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First impression: Cakes & Ale: Decatur

posted on April 4, 2008 at 4:27 am
RESTAURANT REVIEW:
Cakes & Ale—whose name was borrowed from one of Shakespeare’s works—shows much promise even though they’ve only been open for two weeks. The menu is small but the focus on local ingredients and simple preparations remind me of the mid-priced restaurants in California—a category of dining our town has been lacking for quite some time. I pulled this little blurb from their website which describes their philosophy:
The space is airy and simply decorated, but exceedingly warm thanks in part to the friendly staff. Since they have only had their doors open for a short time, a full-fledged review would not be fair, but I can tell you what we ate and our initial feelings about the food.

Before we even get into the dishes, I have to comment on the grissini, which are made in-house. My god, were they good! The rustic breadsticks were slightly sweet, crunchy and served with some delicious room-temperature butter. We planned on getting two appetizers and entrees, but the chicken and dumplings special caught us off guard and we went with one appetizer and three entrees instead.

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To start we had the arancini with citrus and fennel pollen. Each bite oozed a creamy mix of cheese and rice with a slight hint of citrus and the seductive aroma of fennel. While I wouldn’t exactly call the preparation traditional, they were certainly tasty and a joy to eat.

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The chicken and dumplings came next. The soulful mix of cubed parsnips, peas and large pieces of sweet carrots were a nice compliment to the tender chunks of French chicken and pillowy dumplings.

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The baked Alaskan halibut was a bit on the bland side. The fish could used a bit fat more fat and seasoning, but is a nice option for someone watching his or her diet. The red kale was a great side and the halved fingerling potatoes made the dish feel much more substantial.

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The “Cakes & Ale burger” (made with brisket and pork belly on a whole-wheat bun) was an intriguing concept. The patty stayed juicy even though it was cooked medium well per the kitchen’s suggestion due to the pork. I wasn’t crazy about the bun though. It was a bit too nutty. I am not biased against a whole-wheat bun (never minded it at George’s in VaHi), but the heaviness overshadowed the patty. The shoestring fries were gorgeous. Not a soggy one in the bunch and perfectly salted.

Verdict: An overall nice experience at a very reasonable price point and a welcome addition to the Atlanta (and Downtown Decatur) dining scene. They still don’t have their liquor license, but the drink menu will have plenty of options by the glass and some interesting looking cocktails from what we saw. I wish them the best of luck and will definitely be back.

RESTAURANT INFORMATION:
Address: 254 W. Ponce de Leon Avenue
Phone: (404) 377-7994
Website

Cakes & Ale in Decatur

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10 comments

  • Re: First impression: Cakes & Ale: Decatur
    posted by: Ted · April 4, 2008  5:26 AM

    Tries it last night too (as you know). Your comments are right on. Good promise, slightly uneven hand with the seasoning. THey ran out of the chicken just before we ordered, but 3 of us tried the arancini, 2 salads, the halibut (nice fish, but bland) the gnocci with pork belly (really good), and the flat iron steak – the stand out dish of the night. So nice to be able to walk to a place like this!

  • Re: First impression: Cakes & Ale: Decatur
    posted by: Anonymous · April 4, 2008  5:31 AM

    I too was there and was envious of your carafe of wine as opposed to my little bitty glass.
    I had the steak, it was scrumptuous. I agree about the gnocchi. Love me some pork bellies.

  • Re: First impression: Cakes & Ale: Decatur
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · April 4, 2008  5:36 AM

    Ah…Moon is going to kill me. He wanted that steak BAD. Gotta try that and the gnocchi on my return.

  • Re: First impression: Cakes & Ale: Decatur
    posted by: Anonymous · April 4, 2008  8:10 AM

    I tried this last night as well. By the time I arrived, they were out of the burger and the chicken and dumplings (boo hoo). I had the halibut and agree it needs some oomph but it was tender and the accompanying kale and fingerling potatoes were yummy. Their super skinny fries were delicious, too. Super nice staff.

  • Re: First impression: Cakes & Ale: Decatur
    posted by: Broderick · April 8, 2008  12:42 PM

    I’ve got to check this one out. Congrats on the new CL gig!!

  • Re: First impression: Cakes & Ale: Decatur
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · April 9, 2008  7:31 AM

    Thanks!

  • Re: First impression: Cakes & Ale: Decatur
    posted by: Anonymous · May 9, 2008  7:14 PM

    I stopped in last night for dessert. They were offering up rhubarb cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream. So good! Especially satisfying with their French press coffee. My new favorite place.

  • Re: First impression: Cakes & Ale: Decatur
    posted by: Anonymous · May 21, 2008  7:13 PM

    I went this evening for dinner with three friends. The restaurant was noisy, and the service slow and not that attentive. The arancini, as you say, are untraditional, and a bit greasy and tasting of old frier oil. The wines on the list were overpriced, so we chose to drink beer, of which there was a good selection.

    The big surprise of the evening was that of the three of us who ordered the “Free Bird” chicken, two were served chicken that was uncooked, literally reddish-pink, cold, and transparent flesh below pale beige skin; the birds had been put under a broiler for a moment, but not cooked. The third order of chicken was done and edible but the skin was not crisp. While we waited for the two chickens to be redone (and the kitchen redid the same pieces), they sent out a dried-out order of creamy, but unimaginatively- prepated deviled eggs. When the redone chicken arrived, our tablemates were not eager to try again.

    The fourth entree, the gnocchi, was OK, but bland and undersalted, with nary a side or even a garnish.

    At the end of the meal, the owner tried to make things right with an offer of dessert, which we turned down, due to lack of appetite. She then offered to take the two bad chickens off of the bill, but then our server took only one off.

    We went with the best intentions of enjoying the food and atmostphere after reading your review and the one published in the Knife and Fork, but we will never return and cannot recommend the place.

  • Re: First impression: Cakes & Ale: Decatur
    posted by: Anonymous · July 20, 2008  4:05 AM

    Five of us went last night to try it out and celebrate a birthday. The night started off on a slow note when it took a long time to get the drinks. This theme carried throughout the evening. The appetizers were the best part of the meal. Arancini and fried okra were the stand-outs. We waited almost an hour for our entrees and it looked like we were not the only ones. No one around us was eating either! I ordered the “Kobe” roast beef and as soon as I saw it I passed it along to my husband and I took his burger. He said the beef was bland and he didn’t know there was a horseradish sauce until he found it hidden under a bland piece of potato. He had eaten all the sauce in that one bite. The burger was red in the middle, tasteless, and with the hard bun it was impossible to eat as a composed dish. All in all I was not impressed and will not be back! Too bad because their concept is a good one!

  • Re: First impression: Cakes & Ale: Decatur
    posted by: Kathleen · September 18, 2008  5:34 AM

    I have only been to cakes & ale once, but my boyfriend and I both had the burger (it seems they had rethought their bun choice by the time we ate it) and were bowled over by its deliciousness. We both agreed that the cakes & ale burger was far better than Holeman + Finch's (which reminded me of a steak'n'shake steakburger, in the best way possible). I wasn't a fan of the arancini, but then again fennel isn't totally up my alley. The phatty cakes were unbelievable. But with all the hype about H+F's burger, I still think cakes and ale's was better. We of course have yet to do a return trip to monitor for consistency. Are you doing a burger roundup soon? If so, I nominate this burger for consideration!

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