Monday, January 1, 2018

Pontoon Brewery - Sandy Springs Atlanta Georgia

You can find Pontoon Brewery at 8601 Dunwoody Pl, Ste 500, Sandy Springs, GA 30350 - this is a series of buildings as part of a business park right across the street from Quicktrip - Pontoon is in the building to the far left (Building 500) and they have the space on the left corner. There's plenty of parking out front and to the sides.

I was invited by a few friends to attend Pontoon Brewery's "soft open" and I'm very glad I did. I was a bit skeptical of Pontoon as I hadn't heard anything about them - a search online quickly found their website and frankly the beers noted there showed very little that I would be interested in - at least as part of their current production. I was happily wrong in my thinking as what they offered on tap exceeded my expectations.

When you walk into Pontoon you're basically in a converted warehouse/office space with high and exposed ceilings. The bar is to your left and there are tables scattered about. To the far right are the restrooms and a secondary bar (looks like something they travel with) - while we were there some people got out a cornhole game and started playing in that area (yes the ceilings are that tall).

I arrived a bit early with my friend Arvin and ordered up a - Black Squall Russian Imperial Stout (Smoky, Dark Roast Coffee, Bittersweet, 9% ABV) - I ordered a 12 oz glass at the very reasonable price of $6.50. At Pontoon you can get classes from a 2 oz sample size all the way up to 16 oz with scaling prices. You can also order a flight of four $9 which is a great deal. The Russian Stout was appropriately opaque and delicious with great chocolate/coffee foam and "legs" - it was like drinking an awesome espresso and a great started.

The rest of our group arrived so we moved to a table - I also ordered a flight with the following:
  • Galaxy Drifter American IPA (Juicy, Hoppy, Tropical, 6.3% ABV)
  • Midnight Silver Pecan Pie Nut Brown Ale (Nutty, Roasty, Malty, 5.8% ABV)
  • Freedom Bird American Strong Ale (Cocoa, Grassy, Malty, 8% ABV)
  • BBA Freedom Bird American Strong Ale (Toasted Oak, Caramel, Cocoa, 8.8% ABV)

Of the four my favoite was the Midnight Silver Pecan Pie Nut Brown Ale. Then best to least: BBA Freedom Bird, regular Freedom Bird and finally the IPA. That last was jarring after starting with the Freedom Bird (regular) and the Brown Ale. I think the drinking order is important here and I should have started with the IPA - the bitterness was off-putting after the mellow tones of the rest - it also had an aftertaste that took a while to dispel. Note that under normal circumstances I think it would have been borderline for me but in the flight I didn't care for it at all. Of the Freedom Birds, the Bourbon Barrel Aged version was much better than the regular with awesome mellow tones - the regular reminded be of Victory's Golden Monkey (not a bad thing) but the BBA was just better.

After the flight I had a pint of the Brown Ale and was very happy. We headed to Aladdin for some shwarma next and it was an awesome way to top off the evening. In general the location is awesome (very similar in feel to Orpheus crossed with Jekyll) and the guy pouring was both knowledgeable and attentive, coming around several times to see if we were ready for more. Like I said in the beginning, the beer exceeded expectations and overall this was an awesome experience. Kudos to Pontoon for starting out on the right foot!

-- John

(also posted to Yelp)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Bluetop - Chamblee Atlanta Georgia

You can find Bluetop at 5362 Peachtree Rd, Chamblee, GA 30341- this is on the same strip and south of the Chamblee City Hall, about halfway between Southbound and Union Hill Kitchen. Parking can be found along the sides, there's also some street parking. There's a blue neon sign for the place that's unfortunately a bit hard to read.

I liked this place quite a lot - much better than the formerly boarded up building. It does take some getting used to - you walk into a door to the left and you order your drink and/or food. You can then either wait for it or be seated. This can be convenient if you're just wanting to go to the great courtyard in the back - I'd imagine that to be quite fun when the weather is nice. On the night we went it was a bit too cold for this. The counter-service is a bit confusing if you've never been - the place is quasi-bar, fast casual and brew pub. I threw in that last as the micro-brews they offer are quite good but the selection a bit smaller when it comes to drafts than you might expect. They make up some of the assortment using bottles or cans. I ordered a very nice Green Man Brewery "Trickster" IPA on draft and was told it would be delivered to the table.

I went here with my friend John F who is the host of our Buford Highway Restaurant Crawl group - we decided that for this run we'd occasionally side-track to nearby restaurants - I think this is about the 3rd time we've done this in 2016/17. I quite liked the vibe of this place, even the blue lighting. Throw in a small Jazz ensemble and this would be "totes!" Once my beer arrived someone came by to take our food order - we started with a few appetizers and went on to a light dinner. 

Black Garlic & Lily Fries - I'm not usually someone who orders fries, especially as an app but these were the bomb. Heck, anything with fresh garlic goes a long way in my book - these were served hot, crispy and had great flavor.

Tempura Lobster - served with cucumber noodles, wasabi aioli, sesame - Loved this dish - who doesn't like bits of fried lobster? Everything in this dish was well balanced - you had enough kick in the aioli to offset the fried flavor and the sweetness of the lobster offered a great flavor combination. I highly recommend this.

Buffalo Octopus - Awesome is the best word for these - probably the best cooked octopus I've had in some time. These bits were tender and missing the chewiness of what most people are doing these days by smoking/grilling. Bluetop has this down - my favorite app.

Grilled Oysters - served with tobacco onions, maitre 'd butter - we wanted to try these but they were out of oysters that evening.

For Dinner

Smoked Pulled Pork - 24 hr smoked, honey siracha slaw - John F ordered this and I tried a bit. The pork had an amazing amount of smoke flavor but for me, I'd rather it be served unsauced (sauce was mixed in as is common in the south). Overall I think it was good but I'd rather have a slab of ribs if I'm going there.

Angry Fried Chicken Sandwich (Spicy) white bread, pickle - I was hoping for more of a Nashville Hot but this was more of a Buffalo Wing Sauce sandwich. Personally I would adjust this and make it more Asian and less Buffalo to make it distinctive. It's your basic batter fried chicken breast covered in Buffalo sauce, served open-faced on Texas Toast and accompanied by Yukon Gold Chips. I liked the dish and I'm sure most would also - the sauce was hot but not blazing and the sour pickles added that extra punch of acid that goes so well with spicy-fried things. I loved the Yukon Gold Chips - super crispy and not greasy, I wouldn't hesitate to get them rather than the fries - I'd call it a tossup.

Overall the menu is a bit lightweight (more in vein of sandwiches/salads plus apps) but I liked everything we ordered quite a bit. Married with the beer and this place is quite a winner in my book. Service was good with various people coming by several times to check on us - then again the place was pretty slow with 3-4 tables and a couple people at the bar. I can't wait to visit one evening when the weather starts to get nice and I can experience the patio.

-- John

(also Posted to Yelp)
Bluetop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Las Tortas Locas - Buford Highway Chamblee Georgia

You can find this location of Las Tortas Locas at 4005 Buford Hwy Ste H, Atlanta, GA 30345 in Chamblee - this is the shopping center to the north and behind the Chevron Station near the top of the hill across from Plaza Fiesta. Parking can be rather competitive as the very popular Lee's Bakery AND Co'm are in the same series of shops. You may need to park towards the front (on the Lee's side) and walk a bit.

I've visited several Las Tortas Locas, this one used to be the very good El Senor Taco but has since converted to this very authentic Mexican chain. My favorite sandwich here (Tortas is Latino for sandwich) is the Campesina (grilled steak, Mexican sausage and peppers) but on this occasion I met up with my Buford Highway Restaurant Crawl group so we explored more of the menu. The great thing about going with a group of adventuresome diners is that everyone is willing to explore and share so you can sample a bigger portion of the menu. Las Tortas did not disappoint...

We ordered:

3-Tacos - one each of Asada (grilled steak), Pastor (marinated spicy pork) and Pollo (grilled chicken) - these were all yummy, served in a traditional steamed double soft corn tortilla. Las Tortas has an awesome spicy green sauce on their salsa bar - it pretty much goes great on anything.

Loca Salad (chicken) - Romain lettuce, charbroiled chicken or steak, tortilla strips, pico de gallo salsa, tomatoes, cheese and olives (left off the olives) with a side of rice. I thought this good and surprisingly filling - it's also a great value, as there's a lot of food in the basket.

Tortas Campesina - grilled steak, Mexican sausage and peppers, with a side of fries - this was delicious as always

* Tortas Texana -
grilled steak, bacon, bell pepper and white cheese

You order at the bar and then wait for you number to be called in Spanish - you might want to brush up on your numbers as you can be missed when the place is busy - ask my how I know? Service here is good but nominal - you basically get what you need.  The food here is super cheap - you can basically order two items for about the cost of a single meal in most places. The only negative is the parking - in comparison with the other Las Tortas Locas this is one of the better in regards to flavors, service and condition (the worst I've experienced is the one near the corner of Chamblee-Tucker and Shallowford Rd).

(also published to Yelp)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Asian Supermarket Food Court - Chamblee Georgia

You can find Asian Supermarket at 5150 Buford Hwy NE Ste B199, Atlanta, GA 30340. This is the building at the back of the shopping center that is better known for Sweet Hut and Mamak. I met up with a group right when the supermarket was opened (they were having a celebration including a pair of traditional Chinese dragons performing as a sign of luck). Parking is usually plentiful but when super crowded you may need to walk a bit.

My review is for the food court and not the market itself - I found in general the food to be similar to what you can find at other Asian markets, particularly those that cater to Chinese tastes.


I had a hearty ramen-style soup from Red Pepper, duck from Best BBQ and a fried leek dumpling/pie that was quite good.

Service here is marginal - you basically order at the counter and self-serve yourself with chopsticks and napkins. Most of the vendors offer soup, tea and rice with the meal - you just help yourself. Everything is super cheap so go with a group and sample what looks good - it will give you some ideas about how to order when visiting more traditional Chinese cuisine restaurants.

(also posted to Yelp).