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Installation (Wordpress Part): Steakhead's Atlanta Eats Blog: March 2007

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Six Feet Under – Westside Opens This Week

I just got the word that the new Six Feet Under location in the Westside area of Midtown is slated to open this Thursday at 4pm. The address is 685 11th St., between Howell Mill Rd. and Northside Dr. For those that are not familiar with the original Six Feet Under, it’s a great neighborhood spot on Memorial Drive across the street from Oakland Cemetery (hence the name). Their specialty is seafood, and I tend to stick to the basics: catfish, po boys and I absolutely love their fried green tomatoes. Out of all the places near my old Cabbagetown stomping grounds, it’s the place I miss the most, because it is the perfect place for a casual dinner and a beer. But with this new location, I can definitely see lunches (sans the beer), happy hours and pre-hockey dinners in my future. And if the owners ever consider a 3rd location, may I suggest Sandy Springs?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Fried Chicken a Daily Treat at JCT Kitchen & Bar

What’s in a name? When it comes to Ford Fry, the chef at JCT Kitchen and Bar, I guess it’s fitting that his signature dish is fried chicken. Fried chicken seems to be quite the Atlanta culinary rage these days. At the top of the list is the Tuesday night special at Watershed, which has gotten Scott Peacock national acclaim. The fried bird at JCT is getting very complementary comparisons to the Decatur hotspot. But unlike Watershed, it’s a menu staple every night, without the fear of running out by 7pm.

JCT Kitchen is located in the Westside Urban Market on Howell Mill Rd. (in the same complex as Bacchanalia and Taqueria del Sol). The décor is very bright and open with a French country motif, which fits in well with the classic Southern fare that adorns the menu. There is even a small patio for outdoor dining.

We started off with the White Bean Bruschetta, which is more like a hummus spread. The spread is seasoned with olive oil and garlic and is most yummy. Of course, I had to order the fried chicken for my entrée. And I gotta say, this fried chicken is a far cry from the bucket of the Colonel’s Extra Crispy that I remember as a kid. The meat was tender, juicy (not greasy), and the breading had a decent spice to it. Served with a side of mac and cheese and green beans, this is a great fix your comfort-food jones.

Lady Steakhead did not order as well as I did (after reading my posts for the past 2 years, you’ll notice this is a common theme). Her Shellfish Pan Stew, a bouillabaisse with shrimp, clams, mussels and sausage, was good, but not entirely memorable. And it was the one dish on the menu that didn’t seem to fit the rest of the country-style offerings. She regretted not going with the shrimp and grits instead. The dessert menu looked very enticing, including a fried apple pie (Ford Fry living up to his name again), but Baby Steakhead was beginning to make it clear that she wanted to head home, so we had to skip it.

Overall, I would definitely recommend JCT Kitchen and Bar. It’s a fun, casual environment, and not in the least bit pretentious. The prices for most entrees were in the mid to upper teens, so it’s priced in the right range for a neighborhood spot (although my glass of wine cost almost as much as my main course). And if you are in the mood for fried chicken, there is a bird waiting for you six days of the week (closed Sundays).

Steakhead Recommends: Yes
Price: $$-$$$

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Atlanta James Beard Nominees

The James Beard Foundation Award nominees have been announced and several Atlantans are on the list. Congrats to the following folks who are helping make Atlanta a world-class dining town:

Besha Rodell- Creative Loafing
Category: Newspaper Feature Writing About Restaurants and/or Chefs With or Without Recipes
"2006 Food Issue- From the Farm to your Table"- 10/12/2006

John Kessler- AJC
Category: Newspaper Feature Writing With Recipes
"What Does Chinese Take-out Have in Common with Tomatoes, Pizza, Parmesan and Also Sushi? - Unami"- 6/22/2006

John T. Edge- AJC
Category: Newspaper, Newsletter or Magazine Columns
" The Pit and the Pendulum", "Roadside Renaissance" and "Where Coconut Cake Meets Sweet Tea Pie"- 4/27/2006, 7/20/2006 & 11/9/2006

Arnaud Bethelier- The Dining Room in the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead (Atlanta, GA)
Scott Peacock- Watershed (Decatur, GA)
Category: Best Chef: Southeast

For more information on the James Beard Foundation, and to see a listing of all categories and nominees, click here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lunch Madness

The next two days are my favorite two days on the sports calendar- the first two days of the NCAA Basketball tournament. With multiple games being played simultaneously for over 12 hours, its enough to give every adult male a serious case of ADD. People say this is also the least two productive days in American workforce, as many of these games take place during weekday afternoons. I don't doubt that at all.

For me, I am taking tomorrow off and meeting for a nice lengthy lunch at Stool Pigeons in Midtown today. Why Stool Pigeons? Well, for today, its not entirely about the food. The requirements become much more about the view. With 3 games tipping off at 12:30, having good viewing angles becomes key. Stool Pigeons is a wide open sports bar, which should easily provide for optimal viewing.

I am curious how others will celebrate this annual ritual of unproductiveness? Also, let's hear your Final Fours. Mine is Florida, UCLA, Ohio St., and Texas...with UCLA beating the Longhorns in the finals.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Umezono- The Best Sushi Lunch Deal in Town

If you are looking for high quality sushi that won’t empty your wallet, Umezono is your place. I have been here several times for dinner, and have thought well of their nigiri selections. It’s not a place for fancy sushi rolls, it doesn’t transform itself into a hipster club after the sun goes down (usually a sign of bad sushi), and its location next to a nudie bar on Cobb Parkway just south of Windy Hill Rd. won't impress anyone. But the sushi you get for your money will.

The best deal is the lunch special. For $6.85, you get a soup, salad and your choice of 2 plates including, sushi (4 pieces), sashimi, tempura, tonkatsu, teriyaki and over 15 other menu items. I went with the tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet) and the sushi. I added a spicy tuna roll on the side, and it cost as much as the rest of the meal, and was completely unnecessary. I would actually avoid the rolls at Umezono completely. It’s just not their specialty, and with the low prices for such good nigiri, you might as well fill up on that. The main menu also features a wide selection of other Japanese dishes including shabu shabu, sukiyaki, and udon bowls.

The decor of Umezono is very traditional. There are even several Tatami rooms, if sitting shoeless on the floor is your thing. While I was very happy to have been turned on to Umezono, I will say that many others have already found it. I met a friend for lunch at 12:30 last week and it was a packed house, so if you go, get there early.

Steakhead Recommends: Yes
Price: $-$$

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Decent Thaidings in Fairlie-Poplar

I am not sure if I initially liked Thaidings because a) its actually decent, b) the lack of other options in this cool little Downtown area, or c) because my expectations were so low going in. Perhaps it was a combination of all three.

My first experiment with this place was about 9 months ago, before Thaidings opened. The previous Thai place was completely forgettable with the exception that they had no air conditioning. The décor was ratty. And I was grateful I made it through the day without getting food poisoning. About 3 months ago, I noticed a Grand Opening sign and a new name- Thaidings- and decided to poke my head in. (BTW- the Grand Opening sign is still there.)

The décor has been much improved. New, somewhat cheap-chic tables and chairs, a fresh coat of bright lime-green paint, and yes, an air conditioner! The place already looked 1,000 times better. The menu features your standard Thai classics- curries, noodle dishes, basil chicken, basil rolls and coconut soup. Lunch will run you about $10, which includes a bowl of soup or salad. And now that I have been there a couple of times, I can actually say it’s not that bad. I have had the basil chicken and the drunken noodle bowl, and each was generally pleasing. The basil rolls, which should forego the imitation crab meat for shrimp, could have been better.

They get a decent crowd for lunch, as most tables were occupied by noon. But when you think about the number of people who work downtown, where getting into a car for lunch is an impossibility, and the very few acceptable alternatives for an inexpensive, nearby lunch spot, it’s not hard to figure out why.

After speaking with the owner, who is a very friendly and sociable soul, I am not sure of the future of Thaidings. This is disappointing, considering she seems to have a following amongst the downtown lunch crowd. It's not a place I would recommend driving to from other parts of the city, but if you happen to work nearby their location at 68 Walton St., it’s worth the walk over on a nice day.

Steakhead Recommends: Perhaps...if you happen to be in the area
Price: $-$$

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Wildfire at Perimeter Mall

The Perimeter Mall area continues to get inundated with new restaurants, to the point where they must have reached market saturation at this point. The two latest entries to the area are literally located in the mall parking lot- Seasons 52 and Wildfire. Last night, a fellow foodie and I decided to check out Wild Fire, a Steakhouse concept by the same folks who introduced Maggiano’s.

Wildfire has been open a couple of months now, and it appears to have generated a strong amount of interest. Being a Wednesday night, I was shocked at the line of people waiting to be seated. Thank God we had a reservation, or we may have been SOL. But here is something I don’t understand. The place knows they are popular. They also know that in most cases they are making a first impression. Then you better have enough bartenders to handle folks while they wait for a table. There were only two bartenders, and one was primarily focused on making drinks for the dining room, leaving one overwhelmed soul to take care of a packed bar. Needless to say, having a drink while we waited for our table was a complete chore. So, again, my advice to you, make a reservation….especially if you go on a weekend.

The dining room atmosphere is an open set up, with lots of wood and stone. You definitely get the feeling that this not a place for the faint of stomach. And while the noise level can be quite high, but there is a certain energy that I found appealing. The service is decent, but one sin they committed was they brought the entrees before clearing the appetizer plates. You expect this at Outback, but when you spend $30 for a steak, I don’t want to be rushed.

For starters, we split an order of sweet & sour calamari, and an order of shrimp stuffed with crabmeat. The calamari was awesome! Many times, calamari can be mistaken for rubber bands. This calamari was extremely tender, and the sweet and sour glaze was a unique touch. I can’t speak as glowingly of the shrimp and crabmeat dish, however. The four medium-sized shrimp sat in a 1/4” puddle of oil with crabmeat more in the puddle than stuffed in the shrimp. I am not exactly sure how you would stuff shrimp that small anyway.

Then, it was on to the steaks. Wildfire offers the standard selection of cuts- several filet mignons, NY strips, ribeyes, etc. I was in the mood for a filet after having one completely overcooked at Ruth’s Chris last weekend. I added the blue cheese dressing and I need to stop doing that, as only Chops has done it well lately. The blue cheese topping at Wildfire sat on the meat like a pancake. The consistency was hard and grainy, and was too thick. I wound up scraping most of it off. The meat, however, was cooked to perfection and was very tender. Not qualms about that at all.

The main upside for Wildfire is value. For an upscale steakhouse (remember, this isn’t Long Horn), you get a very good steak, at prices about 20% less than others in that category (my filet was a decent size and $28). Furthermore, you get a choice of side with your entrée, so they don’t get you with a ton of a la carte add-ons. The quality of meat is right up there with the big boys as well. The sides options aren’t great, but hell, that’s not why I go to a Steakhouse. And the service can be a little refined. But these are all nits. If you are in the mood for a good steak, but don’t want to shell out $80-100 per person to do it, Wildfire is a strong choice.

Steakhead Recommends: Yes
Price: $$$