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30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Table 1280

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It’s a wrap.

My 30th and final restaurant for this project is Table 1280 the dining room for the Woodruff Arts Center.

“That place?” you ask. “Why?”

Because my main takeaway from this exercise — one that has taken me to a number of restaurants I wouldn’t normally consider subjects for review — is that utility matters more than most food writers acknowledge.We often choose where we go to eat not because the deliciousness of its food makes us see the face of the deity, but because the restaurant is close, convenient, priced right or suitable for our purposes.

Table 1280 has long been a prominent and gourmet-minded restaurant, but it has only lately become a useful one.

If you recall, the space opened with a bang in 2005 as part of the High Museum expansion designed by architect Renzo Piano. With celebrity chef Shaun Doty at the helm, it featured a high-end bistro menu in its two austere, hard-edged dining rooms as well as a more casual selection of small plates in the lounge that juts into the central courtyard. (Or, in Piano’s parlance, the “piazza,” a crossroads for foot traffic that was lacking in Midtown’s urban structure.)

Atlanta didn’t really want another pricey bistro even if the fashion-forward space seemed to demand it. Woodruff management ignored the message for the first five years, and subsequent chefs continued preparing foofy, expensive fare for a dwindling customer base. Finally, management wised up. In 2010, they brought in Tony Conway of the catering firm A Legendary Event to revamp the menu.

Revamp he did, trading in the various gourmet oddities and three-course tasting menus for straightaway sandwiches, burgers, steaks and chicken. The shift seems to have struck a chord. At lunch the other day, the main dining room was packed with groups of business folk and assorted aesthetes in ferociously hip eyewear. The restaurant was serving as a draw, bringing Midtown into the courtyard as Piano intended.

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And the food? Well, it certainly was a value, with sandwiches starting at $6.50 and sides at $2. It wasn’t quite what I’d consider good.

Let’s get through this quickly. That sandwich of desiccated house-roasted turkey, chopped lettuce and sliced roma tomato pictured on top came together without any of the pride or handicraft that a good deli guy would summon for Boar’s Head. On the side, this sad little pile of droopy arugula.

Guess you need something as a placeholder on the stylish rectangular plate.

The daily specials included a tuna burger — the weirdest tuna burger I’ve ever had, with a hot-dog-smooth texture and springy bounce. The fries were good.

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Below is the odd caprese salad I chose for a side. Again with the roma tomatoes? On the plus side, it’s only $2!

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Which brings us to this barbecued pork flatbread. The thin, floppy base is (I believe) commercial lavash stuccoed with a minced meat/sauce paste. Really?

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In all fairness, the salads at the next table looked a lot better than anything at ours. Were I to review this restaurant, I’d surely go three times and try to find the kitchen’s relative strengths as I pointed out its evident limitations.

For now, for this, I’m happy to report that the price is right, the room has great energy, and this restaurant seems to have finally connected to Midtown. Find something here you don’t hate. Appreciate the endorphin release you will get from the ample natural light in this space. This is a supremely useful restaurant.

30 restaurants over and out.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

19 comments Add your comment

Art

August 23rd, 2013
11:19 am

A “useful” restaurant sounds like that gas station you’re looking for when your car’s been on “E” for the last half hour. It could have one pump and be charging $6 a gallon. You just don’t care. Any port in a storm, huh? I guess it appeals to the “eat to live” crowd over the “live to eat” ones. That pork flatbread looks nasty and I don’t think it’s the quality of the picture.

30 Restaurants has been a hoot. It rivals that series you did a few years back where you toured Alabama. In keeping with the car theme, I wish it was like the test drive that Kramer took on Seinfeld years ago and that it would just keep going. Great job JK!

donkey200

August 23rd, 2013
11:24 am

FoodFan

August 23rd, 2013
11:46 am

It’s certainly not a destination, but it’s a welcome amenity to have available after a tour of the museum. I enjoy a glass of champagne & a cheese tray from the small plates menu after getting my culture in to complete the High experience. Much like the Met in NYC where you can have a drink on the rooftop, museums & a cocktail just go together IMO, so I appreciate the amenity (oh yeah, and 10% off with your museum membership).

Lauren

August 23rd, 2013
1:11 pm

Really enjoyed the series! Thanks!

bc

August 23rd, 2013
1:43 pm

Thanks for the marathon 30 day challenge JK-great stuff.

John Kessler

August 23rd, 2013
2:07 pm

Thanks for reading. It was fun. I didn’t gain any weight. (Course, I started with some extra in the bank…)

Paul from Milton

August 23rd, 2013
2:44 pm

I really enjoyed this series. I hope that you reprise it next year.

Baltisraul......

August 23rd, 2013
3:21 pm

JK…….those were great reads. Hope you will come up w/ another twist to this blog soon. You have many fans!

Theresa

August 23rd, 2013
4:16 pm

Add me to the list of readers who enjoyed the series. It was great to read about places you don’t normally cover.

Muffin

August 23rd, 2013
5:53 pm

I busted out laughing when i saw that picture of the turkey sandwich.

[...] 30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Table 1280 [...]

The Real Foodie

August 24th, 2013
3:05 pm

As a member never been impressed. Service terrible. Food choices terrible. Prices terrible.
I normally eat before of after. Drinks would be pkay but there is never enough staff.

Jadzia

August 24th, 2013
3:20 pm

The 8pm clsoing along with bleh food, but specifically the 8pm closing, has always been a deal breaker for me. Keep the food simple, get a good bartender, keep the prices reasonable and this place could be packed everynight. Between the concerts, plays, exhibits, adjacent students and those who live in walking distance – this restaurant and plaza could redefine the area.

Baltisraul......

August 24th, 2013
7:43 pm

What place closes at 8:00pm? Wow!!!!

Edward

August 25th, 2013
8:34 am

I had previously had a less-than-acceptable experience at 1280, but recently a friend and I were to attend an event at the Alliance Theatre, so we decided to give it another try. We had their signature burger and the steak frites, both which were prepared very well, no complaints. Our server was very efficient. At one point he spilled my bellini cocktail onto the table, but he cleaned it up promptly and within a few minutes returned with another. He informed me that because of the spill, he had the bartender make this one with Veuve Cliquot instead of the standard sparkling wine. I was pleased and didn’t think anything more about it. When we got the bill, I was shocked to see that my meal had also been “comp’ed”, with a little handwritten note apologizing for the spill again. I tipped generously for that.

Baltisraul......

August 26th, 2013
8:18 am

Edward……now that is a way to run a railroad!

12a10

August 26th, 2013
3:31 pm

Last year my wife and I had a quite expensive meal at this “restaurant” when we attended the symphony. It was horrible. The lamb was cold and under cooked, the breads were cold and stale and the salad was wilted. The potatoes tasted good but were over salted and under cooked. The service was beyond poor.

We felt cheated and have had better meals at a DQ!

PJ

August 26th, 2013
4:29 pm

I prefer to eat at the High Cafe for sandwiches & salads. It serves a tasty chicken salad and the soups are generally very good. When my kids were younger and we frequented “Toddler Thursdays” at the museum, it was a great option.

John Kessler

August 26th, 2013
10:45 pm

Hey, folks – Belated thanks. It was fun!