posted on February 5, 2010 at 10:22 am
I’m back to my old gluttonous habits after a much-needed break to pay penance for the ten pounds I gained on the honeyMoon. I’ve been eating out a lot and have 20 restaurants in the blog pipeline–not including the misses you wouldn’t miss. In an effort to lessen the burden of my self-imposed blog guilt, I’ve compiled a quick and dirty round-up of the best, worst and weirdest from the past month starting with our first meal of the year: brunch at Cafe di Sol. This was my third visit and I gotta say this place doesn’t get enough love. Good breakfast and brunch places are already hard to find. You know you settle. Admit it.

Cafe di Sol has all the right parts in place. The restaurant–located in the old Diem space–is inviting, there’s a killer covered patio, the bartender makes a wickedly spicy bloody mary, and the food, while not perfect, has a little something for every craving.

Cafe di Sol: Little Five
My favorite dish thus far: The chicken biscuits with mushroom gravy. Flaky biscuits, crunchy fried chicken without a trace of oil, a lacquer of gravy and two picture perfect eggs. Add a bloody and you have one happy Sunday.

Moon’s birthday was a few days later and we have two celebrations: a dinner with friends and a family gathering. Royal China is not my favorite Chinese restaurant in Atlanta, but it’s a great spot for a large gathering and the restaurant only charges a tiny flat corkage fee; our table was packed with beer and wine. We ordered 30 dishes including the Peking duck (see below).

Royal China: Chamblee/BuHI
The two-course presentation was a lot of fun for everyone and we liked it so much we ordered two. Great meal with friends and the cupcakes from Little Cake Bakery were a perfect sweet note to end the night.

For Moon’s actual birthday dinner, he chose Ormsby’s since it was a weeknight and we wanted something casual and fun. The hostess offered us the choice of dining upstairs or downstairs. We chose downstairs because that is where all the fun games are–this indoor bocce ball included.
Our extremely friendly waitress took our order and everyone scattered. Junior camped out in the little cubby with video games, Moon made love to the jukebox and I examined the impressive beer menu. It was a nice way to spend a rainy Monday birthday night until we were approached by a manager and told kids are not allowed downstairs for their safety. Apparently the hostess wasn’t told. We offered to move upstairs twice, but he told us to stay downstairs. It was a birthday buzz-kill, but we made up for the awkward experience with ethereal chocolate mousse birthday cake from
Alon’s Bakery when we got home. Around the time of our meal, the policy re: kids was undecided, but Ormsby’s settled on the following per their PR representative, Melissa Libby: No one under 21 is allowed downstairs after 6pm and no one under 21 is allowed in the restaurant/bar after 8pm. I personally feel they are losing out on a lot of potential revenue from families who live nearby, but a policy is a policy. What do you think?

We went to
Sauced, Ria Pell’s new spot, where I ate the weirdest food I’ve had in a long while. I am floored with the retro face-lift they gave the previously barren space. It’s warm, the kind of place that you just want to hang out in.
Sauced: Inman Park
The food is another story. The comfort food concept is a great idea, but the execution is seriously lacking; we experienced over-salted food, a soggy beef wellington that had huge chunks of fat, cloying cocktails and sloppy plating. I hope Ria smooths the bumps out because the bones are certainly there.
Take heed and give it a little time.

We unfortunately left feeling unsatisfied. So, we did the thing food obsessed people do and went down the street to Shaun’s for a second meal.
Shaun's: Inman Park
The thing I like about Shaun’s is that I like it a little more each time I go. The place evolves and I have to admit I may have sold this place short in the past. If you order well, you’ll end up with new creations like this:
Shaun's: Inman Park
The Carolina Gold and Chicken soup. If you like congee, you’ll go wild for this soup. It is full of rich chicken stock, buttery Carolina Gold rice (I heart this rice), an intense drizzle of sweetish soy reduction (?), chives, a julienne of fresh ginger, and crushed peanuts; a totally craveable dish I will return for as long as it is on the menu.

I went hunting for new Indian some days later and went to check out Tava Grill, an Indian/Pakistani restaurant stall located in the sparkling new Cherians;
All of the food is made to order and the menu is full of snack type food like the bun kabab above and more intensive dishes like nihari. Sadly, the overall flavor of the food was average and saturated with food coloring.
Not a gem of a find.

We went to check out Kusum Foods, a place John Kessler found and wrote about, since we were in the area.
Thali at Kusum Foods
The place is sterile, but the food has all the color your heart desires. The thali (above) was decent; I really liked those puffy crunchy things in the bottom right corner of the picture. But the real draw for me here is the chaat (Indian snack/street food). I adored the sev puri: a sphere of puffed rice that’s cracked and filled with soft potatoes, yogurt and tamarind. I can’t wait to get back and try more–especially the sweets.

I couldn’t resist picking up a slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting from Southern Sweets.

Amidst the exploring, I frequented my old standbys like this filling post-workout tofu sandwich at Dynamic Dish. Tip: check his Twitter feed for the daily menu.
Dynamic Dish

The polar opposite of Dynamic Dish: the gut-bomb specials, like this Frito Pie with brisket chili, at Fox Brothers Barbecue.
Um, yum. Points for serving it in the bag.

And a warming cup of Kristen Hard’s spicy (and pricey) Aztec hot chocolate at Cacao, her cute-as-a-button Inman Park boutique.
Hot chocolate from Cacao

One of my favorite parts of the month was a macaron making workshop organized by Tami of Running with Tweezers and Shameeka of The Broke Socialite as part of Sugar Coma, a tour off all things sweet in Atlanta. Helen McSweeney, the force behind Tartelette, taught a group of us how to make basic macarons on Sunday afternoon. I am proud to say my less than stellar baking skills actually made something edible.
I like to use fancy camera tricks to hide my mistakes.

Miller Union: Westside
I’m still embroiled in my love affair with Miller Union. The food is made with good ingredients and care. The space is so welcoming and feels like you’re visiting a friend.What else could you want from a New American restaurant? My favorites, so far, are the farm egg in celery cream with grilled country bread and the rabbit over grits. Miller Union is now hosting family-style “Harvest Dinners” every Tuesday. I am dying to go to one. Get more information here.

There were, of course, more meals throughout the month, but I am going to do bigger posts of those. Stay tuned for my review of Tuk Tuk and more.

Ormsby's on UrbanspoonMiller Union on UrbanspoonCafe Di Sol on UrbanspoonRoyal China on UrbanspoonTuk Tuk Thai Food Loft on UrbanspoonShaun's on UrbanspoonSouthern Sweets on UrbanspoonSauced on UrbanspoonTava and Grill on UrbanspoonDynamic Dish on UrbanspoonFox Bros. Bar-B-Q on UrbanspoonCacao Atlanta on Urbanspoon

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  • Re: Nibbles
    posted by: D'Andrea · February 5, 2010  12:52 PM

    Totally agree w/your take on Sauced. We were disappointed. Will give them a second chance, but if they don't improve, that will be the last time.

    Also a comment about Fox Bros Frito Pie. Reminds me of going 2 my brothers ballgames, only fancy w/brisket. Sure can tell they're frm TX. Made me smile.

  • Re: Nibbles
    posted by: Jonathan · February 5, 2010  1:16 PM

    Cliff, totally agree with you on the no kids thing. I think the biggest issue is that our smoking laws are bizarre and some restaurant/bar owners are erring on the caution. But it's nonsensical.

    I'll leave out names to protect places that we like, but one in town restaurant/bar we frequent allows kids on the porch but not inside where smoking is allowed, even though they have no smoke free bathrooms outside. Within a block a similar restaurant decided to ban kids from THEIR deck with exactly the same layout to prevent being picked on by the city.

    Several places do the somewhat bizarre hourly cutoffs. We were turned away from dinner with 3 kids and 2 adults at a near empty Va-Hi bar/restaurant at 7:30 because they had no kids after 8pm and wouldn't be able to get us out. That's $75 that didn't go to the house and $18 that didn't go to the server on a slow night.

    I won't enjoy a meal someplace super smoky, but my 12 year old foodie kid isn't going to die breathing second hand smoke from a handful of people 30 feet away in a high ceilinged restaurant.

    It pisses off parents and costs restaurants money that they can ill-afford to lose.

  • Re: Nibbles
    posted by: Jonathan · February 5, 2010  1:19 PM

    … and the the chicken biscuits with mushroom gravy at cafe di sol?


  • Re: Nibbles
    posted by: LazySam · February 5, 2010  1:36 PM

    Ormsby's is a bar not Showbiz. Glad they finally settled on 21 and over.

    We had a kid one night that kept wondering onto the bocce ball court to pick up a ball … now I know not everyone's kids behave this way but it was a definite buzz-kill to our game.

    Sorry, but the area needs a non-smoking bar to hang out at after meals in the new restaurants in the area more than a family hangout. I think the crowd shows that.

    And anyway, adults drink more alcohol and that is where the money is at.

  • Re: Nibbles
    posted by: Anonymous · February 5, 2010  2:35 PM

    No kids!!!! I also think they should limit the republican/frat types as well though. Its overrun!

  • Re: Nibbles
    posted by: Kev · February 6, 2010  3:24 AM


    Your link to Cafe di Sol is broken.

    The chicken biscuits look wonderful.

  • Re: Nibbles
    posted by: Anonymous · February 6, 2010  5:00 AM

    And the Democraps/Frat types as well!

  • Re: Nibbles
    posted by: Alisonian · February 6, 2010  12:18 PM

    Arrrrgggghhh it won't let me comment, am I doing it wrong?! I think Tava & Grill is awesome, but that's probably because they deliver to my house. I had the butter chicken, meat samosas, rice, and garlic naan and I thought they were REALLY good. And Ormsby's isn't a kid place, but I'm not a parent so that colors my opinion I'm sure.

  • Re: Nibbles
    posted by: John Piccirillo · March 2, 2010  5:08 PM

    Great piece. Ormsby;s is a new personal favorite for lunch, great beer list. Wanting to get to Millers Union for dinner

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