Waitress Row Your Ass Ashore: Lunch at Canoe

Good help is so hard to find.

Literally.

Our waitress was missing for 90% of our meal today at Canoe, an otherwise adorable Atlanta restaurant on Paces Ferry.

I mean check it out:

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Beautiful, right?

Canoe is located on the Chattahoochee River. On a completely unrelated note, there were girls in high school we called chattahoochees (or hoochie mamas) because they wore midrifts with bellybuttons popping out, hoop earrings, and gold necklaces with their names on them. In other words, I went to high school with Sarah Jessica Parker.

Here is our lovely view of the bridge:

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Looks like something out of Fried Green Tomatoes. Except in that movie, the service was amicable and alert—who cares if they serve you human ribs as long as they serve you?

Our waitress wasn’t a bad person. She was just aloof. Majorly aloof. We ordered drinks. She didn’t bring them. We asked for bread. She gave it to the next table. People sat down thirty minutes after us and were on their entrees before we got our appetizers. Our waitress sucked.

But the food was pretty good. We had been there once before and the food was better. That time was Sunday brunch and I really enjoyed their brunch food.

Today I started with the aloof waitress’s recommendation of chilled artichoke soup:

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A nice presentation, sure. That’s basil in there. The soup was light and refreshing but not my favorite.

My dad definitely picked the winner. A smoked salmon appetizer that mom and I finnagled dad for a taste of:

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It was fantastic. The best part of the meal, and I only had a small taste.

Mom’s onion soup is not pictured because I deemed it unimpressive.

As for entrees I had the crab cake salad:

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This was a disappointment. The inside of the crabcake was overly mayonaissey and mostly flavorless. The citrus salad dressing left me unenthused.

Mom had a tuna salad that I also didn’t care for:

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Dad, yet again, picked the best—a rock shrimp salad:

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Everything was fried, true. But it looked the most interesting and tasty. I picked off his plate.

Here’s mom and dad with the lovely background:

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I would tell you how the meal ended, but we’re still here. The waitress hasn’t brought the check. Any day now.

A Tale Told By A Vidiot: The Kool Korners Cuban Sandwich

Site reader and part-time Amateur Gourmet publicisit Vidiot has been hawking me for a while to go to Kool Korners on 14th Street for their Cuban Sandwich. “Go to Kool Korners on 14th street!” he will write. “Eat their cuban sandwich!”

Today, my stomach and brain battled for control of the steering wheel as I figured out my lunch destination.

Stomach: Listen to Vidiot! Let’s eat a cuban!

Brain: But we have work, you scoundrel. A final! In Jewish law!

Stomach: Screw the Jews! The Cubans have better music.

Brain: They do? What about Fiddler on the Roof?

Stomach: Screw Fidddler, they did The Buena Vista Social Club.

Having won his point, Stomach drove us over to Kool Korners which had a deceptive exterior.

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It looked like a run down grocery store. I loved the mystery of it all.

Once inside, I realized what I had stumbled upon: a well-kept Atlanta secret! The place was packed with businessmen, young people, old people, and Sally Struthers all lined up for Cuban sandwiches. I tried to pick a good photo spot to capture it for you but nothing really worked. I’d rather paint the place with words.

The place was deceptively decrepit. Meaning, the walls were dirty, the shelves dusty, the decor similar to that of a run down Shell station. Yet, the people there were vibrant: an old man behind the counter chatted up a customer in Spanish. A woman carried a large pot with a beautifully roasted hunk of meat. Other women manned (or womanned) the cash registers.

When I was up to plate I ordered the classic cuban. I also bought a bag of Guacamole Doritos and an Iced Tea.

I carried my purchases outside where there was one table, already occupied. So I went to my car and ate behind the wheel with the windows open. Here’s what the sandwich looked like:

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Now I’m no Cuban sandwich expert, but is this really a classic cuban? Don’t get me wrong: everything tasted great. The meat was savory, the cheese sweet and perfectly gluey. But the presence of mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion made it taste a little like a Subway hero.

When I was in L.A. this summer, I ate Cuban sandwiches at a place called Cafe Tropical in Silverlake. At first I thought they were terrible. I’m not a ham person. I’m not a cheese person. I sometimes like pieces of pork. I do like pressed bread. In any case, a few visits later I was hooked. But the sandwich really had no accoutrements: there was the ham, the cheese, the pork and the bread.

So maybe L.A. made me a Cuban sandwich snob? If it did, it doesn’t matter because I really enjoyed the Kool Korners version.

What I did not enjoy were these Dorito guacamole chips:

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They tasted like cardboard triangles dusted with chemistry set guacamole. Literally: powdered guacamole is not a good thing.

All in all, I enjoyed my lunch. Thanks Vidiot for the suggestion!

Just Like Old Times: Breakfast at the Crescent Moon

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Alex and Michael, two stars in my social planetarium, are here to visit, staying with me, despite the fact that I am mid-finals. Here you can see them raiding my kitchen–insulting my hard-earned tubs of homemade ice cream and sorbet for Lauren’s jar of Queso.

This morning, Alex expressed her desire to revisit her favorite Atlanta breakfast haunt, The Crescent Moon, so she could have their French Toast. I said I’m on board as long as we can go early so I could get studying done. (As you can see, now, I am on a mid-day study break).

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The Crescent Moon is just one of those adorable Atlanta breakfast nooks, where charm and sass come free with your 99 cent coffee. At the Crescent Moon, though, it’s filtered through the prism of Decatur, often redubbed Dick-Hater for its overabundance of lesbians. And there was definitely a lesbian vibe today at the Crescent Moon. I broke out my Berkenstocks, whipped out my acoustic and started singing “Least Complicated” to the joy of everyone around.

Notice the retro chic scenery:

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This is where we used to come in the latter days of college; a special Sunday brunch early in the afternoon. The wait would be 20 minutes, and we’d sit in the little back room, crowded with strangers, drinking complimentary coffee and waiting for a table.

We each ordered our usual: I with The Heap, a spin on Denny’s skillet sensations except gooder. A mountain of potatoes, eggs, bacon, Herbs and a biscuit.

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Alex ordered her favorite, the challah (emphasize the CH) french toast. (You pay by the slice, and Alex bravely ordered two).

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Michael ordered the nastiest thing ever which he called a Southern tradition: biscuits and gravy. He may be right but I hate gravy. That’s a secret I’m letting you in on. He offered to let me try some, but I feigned fever and passed out on the floor so I wouldn’t have to. Be honest: does this look appetizing to you?

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The meal over, we strolled outside and felt the bulk of our stomachs.

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We stumbled to our cars and drove off full and contented. Just like old times.

Poor Man’s Sushi at Rusan’s

There is no reason to document a meal at Rusan’s. It’s as pedestrian as you can get when it comes to sushi.

There’s no point taking this picture of the exterior:

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Or this of the table showcase when you enter:

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Or this of the noisy sushi bar where the sushi chefs yelled indecipherably upon our entrance: “HEY!!! OHHH!!! EEEH!!! ARAOH!”

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But Rusan’s is where you go on a weeknight when you want sushi. It’s funny, if you harken back to my review of MF Sushi, I rather callously remarked: “But, to be honest, after tonight I realize that I’m not so much a sushi person. I like eating it, but I would never go out of my way to eat it. And I would never pay an exorbitant amount of money for the world’s best sushi. I’d rather have a really good steak.”

Interesting how we can grow backwards (the title, incidentally, of David Byrne’s great new album). Meaning: the fabulous sushi at MFSushi didn’t turn me on to sushi; the mediocre sushi at RuSan’s made me long for really good sushi. See?

Like this salad, for example:

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A fine, standard, gingery, vinegary sushi bar salad. But it was way too gingery, way too vinegary. I pined for the controlled performance at MFSushi.

And the sushi itself: a great candyland assortment of eel, fried tuna rolls, and tuna/salmon rolls…

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But lacking in the craftsmanship and panache of MF.

In particular, the balance of sauce and flavor on the inside of the rolls: Rusan’s dredges their’s with gooey sesame sauce or obnoxiously firey pepper sauce. MF’s was balanced.

So, in conclusion, it took the flourescent lights at Rusan’s to help me see the sushi light I missed at MF. Great sushi is an art. I’m now officially a sushi snob.

Help! I’m Being Sucked Through THE VORTEX!

You will encounter two emblematic Atlanta images on your way into The Vortex.

Naturally, you’ll encounter the skull. The Vortex is located inside the skull. Its visage informs the area around it: the punky, funky Little Five Points.

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But first, you’ll encounter The Cockmaster.

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Can you make him out? I shot this out of my back window, just as the light turned green.

The Cockmaster is an Atlanta staple. He stands on the corner of Ponce De Leon and Moreland wearing bicycle shorts stuffed (or are they) with what resembles a giant…errm…cock. He also carries a cane. But its the…errm…cock…that makes him The Cockmaster. That thing is huge. He’s an Atlanta staple.

Ok, now back to The Vortex.

The Vortex claims itself as having Atlanta’s best hamburger. I’m getting tired of declaring things “Atlanta’s best” anything, since I don’t think I have the credentials to do so. Instead, I’ll just say that The Vortex is my favorite place to go for a hamburger.

Bikers congregate outside. Rock music plays within. You walk inside and see this sign:

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And so, accordingly, you seat yourself.

The menu is funky too. Not sure if you can make this out:

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but it provides instructions on “behaving like an adult” (“You’re not in high school anymore, testosterone-boy. If a stranger is talking to your girlfriend, it’s really not that big a deal.”) and not “showing your ass” (“Few things are as embarassing as being cut-off at your favorite bar.”)

Lauren and I ordered iced tea, so that really wasn’t a problem. We diverged on our actual orders, though: I smartly ordered a cheeseburger and Lauren stupidly ordered a cuban sandwich.

“It’s soooo good,” said the waitress.

It wasn’t. “It’s really dry,” Lauren said sadly.

My burger was fantastic:

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The bacon was a little too greasy and a little too curly, but the burger itself was great. The cheese was a nice complement (<--got that right this time). And of course onion rings are always a treat. Lauren left feeling ashamed of her order and I left feeling like the...errrm...cock of the walk.

Best Ice Cream in Atlanta? Jake’s.

Call me a hypocrite. Actually don’t. In my last ice cream post, I declared that the ice cream at Bruster’s was “creamier” and “fresher” than Jake’s. However, I concluded: “I still prefer the quirky flavors at Jake’s….”

And tonight Lauren and I dined at the Flying Biscuit, where we saw an Ice Cream truck:

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Do you remember ice cream trucks? Lauren didn’t have one growing up and I think that amounts to some severe form of child endangerment. Ice Cream trucks are vital to anyone’s childhood. I still remember my favorite flavor: the Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake bar. (Check out the Upper Left Corner tonight and post your favorite Ice Cream truck ice cream).

After traipsing down memory lane, we made our way over to Jake’s.

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The weather here’s been gorgeous–as it has been for most of the country–and the light in the sky at 7:30 pm made a for a perfect ice cream moment. We made our way down the steps, through the door, and over to the ice cream case:

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We then enjoyed a feast of samples. “I’ll try the vanilla!” said Lauren. “I’ll try the toasted coconut!” said I.

After 80,000 tastings, we made our choices. Lauren got the Peppermint Chip and I got the Coconut Custard (the one the woman recommended).

Let me tell you, darling reader, this ice cream was phenomenal.

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It looks simple, doesn’t it? But it’s packed with coconut flavor and real shreds of coconut. Normally I don’t finish my cups of ice cream (see “On Keeping My Girlish Figure” post) but I scraped this cup clean.

We sat outside at a table and watched one cat chasing another and then mounting it.

“Those cats are having sex!” I declared.

Here’s the male culprit on the way back:

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Ends up he’s a Kitty Porn star and he kindly autographed his book, Cats in Love:

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I felt like a cat in love with that coconut ice cream in my belly. It was great. I confirm my previously tentative declaration: Jake’s has the best ice cream in Atlanta.

Afternoon Rhubarb Tart from Star Provisions

One thing I really like about this website is that it’s an excellent excuse to purchase pastries that I otherwise might not purchase. That happened today in Star Provisions when I purchased a rhubarb tart.

First, let’s talk about why I was in Star Provisions.

Star Provisions is nowhere near where I go to school. It is nowhere near where I go to study. And it is nowhere near where I live.

But today, people, I was on a mission.

I said to myself: “Self, you need to stop eating bagels and burritos for lunch. You have the same routine every week. It’s either a bagel or a burrito. What else do you eat? A sandwich? Spice it up!”

So I went on a drive down 10th towards Howell Mill thinking that I could go to Tacqueria Del Sol again or the Silver Skillet for another round of country ham and eggs. Then I even thought: “Adam, why must you go to places you’ve already been? Broaden your horizons! You should make a deal with yourself to eat at a new place for lunch at least once a week.”

Very good, I thought, and then realized it was the 12 o’clock hour and that everyone was out to lunch. Tacqueria Del Sol was packed, as was The Silver Skillet. I parked my car in front of Star Provisions, bought a pastry, and ran to subway for a turkey sub Jared-style.

Anyway, this afternoon, when I got home, I ceremoniously ate the rhubarb tart.

First I photographed the bag, as is normal for any tart-eating ceremony:

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And then, of course, I photographed the tart:

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I’m not crazy about rhubarb. No one in a batty 50s movie would watch me walk by and say: “Oh that Adam, he’s CRAAAZY about rhubarb!”

But today was a day of broadening horizons, and if I couldn’t broaden my horizons at lunch then I’d do it with the tart. And here’s what I have to say about it:

Hmm, pretty good. The pastry itself was phenomenal. The dough so light and flaky, it was incredibly delicate yet perfectly crispy and moist. And the filling was nice: tart but not terribly so. A good combo. I ate it in a jiffy. And that’s my story.

The Fountain of Youth: Ice Cream at Bruster’s

Conversation turned, last night, to the subject of ice cream.

Michael K. is an ice cream afficianado. He has a mega-ton ice cream/gelato maker and his knowledge runs deeper than mine, thus far, on the matter. He was happy to hear about my serene out-of-body experience with the vanilla bean.

“What’s your favorite ice cream in Atlanta?” he asked.

“Jake’s,” I answered, maintaining my cool.

“Bah!” he said. “Jake’s is frozen treacle. What you need is Bruster’s.”

“Bruster’s!” I said, astonished. “You mean the red and white stand near where I live with the sign that looks like Luden’s cough drops?”

“That’s the one,” said Michael K.

“I don’t believe it,” I said, mortified.

“Well,” explained Michael, “Jake’s freezes its ice cream for too long. Bruster’s serves theirs almost immediately after making it.”

“Let’s put this to the test,” said Mark.

We drove to Bruster’s.

And now for a brief aside, regarding the title of this post.

Pulling up to Jake’s, Mark and I spotted the cutest thing you ever did see. Across from us in our parking spot, was an old couple–maybe in their 70s or 80s–in their Cadillac, each licking ice cream cones like children. It’s hard to explain how beautiful the image was: this old man and woman, like kids in high school, licking their cones with a total lack of self-awareness. They seemed so happy. And so young.

“That is so cute,” said Mark.

I wanted to take a picture, but that would have been weird.

But it’s amazing, isn’t it, how ice cream is a great equalizer. Everyone loves ice cream. You might not picture Bush and Kerry sharing a hot tub, but you can picture them on a bench–side by side–with ice cream cones, can’t you? Or J. Lo and Ben, after they make up? It brings the world together.

It reminds me of a Wordsworth poem: “I scream / You scream / We all screamest for ice cream.”

So here’s the Bruster’s stand:

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And here’s my cup of white chocolate raspberry:

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Indeed, it was creamier and fresher than Jake’s. I still prefer the quirky flavors at Jake’s (particularly their Key Lime Pie ice cream), but I will agree with Michael K. that Bruster’s is much less frozen. And, plus, Bruster’s had that adorable old couple. Wonder if they’re still there?