t’s 6:30 p.m. on a Wednesday and all the bright blue tables inside the 16-seat Kirkwood restaurant Dish Dive are taken. A line of people holding bottles of wine and mixed six-packs of beer snakes out onto the patio where people dine al fresco in the summer heat. Electronic dance music plays. The bass vibrates the floor and the wood walls the restaurant shares with next-door hair salon Molasses. The interior of this small house on College Avenue across from the train tracks is alive. The people keep coming.
Dish Dive is co-owned by Jeff Myers and chef Travis Carroll, both formerly of Sound Table and Top Flr. Myers is a fun front-of-the-house man to watch. He doesn’t walk. He struts. With his salt-and-pepper hair pulled back into a ponytail he weaves in and out of the kitchen. Myers, who also DJs, is in charge of the tunes, which play louder here than other restaurants. Dish Dive feels like less of a job and more of a lifestyle for Carroll and Myers. Their independent spirit and “I do what I want” attitude are what I love about this place.
Carroll’s kitchen is so small it only has three tiny refrigerators. No walk-in. Even in such extreme proximity, the cooks seem to work in harmony. Everyone at Dish Dive is a food runner, a cook, and a server. Despite the space constraints and the staff’s all-hands-on-deck attitude, the pace of a meal here feels unhurried. The food is exactly what I picture a chef would want to eat after his shift: a little indulgent, but still refined. The menu is only 10 items long on most days and includes a mix of appetizers and entrées, although there’s no such delineation on paper. Ordering dishes with the intent to share is the best way to sample Dish Dive’s offerings. At first, Carroll changed the menu often. Now a core of diners’ most-requested items is available on a nightly basis. The six-month-old restaurant is still building relationships with farmers. For now, Your DeKalb Farmers Market, which is just down the road, is where Carroll does the bulk of the restaurant’s daily shopping.
Everyone needs a go-to restaurant up her sleeve, a place that satisfies a wide variety of tastes, ages, and backgrounds. The Wrecking Bar Brewpub is that kind of place. I can take anyone for almost any occasion. On a normal night you might see tables filled with couples catching up with friends, giggly, prom-bound teens in formalwear, or young families with visiting grandparents. This is largely attributable to the restaurant’s friendly, neighborhood vibe, but also the grassroots guidance of chef/partner Terry Koval.
Given all of the new construction in Atlanta these days, it’s bizarre to have dinner in a beautiful historic building. Built in 1900 by architect Willis F. Denny as Atlanta Terra Cotta Company founder Victor Kriegshaber’s family home, the former Inman Park residence was named “the Marianna” after Kriegshaber’s daughter, Marian. The late Victorian style mansion with its ornate, circular façade was once the Centenary Methodist Protestant Church. It has also been the Jack Rand Dance Studio, Wrecking Bar Architectural Antiques, and now a brewpub. Owners Bob and Kristine Sandage put a lot of work into opening back in 2011. Bob did many of the renovations, managing to preserve historic details such as the groovy portrait of a woman who bears a striking resemblance to Zsa Zsa Gabor.
A restaurant in the basement of a 115-year-old home could easily be cold and cave-like, but Wrecking Bar’s dining room is almost always bustling and warm. The process of being greeted and seated has occasionally made me feel like I was interrupting a group of chatty, disaffected teens, but the pub’s competent waitstaff — ranging from bubbly, college-age kids to laid-back beer dudes — make up for the brusque encounters.
Koval, who has worked at places like Farm Burger and Canoe, is a farmer junkie. Just look at the long list of growers he sources from printed on Wrecking Bar’s ever-changing menu. The chef is constantly adding new dishes or tweaking the existing ones based on what farmers harvest each week. A recent special of intensely orange compressed melon paired with country ham, herbed crème fraîche, and pristine basil leaves was a Southern-tinged answer to Italy’s classic prosciutto with cantaloupe. The ripe melon took on an almost meaty texture, making it a lovely bedfellow to the salty ham.