Sunday, September 27, 2015

Roux on Canton - Roswell Square, Roswell Georgia

You can find Roux on Canton at 946 Canton St, Roswell, GA 30075 on the Roswell Square. This is the second of our stops along the Square as a min-restaurant crawl as we explore Roswell.

Like the previous stop, the Salt Factory, Roux on Canton inhabits a bit of a brownstone storefront along the same side, just a few businesses South. This is a Canjun and New Orleans inspired restaurant with many of the classic dishes, heavy on the spice and file (sassafras root). A bit of creole, a touch of cajun, and the distinctive tastes of shrimp, crawdads and other water dwelling creatures.

The exterior has a few tables so you can make fun of the awkward clothing of the posers passing by as you sip on a cocktail. The interior has exposed brick, wooden beams and chalkboards much like the previous restaurant (Salt Factory) - not surprising as the building appears to have been build about the same time and in the same architectural style. It's a bit of a mirror to Salt Factory - this time the bar is to the right and the tables and boards above to the left.

The menu had beers and drinks on one side with food on the flip. I was happy to see several local craft including the very good Terrapin Golden Ale, Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat and Eventide Dry Stout on draft. Today I selected the New Belgium Slow Ride IPA (not on the menu but available on draft). My companions settled into Moscow Mules.

The menu is divided into Starters, Plates and Mains. Continuing with our snacky-theme we ordered two sets of soft-shell tacos:

 Fish Tacos - blackened talapia with guacamole, cole slaw, feta cheese, and jalapeno lime aioli. These were quite good and savory. The fries were very good, twice fried.

Buffalo Shrimp Tacos - grill shrimp, guacamole, cole slaw, blue-cheese and avocado ranch - these came with a side of hush puppies - they were acceptable but would have been better hot.

The ambiance in general was quite a bit like Salt Factory - actually the menu was a bit similar as well. Next time I'll try something more substantial and go for more of the New Orleans theme with some traditional dishes like the shrimp and grits or jambalaya. It was also a bit late to be taking in the desserts or we would have hit on the beignets - it's been a while.

My biggest complaint has to do with the parking but, as I've mentioned previously, the city is supposed to be addressing that. Have fun finding a parking place and arrive early to give you plenty of time.

-- John

(shorter version posted to Yelp)
Roux on Canton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Salt Factory Pub - Roswell Square on Canton

You can find this location of the Salt Factory Pub at 952 Canton Street, Roswell, Atlanta, GA 30075 - this is the same Canton St that makes up the primary restaurant and shopping area known as the Roswell Square.

I went with a couple of friends exploring Roswell as a possible new-home location for my friend Sangam, who recently changed jobs with a company planning to move into the Alpharetta area - quite a change for someone who's spent most of his time in midtown and downtown Atlanta. We decided to do a bit of a min-restaurant crawl through Roswell and since it's been a while for me this looked like a good opportunity to check out a couple of restaurants and pubs. 

If you haven't done a restaurant or pub crawl, the idea is to hit several places, having one drink or beer and sampling either apps or an entry to split between all members of the group. You move from one location to another and try to get a feel for the offerings and general ambiance of each location. I originally got into this concept during the lat 2000s by being involved in John Foster's great Buford Highway Restaurant Crawl - for that group we started in Duluth and moved towards town, stopping at a new restaurant to sample until we ended up at the end of BufHwy (it turns into the i85 access rod near Sidney Marcus). We would do this every other week and it took more than a year, skipping over some of the sketchier-appearing establishments. The group also changed-up quite a bit and it takes a certain type of personality as the driving force to make it work, but I digress...

Today we visited the most excellent Jekyll Brewery and headed to the Roswell Square afterwards.  The Roswell Square, which is a stretch of a few blocks along Canton Street, has always had a few small shops that fed the locals. Within the last 10 years or so, as the community numbers have swelled, the shops have turned more into local pubs and restaurants (along with the more tourist-oriented gift shops, etc.) and has become more of a destination. What's interesting about the area is that there is plenty of housing nearby, basically within walking distance, so a bit of local pub and restaurant culture has evolved and thrived. Also, the city of Roswell passed and open container law for the street that allows you to walk around with beer or other alcohol without the fear of arrest - awesome, right? It makes it a prime location for small festivals - there are several held here and worth visiting. My only complaint is the parking situation - there's simply not enough parking currently to handle the many visitors - I have heard that they are building a large parking area so that will be good news to the local vendors.

So about the Salt Factory Pub - this is my first visit and I already liked what I saw - brownstone-style storefront with limited outdoor seating, exposed brick interiors, chalkboard menus and an eclectic decor, both loft-modernist and baroque. Wine bottles are exposed in cabinets along the back wall and a large full-bar runs along the left. The seating is limited which I rather like - I can easily see this place as my regular watering-hole.

The menu features starters, soup and salads, sandwiches, charcuterie boards, English-pub foods, Gastropub Burgers and Pizzas. We decided to try our luck with:

Louisiana Eggrolls - Cajun rubbed chicken, Andouille sausage, charred corn, spinach, a very sharp cheddar and a delicious creole honey mustard. I loved these - they have the same flavor satisfaction of a good smoked pastrami Reuben eggroll that you find in Irish/English pubs. They satisfy on multiple levels.

Pulled Pork Tacos - these delicious tacos could easily make up a lunch meal for one - smoked pork, smoked jalepeno slaw, cheese, chipotle crema and parmesan.

The beer menu is quite extensive for such a small place - as for as the bottles go, though I was hoping for more local craft on tap. I went with the Abita Jockamo IPA - this is a bright and bitter, very red American IPA with lots of intensity and great flavor.

In all, a very enjoyable experience with great food, good beer and fantastic company. If you haven't tried Roswell yet you're missing out on something special. The only thing I found a bit negative was the parking - but hopefully that will be fixed soon - if you intend to visit make sure you give yourself plenty of time to park and walk to the Square.

-- John

(shorter version posted to Yelp)
Salt Factory Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Taqueria Del Sol - Cheshire Bridge - Atlanta Georgia

You can find this location of Taqueria Del Sol at 2165 Cheshire Bridge Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30324 along the infamous Cheshire Bridge Rd (hidden between industrial and commercial expanses and the occasional "interesting" business establishment - heh). This is the original location of the flagship restaurant Sundown Cafe and what amounts to at Atlanta institution (if anything can be called that).

The original Sundown Cafe provided Tex-Mex with a twist - your basic Mex-Southern fusion long before anyone had come up with that term. The interesting thing about this location is that there's still a "blue plate" offered up that harkens back to the Sundown menu - the soupy turnip greens are a prime example. I've eaten at the location near King Plow, which is usually much busier than this one, but also doesn't seem to have the same level of charm (or parking). I had come for dinner to Sundown Cafe for many years prior to the changeover to a Taqueria - the same people seem to be working here as then (it used to be a sit-down and order restaurant rather than fast casual). I recently dropped in and had lunch with my SEO/SEM team from a previous job and once again enjoyed the spicy salsa and soft-shell tacos.

This location of Taqueria Del Sol is a bit larger than the others with a rather expansive kitchen. There's also plenty of seating with overflow to an outdoor deck. It still wears the Sundown Cafe sign like a badge of honor so look for it when you're driving down Cheshire Bridge - it's much easier to see and read than the white-background "Taqueria Del Sol" sign near the street. Parking is out front or along the side - there tends to be plenty. As you enter, you'll see a counter where you order - the menu is fairly simple, featuring sections for Weekly Specials at the top, followed by Starters, Tacos, Encheladas, Sides and Soups/Chiles. The flip-side has Margaritas (which aren't bad, by the way), Wine, Beer (including a section of local craft), Liquor and Tequila. The Tequila menu is quite extensive and has a good selection of my favorite, Herradura.

We started with the Salsa Trio featuring two salsas (one mile and the other smokier and a bit spicier - chipolte if I'm not mistaken) and a tomatilla verde. I preferred the smokier and the tomatilla over the regular, which was still quite palatable. All three tasted fresh with plenty of lime and minced cilantro.

We all has assortments of fish, pork and chicken tacos - I also had a side of the turnip greens which you'll see as a soupy tomato cup in the cheap taco baskets.

In all the food was fantastic and the well-remembered flavors still worth having. It's also a great location as an in-between spot if you work at the perimeter and are meeting friends or associates that are intown.

-- John

(also posted to Yelp)
Taqueria Del Sol Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Haven in Brookhaven - Atlanta Georgia

You can find Haven at 1441 Dresden Dr NE, Atlanta, GA 30319 in the heart of Brookhaven's latest community development, Brookhaven Village. The restaurant is on the end of the building at the intersection of Dresden and Apallachee Dr that also finds the very good Valenza as home. Parking is behind the buildings with complimentary valet or on the streets between the buildings.

I had the opportunity to meet one of my old friends who was visiting from Los Angeles - when he lived in Atlanta Haven was one of his favorite restaurants, and for good reason.This is a hit local restaurant with a great vibe and well manned bar, featuring Southern influenced dishes in an upscale setting. I got there a bit early and waited for my buddy and his SO to arrive via Uber from the hotel where he was staying, a bit further intown. Look for "HAVEN" hanging from the eaves in Red san-serif font.

The restaurant as indicated is at the end of a long row of attached brick buildings - there's an outdoor patio and for a late Sunday afternoon the place was already picking up with many taken tables. I sat at the bar and enjoyed a really exceptional bloody mary (I ordered it extra spicy and the bartender did indeed attend to my needs!). I liked it so much I decided to have another as I waited. The bartender was super attentive as he made various cocktail creations at the service bar for table orders. I could see myself hitting Haven in the evenings and just enjoying the energetic atmosphere and clean interior finishes while sipping on something cool and refreshing. But I digress...

We asked to be seated on the very nice patio and were seated immediately. The temperatures weren't yet too hot or muggy to enjoy the late afternoon's breeze through an obscuring fence and vegetation. We were given a nightly menu indicating the chef as Stephen Herman - I don't know him personally but approve wholeheartedly of the eclective menu - I also almost went for the Sunday special, a Skillet-Fried Springer Mountain Chicken with Mushroom gravy, whipped potatoes, braised greens, mac-n-chees and buttermilk biscuit for $22. 

The regular menu is read landscape style with three columns - the first had small plates & salads;  the center featured Haven's beef selection (with 30 Day Dry Aged KC Strip, Cowboy Ribeye and Porterhouse along with a Bone in Filet; plus an assortment of sides and sauces. Finally the third column detailed 10 signature dishes. 

I decided to go with the Roasted Georges Bank Scallops on Butter Bean Hummus, Grilled Oyster Mushrooms, Asparagus, Green Garlic Chimichurri and Crispy Ham. The scallops were perfect and super tender with just the right amount of caramelization on the top and bottom to seal in all the flavor and juiciness you would expect in sea scallops. The hummus was interesting and served a rather neutral base for the smoky oyster mushrooms. In all I loved this dish - it had an amazing balance of starch, fat and acid. It also was light enough that I didn't feel bloated at the end of the meal.

My dining companions ordered the Roasted Scottish Salmon (Pine Nut Couscous, Feta, Kalamata Olives, Cucumbers and Cherry Tomatoes - which I found more of a Greek or Mediterranean dish - it was delicious non-the-less) and a Roasted Local Beet salad (Strawberries, radish, kale, arugula, Caly Road Waypoint, pistachio and saba - which looked delicious and very substantial).

In all the staff was very attentive and the food excellent. I can see more of Haven in my future and it's certainly in a great location if you're meeting someone between midtown and the Perimeter. As an aside, we walked down to Valenza and had a cappuccino - it's also an interesting restaurant well worth exploring.

Bon appetit!

-- John

(also published to Yelp)
Haven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sound Table - Old Fourth Ward - Atlanta Georgia

You can find Sound Table at 483 Edgewood Ave. SE, Atlanta, GA 30312 in Old Fourth Ward across from The Church, right at the intersection of Edgewood Ave and and Boulevard. The building is on the South-side of the intersection, painted black with a large mural of yellow-goggle-wearing kids on the side. Parking is mostly paid-street or you can use one of the many paid lots but may need to walk a bit.

Coming back from a visit to the Eventide Brewery, we decided to drive up through town and try out some places along Edgewood - initially we hit The Church but decided to look for something a bit more substantial - if we hadn't already been drinking a bit at the brewery we would have stayed for a bit longer - plenty to look at in The Church (spotted quite a few Talking Peewee Herman toys). The Sound Table is across the street so no sweat - this was during the week so there were only a couple of tables, mostly of people drinking. We were there early enough that there wasn't anyone on stage (not sure if they schedule entertainment during the week as it is).

The interior is long and dark with a well-stocked bar along the back edge - there's additional seating upstairs. The interior is warm and inviting with great wood finishes and concrete, a bit eclectic-modernist. There's a short platform as a stage across from the bar and seating that stretches from the stage out towards the front window - I'd rate the place above casual and almost fine-dining (not that this is the expectation - I believe Sound Table is more known for the music, attitude and bar than the food).

It took a few minutes for our server to come by, but once things got started the service was quite good. This night's rotating tap featured the very excellent Creature Comforts Tropicália - if you haven't tried this local Athens brew, trust me in saying it's one of the best things to recently peek its head out of Athens. As many of you know, I tend to stay away from anything sour, citrusy or with added fake-tasting flavors. This delicious American IPA has gorgeous color and an out-of-this world fruity-hoppy aroma. You'll get all kinds of crazy flavor hints: mango, orange, passion fruit - stuff I typically can't stand in beer but this all works together to produce something amazing. On draft this night so extra special and probably not pasteurized - make sure you try if if you ever see it on draft!

We were presented with two paper menus - one narrow two-sided menu with food (which seems to rotate seasonally) and a wider menu with drink specials. We started on some apps then went for entrees:

Smoked Wings - these, in a word: fantastic! Smokey dry-rubbed wings with a delicious smoked chipotle aioli - I could have eaten several pounds of these and was left wishing we had a double-order.

Shrimp Chorizo Tacos - Three soft-corn tortillas with grilled shrimp, chipotle aioli, cilantro slaw and salsa. I liked these the least, but because they were bad, but because the other items we ordered were so good! These could have had a bit more kick, perhaps with a jalapeno coleslaw.

Lamb Burger with Fries - the burger was juicy and the clever Mediterranean toppings - cucumber, tomato, chevre, arugula and tzatziki sauce, perfection.

Brick Chicken with Steamed Broccoli - all I have to say is that whomever is doing the cooking at Sound Table understands fried chicken.

Service was very good once it got started - the food was slow to hit the table but very well worth it in the end. In all I think the food here is very good and worth sampling - this is truly a hidden gem when it comes to Old Fourth Ward. I want to try it on a busy night to see how things work and if I'm lucky, they'll have more of that Tropicália on tap (wishful thinking!).

-- John

(shorter version posted to Yelp)
The Sound Table Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato