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Capers on Main restaurant review, Kennesaw

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As a dining critic, I spend a lot of time in new, untested restaurants. What I often witness is an awkward dance between guests and staff. Diners don’t yet have a sense of the acoustics, so they shout. The front-of-the-house team hasn’t yet found that service sweet spot between hovering and ignoring. The kitchen hasn’t instinctively figured out those small details of seasoning and execution that turn a good dish into a signature one.

John Kessler is the chief dining critic for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

John Kessler is the chief dining critic for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Then, every once in a while, I find a restaurant like Capers on Main where the guests seem as if they’re at home. From the nearly all-female clientele at lunch, to the multi-generational families at night, to the piano bar crowd sipping sangria amidst animal prints and overstuffed furniture in the lounge, these folks know exactly what to expect from Capers — homey service and generous portions of old-school restaurant fare that arrives lickety-split.

These customers found Capers quickly, when Steven and Veronica Dudley opened it in 2004 on Main St. in downtown Kennesaw. This funky little house and garden had its charms, elbow room not being one of them. So the Dudleys decamped to the current shopping strip location in 2010, and business quickly doubled. Guests know to expect crowds at lunch and on weeknights as well as prime time.

Chef Steven Dudley worked his way up through the ranks of the Peasant Group — that seminal Atlanta restaurant company that had its heyday in the 1980s and early 1990s. If his cooking still seems a little stuck in that period (wasabi mashed potatoes, rosemary sprigs set like flagpoles on every dish) then, well, that’s part of its throwback appeal. Put it this way: If you had the slightest inclination to see “Rock of Ages,” then I think you’ll appreciate the generous spirit of his food.

Lamb chops (photos by Becky Stein)

Lamb chops (photos by Becky Stein)

One menu is served all day, but most items are offered in half-portions and there are any number of lunch and dinner specials on top of the already-lengthy menu.

Veronica and Steven Dudley

Veronica and Steven Dudley

I would (for once!) steer you toward the creamiest and cheesiest things on this menu. How’s the corn and shrimp chowder ($4)? Like grandma’s sherry stirred into wallpaper paste, but so good in that way that only a flour-thickened cream soup can be. There’s spinach-artichoke dip on the menu, but go for the gusto and try the spinach-artichoke roll ($10). It’s like a kind of cannelloni made with one of those thick lasagna noodles with ruffled edges, then doused in marinara. The stuffed chicken ($13) is as big as Hagrid’s fist — a chicken-breast balloon that gushes herbed mushroom cream cheese.

Grilled Caesar salad

Grilled Caesar salad

Lighter items tend toward the sweet side. The half-order of lamb ($15) is a steal: four nicely frenched lamb chops right off the grill with a potato and vegetable. But I wish I had the forethought to ask for the puddle of pure apricot jelly on the side. I like the grilled Caesar ($6), an enormous and intact half-head of romaine that got a quick mark on the grill. I’m not sure it needs a shower of red pepper bits and corn kernels along with its dressing.

I might also point out the reasonable prices come at the cost of unexciting ingredients — waxy cheeses on the salads, flavorless crabmeat inside otherwise fun stuffed mushrooms ($11) and a springy duck breast ($17) without much character.

While I’m whining, there’s the wine list that features a couple of dozen inexpensive bottles you’ll recognize from the shelf at Kroger.

But I don’t want to whine too much at this otherwise winning restaurant that knows its clientele so well. I want to kick back and enjoy a tasty Hawaiian ribeye ($24) marinated overnight in soy sauce and fruit juices, then served up with a ginormous scoop of creamed spinach and those wasabi mashed potatoes. I think this restaurant is Kennesaw’s rock of ages.

CAPERS ON MAIN
1635 Old 41 Highway, Kennesaw, 678- 594-7735

2stars5Food: American bistro fare
Service: Super-friendly, super-atttentive
Best dishes: Spinach-artichoke roll, lamb chops, Hawaiian ribeye
Vegetarian selections: Yes, and some good sides to make a meal
Credit cards: All major
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays and Sundays; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.
Children: Welcome, with a good kids’ menu
Parking: In lot
Reservations: Yes
Wheelchair access: Full
Smoking: No
Noise level: High, but a nice high.
Patio: Yes
Takeout: Yes.

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13 comments Add your comment

Grasshopper

August 2nd, 2012
12:21 pm

I’m so glad you liked this place John. My mom lives nearby and we have eaten there on several occasions. The nice staff and competent cooking make up for the somewhat dated menu. I’ve never been disappointed that I ate there; and on several occasions, have been really surprised at the level of cooking.

Danielle

August 2nd, 2012
1:43 pm

My favorite local place!

B. Thenet

August 2nd, 2012
3:15 pm

An oasis of civlization among the fast food/franchise restaurants in that part of Kennesaw.

The soup and salad combo is a great deal.

victoria

August 2nd, 2012
4:55 pm

I liked it better when it was in downtown Kennesaw, had more charm! But the food is still good and you get really nice portions. Enough to eat half and take half home for dinner the next night.

Kat

August 2nd, 2012
5:32 pm

Sounds like they only moved due to their enormous success? Good enough reason to move – to keep your customers! I think a dated menu is in order here; Kennesaw has so many fast-food and chain restaurants that a “traditional” menu might look pretty good compared to everyone trying to outdo everyone else. It’s better to be consistent and tasty!

Bacchus

August 2nd, 2012
5:34 pm

I always support independent establishments such as Caper’s as they go up against the heat-n-serve casual dining chains like Chilis, TGI Fridays, Bahama Breeze, Outback, etc. – all of which are within a couple miles’ radius. Good on ya, Capers.

Mama A

August 2nd, 2012
6:02 pm

We have been eating at Capers for years – and have always loved it. There are so many good dishes there to choose from – and I like how you do get a “dining experience” when you eat there. I am almost afraid to mention their other restaurant “Fish Thyme” in Acworth because it is an absolutely fabulous restaurant as well (I don’t want everyone to know about it because so far we have been able to get in with a last minute reservation every time we have wanted to eat there). By the way every time we go to either Capers or Fish Thyme Veronica is right there to greet us. She and Chef Dudley are on site overseeing everything and making it what it is for their customers – a wonderful dining experience!

James Martinez

August 2nd, 2012
6:36 pm

My wife and I have been going to Capers since 2005. I enjoyed the downtown location(Kennesaw) because the location had a homely feel especially with the train blowing in the background. They moved to a new location and kept the homely feel minus the train :( Food @ Capers is always great and I really enjoy the fried catfish with homemade tarter sauce. Brunch is great and the Caper’s House Salad is awesome!!!! If you like no chain restaurants and do not want to drive all the way to Atlanta then I say go to Capers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Machelle

August 3rd, 2012
5:02 pm

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE CAPERS and their new restrurant FISH THYME!!! In addition to the food being absolutely awesome the service and atmosphere are exceptionally awesome as well. There is no other restrurant in ATL that i would rather spend my time or money at. Shout out to Steven and Veronica Dudley!! Two of the most wonderful people you could know!

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Debra

August 4th, 2012
12:32 pm

I love Capers my family and I have been going since they open in 2004. We come all the way from Lithonia just to eat there; it’s that good. We love the food, atmosphere, and customer service. Whenever family visits from out of town (Michigan) we make sure to take them there.

AzCat

August 4th, 2012
8:20 pm

I like Capers, have dined there a handful of times, the first time at the old location, the other times at the current location. Having said that, and given what’s happened on these boards the past few months, the cynic in me has to ask, John, if all these remarkably similar posts are from different ‘addresses’.

Q

August 8th, 2012
12:27 pm

Capers is my favorite restaurant in Atlanta. The food is FAB and the atmosphere is charming. I’ve eaten at lots of high end restaurants around town, and none of them can touch Capers when it comes to taste, serving size and value. Oh, and don’t even get me started on dessert! Just thinking about the Butterfinger Cheesecake or Strawberry Toasted Poundcake makes me want to clock-out and drive to Capers! 5 Star all the way!