Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

My superwoman sister-in-law Lauren volunteered for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival in Midtown last week (just a couple days after returning from their honeymoon, mind you), and she was gracious enough to offer up her 2 free passes for the last day of the event.
I love food and cocktails, and I love it even more when it’s free. So how could we say no (especially considering that
passes were $100+ per person each day)?

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The tasting tents were PACKED to the max with people, food, drinks, and more people.
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Being in the South, there was a lot of BBQ. And Bourbon.
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Shrimpies and crawfish!
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One of my favorites of the day… Frito Pie from Fox Bros. BBQ! I already know that I love Fox Bros, so I didn’t really have to try their food…
until I saw brisket chili being scooped into bags of Fritos. Yep. Messy and delicious.
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Excuse the blurry photo, but this is Kevin Gillespie from Top Chef! He has an awesome beard. 
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We tasted some fried chicken sammies from his booth and they were one of my other favorites of the day.
The chicken was marinated in pickle juice!

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M.E.A.T. and lots of it. I’m not even sure what any of this was.
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Mini Sublime donuts? Yes! I should have taken one of each. 
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The festival was such a fun way to end our week. A torrential downpour kept us all crowded under the main tent for a bit, but other than that, we had a great time. Craig’s favorite were the fried chicken livers — so much so that he went back for seconds and was still talking about them last night. We can’t remember which restaurant they were from… maybe Magnolia’s in South Carolina? We may never know. My faves were Kevin Gillespie’s fried chx sammies, the mini Sublime donuts, and the Frito Pie from Fox Bros. We also enjoyed tastings of Wolf Mountain wine, several bourbons, and craft beer. All quite yummy. I hope Lauren volunteers next year so we can go to the tasting tents again!  (he he) Thanks, Lauren!

A Few of My Favorite Things (26)

[Friday night dinner with friends @ Pozole]

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[Look of the week: Pink maxi skirt (Old Navy last spring) // White tank (Old Navy) //
Stella & Dot Bahari Necklace (being retired soon!) // Janie Studs // Bardot Spiral Bracelet]
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[perfect Saturday picnic in the park]
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[dining al fresco @ TAP in midtown]
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[Cheers for Children, benefiting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta]
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[Sunday Funday at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival]
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What a fun, eventful weekend in Atlanta! It started and ended with food, which is always a favorite for me. Friday, we met some friends for dinner out on the patio at Pozole, a really great little Latin-style restaurant in the Virginia Highlands. I love their pork/corn/cheese quesadilla and their margaritas. Several people had the jalapeno ritas – too spicy for me, but they had an interesting flavor. On Saturday, we got really brave and picked up sammies for a picnic lunch in this great park near our house… with Coco. She was surprisingly well-behaved, only tried to eat our lunch a couple times, and the weather was perfect. Win! Saturday night, we attended Cheers for Children, a charity auction/cocktail party benefiting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, which is where my sister-in-law works. We have gone several years now, and it’s always a fun night out. This year, it was at the W Hotel in Midtown, so we had dinner outside among the high rise buildings before “cheersing” for the kids. And as if that weren’t enough for one weekend, my lovely SIL offered us 2 free passes to the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival on Sunday….which meant a lot more eating. It was a neat event – more on that later. Now it’s Monday, and I’m counting the hours until we leave for our beach vacay!

restaurant review:: sun in my belly

I love a good weekend brunch. In keeping with my vow to try new restaurants more often, we ventured down to the Kirkwood district of Atlanta a couple weeks ago for brunch at Sun in My Belly Cafe. I’ve heard so much about this place, and I’m glad we finally got to check it out. Since there were just 2 of us, we walked right in and got a table.

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The inside is festively decorated. Tons of rag garlands, round mirrors, and colorful mason jars. It sort of reminds me of an Anthropologie store display. I also really enjoyed their table decor — lots of little jam jars as containers for sugar, stirring sticks, etc. 
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I don’t know about you, but my favorite brunch spots tend to have mimosas and bloody marys. SIMB did have mimosas, but they were a little steep in price for what you get. Still yummy, though. 
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Craig chose the The Hangover  – a Housemade Biscuit with Melted Cheddar, Sausage, Fried Egg, Avocado, and Sriracha with Smothered Potatoes. I think about half the restaurant chose the same thing. He loves sriracha, so he was happy with his decision.
I liked the colors on the plate. 🙂
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I chose Alison’s Famous Pimento Cheese Omelette with Honey Glazed Bacon and Hashed Potatoes (the bacon was inside the omelette, making it even more delicious, because of course bacon makes everything better). Potato hash is not my favorite way to eat breakfast potatoes, but they did have a nice flavor with onions and red peppers mixed in. A lady at the table next to us ordered the other item I was debating — the Challah French Toast Stuffed with Honeyed Ricotta, served with Seasonal Fruit and Maple Syrup — and it looked amazing. Maybe next time.
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Aren’t these jars so pretty?? I couldn’t resist.
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We enjoyed our little brunch date out in Kirkwood and I’m sure we’ll be back at some point… but my favorite brunch spot in Atlanta is still West Egg (although I don’t enjoy the long wait to get in, but I guess that’s a testament to how great it is). I’m happy we tried something new.
If you live in the ATL, what’s your favorite brunch spot?

summer bucket list

BUCKET LIST

Memorial Day has come and gone, and summer is officially here! And while we’ll still be working all summer, I can’t help but want to squeeze in more fun outings and activities than we normally do the rest of the year. I was inspired by this summer bucket list from my friend Natalie and decided I had to have my own. I hope we’re able to cross everything off the list by the end of August!

1. Day trip to Zoo Atlanta (where we were on our 1st official date back in 2005!)

2. Take friends out on our boat on Lake Lanier — DONE

3. Beach trip to St. Augustine for our 4th Anniversary — DONE

4. Braves game — DONE

5. 4th of July at Old Hickory in TN — DONE

6. Try 2 new restaurants each month — DONE

7. Hoopla in Vegas! — DONE

8. Have a big ‘ol breakfast at the Original Pancake House— DONE

9. See the Center for Puppetry Arts’ new show, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. It’s going to be awesome! — DONE

10. Cookouts with friends and hanging out on the new patio and pallet bed — DONE

11. Lots of Saturday pool time — DONE, but will do again

12. Tuesday night picnic at the Smyrna Food Truck Park — DONE

13. Figure out the curtain/valance situation for Craig’s office windows and guestroom #1 — DONE

14. Hit up the Peachtree Road and Marietta Farmers Markets

15. Make a summer sangria recipe like this one — DONE

16. Hike to the top of Stone Mountain

17. Build a cabinet to update our master bathroom counter/mirror space

18. Finish the projection screen project in the basement and break it in with a Bad Boys screening (just for Craig)! — DONE

19. 30th birthday trip to Cabo!!! What better way to end the summer? — DONE

restaurant review:: the wrecking bar brewpub

One of the many lists I keep is one of new restaurants to try around Atlanta. Last weekend, I was in search of somewhere lowkey and casual for our Friday night dinner. I asked for suggestions from friends, and one friend in particular (thanks Rach!) really came through with a list she’s created of pretty much all the restaurants worth trying in the city. We decided on the Wrecking Bar Brewpub over in the Little 5 Points area. Craig loves trying new beer, and I’m a sucker for good fries, which I was told were one of their popular appetizers.

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The building is a little inconspicuous — it is a 20th-century Victorian house that has been many things in past lives, including a church and antiques store. The top of the building is an event space (it was being used for a rehearsal dinner that evening), and the bottom portion around back  is the restaurant. It’s very cave-like inside… dark and cool with walls made from rocks.

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We grabbed a high boy table in the bar area. Being a brewpub, they offer tons of beers (with some pretty funny names) brewed in-house, which made for a very hard decision for Craig. I can’t remember the name of his first beer, but it was some sort of Stout infused with Ameretto. It’s a good thing he got the small portion, as it was rich enough to be a dessert drink. I stuck with red wine. 
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Craig’s last drink was the Border Patrol American Strong Ale, which I surprisingly thought was delicious, given that I’m not a big beer fan. It was dark with a sort of chocolatey aftertaste. 
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My favorite menu item we had was the appetizer of Wreck Fries. I’ve heard the Beer & Cheese Soup is really tasty, too… next time. They were piping hot and accompanied by 4 dipping sauces — homemade green goddess, spicy mustard, cheese sauce, and ketchup. We devoured them in about 5 minutes. 
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For dinner, I chose the Pulled Pork Sammy with Kale Slaw and Mac n Cheese. Craig thought it was fine (nothing amazing), but I really liked it. The mac n cheese was not what you’d expect with BBQ — it was not super creamy, but it tasted fresh and homemade. The kale slaw was interesting — sort of sweet. Craig got the burger with grits (too many fries with our appetizer). This time, I thought the burger was fine (nothing amazing), but he really liked it. Guess we each did a good job choosing our own meals. 
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I really enjoyed our little date night to the Wrecking Bar — so much so, that we’re bringing my dad back this Sunday because he’s crazy about hot french fries… I think theirs will be right up his alley.
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restaurant (on wheels) review:: s & j’s wood fired pizza

I’ve said it a million times. I am a huge fan of S & J’s Wood Fired Pizza. Granted I may be a bit biased, as the owners are friends of ours, but their pizza is delicious and fresh and just so so good. Sarah and Jonathan had a dream a few years ago, they learned how to throw pizza dough, and they now run their own mobile wood fired pizza business. Their dough and sauce are handmade, and they use mostly all fresh, local ingredients — many times from the same vendors that are at the farmer’s markets around Atlanta.

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We hosted a wedding shower for 40 people, and S &J’s set up in our driveway. The menu included garlic cheese bread, caesar salad, and a large variety of wood fired pizzas available by the slice. Everyone raved about how fun it was to have a pizza oven at the party, and I think they loved every bite. Taken from S&J’s website, these are some of their current offerings, all of which they served at our shower, and they were gobbled up almost faster then they could make them.

  • Chef Special –  gotta be at the market to find out!
  • Apple – olive oil base with mozzarella, apples, bacon, goat feta, and pesto swirl
  • Sausage and Peppers – tomato sauce with mozzarella, italian sausag,e and mixed heirloom peppers…try it spicy with jalapeños
  • Margherita – handmade mozzarella, San-Marzano tomato sauce, basil
  • White – olive oil base with garlic, mozzarella cheese, and fresh rosemary

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It was unfortunately one of the coldest nights we’ve had all winter, but they were such good sports. Trying to prep and cook a meal for 40 people in 30 degree weather = major props to these guys.

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If you’re in the Atlanta area, look out for them at festivals all over the city in the spring, summer, and fall. Or better yet, follow them on facebook to find out where they are each week. They also do catering, so maybe you should consider having pizza for your next shindig! Check them out — I promise you won’t be sorry.

restaurant review:: bantam + biddy

Have you heard of Bantam + Biddy in Atlanta? I hadn’t either, until last month when I read in a food mag that they were one of the best places in the country to get rotisserie chicken. Sort of random, but when my brother chose B +B for his birthday dinner this weekend, I was excited to check out this new chicken restaurant in Ansley Mall. I found out that it’s co-owned by the guy who founded Yeah! Burger, which is a favorite of mine. B+B is a pretty casual place that features lots of classic southern food (and many of the menu items are gluten free). It’s fairly small inside, but has a nice patio.

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When we got there, we were told that Sunday is Fried Chicken Night — yeah! And they sell Sublime Donuts? Double yeah!

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And there were tiny cherry pies for dessert. How cute!

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We started with the Poutine and Pimiento Cheese appetizers. The Pimiento Cheese was a pretty big letdown… it was essentially some shredded cheese dumped into a bowl with pimientos. I’m hoping maybe it was a bad batch, because any southern-inspired restaurant should know how to make good Pimiento Cheese. The Poutine, however, was a big hit. The dish consisted of duck fat fries covered in Amish cheese curds and gravy. Heart attack in a bowl, but so good.

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I had good intentions of trying the dish they’re apparently known for — the rotisserie chicken — but who can resist fried chicken? 3 of the 4 of us got the Sunday Special with 2 sides. I chose mac n cheese and collards (a special side for the night). I LOVED the mac, and the collards were ok (they could have used some more spice). The fried chicken was also pretty yummy — they give you 3 large pieces of white and dark meat, which is more than enough for one meal. I also recommend their sweet tea — sweet enough, but it doesn’t taste like you’re drinking a cup of sugar.

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For dessert, I tried the mini cherry pie, and we also got a couple Dulce de Leche Sublime Donuts. The pie would have been a lot better had it been heated… but the cherries inside were quite yummy. And it was cute.

B+B also has breakfast and lunch, both of which I’m excited to come back for. They offer biscuit sandwiches, chicken and waffles, and donut holes, to name a few, for breakfast.

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It makes me so happy that my brother and his fiance live so close by so that we can celebrate all of life’s occasions together. Happy 27th birthday, Drew! We love you bunches!

restaurant review:: west egg

Last weekend was nowhere near my first visit to West Egg, but I haven’t been there in quite a while, so I thought I’d give them a shout out. They’re located in West Midtown (Atlanta), and I think they’re easily one of the most packed-out brunch spots on any given weekend. We met a few friends to celebrate one of their birthdays last Saturday, and as usual, there was a wait, but it’s worth it.

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There are SO many delicious options that it’s hard to make a decision. I chose the Peachtree Plate, which is basically an assortment of several basic breakfast items, but waaaaay better. Think pimiento cheese grits, eggs any way (I asked for cheese on mine), a big fluffy biscuit, fried green tomatoes, and candied bacon. YUM! Craig got the bacon and pimiento cheese omelet (sense a trend among us?) and he was very happy about the large amount of chopped bacon included. The one thing I wasn’t thrilled with — mimosas are $6/glass, and as you can see, they’re tiny. I think that’s their way of moving customers out quickly due to the never-ending crowd waiting to be seated.

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In other news…
The challah french toast is pretty yummy. And I like the fried green tomato blt a lot better than eating them sans sandwich, as seen above.
West Egg serves breakfast all day, and they serve “Brinner” on Sunday nights (the brunch menu is extended through the evening). Lastly, I didn’t have any with brunch, but they also have amazing Coca Cola cupcakes!

restaurant review:: bone lick bbq

Last weekend, we tried out the newest BBQ hotspot in town, Bone Lick BBQ, over in West Midtown.  According to their website, Bone Lick started as a pop-up restaurant concept by Executive Chef Mike LaSage at P’cheen in the Old Fourth Ward. I’ve visited P’cheen once and it was fabulous, so this makes sense now.  Atlanta Magazine named it #4 in the state and #1 in metro Atlanta. And right now, they are offering a Scoutmob deal for free boiled peanuts when you dine in!

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The restaurant is on Huff Road in between Howell Mill and South Atlanta… sort of an off-the-beaten-path location in my opinion, but it’s definitely worth checking out.  Their menu is crazy with lots of funny menu item titles. We couldn’t resist “Them Big Ole Totties” — a heaping mound of tater tots smothered in sausage, pulled pork (delicious and smoky), jalapenos (firey), chipotle bbq sauce, and homemade cheese sauce (even better). I also enjoy that you can get “just one rib” on the appetizer menu. Beware, though — they say that much of their menu is on the spicy side, and they’re not joking.

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How could we resist this?
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They offer lots of entree and sammy choices… one name in particular that I enjoyed was “The Failed Hunter”… vegetarian, of course. We are far from vegetarians, so we did not sample that one. Craig chose the combo meat plate with brisket and pulled pork (and pork braised collards), and I went for the 1/4 rack of spare ribs, which were one of the waiter’s faves. I also couldn’t resist the jalapeno mac n cheese. Both of our meals were spicy but so, so good. It seemed like a TON of food… especially after eating 10,000 tater tots for an appetizer, so we had plenty of leftovers to take home. (yay!)

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I was reading through their website while writing this, and saw mention of House Cotton Candy and Funnel Cakes…. WHAT?! I may have been stuffed to the brim, but how did my waiter let me miss out on that?? I’ll be back very soon — maybe just for tots and dessert. Oh — and they have skee ball!!!

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My Unofficial Guide to Atlanta:: things to do

Continuing my unofficial guide to Atlanta is a list of some of my favorite activities and attractions.  There are so many cool things to do around the city and in outlying areas, so there’s no way I can cover everything… these are just some of my faves. Enjoy!

THINGS TO DO:

Center for Puppetry Arts::
I can’t very well make a list of my favorite things to do in Atlanta and not mention my workplace of more than 6 years. The Center is currently the nation’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to the art of puppetry. There are original performances and guests artists who visit from around the world, a global Museum and Jim Henson exhibits (come see Cookie Monster and Big Bird!), and an award-winning Education department that offers Distance Learning, outreach, and the oh-so-fun Create-A-Puppet Workshop. If you’re around through the holidays, I’d highly recommend seeing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which is based on the classic television show that many of us know and love from childhood. There are shows for families as well as adults (like Tales of Edgar Allan Poe in February 2013) throughout the year, so there’s always something interesting to check out!

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Dad’s Garage Theater Company::
Affectionately just called “Dad’s” — this place is legit funny.  They offer improv comedy shows as well as original plays and are located in Inman Park, so it’s perfect for a “dinner and a show” date night. The improv shows are our favorite ones to attend — we loved the Japanese-style game show Samurai Davis Jr. and Dim Sum’s Super Mega Happy Fun Time Improv Show!, Invasion: Christmas Carol, and Ask Dr. Frapples (a Dear Abby-style improv show). You can also buy snacks and buckets o’ beer.

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Atlanta Botanical Gardens::

Two great times to visit the Garden — Scarecrows in the Garden (October) and Garden Lights Holiday Nights (November/December).

Every fall, tons of local businesses, organizations, and even families create their own scarecrow to be displayed, and it’s a really fun early evening activity to bring your kids to or just visit with some friends. Every Thursday is the Fest of Ale (featuring autumn-themed beer) and local banjo player (and friend of mine) David Stephens performs original songs with his band, Banjolicious. It’s a festive good time to get you in the mood for fall!

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A new tradition we started last year is visiting for the Garden Lights Holiday Nights when my family is in town for Christmas. This year, there are over one million lights in the gardens, along with trains, musical orbs (so cool!), and beautiful flowers. It’s like being in an enchanted, glowing forest. You can have cocktails and cider at the Glow Bar and even buy “Make-Your-Own S’mores” kits to toast by the fire pits! Be sure to bundle up — last year, it was freeeeezing!

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Piedmont Park::
Our own mini version of Central Park… it’s a wonderful green oasis in Midtown. Although the parking is terrible, once you’re there, it’s such a great place to jog, walk your dog (and visit the HUGE dog park), or just lay in the grass with a picnic lunch. In the summer, you can attend Screen on the Green, where a different film plays on a huge screen out on the lawn each week, and in the spring, the Dogwood Festival is one of the most popular festivals of the year. Last March, we ran our first 5K, the Color Run. It started and ended in Piedmont Park and was a big party of colorful dust!
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Zoo Atlanta:: 

I love the zoo. Not just Atlanta’s, but most any zoo will do. (Like that rhyme?) Watching animals is just so entertaining. In fact, mine and Craig’s first official date was to Zoo Atlanta! I haven’t been in years, but have it on my list to visit in 2013.  It’s a smaller zoo than say, San Diego’s, but it’s still a nice place to visit. Two annual events that I think sound really fun are Boo at the Zoo (for kids at Halloween) and Brew at the Zoo (for adults sometime in the fall). Who doesn’t want to play among the pandas and elephants and monkeys?? And they have free parking… a hot commodity in the middle of the city.

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Taste of Atlanta Food Festival::
We love food, so a food festival is the perfect place to take my parents when they’re in town. The Taste of Atlanta Food Festival is a weekend-long festival that takes place in October. There were 75+ restaurants, ranging from fine dining to Waffle House, that had booths set up around the streets of GA Tech’s campus, and there were cooking demonstrations throughout the day. With admission, you receive a number of tickets to exchange for food tastings. The cone of pomme frites below was from the JCT Kitchen booth. Yum! Although it’s only once a year and is usually very crowded, I’d go again… who doesn’t love the opportunity to taste treats from some of the best restaurants in town — all in one place?

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Food Truck Parks:: 

There are 2 locations that I love to visit when the weather is nice — Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market on Howell Mill in the Midtown area and Taylor-Brawner Park in Smyrna. The food truck wave hit Atlanta a while ago, and now they’re everywhere… which is not a problem with me. I love the variety of the trucks at each park, and it’s so nice to have an excuse to sit outside with some friends for a couple hours while we try out an assortment of food surprises. The one drawback about the Smyrna park is that it’s only open every Tuesday (now closed for the winter), so it’s PACKED every week with every person who lives within 15 miles of the park, but I guess that means it’s popular and here to stay. Some of my favorite trucks that frequent the parks are Yumbi (a blend of Asian and Mexican flavors), King of Pops (amazingly fresh, all-natural popsicles – esp. the Chocolate Sea Salt!), Sweet Auburn BBQ, and Champion Cheesesteaks (they also have a small restaurant in Smyrna called Roy’s Cheesesteaks, and they’re the best ever).
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