Iris (Atlanta)

Fine dining usually requires the following:

1) Money;

2) Companionship;

3) An occassion for which to spend (1) and invite (2).

Tonight’s (3) was celebrating my excting non-food related news from earlier in the week. Tonight’s (2) was, of course, Lauren. And tonight’s (1) was generously donated–without their knoweldge, really–by mom and dad. I mean, I’m sure they’d approve: how often does one have a (3) to celebrate? It was all (4) a good cause.

Originally, I had suggested Bacchanalia because that’s one of Atlanta’s top restaurants, if not the very top. But they were booked. And I was kind of glad: when I was there with my parents several years ago, we were a bit underwhelmed.

Then I tried Bacchanalia’s sister restaurant, The Floataway Cafe, which is surely one of my favorite Atlanta fine dining spots. They were booked too.

Frustrated, I turned to the John Kessler page at the Access Atlanta website and read through his reviews. It was difficult because you couldn’t search by rating; so I had to read through a bunch of places I never heard of, only to find Kessler’s disapproval. Then I stumbled upon Iris–a place I had been to one time before and enjoyed–and decided it was the perfect spot to go. Not too dressy, not too formal, but quality 2-star food. In East Atlanta.

Have I told you about East Atlanta yet? It’s like Atlanta’s answer to Greenwich Village. Only much, much smaller. And near a prison.

Lauren and I gussied ourselves up. Well, first, she wanted my fashion approval. She came into my room with a really funky, shiny orange skirt and a funky, black and white top.

“What do you think?” she said.

“Love the skirt,” I said. “Love the top. But they don’t go together.”

Wounded, she exited and returned, now with a denim skirt.

“Better,” I said. “Anything else?”

Hissing, she exited once more and returned with a black skirt.

“Excellent!” I said.

“Ladeeda,” she replied.

I, of course, looked perfect in my colorful button down shirt and snazzy jeans. We boarded my car and began the journey out east. We listened to my newly purchased “Purple Rain” CD.

“Dig if you will the picture,” sings Prince, “of you and I engaged in a kiss.”

“I dig it,” says Lauren, and begins making out with the CD case.

Finally, we arrive at Iris in funky East Atlanta. The valet takes our keys and we make our way to the door.

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“Table for two,” I say. “Under Gourmet. Amateur.”

“Ah, very good sir,” says the host. “Right this way.”

He leads us to a lovely area outside:

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We look at our menus:

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We order wine:

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[“Lauren,” I yell just now. “What kind of wine did we have at dinner?” She yells from the other room:

“Starts with a C… C-L-E-V-N-E?” Hmmm. “OK!” I say. “That’ll do!”]

The waiter suggests an appetizer of Kobe beef with a Mongolian BBQ sauce. “So tender, it’ll fall off the bone.” We order it:

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So tender it falls off the bone. “Mmm,” says Lauren. “This is delicious.”

Next, I indulged and ordered a lobster bisque while Lauren went for the less indulgent salad.

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I actually thought the lobster bisque was wonderful. Usually it’s so creamy that you feel like you’re drinking from an udder. This one was perfect. With tons of flavor. Among the best I’ve ever had.

And now for the entrees. The waiter warned me. I didn’t heed his advice. You see, on the menu were many entrees I was eager to try. The one that seemed most daring, most exciting for someone who has culinary ambitions beyond steak and potatoes, was the Venison Osso Bucco.

“It’s great,” said the waiter, “but really heavy for this kind of weather.”

Fool! I thought. Nothing’s too heavy for moi! But damn, he was right.

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It was delicious but so so rich and so so heavy. I loved all the condiments: there was a side of pineapple / apple compote. And sweet potato crisps. And a little fork to eat the marrow. I didn’t really eat the marrow because I was so full.

But I ate the whole thing, otherwise. “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” I said.

Lauren wisely chose the free-form ravioli with halibut.

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If it doesn’t look like ravioli, that’s because it’s not. It’s free form. But Lauren loved it.

And, for whatever reason, it seemed like a good idea to get dessert. I don’t know how I did it, but I did it.

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Apple crisp. Vanilla ice cream. Delicious. But deadly.

I tumbled out of my chair face down on the ground. Lauren got my feet, the waiter got my head.

“Roll him,” instructed Lauren.

They rolled me to the car.

“Fork lift!” yelled the waiter.

A large crane descended.

“Up she goes!” he laughed.

“I’m a he,” I mumbled.

“Yes you are,” said Lauren, taking the keys.

“Thank you,” she told the waiter.

She closed both doors and started the car.

“Even doves have pride,” instructed Prince.

“I’m sooo full,” I said.

“Next time,” said Lauren, “listen to the waiter.”

Agnes & Muriel’s (Atlanta)

Since I’ll be leaving Atlanta soon, I think it’s important that I leave behind a legacy of places to eat. Think of the millions of followers who will one day visit the city of my origin–like Avon historians visiting Stratford–without a guide as to where to go, what to do, where to chow down. I owe a duty to my far-flung readers–the Malaysians, the Parisians, and those Outside the Perimeter*–to point them on a path of gastronomical fulfillment; to paint my fair city with its many flavorful colors. I owe my readers a Top 10 Atlanta list and God help me if I don’t include Agnes and Muriel’s.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit: it’s not for everyone. I know people who say: “I had a bad experience at Agnes and Muriels.” I even relate to them because I too had a bad experience at Agnes and Muriels (food poisoning from the pot roast, but let’s not go there). Yet, when I’m shivering in some New York hovel, pining for my days below the Mason Dixon line, I’ll be craving not Seeger’s eggshell-stuffed caviar custard or the Ritz-Carlton’s shotglass oysters. I’ll be pining for a warm little hideaway; a kitschy house with Barbie Dolls, 50s television sets and flamboyant waiters. I’ll be pining for:

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Let’s start with the atmosphere. There is nothing like it—unless you live in a trailer park shrine to Howdy Doody; or MGM Studio’s Prime Time Cafe. (But even that pales in comparison). Let’s start with the exterior. Look how cute this house is:

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Don’t you want to go inside? Notice the inflatable bunny head inside the tree? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Check out this bizarre creation at the hostess stand:

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Or this fabulous coffee-cup chandelier:

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Do you see why I love this place? It’s kitsch! It’s fun! It’s Agnes and Muriels! And check out the babes:

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I think I’ve made my point. But now you’re probably wondering: “Ok, Adam, you showed us the decor; how’s the food?”

The food is fun! It’s kitsch! It’s yummy!

For starters, Lauren and I shared a plate of Fried Green Tomatoes:

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They were terrific, with some kind of smoked chili sauce and feta cheese. The tomatoes had lots of flavor.

Then for my entree: boneless fried chicken breasts, sweet potato fries, and noodle kugel.

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This food is comforting and so bad for you. And fusion in a very delicious way: Southern cooking by way of Liberace. You gotta love it.

AGNES AND MURIELS HAS BEEN DECLARED AN AMATEUR GOURMET ATLANTA TOP TEN HOT SPOT.

* For those not familiar with the parlance, “Outside The Perimeter” denotes anyone who lives outside of Atlanta proper. Its meaning, though, is rather derisive: it suggests inferior education, significant tooth decay and a son named Bubba. Living Outside the Perimeter (OTP), to be honest, means you’re a hick.

Fat Matt’s Rib Shack

“What a terrible thing consciousness is.”

– Harold Bloom on King Lear Act IV (gleaned from The Village Voice)

Tonight, I was craving ribs. Lauren was going for tacos. “We’re going for tacos,” she said.

“Well,” I replied, “I’m in the mood for ribs.”

“Very well,” she said and exited.

Cue cell phone. Cue finger. Cue Mark.

“Mark,” I said, “I’m going for ribs. Interested?”

“Yes!” he said and told me to pick him up.

“Very well,” I said and exited.

[Adam picks up Mark. Mark and Adam drive to Fat Matt’s.]

We arrive at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. I force Mark to discontinue a story about vomit at his birthday party. We exit the car and behold a giant green wall.

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“Shall we?” I ask.

Mark refuses to say “let’s” because I cut off his vomit story.

Inside, a blues band is playing. I take a picture and it doesn’t come out. We approach the counter. I order first.

“A half slab of ribs, please, and a lemonade.”

I pay. $9.40. These ribs don’t come cheap.

Mark’s turn. “Two pork sandwiches and–”

Readers grow disinterested, concerned only with what I ate. Very well.

We sit inside because the tables outside are all taken. Here’s Mark beneath the giant menu:

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Quite quickly, the food arrives. Here are my ribs:

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I begin to take a picture of Mark’s food, but readers urge me not to.

Before I can begin my first bite, a table opens outside.

“Look a table!” declares Mark.

“Ah!” declares I.

We scurry outside and bask in the warm evening glow.

“Good work,” I say. “Now let’s eat.”

[Time passes. Ribs consumed.]

A NARRATIVE INTERRUPTION TO EVALUATE THE RIBS, TYING IN THE PRETENTIOUS OPENING HAROLD BLOOM QUOTE

Look, facts are facts. I have had good ribs at Fat Matt’s before. In fact, last time I was there I recall saying to my dining companion: “These are delicious. These are the best ribs I’ve ever had.”

Tonight’s ribs were not so delicious. They were tough, bony, slightly burnt and very difficult to eat. The sauce was good–tangy, flavorful–but they couldn’t save a bad cut of meat.

What I really found myself craving–and hence the pain of consciousness–was the rib platter at Houston’s. To BBQ purists, this is the equivalent of sacrilege.

“HOW DOTH YOU DESIRETH SUCH TRIPE!” booms Harold Bloom.

Quiet Bloom.

In any case, the Houston’s ribs may not be authentic, but they are: (a) easier to eat; (b) a better value; (c) always consistent.

What I really need to do, though, is take a BBQ tour of the South before I move away forever. Perhaps I will do that soon for this site. Until that day, though, my consciousness will suffer the tug of war between authentic-yet-hard-to-eat Fat Matt’s and commercial-yet-delicious Houston’s.

We now return to our regularly scheduled narrative.

CONCLUSION

“That was pretty good,” I say.

“Yeah,” says Mark. “Though the sauce was a little spicy tonight.”

I look down at my plate. I move all the napkins I used from the table on to the plate. As you can see, my “On Napkins” post was no lie:

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“Shall we?” I say.

“Let’s,” says Mark and we exit.

MFSushiBar

In Gourmet Magazine earlier this year there was a supplement listing the hottest and best restaurants in every city. When I finally got to the Atlanta section, I was surprised to see–sandwiched between the Ritz Carlton and Seeger’s–a restaurant Lauren often waxed lyrical about: MFSushi.

“It’s the best sushi ever,” Lauren would say. “It’s amazing. Like nothing you’ve ever had.”

This always seemed suspicious to me. Sushi is sushi. All raw fish tastes the same.

So tonight, when my friend Jimmy and I were making plans he said he was in the mood for sushi and I said: “How about MFSushi?”

Jimmy paused and said: “Yes, actually, that’s a good idea.”

Usually, sushi-goers in my circle of friends will sushi-go at RuSan’s, a perfectly respectable sushi joint with locations in Midtown and Buckhead. But tonight was special. Tonight we would eat the best of the best. I made the reservation for 8:30 and began my preparations. These entailed belting “Old Man River” at my piano and eating some Blackout guacamole.

Finally, the witching hour arrives. I drive down Ponce until I see the awning I have driven past so many times. I turn left and encounter a mess of a valet parking situation. I sit in the car for 10 minutes before someone finally takes my keys. (*As an interesting side bar, I have a weird thing where before the valet gets in my car I turn my CD off or put on the radio so they don’t judge my taste in music. You’d do the same thing if you had my taste in music.)

Walking up to the restaurant, I snap picture of the awning:

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I sneak in the door and Jimmy is waiting inside.

“Were you waiting long?” I ask.

“No,” he answers. “But good thing you made a reservation. There’s an hour and a half wait!”

The hostesss leads us to our table. Here’s what the place looks like:

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As you can see, the interior is very fashionable. Atlanta’s crem-de-crem are noshing on raw fish, and Jimmy and I fit right in.

Well, maybe we don’t fit right in, but we scrape by under the radar. The menus are brought and we begin our gameplanning.

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“Do you want to get two rolls each and share them?” asks Jimmy.

I find this plan rather worrisome since what if I don’t like what he orders? So I ask the waitress for advice.

“Well,” she says kindly, “I suggest that you order two rolls each and share them!”

“Brilliant!” I say.

Jimmy shakes his head.

So Jimmy orders the crunchy roll and the rainbow roll. I order the shrimp tempura roll and the tuna roll. But first, we order a ginger salad.

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I really like ginger salad. Or ginger salad dressing. When my friend Dana and I went to NYU for a summer, we were obsessed with the ginger-carrot dressing at this place called DoJo. So tonight, I really enjoyed my ginger salad.

“This is a good ginger salad,” says Jimmy.

The salads are taken away. Time passes. I think too much time passes.

“It’s been a while,” I say.

“No it hasn’t,” says Jimmy, pointing out that the people next to us, who just got their food, had been there before us. Before I can refute him, our food is brought.

Here is mine:

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Here is Jimmy’s:

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The verdict?

“This is really good sushi,” I say.

“Yes,” Jimmy agrees.

We scarf down 8 rolls from our plates and then swap.

“This is really good sushi,” I say, eating from Jimmy’s plate.

“Yes,” Jimmy agrees, eating from mine.

The sushi is gone.

Was this the best sushi of my life? Yes, most certainly yes.

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.

The waitress, reading over my shoulder, begins to cry.

“There there, sushi waitress,” I say. “I didn’t mean it in a mean way.”

She scurries off with our credit cards.

“That was a good meal,” says Jimmy.

“Yes,” I say.

I stare at the empty plate.

“It certainly was.”***

*** Please forgive this strange ending. It is 3 AM and I have no idea how to end this. Thank you.

Blais Restaurant (Atlanta)

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Let me spill the beans right away: after tonight’s 26th course a man with spiky hair and a white soccer jersey came over to our table.

“How was everything?” he asked.

“Wonderful,” I said.

“Amazing,” said Lauren.

“Good good. Well,” he continued, “I’m Richard Blais.” He shook our hands.

For a sense of how accomplished Chef Blais is, check out his profile on the Blais Atlanta website. He has worked at the finest restaurants in the world: The French Laundry, Chez Panisse, and El Bulli to name a few. Now he was hovering over our table.

“It’s so nice to meet you,” Lauren said.

“Everything was delicious,” I said.

Now up until this point, we had the sneaking suspicion that the restaurant thought I was a food critic. Granted, in a very minor way I am a food critic, but writing a few reviews on the internet seems incredibly minor compared to the work of our nation’s real food writers: William Grimes, Ruch Reichl, John Kessler. We thought the suspicion stemmed from the fact that I was taking pictures of every course as it was brought out.

Lauren continued: “It’s really great how laid back it is here. Everyone is so friendly.”

“Yes,” I said. “Just a few months ago I went to Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago and had an awful meal; everything was so formal.”

“Yes,” said Chef Blais, “I know.”

An awkward pause.

“How do you know?” I asked, incredulously.

“I read your review on eGullet,” he answered.

My stomach was in my throat. Say what!?

You see, several months ago–after our Charlie Trotter’s disappointment–I wrote a somewhat scathing review on eGullet–that launched a 12 page debate over the merits of my amateur perspective on fine dining. As exciting as this was, it always seemed a very contained esoteric debate in a cultish foodie world. Now this star chef was saying he read my review?!

“I actually read it to my staff here when we opened,” he continued. “So that they wouldn’t be so formal.”

Lauren burst out laughing.

“We also told the waiter not to follow you to the bathroom tonight,” he laughed, “even though we usually do that, because you wrote about that in your review.”

My ego, at this point, floated out of my body and began dancing the dance of the cocky monkey.

“Stop it, Ego,” I said.

Chef Blais lingered a little more. It seemed clear that he knew I would be writing a review. Was he nervous? Did he fear me? How powerful I had become!

And yet he had nothing to worry about. Lauren and I both found everything up until that point (and after) to be beyond spectacular. Our dinner at Blais was among the best I’ve ever had, and surely the best meal I have had in Atlanta. I say that having eaten at Seeger’s (which was cold and overly formal) and Bacchanalia (a vague distant memory that conjures very little in the way of nostalgia). Each course was a magical sensory experience–the most dazzling flavors melded together in ways so imaginative that each tiny course was an event.

“Well,” I said, “I’m kind of freaked out right now, but thanks for reading my writing.”

“No problem,” he said as the waiter placed down our 27th course.

“I’ll let you finish your meal.”

* * * * * *

So with that ego-trip out of the way, let us shock you with our food consumption. According to our waiter (who, by the way, was also fantastic: incredibly friendly, helpful and informative–appropriate since the chinese tattoo on his wrist is the word for “teaching”) the kitchen was shocked that we ate everything. “They were taking wagers back there,” he said, “as to when you would conk out.”

“Not us,” said Lauren, “we’re troopers.”

And for your visual pleasure, I captured every single course in the 31-course line-up. If you do the math, I think it will fall a little short but that’s only because some of the courses were served at the same time. And to be honest, I could not have put another thing in my mouth if they paid me. Since describing each course to you would take an eon, I will simply label each picture and let you enjoy the visual stimulus that was our meal. Suffice it to say, dining at Blais was an incredible treat and a dining experience that I highly recommend. And I’m not just saying that because I know the chef.

THE 31 FLAVORS MENU

Quail Egg, Maple Flavor

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Crispy Chicken Skin, Gravy, Pickled Collards

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Shrimp, Polenta, Amaretto

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Asparagus, Parmesan, Caramel

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Sweet Tea in 3 Textures

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Caesar Salad

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Salmon Eggs, Vanilla Caviar

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Oyster, Cocktail Sorbet

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Tuna Belly, Frozen Wasabi

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Veal Jelly, Vermouth, Horseradish

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Sweet Potato, Ranch Ice Cream

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Fried Squid, Smoked Paprika

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Sangria

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[Not exactly sure. The menu they gave us says “Inflated Salt Cod” but I think this is a clam.]

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Barely Smoked Hamachi, Yuzu

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“Vitello Tonnato”

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Sea Scallop, Edamame Ravioli

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“Impasta”

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Turbot, Almond Gnocchi, Orange Rind

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Wild Striped Bass, Short Ribs

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“Pink” Duck Breast, Aromatic Vapor

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Slow-Cooked Lamb Loin, Cashew, Coconut

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Cheeseburger, Foie Gras Milkshake** (This was the highlight of the meal! So funny and absolutely delicious.)

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Egg Cream, White Truffle/White Chocolate, Sesame Creme Brulee

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Olive Oil, Lemon Sorbet

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Warm Parsnip, Ginger (Sorry, I started eating this one before I realized I hadn’t taken the picture yet)

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Oozing Chocolate, Black Olive, Red Wine (and Birthday Well-Wishes)

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And, the final note struck was perfectly charming and perfectly funny. A square of gelled Tang floating on a white plate.

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Thus ended our birthday meal adventure. Excuse me now while I keel over and die a happy death.

The Varisty (Atlanta)

Last semester I worked at Atlanta Legal Aid. My boss, an amicable sort, had many convictions, the most prevalent one being: “There is no onion ring better than the onion rings they make at The Varisty.”

Now I’m a reasonable man. I believe that reasonable convictions maintained by reasonable people should be viewed reasonably. However, something here seemed awry.

“You mean to tell me,” I said, “in all the world, there are no onion rings better than the ones at The Varsity?”

“No sir,” he said. “Definitely not.”

Tonight, I had to grab a quick dinner between class and rehearsal for The VD Show; a Valentine’s Day show I’m doing with Out of Hand Theater featuring a musical I wrote called “The Boy Who Went Blind” and a musical piece I wrote called “Women Outside The Bakery” to be performed at CJ’s Landing in Buckhead February 12th to the 14th; live music, prizes, and I’m playing with the band (I hope they let me sing “Hey Ya!”). I decided The Varisty would do the trick.

The Varisty is an Atlanta staple. You just see it and think “Atlanta” in all its good and bad connotations. I walked in and saw three white men eating alone in trucker hats. The counter was dead; sleepy black women in visors stood sullenly on the other side.

“A #1 please,” I said.

“You want onions?” asked the woman.

“OK,” I said.

I paid and received my tray.

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The chili dogs? Well they were good. I really like chili dogs. It’s my vice. Some people smoke cigarettes; some people do drugs. I eat chili dogs. Though, it should be noted, the chili is rather–umm–well it kind of tastes like cloth ground up and soaked in beef juice. I mean that in a good way.

The onion rings? They were the best part. The best in Atlanta? Surely. The best in the world?

Well, boss, maybe. Just maybe.

Fried Chicken at Watershed (Atlanta)

Tuesday night is fried chicken night at Watershed.

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Watershed is a Decatur-based establishment dedicated to Southern cooking and owned by (depending on who you ask) either one or both of the Indigo Girls. The executive chef is Scott Peacock, whose “Southern Cooking” is a recent cookbook bestseller, available at your local cookbook dealer.

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Yes, Tuesday night is fried chicken night–as long as you arrive by 7:30.

For those of us who have a Negotiations class from 6 to 8, this poses a problem.

“What time are you coming in?” asks the reservationist.

“8:30,” I reply, gingerly.

“Oh,” she says with concern in her voice. “There probably won’t be any fried chicken left.”

“Can’t you save us some?” I ask much like Oliver Twist asking for more.

“I’m sorry sir,” she says. “That’s impossible.”

So Chris and I arrive at 8:26, prepared for disappointment.

I ask the hostess with the same reserve the parent of a dying child questions a doctor as to their offspring’s life expectency: “Any chicken left?”

She smiles. “As a matter of fact.” Dramatic pause. “Yes.”

Woohoo!

We are shown to our table in a room that looks a little too industrial to be serving Southern food. Yet, the room has a pleasant quality to it also: a sourceless radiance that makes the temperature outside a distant memory. Our waiter approaches us with aplomb.

“What’s that?” we ask.

“A plomb,” he answers.

We wait for this awkward moment in the narrative to pass and order drinks.

“Sweet tea!” I say.

“Me too!” says Chris.

“Ah ah,” says the waiter. “No sweet tea. Just unsweet tea.”

What kind of Southern dining establishment is this?

“Two unsweet teas, then,” we reply.

He returns with our drinks and we order our fried chicken.

“Okey doke,” says the waiter, and scurries off to the kitchen.

Since this review concerns Southern dining, I will make this mid-section Faulkneresque.

My mother is a fish.

Twenty minutes later (or maybe even sooner), the waiter returns with two piping hot plates that he sets down before us. Their contents are as follows: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, garlic green beans and two biscuits. He brings us a side of butter and honey and we are set.

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The chicken is wonderful. The outside is not greasy at all, just perfectly battered and seasoned and fried. The inside is moist and flavorful; probably from soaking in buttermilk, as the Southern Cooking book suggests. The star of the side dishes are the green beans: crisp, succulent, and garlicky–their greeness counteracts the richness and whiteness of the other foods. The biscuits are yummy (though not as good or buttery or light as the Silver Skillet’s). The mashed potatoes are fairly forgettable.

Overall, we are sated, but I insist on dessert.

“What do you recommend?” we ask the waiter.

“The chocolate cake,” he says, as if letting us in on a secret. “It’s the best.”

We take his advice and he returns bearing chocolate cake.

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The cake is good. We eat it.

The check arrives. We pay it.

We rise to leave, and do what any self-respecting Southerner does when leaving a fried chicken dinner: shop for shampoo.

“Excuse me?” your thought bubble declares.

“Yes,” my fingers answer. Watershed’s lobby, rather incongruously, sells bath products to departing guests.

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I smell several varities and decide that my current shampoo–Aveda’s Blue Malva (why does Malva sound sexual?) (oh, I think I know)–works fine.

We exit into the cold and declare our Watershed fried chicken experience to be as soul-warming as light in August. Absolutely, absolutely. As I sit here typing, my dinner memories fill me with sound and fury.

My mother is a fish.

Friday Morning’s Southern Breakfast Spectacular: The Silver Skillet

As some of you may already know, like Batman and Bruce Wayne, I–the Amateur Gourmet–have an alter-ego: Adam the Law Student. This dichotomy rounds out my character to such a degree that Warner Brothers has already purchased the rights to my life story, Tim Burton to direct.

One of the sadder aspects of my life as a law student is the mandate that I take certain “required” classes. One of these classes is a dry, dusty examination of agencies and partnerships called “Business Associations.” The fact that this class meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12 pm renders it slightly better than tolerable. The fact that there’s also a Friday morning session that meets at 8:45 am–yes, 8:45 am–renders this class an act of sadism.

Have you ever been up at 8:45 am? I imagine not. Clearly, this ungodly hour is reserved for lunatics and politicians to shuffle back and forth before the rest of the world awakes. I eyed the neighboring cars suspiciously: who are these people? Why are they up so early? Regis isn’t even on yet!

Class today was moderately interesting. I actually like my teacher, he’s an old world business lawyer type: he wears a suit and tie every day to class and he wears his glasses on the bridge of his nose to create a wisened elder effect. Today’s topic was the fiduciary responsibilities of agents to their principals. I spent most of my time thinking about breakfast.

Which is why, when class was over, I hopped in my car, turned up the radio (well, a mix I made with “Raspberry Beret” featured prominently), and pedaled my way over to “The Silver Skillet”–an establishment voted, according to their sign out front, “Best Breakfast in Atlanta.”

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Full disclosure: I have been to the Silver Skillet before. Last time was with my roommate who, while she enjoyed it, found the political climate a bit disconcerting.

“Notice the big American flag on the wall,” she said.

“That doesn’t mean anything,” I said.

But at the cash register she pointed out the large streams of conservative political cartoons adorning the walls.

“How do you know they’re conservative?”

This was a fruitless question. The large majority of snippets address the endlessly merry topic of Bill Clinton and his sexual proclitivies. “I’m With Stupid” reads an image on Clinton’s shirt, with an arrow pointing down to his crotch.

“So what?” I sighed. “You can like the food and not like the politics.”

Today I decided to do just that. After perusing the menu for a few minutes,

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I decided on a safe choice: cheese omelet (I spell checked that and that’s how my computer spells it, though I feel there should be more ls and ts), grits and biscuits. The waitress had a lot of character. One part Flo from “Alice” and one part Granny from “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

“Arright,” she said, bringing the ticket to the kitchen.

While waiting for my food, I snapped a picture of the counter which, like the waitress, also had a lot of character:

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I then, to kill time, whipped out my copy of this week’s New Yorker. Reading The New Yorker at The Silver Skillet might be likened to reading The Communist Manifesto at Joe McCarthy’s dinner table: it raised many an eyebrow.

“You have a lot of eyebrows,” I told the man sitting next to me.

Finally, the food arrived.

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Let me be honest and tell you that the omelet / omellette / omelllllettttte wasn’t very good. The eggs had no flavor, it was dry and comparable to any other Diner omelet you’ve ever had except less tasty. The grits, on the other hand, were good. I have no frame of reference for grits. Culturally, I am to grits what Balkie from “Perfect Strangers” is to Lomain. “Cousins?” No, Balkie, no.

Alas, we come to the biscuits. Allow me to wax lyrical on the biscuits. These are the best biscuits I have ever had. They are perfect. Light, fluffy, buttery, flaky: these biscuits melt in your mouth and stay there in your dreams. These biscuits are what biscuits are all about. I am a former biscuit neanderthal, declaring The Flying Biscuit’s biscuits the best biscuits in Atlanta. (Say that ten times fast). Those, however, are biscuit novelties: weird saucerlike structures that taste good with apple butter and look good in dirty photographs. The Silver Skillet biscuits, on the other hand, are the real deal. Perfect, they are. So good, in fact, they even made the omelet taste good.

Breakfast digested, I rose to pay. Near the door are two trophy cases with photographs of the many celebrities who have dined at The Silver Skillet. John Lithgow (who filmed a TV movie there) and Katy Couric (who had her colonoscopy there) are just some of the many who have graced The Silver Skillet’s tables. What caught my eye, though, was an image that sums up The Silver Skillet better than I can in words. Suffice it to say, if you see a professional wrestler on a trophy case near the door of your next breakfast haunt, order the biscuits. They’re the best.

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