I grew up in Atlanta, and tend to find myself there once or twice a year for visits – so this list is by no means exhaustive, but a few findings and returns to favorites from this last trip:

I keep finding myself at Leon’s in Decatur these last few visits home.  A great renovation of an old “filling station” – has a great funky vibe, and the wait staff to go along with it. The pub frites, their dipping sauces (smoked tomato mayo – dang!) and the cocktails start you off right – recent imbibe, the Irish Grogg, was a lovely summer whiskey drink.  Every dish I’ve tried there has been a lovely melding of fresh simple ingredients – favorite this last visit – the garbanzo, cherry, provolone side.  Strolling afterward in downtown Decatur, maybe even popping into places like Eddie’s Attic for a little singer-songwriter action or a beer at the Brick Store – all makes for a lovely evening.

Seattle just doesn’t quite have as good Mexican food that I took for granted when growing up in Atlanta, and living in Los Angeles, so at least one Mexican restaurant a visit is a must.  I usually find myself at Holy Taco as it fits the bill on several levels – sustainable, artfully done,  taqueria food, while being a great bustling neighborhood spot, fun for the adults and families.  I usually stay in the fish or shrimp taco realm, a mainstay of goodness that is hard to veer away from since they are so simply good, but we tried some seasonal offerings this time:  tomato watermelon salad, and the soft shell crawfish torta stood out the most.  Chuck swears the soft shell crab sandwich was superior – if you see it on the menu, grab it.

Homegrown is a new spot on Memorial that we found ourselves for lunch and then again for breakfast all within a week – because it was just that good.  An inexpensive, fresh take on home-style southern diner food (what we call a “meat and three”), and the owners are so incredibly nice.  Highlights were the pecan crusted trout, with a side of collards (just as tastily prepared without the traditional meat) and cornbread, their biscuits, and the wonderfully perplexing vegan peach sloppy joe.  You have to try it – meat-eater or not – it is messy good!  The owners are also avid air-cooled VW fans, and had a VW gathering while we were there.

Bocado was also a new spot for me, on the West Side – as seems to be the trend, it is a minimal designed space,  with a sustainable, local food menu (don’t get me wrong – the designer and foodie loves all that, but the over zealous marketing of all of that is getting to be a bit rote these days), but their roasted cauliflower bahn mi sandwich (above, right) is worth sitting down at their communal table for.  The rest of their “American Fare” menu looks just as inventive and good.

I didn’t eat there this go’round, but I just love the store Star Provisions.  Attached to reputedly, one of the best restaurants in Atlanta, Bacchanalia, it is also on the West Side.  You can find everything about the table – from the Heath Ceramics and other tableware, to the individual markets for cheese, meats, other specialized ingredients and tools for cooking,  to the yummy treats in their bakery.  And for you designer types, the development that Star Provisions is in, and the one adjacent to it via a foot bridge are both excellent examples of the fun that can be had doing thoughtful adaptive reuse.

Two favorite new local product finds this visit were Atlanta Fresh Yogurt and King of Pops.  Specifically, the Greek-style ginger peach yogurt, was a beautiful morning treat.  I happened to find it at the Mercantile on Dekalb Avenue, but have it on good authority it can be found at a few other small shops around town.  And King of Pops – especially welcome in the heat, had incredibly bright flavors of Mexican paleta-style popsicles.  The peach basil did me right after my pale Seattle self got a sunburn – other incredibly good ones were blueberry-lemon, grapefruit-mint, and the banana pudding. They seem to travel around town, but we found them several times – twice in East Atlanta Village, at the Urban Canibal (center) and at the Thursday Farmer’s Market, and once at the corner of North and North Highland (right).  Excellent business scheme with their bike drawn coolers – wish it was only hot enough to sustain something like that in Seattle.

The mama and I tend to find ourselves in at least one garden a visit, and despite the heat, we held true.  The Atlanta Botanical Gardens has a new tree canopy walk structure and a new visitor center – well designed and LEED certified.  Beautiful gardens beyond that as always – favorites this time were the edible garden and the orchid house.

Perhaps inspired by our Botanical Gardens trip, we stopped by a new Grant Park neighborhood garden center, Garden Hood.  Inspired displays, unique plant selections, and very friendly staff.  We came away with only a tomato plant for mom, but a cool spot to get some inspiration for your garden.

There are oh so many more things I could bring up that are in and around Atlanta, but that will have to be another time.  I have a few other cities of the SE to tell you about too!  Until then…


southern roadtrip

Ahh… the south was lovely! I am back from my travels, coming back to reality and trying to catch up with everything.  In the coming days, I plan on sending out some discoveries and recent finds from our wanderings – a road trip through the southeast – to Atlanta, Nashville, Asheville, Chapel Hill/Durham/Raleigh, Charleston, Savannah, and a few stops in between.  Food touring, checking in with family and friends, seeing some architecture and history sites, and slowing the pace down a little to soak up the character, and catch some great conversations with strangers.  A lovely time had – stay tuned for more specifics very soon!