sliced with the grain.
Any enjoyment of the flavors is overwhelmed by the growing soreness in my jaw as I gnaw my way through the unnecessarily tough meat. Oh, what I would have given for a turn of the knife against the fibrous flank steak — the difference would have been profound. Perhaps the choice is intentional, but I have to believe that such a fundamental lapse in technique is just a momentary one for someone with Fast’s years of industry experience. Or, at least, I hope so.
While the missteps were few, the poorly sliced flank steak was egregious, but without ordering the dish a second time, the benefit of the doubt may be in order. Looking beyond that, Phish Phood Cafe provides a unique menu of affordable and freshly prepared dishes, and should certainly be a frequent stop for those in the neighborhood.PHISH PHOOD CAFE 11255 Woodstock Road, Roswell, 770-587-4474 Food: American and International fusion Service: eager to please Best dishes: Thai blueberry wings and Pig & Grits Vegetarian selections: A few salads and a veggie wrap Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays Children: welcome Parking: ample Reservations: no Wheelchair access: yes Smoking: no Noise level: moderate Patio: yes Takeout: yes