Steve Drucker - New Yorkers Demand Atlanta Suggestions!
Sorry about the rude, aggressive subject line. You're familiar with our ways, although I hope you can forgive us, since we turned you on to Sripraphai.
I'm so happy to hear that you had such a great time in Queens. Next time, plan a trip to Brooklyn for West Indian, west African, southern Italian, Vietnamese Sandwiches (hoo daddy), and such. Chowhound will hook you up.
I'm going to be in good old Atlanta for a week in September. Last time I was there, I was at the Surin, which I can only describe as disgusting.
To make up for this dreadful experience, I had a heavenly soft tofu at 88 Tofu House.
If you could expound on your earlier suggestions, much appreciated.
Your query has generated tremendous interest judging by the number of posts.
Southern cuisine is as has been suggested already, what we cook at home. Cheap, filling, simple food. The typical meat and three is the best way to experience this phenomenon. Oga's on Windy Hill Road in Smyrna, and a small place (can't remember the name) just west of Southern Tech on the South 120 Loop in Marietta are good examples.
These aren't gourmet stops, but they are what the South is all about. The former Del's Bar-B-Que on Atlanta Road in Smyrna was a perfect example. Tasty food served quickly to people seated next to whomever at long tables. Many times I saw a banker seated next to a construction worker, etc. You get the picture.
The only meal served at many of these is the mid-day meal, which usually runs from about 11am-3pm.
I have always been reluctant to take internationals to a local place serving food from their region. Is the local version as good as what they get in their home country? Or, has it been Americanized too much in order to sell to us. The several earlier posts suggest that a balance between foreign food and what we are familiar with is important to each of us. Perhaps some of my international in-laws would like something besides Yankee Pot Roast, Fried Chicken, and Squash Casserole.
Tofu in Atlanta? Are you serious? You are coming from NY and are eating tofu in Atlanta. I suppose that Bacchanalia and Bluepointe and Seeger's wouldn't interest you if you are looking for tofu. Two of these three are Atlanta's best restaurants and the third is the hottest.
re: Joe H.
Often when Korean clients are visiting, I suggest Tofu House, where my guests are always relieved to get a good jigae (heated stoneware bowl served bubbling with soft tofu and seafood, or clam, or beef, or tripe).
Tofu house is neither haute cuisine, nor even the best of its genre, rather its a 24/7 taste of home; clean and well run. If you like Los Rayos, Tofu House is its Korean equivalent.
And one more place:
Mi Pilon, Dominican, Buford Hwy one block south of Mitchell St, Norcross.
Everyday on the steam table are moros (rice cooked with black beans), maduros (fried sweet plantains), curried goat, several types of baked chicken, chicken gizzards, roast pork, beef stew, yucca con mojo, daily specials like picadillo (sort of like a Puerto Rican meatloaf) and tripe; plus a regular menu. Run by two sisters, one of whom reticently but willingly will conduct Spanish class with you. A unique cultural crossroads where Dominican countryman, anglos, office workers and regular folk all gather for real home-cooked food. The music is always good, and reflects the sisters' mood. Kind of like magical realism realtime that comes free along with the food. No beer. Cash and Credit Cards ok.
re: steve drucker
Why do you take Korean clients to get the kind of food they can get at home? Why don't you take them for food that is unique to the U. S. and Atlanta in particular? Try Bacchanalia and check their reaction. Or BluePointe. I have never understood why Americans think Europeans or Asians want to eat the same kind of food here that they can find at home. I entertain twenty five to thirty nights a year on business and I have never in twenty years taken someone from another country for the same food they can find at home. If I am travelling in Europe I can assure you that the last thing I want in Paris is an American hamburger or fried chicken in Barcelona. I can't imagine going to Bologna and having garlic bread, spaghetti and meatballs let alone McDonald's.
I have taken Parisians to Luling City Market in Texas for brisket, Italians to Papasito's for Tex-Mex and English to Peter Luger. One of the best meals I ever had was at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City with several French Canadians.
It is also possible that we are entertaining on two different levels with different understandings of those who we entertain.
re: Joe H.
Joe, if you were stuck in Vancouver and limited to live Cantonese seafood only which that city certainly excels in, might you start to miss McDonald's? (g) Same deal here. It is a much different thing for you as an American to eat European food every day than for someone from Asia to eat European-derivative American food.
I have frequently entertained Asian business executives visiting the San Francisco area. They are eager to try the top restaurants (as long as we avoid dairy and cheese which are anathema), but after about Day 3, they want to eat with chopsticks and I am more than willing to accommodate them.
SF chowhounds confessed to the things they miss when they're traveling and away from home (link below). It's a natural thing. Some of us can't wait 'til we get back and will seek it the next best substitute wherever we happen to be when the craving strikes.
re: Melanie Wong
When your client, who has flown 16 hours from Seoul to Chicago, and in the next 3 days has been to Louisville, Ames IA, and finally Atlanta, looks up after eating kim chee soup intense with red pepper, garlic, and homemade kim chee, than sighs and says "I am so relieved. Thank you"--well, then you know you have really connected on a human level and started to build a relationship.
re: Melanie Wong
Melanie, I understand and totally agree with you about day three or four. Even for all of my food snobbishness (!) after five or six days in Italy I can actually "long" for McDonald's! Of course after one meal I immediately realize what a fool I was but, still, the point is well taken. However, when entertaining on business, almost without exception I have found my clients/customers/friends to want to find that which is difficult for them to find at home. Usually these are also situations where they only have a few days to experience a particular city or even the country. I have also taken Americans out over much of Europe. I never have and never will taken them for a meal similar to what they can find here. Exceptional meals for them represent memories and appreciation for my having introduced them to an experience difficult to find here. I should note though that I am almost always aware of just how adventurous they are. Again, these are usually short trips, not extended ones where In 'n Out Burger can look like the absolute best meal on the face of the earth.
By the way, I get sick of Coke Light and end up "longing" for Diet Coke. And, yes, when I return after two weeks overseas my first meal is probably going to be Taco Bell or McDonald's.
re: Melanie Wong
"the stars shining brighest in ATL for me right now are:
--Salvadoran (Costa Del Sol. Lots to know about this place. Let me know and I can expand on the South board.
--Hong's (Banh Mi)
--New Paradise (Cantonese)
--Madras Saravana Bhagwan (south Indian veg--exc!)"
Here's the detail:
Costa Del Sol. SE corner Jimmy Carter at Singleton, Norcross. Salvadoran.
very good pupusas. Incredible tamales-so light they are unbelievable, and big--in the Salvadoran style. Very good Sopa de Pollo. Good beef soup. Have not tried the seafood. Best: everything comes with tortillas hecho a mano--handmade! So if you order a grilled chicken breast, steak or soup, you get those great handmande totillas.
Hong's, Buford Hwy north of Clairmont.
pretty good Banh Mi. Many other things. good spring rolls--shrimp, or sausage, or mystery meat inside of soft wrappers with rice noodle and basil.
New Paradise. Buford Hwy, south of Chamblee Tucker.
Best salt and pepper squid in atlanta. good whole fish--steamed or fried. exc snow pea leaves. forget the soups--tasteless. Exc noodles, such as Beef chow fun, singapore chow mei fun etc.
Madras Saravana Bhagwan, Lawrenceville hwy near Market Square Mall.
Would rank high with Queen's best. South Indian Vegetarian. Serves Beer. Get the onion and green chile rava masala dosa. Skip the samosas. Try the entree's. Great Sambar. Great veg cutlet, idli. If you like this cuisine, I'd say this is a must not miss.
We need to get the SFO taco truck chowhounds here for a working field trip--there are a million taco trucks here, and I can't hardly seem to get to enough of them.
Concur with previous posts about Los Rayos.
Thai food here is at best ok; menu's are tediously similar as if Thailand had only one cuisine. Zabee Lee, Old National Hwy--south of the airport--has been around forever, and serves reliably superior Squid Salad and Tom Yum (lemongrass) soup. But their noodles aren't so good. And like most Thai places, the entrees rarely sparkle.
Tamarind is hotel food, but nice ambience. We go there sometimes if we are going to a show downtown.
Two places for an italian fix (though if you are coming from NY, where every third place is Italian, its hard to imagine why you would need it):
Upscale: Cucina de Paolo, Holcomb Bridge Road
Brother and sister from LI serve pretty damn good contemporary Italian in the 'burbs. Mediocre wine list. Great pastas. Stay away from the fish.
If you need NY style pizza (this assumes a lengthy visit):
Pasta Vino, State Bridge and Kimball Bridge, Alpharetta.
The real thing, also buried in the burbs. Fresh mozzarella, very thin yet tasty crust, clean sauce. Run by a Venezualan with 20 years experience in high end NYC restaurants. Very good weekday specials, like osso bucco lobster fra diavalo etc (hey, this is Atlanta).
The state of southern food here is sad. Mary Mac's and Colonnade are sorry. For that matter, BBQ ain't so great either.
An individual named Steve Drucker posted on the New York Outer Boroughs board about Sripraphai, by far the best Thai place in New York, which is why I mentioned Surin, which, IMO, isn't even Thai food.
I certainly don't have to have Thai.
Actually, I'd be happy to avoid Asian places altogether. I'm not insulting Atlanta, which is a great town, but by virtue of our size and well-established Asian communities, the Asian restauarants here in New York tend to be better than those in Atlanta. Atlanta has some good ones, don't get me wrong, but there's probably better stuff out there.
What I suspect would be better in Atlanta would be southern food (obviously) and barbeque. I've eaten at one of the counters at the Sweet Auburn Market, and I can vouch that it was better than the often praised "soul food" places up here.
I'm welcoming any suggestions.
Well, Jamie, I really wouldn't get my hopes too high about "southern food (obviously)" in Atlanta, as there's not huge demand for it in restaurants. Visitors want a tarted up version, and those of us from the south (and there are precious few of us left) can do a better job at home.
There are a few options I can recommend. Mary Mac's Tea Room (on Ponce de Leon, near downtown) is reasonably good. If you go you should try the "pot likker", which is basically the water that greens (with ham or fatback and onions) have been cooked in. You eat it as a soup, with some of the greens still floating in it, with cornbread. Great people-watching at Mary Mac's. The original owner, Margaret Lupo (hope I remembered that one correctly), has passed on, but it's still pretty good.
The Colonnade (on Cheshire Bridge) is similar, a little bit more upmarket than Mary Mac's, but not by much. I don't think the food's as good, but some people like it. And it does have the, um, ambience.
Your best bet is probably Son's, on Dekalb Ave (the street address may be on the cross street, the name of which I can't remember). "Son" is the illegitimate son of the now deceased Deacon Burton. Deacon's was the real deal, but Son didn't inherit the restaurant (for obvious reasons), so he opened his own place next door. I've not actually been to Son's, so if you go do post on your experience.
There are BBQ recs for the Atlanta area all over the board.
I agree with you, Terese. Have you noticed that many southerners who can cook perfectly good tradional food at home will eat at some of the most disgusting restaurants around? The south is one big chain restaurant these days and no one seems to mind. My Mom is a fantastic cook and she will happily eat the crap at Steak and Ale and Applebees. Why don't people in the south expect MORE from a restaurant than they could get at home, not LESS??
My folks are big fans of the Cracker Barrel when traveling. Go figure.
For soul food for lunch, I like The Busy Bee on MLK out west of downtown. It's very good and off the beaten path. Hopefully I don't stick out too much as the only white person there when I go.
I'll re-state my love for Bennie's for 'cue. Total dive. Good food. Great deal at lunch. Swallow at the Hollow in Roswell is another fave but of a very different variety (down-home yet upscale suburban). And I guess Greenwoods (across the street from the Swallow) has good down-home cooking and massive portions.
Yeah, my parents are definitely in Cracker Barrel mode when travelling, but then again we're not too upset to find a Cracker Barrel when we're travelling with little kids. It is what it is.
At least my parents won't set foot in an Applebee's.
The real problem with finding "southern food" in restaurants is that most of it is simply not meant to be restaurant food. Many people in the south were too poor to eat in restaurants, and the wealthy had cooks and private clubs. And then there's the question of just exactly what is "southern food"?
Anyway, fried pies and cornbread and tomato sandwiches might pass muster with the dining public, but crumbled cornbread in a glass with buttermilk (real buttermilk) poured over it is not going to be a big draw.
Tarted up southern food just ends up weird. Remember Kudzu Cafe? Bleah.
I agree with with Steve Drucker's statements re BBQ in Atlanta: Atlanta doesn't have a really strong BBQ history like North Carolina or Kentucky or Texas, so I generally don't bother.
Another place some distance out of town (to the east) that gets good reviews is Blue Willow Inn. Still haven't managed to try it myself, though, so maybe somebody else could comment.
If Blue Willow Inn is the buffet in an old home somewhere north of Conyers that was written up in the "road food" section of Gourmet years ago, then I have been there.
If you want fried chicken, fried pork chops, fried green tomatoes (which BTW I never saw until after that movie and I'm born and raised S.C.), fried okra, biscuits, and sweet tea...then it was a pretty good choice. Nothing I would go out of my way for, but as I've mentioned, I can could cook "southern" if I wanted to.
If thats not it, never mind :-)
Well, I'm not Steve Drucker, but if you liked 88 Tofu House you could try Cafe Harue (also Korean, sort of noodle house/cafe kind of deal) and Yong Su San (also Korean, including Korean BBQ and a cool multicourse dinner in an unexpectedly nice setting). Both on Buford Hwy.
Surin would most definitely not be my pick for Thai (though the decor is cool). There's a lot of mediocre Thai in Atlanta. Thai Chili (the original, at Briarcliff and LaVista) and Tamarind (in Midtown, near the arts center) offer upmarket Thai that's good (though Tamarind does have some dishes that look like they were created for the Polynesian Resort at Disney World).
Atlanta does offer good Indian. Two south Indian vegetarian places are Udipi (Lawrenceville Hwy) and Madras (though I recently heard they'd had a fire and will be closed for a bit, also on Lawrenceville Hwy). The best option for in-town Indian carnivores is Zyka (located on, huge surprise, Lawrenceville Hwy). We usually do take-away at Zyka, as there's no real table service, plus there's no beer (no beer at Udipi either, by the way).
If you're interested in something specific, post.
We ate at Madras Saravana Bhavan on Tuesday night and it was fully functional. Maybe the original Cafe Madras (on Briarcliff at Clairmont) had a fire.
We have good Vietnamese sandwiches too- at Nhu Y Deli. And for upscale Vietnamese, Vietnam House and Bien Thuy fit the bill. For noodles, I like Pho 79, though we'll go to the pho shop near Penang (geez, I forget the name) for lunch b/c it's closer to the office.
I'm a big fan of the various taquerias on/near Buford Hwy. My fave is Taqueria Los Rayos on Chamblee Tucker. Their tacos are always described as 'fatty,' but they're yummy. They also do good ceviche on weekends and they're open til 4AM on weekends (midnight weekdays, I think). For a more southwestern (and English-speaking) take on tacos, Taqueria del Sol in Midtown is good and cheap.
I've heard that the ownership of Little Szechuan has changed and that it's gone downhill. Haven't confirmed for myself. That said, I find myself at Hong Kong Harbor on Cheshire Bridge much more often- mainly b/c I live around the corner. We typically get pan-fried pot stickers, eggplant w/ garlic sauce, snow pea leaves, and salt and pepper squid occasionally.