Sadly, with the chaos that is many of our daily lives, lunch often becomes more of an errand than an experience. But in Marietta, one cafe is giving folks a reason to slow down and enjoy themselves at lunchtime.
After meeting at the Culinary Institute of America, Chris and Anna Gatti went straight into the world of fine dining. Between them, they had stints in kitchens such as Canoe, Gabriel’s Desserts, Fishbone, and Pano’s and Paul’s. Chris spent time as the executive chef of the Horizons Dining Room at the Grove Park Inn. But the allure of a family-run neighborhood cafe was strong, and they returned to his hometown of Marietta to open Canvas Cafe and Bakery.
Since opening, Canvas has established itself as a go-to spot for the 9-to-5 crowd from the surrounding neighborhood.
Started as a breakfast and lunch spot near Kennestone Hospital in 2006, Canvas eventually grew to provide dinner service.
While it is undeniable that Canvas’ proximity to the hospital and surrounding business-heavy neighborhood helps with the foot traffic, it is the creative and seasonally driven menu of soups, salads and sandwiches that keeps things downright hectic during lunchtime. Many of the sandwiches — the foundation of Canvas’ menu, all served with a bag of Zapp’s potato chips — are rooted in the classics, but with a neo-Southern twist. Often subtle, these tweaks make the difference between a lunch you merely eat and one you remember.
I find myself wondering whether it is the extra fried green tomato ($1.27), bacon or scallion mayo that makes the BLT ($8.27) one of the best I’ve had in recent memory. It could be the extra boost from the buttery toasted brioche, but whatever it is, this sandwich hits all the nostalgic notes you expect but doesn’t taste like anything you’d make at home. Paired with a cup of one of the daily soups ($2.97, 8 oz.), such as the creamy butternut squash or hearty chili, and a spot on the patio, this combo makes for a perfect fall lunch.
This isn’t your average deli meat stuffed into the warm Roast Beast ($8.97), but rather, shavings of house-roasted beef paired with blue cheese, horseradish mayo and a pile of near-caramelized balsamic onions on ciabatta. On paper, it looks enticing, but the care put into each component — particularly the brisketlike meat — elevates the experience and leaves you a little wide-eyed with surprise.
Those same onions make an appearance in the Marchella ($10.17), and once again, they almost steal the show. This savory stack of sliced grilled chicken, sun-dried tomato chutney, goat cheese and basil pesto mayo on crunchy rosemary focaccia feels more California than new South. The same can be said for the Thai Red Curry ($8.87), a cold chicken salad with cilantro and lemon aioli on a buttery croissant, though chili heads may lament the absence of any real heat implied by the addition of the red curry.
But fret not, heat mongers. For amidst the selection of burgers added to the menu two years ago lies the Hell Burger ($9.97) waiting to give you your fix. Of course, it could also ruin your night if you fail to heed the loud warnings alerting you to the cayenne, grilled jalapeno, habanero and onion slaw, and the ghost chili laden “Hell Sauce.” But this thick half-pound patty of Black Angus is more than an exercise in pain; it packs plenty of flavors, too. My side of blue cheese fries ($2.77 half, $4.27 full) does little to cool the inferno in my mouth, but I keep going back for more.
If you lack the constitution for the heat of the Hell Burger, you may want to opt for the American ($9.27). There is no
reinvention here, just a classic cheeseburger with tomato, pickle, onion and lettuce. Well, to be more accurate, I should say an entire wedge salad’s worth of lettuce. As mine arrives, I’m obligated to try it first as the kitchen intends, which means unhinging my jaw to bite through four inches of greens before my teeth find the patty. Having gotten that out of the way, I quickly dispose of the majority of the lettuce and go on to enjoy a no-frills, juicy and just-red-enough cheeseburger. It seems a curious and unnecessary choice in toppings ratio on an otherwise infallible burger.
After a few visits, it is clear to me why this is one of the worst-kept secrets in Marietta. For a comfortable neighborhood cafe and bakery, the neighborhood couldn’t ask for much better than Canvas.CANVAS CAFE AND BAKERY 724 Cherokee St., Marietta, (678) 213-2268 www.canvasfoods.com