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:: 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.

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)?


The tasting tents were PACKED to the max with people, food, drinks, and more people.

Being in the South, there was a lot of BBQ. And Bourbon.

Shrimpies and crawfish!

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.


Excuse the blurry photo, but this is Kevin Gillespie from Top Chef! He has an awesome beard. 

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!


M.E.A.T. and lots of it. I’m not even sure what any of this was.

Mini Sublime donuts? Yes! I should have taken one of each. 
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!

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.


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. 

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. 

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. 🙂

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.

Aren’t these jars so pretty?? I couldn’t resist.

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?

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.

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.


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. 


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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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


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.









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:: 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!


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.

How could we resist this?

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!)


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!!!


My Unofficial Guide to Atlanta:: the food

I’ve now lived in Atlanta almost 7 years…. just under 1/4 of my life. There are so many hidden gems — fun parks and festivals, eclectic neighborhoods, and even more amazing restaurants. So without further ado, here’s my unofficial guide to the things I love in Atlanta, starting with food. Check them out and let me know what you think!

Great, inexpensive Mexican that’s so fresh and tasty you’d stand in line for 1/2 an hour::  Taqueria del Sol
Multiple locations around town, but I usually visit the West Side spot on Howell Mill. Expect a line that last upwards of 20-30 minutes, but it’s totally worth it. The food comes out almost the instant you sit down, and it’s always piping hot and delicious. I LOVE the Fried Chicken Taco (all their tacos are soft) and the Cheese Enchilada with Beef Red Chili Sauce. No beans and rice needed, but theirs are pretty good if you get them. The Memphis Taco is also a crowd favorite — it’s smoked pork with a spicy jalapeño coleslaw and tequila BBQ sauce. I think Taqueria is the reason I started eating guacamole. Their margaritas are also top notch, in my opinion. Everything is very reasonably priced. It’s one of my very favorite lunch or dinner spots in the city.


Best breakfast all day:: The Flying Biscuit Cafe
My favorite place for breakfast any time of the day. Their famous biscuits and cranberry apple butter are almost good enough to have as a whole meal by themselves, but then you’d miss out on the Creamy Dreamy Grits, Moon-dusted Potatoes, and my personal favorite, the Southern Scramble (farm fresh eggs scrambled with turkey bacon, collard greens, onions, and cheddar cheese). The menu is comprised of unique, healthy options. I’ve not had anything other than the Southern Scramble, but this is a local favorite among most Atlantans. The original Flying Biscuit is down in Historic Candler Park, but they have locations all over the city and out into the burbs – just go early, because there’s almost always a wait.


Finger-lickin’ good BBQ::  Fox Bros. BBQ
Hands-down some of the best BBQ in Atlanta. Located on Dekalb Ave in Candler Park (just south of Little 5 Points), and again, there is almost always a wait because it’s just that good. They have a big outdoor patio space, so it’s great for outdoor dining in nice weather. If you go, you have to indulge and get the Tomminator — tots smothered in Brunswick stew and cheddar cheese. So bad, but so delicious — and don’t try to eat this by yourself. The pulled pork and baby back ribs are among my favorite meals there, and of course I love the mac n cheese and collards to round out the meal.


Best Mobile Pizza Joint::  S & J’s Woodfired Pizza
I may be a bit biased here because it’s owned by a couple friends of ours, but it truly is some of the best pizza around. Sarah and Jonathan (affectionately known as S &J) operate out of a wood fired oven on wheels and can be found all over town most of the year at various festivals and farmers markets. Fresh, local ingredients are used on all of their pies, and their menu changes with what’s in season. One of my favorites is the Sausage and Peppers (tomato sauce with mozzarella, italian sausage and mixed heirloom peppers). The pizza is always piping hot, crispy, and so delicious. Some weekends, we stalk S & J’s on facebook to see what festivals they’re at so we can get our pizza fix. They are also available for catering for your next big event, and I’d highly recommend them (hint, hint).


Hands-down best tapas, especially the B.W.D.::  The Iberian Pig
We are on the dead opposite side of the city from Decatur, but I’d drive there most any day for a dinner at The Iberian Pig. After my birthday dinner there in August, it jumped to one of my very, very favorite restaurants. It’s located in the Square, and there are so many fabulous restaurants and pubs to choose from (Leon’s Full Service and Brick Store Pub are some other popular options). You HAVE to get the B.W.D. (Bacon Wrapped Dates stuffed with Manchego cheese and walnuts), Spanish Tortoloni, and Pork Cheek Tacos.


Take your doggy to dinner (or brunch or lunch)::  Tree House
Located a bit off the beaten path in the Peachtree Hills neighborhood, it sort of looks like a treehouse for grown-ups. Dogs are welcome, so it’s a great spot for casual weekend dining with man’s best friend. My favorite times to visit are for a laid-back, weekend brunch or dinner in the summer. I love their English Club Burger (served on a toasted English muffin) and the Artichoke Dip appetizer (w/toasted pita bread) is a must-try.

Best steak in Atlanta with an old-school Buckhead feel::  Hal’s on Old Ivy
My dad loves a good steak, and he’s found the perfect one at Hal’s. We have frequented many a steakhouse in my lifetime, and my dad swears this is one of THE best steaks anywhere. Period. The atmosphere is very old-school Buckhead with a piano by the bar, and they still have a cigarette machine by the entrance. I love their crispy garlic bread and Caesar salad, as well as a new favorite, the fried lobster in butter sauce. The seared-to-perfection steaks are the obvious star of the show, but their Fettuccine Alfredo makes a fantastic, buttery, unhealthy accompaniment. And don’t leave without having the Bread Pudding floating in a rum sauce. To die for.


Creamy Heaven in a Cup::  Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream
Named 4th Best Ice Cream Shop in America by Bon Appetite Magazine in ’09. The original location is a small walk-up shop in East Atlanta… quite a drive for us, but totally worth it. I just learned that they also have a location in Dunwoody now, so folks north of the city won’t be deprived. All the ice cream is handmade and oh-so-creamy, and they’re known for some very quirky flavors thrown in among the classics. I’m not about to try the Avacado, but their Salted Caramel is like Heaven in a cup. The simple, classic Chocolate is also divine. If you’re looking for an after-dinner treat or mid-afternoon snack, this is the place.


Delightfully Delicious Doughnuts::  Sublime Doughnuts
Their slogan is “Eat one that’s worth it” — and I agree that this is it. Located in a non-descript shopping center on 10th St in Midtown, you would never believe what amazing sugary goodness lies inside. For my birthday a couple years ago, I received a box from my coworker Hilary… and inside were Sublime doughnuts spelling out HAPPY BIRTHDAY, and every one was a different flavor. Love it!! My favorites are the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Butter Toffee, Orange Dream Star, and the Frosted Croissant… OMG that frosted croissant. Just check out their website – you’ll be drooling in no time. Bring some to the office and you’ll be a hero.


2 NYC restaurant reviews:: adrienne’s and la bottega

While we were in NYC last weekend visiting my bestie Charlotte (more on the trip in a later post), we ate at some YUMMY restaurants, so I had to share my faves! Coincidentally, both were Italian.

Restaurant #1:: Adrienne’s Pizza Bar in the Financial District
We walked to dinner after we got in town on Friday night, which I just love. We can’t walk anywhere from our house in Smyrna, so walking to eat is sort of refreshing, especially when I’m planning on pigging out on pizza and bread and wine…. The restaurant is located on the cutest cobblestone pedestrian street. As soon as we turned onto the street, I felt like we’d been transported to Europe. The rows and rows of outdoor tables were filled to the brim, even though it was hot hot hot. What a perfect way to kick off the weekend with friends or family.

Some of Charlotte’s friends met us for dinner, and we shared a couple of the traditional rectangular pies that I sense they’re known for. Char and her friend Erin immediately insisted on the “pepps and mush” pizza…. I had no idea what sort of special pizza that was until I realized it was just their shorthand for pepperoni and mushrooms. Should have known with Char and her abbreviations. Anyway, we tried that, a veggie, and a pepps and pepps (my own version with pepperoni and bell peppers). The pizza was so so tasty — just the right amount of dough and crunch and spice. We also had hot bread to dip in olive oil, caesar salad, and caprese salad (Craig’s new fave). Everything was perfectly delicious. The restaurant was really hot, but we were also sitting right by the kitchen. Char claims it’s the best pizza in NY, and I am sure there could be a debate about that for days, but I’ll take her word for it.

Restaurant #2:: La Bottega at the Maritime Hotel
Saturday night, we had reservations here for one of Charlotte’s friend’s birthdays. It was such a neat place! I love dining al fresco, and this place felt like we were eating in a big park in the middle of Chelsea.

How fun is this arial shot of the umbrellas on their patio?

And the Chinese lanterns… so festive!

We started the meal with some hot-out-of-the-oven pizza dough dipped in olive oil… mmmmm. Charlotte tried the watermelon and watercress salad (below) and I got the Tri Colore salad (hers was better and much more interesting). Craig got the farro salad (which is a grain) with mozzarella and orange segments. It was more filling than I’d want for a salad/appetizer, but it was interesting to try.

A big plate of the Burrata Caprese was passed around the table as well. I wasn’t a huge fan of the watery texture inside the mozzarella ball, but it seemed to be pretty popular with everyone else.

I stuck with one of my new faves for the entree — Tagliatelle alla Bolognes (basically pasta with a bunch of meat sauce) and it was good. I ate most of it, despite having eaten all day.  Craig chose the artichoke and goat cheese ravioli, which were HUGE and green and tasty-looking. We had a large group and shared several pitchers of the white sangria, which was filled with fresh fruit. So refreshing on such a hot, humid night!

We went to a number of other restaurants while in the city, but these were my faves. I can’t wait to go back and try more. What are your favorites in the big city?