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Canvas Cafe and Bakery review, Marietta

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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.

AJC Dining Team member Jon Watson writes about popular eats.

AJC Dining Team member Jon Watson writes about popular eats.

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.

BLT Credit: Becky Stein

BLT Credit: Becky Stein

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

Hell Burger Credit: Becky Stein

Hell Burger Credit: Becky Stein

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
2stars5
Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Food: sandwiches, soups, salads and burgers
Service: counter service
Best dishes: BLT, Marchella, Hell Burger
Vegetarian selections: a few salads, sandwiches and a veggie burger
Credit cards: all major credit cards
Hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays
Children: welcome and offers a kids menu
Parking: ample
Reservations: no
Wheelchair access: yes
Smoking: no
Noise level: can get loud during the lunch rush
Patio: yes
Takeout: yes

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5 comments Add your comment

Wilton

November 15th, 2012
12:29 pm

Hell Burger? Triple Bypass? Why do those burgers sound familiar? Oh yeah, The Vortex…..

Wallywo

November 16th, 2012
5:24 pm

Canvas – Yeah! Love the Canvas Salad (greens, pear, goat cheese…) and the butternut squash soup is one of the best I’ve EVER tasted. Too bad the article failed to mention the incredible desserts ! One of my favorite local eateries !!

Cindy

November 17th, 2012
10:52 am

Canvas does serve great burgers, salads, soups, etc…. Their baked goods are for the most part really good but you have to be careful that they are not stale. Their pound cake is so yummy but can be a little stale if it has sat in the open air display too long. I always make sure I ask for a piece from the center. I have taken it home before and been disappointed. Canvas is a hidden gem for dinner.

T. J. Anderson

November 17th, 2012
8:44 pm

I love this place. We have eaten there many times over the years and always find it inventive, refreshing, a gift to the area. I have to wonder with such a unique spot with great food you do not give 3 stars. It’s definitely a worth the trip three meals a day. I go there for meetings, to feed my family, to pick up goodies for hostess gifts or to take to ailing friends. It’s hard to watch a couple work as hard as the Gatti’s and see them not get more that two stars. Why so stingy right here at the holidays?
Canvas is a do not miss for a snack for a meal. Giant cookies the children love. Oatmeal is our favorite. Their salads are wonderful and yes, it’s indeed a hidden gem for dinner. Off the chain burgers. Pumpkin whoopie pies. Their coffees are top drawer too.

Ben

November 19th, 2012
10:13 am

I have to agree with T.J. on the stars thing! Normally when I see 2 stars I wouldn’t think to go there. If you read the review, it’s actually a pretty great review so 2 stars and the what that actually means isn’t consistent with other sites.

I’ve eaten at Canvas many times. I now live in California and Canvas is one of the many things I miss about Atlanta. I make a point of stopping in every time I’m back in town. Burgers are amazing. The Southwest and Marchella sandwiches are very missed! I love that both the soup and everything in the pastry case is made from scratch. I live in one of the best food cities and California and Canvas would easily be one of the most popular lunch spots here – if only they would open up a second location!