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:: 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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recipe:: stuffed pablano peppers

We found this recipe recently on Pinterest, and we’d been waiting to try it on a Sunday night since it seemed a little more involved than a one-pot dish that we might make on a work night. Craig got the giant peppers at our international farmer’s market in Smyrna, and I highly recommend shopping somewhere like that for produce… so much cheaper than a regular grocery store! I’d also recommend wearing rubber gloves when handling the peppers to reduce the risk of getting anything in your eyes. It’s happened to Craig before, and I’m surprised he didn’t end up having to wear an eye patch.

The dish was actually less complicated than we anticipated, and it was delicious. Just the right amount of spice, and the goat cheese really added a nice balance to the mixture. The recipe we used was vegetarian, but we chose to add in ground beef. With the beef added in, we had TONS of filling leftover. So next time, we’ll have to buy more peppers and invite some dinner guests over!


Quinoa-Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Chipotle Sauce

Adapted from the blog Once Upon a Cutting Board

Serves 4 (if each person eats one pepper, but we had 2 apiece)
Ingredients:
4 large poblano peppers
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup dry quinoa
1/3 cup vegetable or chicken stock (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 garlic clove
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
1 lb ground beef (optional)
1 small yellow onion
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 roma tomatoes, diced
4 ounces goat cheese

Directions
Preheat oven to 475°F.  Rub poblano peppers with two teaspoons of vegetable oil and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Roast in the preheated oven until soft and slightly blackened in spots, about 15-20 minutes, flipping once.  Let cool.

Meanwhile, bring 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup vegetable stock to a boil in a medium saucepan (you use part vegetable or chicken stock for quinoa to infuse extra flavor, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have any open stock, you can use 2/3 cup water instead).  Add quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low to simmer.  Cook until tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes, then remove lid and fluff with a fork.
While peppers and quinoa are cooking, prepare the chipotle sauce in a blender.  Combine chipotle chile, garlic, 3/4 cup water, and a dash each of salt and pepper in the blender and blend until smooth.  Add 1/2 cup cilantro and pulse a few times to combine.  Set aside.
In a large saucepan or deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat.  Add ground beef and saute until brown. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add corn, black beans, tomato, and cooked quinoa and stir until heated through, about 2 minutes.  Add 2 ounces goat cheese and stir until it’s melted and completely mixed in.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make a small slit down the length of one side of each pepper, being careful not to cut through to the other side.  Carefully remove seeds, leaving stem end intact.  Spoon quinoa mixture into each pepper to fill them.


Pour chipotle sauce into a 9×13-inch baking dish.  Transfer stuffed peppers to the dish, and dot with remaining 2 ounces goat cheese.  Bake until cheese is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.  Cool in pan 10 minutes and serve warm, sprinkled with additional chopped cilantro if desired.

Enjoy!

restaurant review:: Muss & Turner’s in Vinings

After a looooooong day of work on Saturday, a dinner date was much needed. We had an OpenTable:AtlantaRestaurants gift certificate (you accrue points every time you book a restaurant reservation through their website, and eventually, you earn a gift certificate), so we decided to check out Muss & Turner’s. It’s located in a shopping center just outside the perimeter of Atlanta in the Vinings area (think more upscale than a regular old strip mall with the Chinese buffet and tanning salon). I love the neighborhood feel… they have indoor/outdoor seating, as well as some spots at the bar, which overlooks the open kitchen. During the day, they operate more as a deli/bakery. For the evening crowd, they operate a full-service restaurant. That particular night, they also had a big green egg going outside the front door, which I thought was pretty cool.


My only experience with M&T (until last weekend) was buying some of their white chocolate brownies for a party I was hosting right after we moved into our house. They were TO DIE FOR… a mix between white chocolate brownie and pound cake, with a slightly crispy topping. So I knew they had some amazing baked goods, but I somehow just never made it in for an actual meal. I was a little weary of the menu at first glance, but after some encouragement from Craig, who will eat just about anything, I found several dishes on the menu that I’d like. It seems to be a neighborhood favorite, and it’s just a couple minutes from our house…. so I’m surprised it’s taken us this long to try it.

We weren’t starving, so instead of a big appetizer, we went for the standard Bread ‘n Butter… sort of odd to have to pay for bread, but it was worth the few bucks. The bread was dense and a little sweet, but the best part was the jar full of butter that accompanied it. Some sort of nuts were mixed in, and Craig contemplated licking the jar clean when we ran out of bread.

Their Fall Salad (apples, red wine cranberries, bitter greens, pecans, blue cheese, pear ginger vinaigrette) sounded yummy and winter-ish, but again, we didn’t want to fill up before dinner, so I bypassed the salad and moved on to the real stuff. I chose the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf (!!!!) that came with a really good sweet potato mash, crispy tatsoi (some sort of green – it was ok), roasted mushrooms (didn’t touch), and truffle jus (which I had them leave off because I am not a fan). Craig chose the Berkshire Pork, Apple, and Cranberry Sausage with braised greens, yummy, sweet pumpkin bread, and hard cider Welsh rarebit. I think he ate every bite, and I came close to finishing all of my bacon wrapped goodness. Oh — and we also ordered a small side of the Pommes Frites. I love some good, crispy french fries.


I always have room for dessert, and I had to have another white chocolate brownie. Craig added the homemade vanilla ice cream, and they heated the brownie for us. Perfect combination and perfect way to end a delicious meal and nice little neighborhood date.

I’ll look forward to going back to try some other dishes — Swifty’s Dream (pork shoulder, Carolina style bbq, bacon, horseradish slaw, french bun) and Chicken and Dumplins (ricotta biscuit dumplings, celery root, parsnips, carrots). Their brunch sounds pretty amazing, too. I’m eyeing the Pumpkin Bread Pudding French Toast.

a 30th birthday celebration & a restaurant review:: rathbun’s

Last week, we celebrated Craig’s 30th birthday a little early, as we were traveling to Nashville for the long weekend over his actual birthday. We have been to Kevin Rathbun Steak sevel times and love it, so we decided to try out the sister restaurant, Rathbun’s. The restaurant is in the BottleWorks Building and has a really industrial feel on the outside, but is dark and cozy inside. We had a great waiter who gave us what I think were pretty honset opinions on what to order… like when I asked about the special Krog Candy Bar dessert, he made a face and said that would not be the best choice, which was much appreciated!

I think if you’ve been reading any of my other posts about restaurants we’ve visited, you’ll know that my two favorite things at a restaurant are appetizers and desserts. So we started off with the flatbread pizza with carmelized onions, local chevre, and honey. It was super thin and crispy, and the flavors were really interesting.

Craig had the Sea Scallop Benedict on Country Ham Grits with asparagus and spiced hollandaise… he ate every bit. I had one of the specials from the “Second Mortgage” section — filet, grits, and charred corn with gouda cheese… so, so good! I’m a sucker for creamy grits with just about any meal.



The waiter brought Craig a birthday dessert on the house — Banana Peanut Butter Cream Pie — and he also ate every bite of that. Sensing a trend here? I don’t do bananas (except in banana bread), so I just sampled the cream on top, which was really thick, sweet, and delightful.  We of course had to try something else as well, so we got the Warm Gooey Toffee Cake with Jack Daniels Ice Cream, too. We gobbled it up! It was a fabulous way to start off Craig’s 30th birthday weekend…. and now on to our Nashville trip!

VA Beach restaurant review:: fire & vine

On our last night of Meg’s beachelorette trip, we were given a recommendation to check out Fire & Vine, which is off the touristy strip where we were staying. I think the manager and waiter were surprised we managed to find them since we were all out-of-towners. Given the name, it’s pretty obvious that much of their menu features woodfired items (which I love). We were the last table to be seated for the night and we ended up closing down the restaurant. They even gave us free celebratory shots! Fire & Vine had great staff and food, and it was nice to eat somewhere not filled with tourists on our trip. I’d definitely recommend if you’re ever in the area.

We shared a few appetizers, and my top favorite was the woodfired baby brie with peaches that came in a cast iron skillet. I only had one bite (with a little bit of pita), but I think I should have ordered that as my meal. I also loved the fried green tomatoes with goat cheese mousse. Goat cheese makes almost anything better!

A couple of us shared woodfired pizzas (the margherita and pepperoni) and each got a huge caesar salad. Nothing was too out of the ordinary, but it was all yummy. One of the other popular dishes at the table was the Charleston-style shrimp and grits… since I don’t care for shrimpies, I took their word for it on that one.

Our lovely group of ladies with the bride-to-be::


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quick recipe:: mini meatloaves

I’ve always been a big fan of my mom’s meatloaf recipe. We were making it for dinner last night and decided to try something different, as it takes at least an hour to cook the traditional way. We’ve tried mini loaf tins before, but this is more fun — we used a cast iron drop biscuit pan that we typically make corn bread discs with. I followed the regular recipe, but it allowed the loaves to cook in under half the time, and we already had pre-cut portions — perfect for meatloaf sandwiches as leftovers!

Ingredients::
1 lb ground beef
1/2 tube Jimmy Dean pork sausage with sage
1 egg (or 1/4 cup of egg beaters)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (plain)
1 tsp each – thyme, basil, oregano
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 – 8oz can  tomato sauce (reserve 1/2 can for topping)
cast iron drop biscuit pan (makes 7)

Directions::
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Once oven has heated, place cast iron pan in oven for 10 minutes.
3. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
4. Remove pan from oven, grease, and spoon mix into each section of pan.  (If any mix is left, make a mini loaf and cook on small cookie sheet.)
5. Top with remaining 1/2 can of tomato sauce.
6. Bake for 25 minutes or until no longer pink in the center.