restaurant review:: Ammazza

Located in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, Ammazza is one of the newer wood fired pizza joints to make some competition for famed Antico Pizza. While I think the verdict was still that Antico wins for the actual pizza, I’m really glad we checked this one out. It’s located in a cool old brick building and has a big, airy dining area with a bar at the back, as well as a quaint little patio outside. You order at the counter as soon as you enter the building, and the dining area features big windows looking into the kitchen so diners can see the pizzas as they’re being made.

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We started with the Polpete (homemade meatballs, tomato sauce, romano, mozzarella and ricotta). What we didn’t realize is that they’d be served in a cast iron dish and SWIMMING in melted, hot cheese. I could have just eaten this for dinner. In fact, I’d like some right now.

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Pizzas are offered in either 12″ or 16″ sizes. We split the 16″ Ammazzare (artisan Italian sausage, roasted peppers, vidalia onion, basil, and house mozzarella). It came out rather quickly (but not as quickly as the .5 seconds it takes at Antico) — our only complaint was that because we were sitting outside, the pizza got cold really quickly. I’ll attribute that to the abnormally chilly May weather we were having. The pizza was well-cooked, and the toppings were a great combo.

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Overall, I think Ammazza gives Antico a good run for its money. Although plenty busy, the crowd was still a lot smaller (a good thing in my book), the dining area was a lot larger and not crazy loud, and while you can’t BYOB at Ammazza, their bar was fully-equipped with fun cocktails and good beer/wine options. I’ll look forward to going back again.

restaurant review:: Coast


If you’re looking for great seafood in Atlanta, you need to check out Coast. I’m not the biggest seafood fan, but I do love a good crabcake (and white fish). We visited over the Christmas holiday with my parents and brother — it was their 2nd time dining there in one month if that tells you anything. Coast is part of the Here To Serve restaurant group, and it’s located in a charming little house on West Paces Ferry in Buckhead.

I have a love for carbs… so of course, my favorite things on the menu were the Sweetcorn & Jalapeno Hushpuppies and the Cheese Grits. The grits were to.die.for. I could have eaten a whole bowl of them.  I hear the fried shrimp is exceptional, as well as the She Crab Soup. The menu has a great selection, so I look forward to coming back and trying other dishes.

Also, they know how to do dessert. The S’mores Brownie was ah-mazing — look at that giant marshmallow!


restaurant review:: Seed Kitchen & Bar


It’s a bit of a drive (30 minutes) to get to Seed Kitchen & Bar from our house, but I have heard nothing but great things about this (new to me) restaurant in East Cobb.

We visited on a Saturday night over the Christmas holiday, and it was PACKED. I assume it’s one of the better dining options in the area, based on the clientele and the full tables and bar. We started off with the skillet cornbread, Pimiento Crostinis (stacked with pimiento cheese, country ham, arugula, and apples), and the White Corn Grit Fritters (my favorite). Per the usual with restaurant photos, please excuse the dark, poor quality… I don’t make a  habit of carrying my DSLR around with me to dinner.

For entrees, our favorites were the Merchant Burger (with cheddar, carmalized onions, and merch. sauce), Scallops and Crispy Pork Belly, and the Butternut Squash Risotto. My mom got the risotto, which is just a side dish, but it was so rich, flavorful, and delicious that I wish I’d gotten it as my dinner.  Craig liked the pork belly (more thick bacon consistency than fatty pork), but the scallops were a bit underwhelming in comparison.

The all-star dessert was the Chocolate Chunk Skillet Cookie with ice cream. Restaurants never tend to bring enough ice cream to accompany a dessert like this, so we had to get more. The cookie was a bit under-cooked, but it was deliciously gooey and chocolatey.
The food was fantastic, but the service was pretty slow, even taking the busy night into consideration… it took over 30 minutes just to get our appetizers.  I don’t know that I’ll rush to go back soon, given the distance from our house and the slow service (although our waiter was super friendly and helpful). But I’d definitely recommend trying it out if you live in Marietta or don’t mind a trip outside the perimeter!

restaurant review & ornaments, too:: 1Kept

Every year, we plan a girls’ dinner and ornament exchange before Christmas. It grew out of our Bunko get-togethers that we had years ago, so I really look forward to having that night to celebrate the season with some of my favorite girls. And who doesn’t love the game of picking your ornament from a random assortment of gift bags and boxes — and if it’s one of the most coveted ones (i.e. not a Dora the Explorer microphone…), having it “stolen” back and forth until one lucky winner ends up with the favorite.

So anyway, this year, we decided to try out a newer restaurant in the Peachtree Hills area called 1Kept. It’s an American/Southern restaurant with a really neat vibe — lots of reclaimed wood, butcher block tables, and big tufted chairs. We sort of felt like we were at a king’s table.


I didn’t manage to get shots of any of the food (other than one dessert), but every single thing we tried was so, so delicious. Everyone at the table was gushing over how good their own food was, and then handing off their plates because everyone else needed to try it as well. At one point, I left the table and came back to find my bowl of pasta being eaten by the girls sitting across from me. That tells you two things — the food was amazing, and we are really good friends. 🙂

Just a quick recap on some of our favorite dishes….

Sausage + Peppers Flatbread
Warm Kale Salad — with chorizo, quinoa, garlic (this was the best kale dish I’ve ever tried)

Tagliatelle — fresh egg pasta, green peas, bacon, grated egg yolk & parmesan creme…. so rich and so, so good.
Grilled Veal Meatloaf — smoked potato puree, haricot verts & rustic tomato ragout
Short Rib Roisotto — wild mushrooms, butternut squash, fontina cheese & crispy shallots

Red Velvet Cheesecake — I didn’t order this one, and I wish I’d gotten one all for myself. It was that good.
Eggnog Creme Brulee — I’m not an eggnog fan, or really much of a creme brulee fan, but I think some of the girls were fighting over who got the last bite. So I’m betting it was a winner.

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So on to the ornament exchange. Here’s how it works::
1) Everyone draws a number, and the person with #1 goes first, obviously.
2) Max of 3 steals per ornament, and the person whose ornament is stolen can’t steal it right back.
3) Person #1 gets last choice, since they didn’t have the opportunity to steal from anyone.

Also, please excuse the horrible quality of these iphone photos.

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I picked #1, and this was my prize. The cutest little polar bear!
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And this was the winner for most amazing ornament. 
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It was, however, accompanied by a real ornament, too. Love this cute little guy!
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Our loot::
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Cheers to another year of friendship, fantastic dinners, pretty (and silly) ornaments, and fun memories!  And if you’re in Atlanta, you should definitely check out 1Kept. I can’t wait to go back with Craig!

restaurant review:: local three

So I have already done one review of  Local Three Kitchen & Bar, which is just off West Paces Ferry and close to the Vinings area.
But that was last fall, and when we went a couple weekends ago for a friend’s birthday, a lot of the menu seemed to have changed (or at least everything we’ve previously ordered was no longer available). So I think it’s ok to post again because it was like eating at a new restaurant compared to our last visit!


Something I’d forgotten about since our last visit:: the salt and pepper shakers are different at every table. Adds a little bit of whimsy, and I thought this was very fitting, as we’re going to Mexico next week!

Craig and I tried the Redneck Queso as an appetizer, and we cleaned our plates.  It’s essentially cheese, ground beef of some sort, and jalapenos with pretzel bread for dipping. I have to admit that for the price, I didn’t think the portion was big enough, but it was really spicy and delicious. 

Out of 15 people at the table, well over half ordered the McDowell. The funny part is that McDowell is the last name of a couple of our friends, who we affectionately call Big Mac and Cheese… so it’s very fitting that they share a name with this burger. The description lists “Two Angus Beef Patties, Special Sauce, Lettuce, American Cheese…no sesame seeds…” It was quite tasty and juicy, but the special sauce really did give a hint of the Mickey D’s version. Funny. 



I loved our meal just as much this time as I have every other visit. Local Three is sort of a hidden gem in the middle of office/condo buildings, but it’s definitely worth seeking out.

restaurant review:: h. harper station

I’ve heard about H. Harper Station for a while now, so I was excited to check it out for a friend’s birthday dinner recently. It’s located on Memorial Drive in a neighborhood called Reynoldstown and the restaurant itself is shaped like a train depot. The inside is fairly small and narrow, but it’s a cool atmosphere.


From what I’ve heard, they’re known for their cocktails, so naturally, I had to try one. I chose the Ruby Slipper, which was made with vodka, grapefruit, rosemary syrup, soda water, and a sprig of rosemary for garnish. It lived up to the hype.




I think this was my favorite thing on the menu… bacon cracker jacks!! So simple, salty, and delicious. We also tried the deviled eggs and the smoked pimiento cheese with crispy bread. We gobbled up every last bite of all 3 apps.

The menu is fairly small, so there weren’t a ton of options that I’d have chosen. Most of our party chose the Beltline Burger, and it did not disappoint. And it came with a side of crispy garlic herb tater tots, which is never a bad thing. 

Excuse the dark iphone photo… these are crispy donut holes with Morelli’s coffee ice cream! If you don’t know Morelli’s, then you need to find out about it. They have arguably the best ice cream in the city. My favorite is the salted caramel. YUM!

restaurant review:: Vegas edition

One might think that my recent trip to Vegas consisted of nothing but eating. They wouldn’t be far off, other than the Stella & Dot annual conference training and celebrations (HOOPLA), which is the actual reason I was there.  I’ve compiled a short review of each of the three restaurants where we had dinner during our trip. Two of the three were at the Paris Hotel, which is where we stayed. I’d never been to any of them, and I was thoroughly pleased with the experience and meal at each one!

Sugar Factory
I sort of imagined a menu filled with nothing by candy confections and drinks. That wasn’t far off for the drink menu (think Lollipop Passion Goblets and Blow Pop Martinis, complete with candy garnish), but the dinner menu actually had a lot of great options… maybe too many. I chose a burger with blue cheese and bacon (YUM!) and fries. I was kind of starving, but both were fantastic! The burger toppings gave it just enough salty flavor, and the fries were piping hot and crispy. Almost every girl at the table got burgers and all devoured them. And I got a glass of wine for $8 — in Vegas, I think that’s a steal. Also — there’s a giant candy store adjoining the restaurant.. hence the name.





Hash House A Go Go
Just before heading to Vegas, my friend saw a segment on Hash House on the Cooking Channel (I think — Shannon, correct me if I’m wrong). I’d never heard of it, and given the name, I really wondered where she was wanting to take me. Then I looked up the menu and realized that it’s farm food with a twist, and I needed to check it out…. Chicken and Waffles with bacon cooked INSIDE the waffles? And not just bacon bits, but WHOLE SLICES? Yes, please!  Not to mention the sheer size of the dish — it was as tall as a large ketchup bottle and was held together with a giant steak knife. Talk about presentation. All of the portions were huge, so they’d be great to split. We also tried one of the Stuffed Burgers — we had avocado, cheddar and bacon in ours. A bit indulgent? Yes. Did I feel bad about it? Not really.  The only thing I didn’t love about the restaurant was that it was deep inside one of the casinos called The Quad, so there were no windows, which is something that just bothers me. Personal preference. But the food was fantastic!

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Mon Ami Gabi
We saved the French bistro for last and celebrated Hoopla with one of my “cousins” and a couple of her friends. I’d heard great reviews from several people, especially of the Steak Frites. The restaurant is at the front of the Paris Hotel and the patio overlooks the famed Bellagio fountains. It was a tad too hot for outdoor dining (100 degrees), but we got lucky with indoor seating under a glass roof that was just next to the patio. After having burgers 2 nights in a row, I skipped the steak and went with the Caesar Salad and French Onion Soup… smothered in cheese, as it should be. Since my dinner was fairly light (except for the cheese), I sprung for the Chocolate Tart w/Salted Caramel Ice Cream. The waiter said it was made from “the finest French chocolate” — it was pretty tasty, but too rich to finish. My friend got the White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce, and it was divine.

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Have you been to Vegas? What are your fave places to eat? My #1 will always be N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms.

restaurant review:: Kevin Rathbun Steak

Kevin Rathbun Steak. I sometimes forget about this fab restaurant because it’s in a sort of off-the-beaten path location in the Inman Park area, which is across town from us. We have been visiting KRS every so often for years now, and I’ve always been impressed with our experience. Recently, we dined there while my parents were in town, and all 6 of us agreed that it was one of the best meals we’ve had in quite a while. I also love the ambiance in the restaurant… dark, lots of wood, and really neat stained glass accents at the bar.


I don’t have photos of the starters and main dishes, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. From start to finish, everything was delicious.  We love some appetizers, so we tried the Eggplant Fries, Grilled Thick Cut Bacon, and Lobster Fritters. The Eggplant Fries were definitely the surprise hit of the table — plump, crispy, flavorful, and covered with powdered sugar for good measure. The Bacon was  quite different — the sauce included molasses and sriracha, which made for an interesting flavor combo. And who doesn’t love fried lobster?

For the main course, most of us had various steaks. My steak came out a little less cooked than I’d have liked, but restaurants almost never cook it to my liking (except Hal’s — they’e got it down). The Caesar salad was big enough to share (2 of us did).  We also shared several sides among the table, including Creamed Spinach, Jalapeno Creamed Corn, Cheddar Grits, and Parmesan Fries. They were all fantastic.

On to dessert — not sure how we had one bit of room left! We shared the Espresso Bon-Bons, Berry Tart, and I think a Bread Pudding, although I have to confess that I can’t quite remember what it was, even with the photo below. But either way, all three were so good that we contemplated ordering a second round. Talk about gluttons for punishment, right?


Had to sneak in a photo of a couple of my beautiful dining partners::
I can’t wait to go back to Kevin Rathbun — just hope it’s on someone else’s dime, because I’d likely break the bank ordering one of everything on the menu.

restaurant review:: Bocado

I’ve been hearing about the “incredible double stack cheeseburger” from Bocado for months now. My brother, who is quite the chef,  has claimed that it is probably the best burger in Atlanta. So naturally, I was dying to try it. We headed over to the Westside for lunch last week, and I now see what all the fuss was about…

Simple syrup for iced tea. Good.

Two patties, melty cheese, sesame seed bun, and pickles — simple, but so, so, so good. The fries were great, and you can order them with seasoning if you like.  That’s a side of housemade ranch for dipping, too.

Bottom line — I will be back. Soon. You need to go.

restaurant review:: The Optimist

Last weekend, my parents came into town for Father’s Day weekend. Per usual when they visit, we book reservations to eat our way around Atlanta. What can I say — I get my love of food honestly, I guess. My brother had really been wanting to try The Optimist, the new seafood hot spot on the Westside, so we made reservations for the night they arrived.


The restaurant is appealing as soon as you walk up — 3 mini putting greens, oyster shells as “mulch” along the walkways, and giant bright blue adirondack chairs to use when there is a wait. Guests enter at the oyster bar, where the wood fired oven is the focal point — complete with a mural of a giant octopus encircling the oven’s opening. I was told that the restaurant was designed by the same team responsible for JCT Kitchen’s decor, and it’s obvious with the metal pendant lights, rustic wooden tables, whitewashed walls, and a cool bar that’s the main attraction in the room.



We started out with some fun cocktails, like the 5-Gallon Carboy (Redemption rye, strawberries, lemon, All-spice Dram, Allagash White ale) and the Scurvy Scoundrel (Deep Eddy vodka, house made grapefruit cordial, lime), and a large amount of appetizers…par for the course with our family. Oysters, mussels, shrimp, rolls with sea salt, and “beignet style” corn milk hushpuppies were brought to the table just as a HUGE storm rolled in. Dark clouds, thunder, crazy lightning, and tons of rain are no big deal right? Wrong. Not 10 minutes after ordering our dinner, every light in the building went out. Luckily, we were on the edge of the restaurant near some floor-to-ceiling windows, so we had a bit of light on our table. Those in the center of the restaurant (near the soon-to-be very smoky kitchen) did not fare so well. We had such high hopes for our dinner, so we held strong for a while… until it was apparent that the lights weren’t coming on any time soon — there or anywhere within a several block radius.


I obviously can’t speak to how the entrees were since we never got them, but we’d ordered the duckfat poached swordfish, cornmeal crusted skate wing, and black grouper, among other things. I’m sure it would have been excellent. They also have some really enticing desserts — the Savannah Beignets with bourbon praline and fired pecans being my #1 choice. Ah well… now we have a really good excuse to try it again soon — hopefully next time sans power outage.