Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

[trying to] Eat Atlanta | January 11, 2010

When a friend for San Francisco was recently in town, I knew I had to step it up when we went out for a bite. Fortunately, Atlanta’s food scene is really on the rise (if it hasn’t arrived already), marked not only by in an influx of big time chefs like Tom Colicchio and Laurent Tourondel, but also evidenced by the plurality of Top Chef’s latest season consisting of Atlanta cooks: Hector Santiago, Eli Kirshtein (sadly, no longer in Atlanta), and finalist Kevin Gillespie.

Being born and raised in Hotlanta, I can tell you one thing: don’t call it “Hotlanta”. Okay, I can tell you another thing too: I’ve seen the food scene really blossom, and it’s a point of great pride. I do not stress out in any way looking for a great meal when friends from food meccas like New York, Chicago, Seattle, or San Francisco come down.

In this case, from what I’d heard, it was going to be a no-brainer: Antico. This authentic Neopolitan pizza joint opened in 2009, and it’s since been getting rave reviews (here’s a good one from Atlanta’s The Blissful Glutton). Figured we’d grab a table, knock back a few beers, and enjoy some killer pie, right?
Wrong. First off, the small, unassuming space was packed; line almost out the door. Furthermore, there’s virtually nowhere to sit at the place! Basically the setup’s a bunch of tables in the kitchen where people stand around and eat their pizzas while watching guys deposit and pluck pies to and from the 3 huge stone ovens. Don’t get me wrong: the joint smelled INCREDIBLE, as wafts of garlic, dough, San Marzano tomatoes, basil, and cheese attacked my olfactory senses and ratcheted my already grumbling innards into spin cycle. However, it was no place for a group of four to sit down and eat.

No problem. Another new hot spot- Abbatoir– was virtually across the street in the Westside Provisions District. This homage to nasty bits features lots of tasty small plates and a VERY reasonable wine list (I once drank a bottle- off a restaurant wine list– for $19 here). As we went to open the door- STUCK! And then I saw the sign on said door: “Closed Dec. 24-27 for the holidays.” Not something you see often in the hospitality biz in December, but hey, everyone needs a break once in a while.

So, now a walking pack of churning stomachs, we traversed over the railroad tracks and found JCT Kitchen & Bar, a “southern-style” bistro in the same area. In the end, crisis was averted. Although there were no tables available, we were able to squeeze into the bar area downstairs, order up some wine, some “angry” mussels with broth and bread, and some reprieve for our appetites. The apps were followed by tasty, satisfying dishes like Crispy Duck n’ Dumplings, All Night Braised Short Ribs, and Benton’s Bacon Wrapped Georgia Trout. In the end, it was a great meal in a great atmosphere. Was it my first choice? No. Second? No again. But when the food culture of a city really starts to hit its stride, then the place next door may be the best place you’ve never heard of. Perhaps in the future, I’ll head out with no plan and just see where the evening takes us…
Proudly, to my food city: Cheers, Sláinte, L’Chaim, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, Kampai, and Laissez les bon temps rouler!

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