Q. A reader in Connecticut asks: I'm going to Atlanta for the weekend. Where should I eat?
A. I dream of returning to Atlanta to go to Decatur—"the love child of Berkeley and Mayberry," as the wonderful food writer and now distinguished Atlanta bureau chief for The New York Times, Kim Severson, called it in a recent review of three Atlanta restaurants—to visit Watershed, one of my favorite restaurants in the country. Or so it was under Scott Peacock, whose rustic yet delicate Southern cuisine was closely modeled on that of his mentor and for a time housemate Edna Lewis, who wrote the classic (as in, truly classic, for the ages) Taste of Country Cooking. He left at the end of February, as Severson reported, and although the owner, Emily Saliers (famous as being one half of the Indigo Girls), told Severson she would be serving the same food, I'll have to go back to try the fried oysters, crawfish pies, fried okra, and baked North Georgia trout with lump crabmeat I still see on the menu. In fact, could you try them all and report, please? And maybe bring back some biscuits?
Meanwhile, the Decatur restaurant Severson recommends and that I really want to try is Cakes & Ale, which has an elegantly simple but distinctly Mediterranean cast to its menu. Downtown, in the trendy Westside neighborhood where you'll doubtless hang out, she flags the very well-publicized Miller Union, whose Southern-themed menu is clearly influenced by Lewis and Peacock—Steven Satterfield, the Georgia-born chef, cooked at Watershed—and looks mighty good, too.
I also applied for advice from my colleague Christiane Lauterbach, maybe the hippest person I know and certainly among the most culinarily adventurous. She's restaurant critic for Atlanta magazine and has also begun a blog you'll want to check out on Atlanta food carts (the first picture shows a figure in sunglasses I thought was a ringer for my mayor, Thomas M. Menino of Boston; as I was about to take a screen shot and email it to Boston friends, I realized—it is my mayor). She shot this succinct but informative reply back, which I offer in its entirety. She led with desserts, knowing of my fondness/passion/pathology for them.
The weekend would be a good time to catch new pastry chef and James Beard Award nominee Cynthia Wong at Empire State South, where refreshing wines, especially Rieslings, and the fun Southern dishes are a tribute to Athens Chef Hugh Acheson and a very young crew.I'm pretty weak for fried chicken, too, but only in the South, even if Severson says Atlanta is "only vaguely a fried chicken town." Write back with findings, please!
Restaurant Eugene has a new five-course dessert menu courtesy of Beard nominee Aaron Russell.
No. 246 , a new restaurant just opened in Decatur (the Berkeley of Atlanta) [she and Severson think alike!], showcases the work of two Atlanta chefs, Ford Fry and Drew Belline, and the wonderful bartender Lara Creasy. I haven't been yet. But there is definite starpower there. Here's their Facebook info for your perusing pleasure.
And then there's Julia Leroy's fun new chicken stand (Leroy's Fried Chicken) on the Westside.
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