In a sprawling city, sometimes there are voids in dining and nightlife that need filling. Staring down an hour round trip on a Friday night just for some good food, drink and dancing can be daunting.
Brothers Jonathan and Ryan Akly opened Three Sheets to fill one such void in Sandy Springs. Part cocktail and cigar bar, part restaurant, part ultra lounge, the Aklys turned the space into a slice of Midtown in the suburbs. There is little question that during its design the words “sexy” and “luxurious” came up a few times.
Crimson and gold fabrics drape the walls, sofa-encircled tables line the floor, and a piano topped with dripping candelabras overlooks the scene. On weekends and late nights, Three Sheets goes full-on cocktail lounge, complete with a DJ spinning (mostly) house music and crowds of attractive people mingling with martinis.
Overall, the lounge aspect of the Three Sheets experience comes together very well and draws some of the largest crowds. If that is the experience that you want out of an evening at Three Sheets, you’ll likely be quite happy with it.
Unfortunately, upon pulling back that luxurious curtain, I find Three Sheets has more style than substance and plenty of room to improve.
The menu focuses almost entirely on small plates, a choice that fits well with an overall experience that should be equal parts drinks, food and atmosphere. Most dishes are bite-sized, well suited for snacking while schmoozing, no unsightly bib needed.
On our server’s recommendation, I made sure not to miss an order of the blackened chicken egg roll ($6.50), enticed by her description of the juicy chicken, soaked overnight in a house-made marinade. But after all of that mouth-watering buildup, I bit into a chicken egg roll that I’ve had a hundred times before, barely registering a kick of Thai-chili sauce.
She also sang high praises for the spicy mac and cheese ($5.50), which I might have echoed if not for the near total lack of heat and overly mild cheese flavor. The dried dome of not-so-recently-melted cheese entombing the pasta didn’t help matters much.
Both dishes suffered from the same flaw as much of the rest of the menu — they were forgettable. Not bad, not great, but the flavor profiles and concepts brought nothing innovative or memorable to the dining experience. Much like my bowl of passable fried calamari ($8), which I mildly enjoyed consuming, they felt phoned-in. You’ve seen and tasted all of this before.
That wasn’t the case with all the dishes. I won’t soon forget the plate of deviled eggs with truffle oil ($4.50) that began our next visit. What looked to be a run-of-the-mill deviled egg hid one of the most heavy-handed doses of truffle oil in recent memory. And this is coming from someone who would put truffle on cardboard and likely be impressed.
But amid the mediocrity were some rays of light. As I bit into the first of my trio of sliders ($9), an Angus beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato and sriracha aioli, my eyes brightened. The beef was well-cooked, had a nice crust and the aioli complemented the slider. It vanished in record time.
But neither the grilled chicken with basil aioli nor the pulled pork and jalapeno coleslaw made much of an impression.
You’d be hard pressed not to relish bites of a buttery grilled cheese sandwich ($9) dipped in a cup of tomato bisque, just as I’d be hard pressed to find anything negative to say about it. It was seriously delicious. But in the context of a menu that includes a plate of lamb lollipops drizzled with balsamic reduction ($19.50), it speaks volumes that a grilled cheese sandwich is the clear standout.
Usually, this is where the bar saves the day. Small plates aren’t up to snuff? Then praise the Lord for the mixologist and his array of imaginative cocktails. But it seems the same muse that called in sick in the kitchen took a sabbatical from the bar.
While well-stocked with a range of spirits, there is practically nothing unique about the cocktail selection, which at its
most ambitious puts a minor tweak on the classics. Did they make a good rye Manhattan ($10)? Sure, but that deserves about as much applause as making a good grilled cheese.
If the Aklys want a club to give neighbors an alternative to driving into the city, they should have kept the focus there. That, they do well. But there is little about the food or cocktails that should make you reconsider a drive into town for dinner.THREE SHEETS 6071 Sandy Springs Circle, Atlanta, 404-303-6423 Food: internationally inspired small plates Service: fine, bartenders are friendly and attentive, especially on slow nights Best dishes: grilled cheese sandwich and angus slider Vegetarian selections: multiple options, including hummus, cheese plates and falafel Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover Hours: 5 p.m.-midnight Tuesdays-Thursdays, 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Closed Sundays-Mondays. Children: Not allowed Parking: Ample and free Reservations: yes, and tables on Fridays and Saturdays require a minimum expenditure Wheelchair access: yes Smoking: yes, after 10 p.m. Noise level: moderate to loud, especially when the music starts Patio: yes Takeout: yes Website: www.threesheetsatlanta.com