Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fox Bros Bar-B-Q

You can find Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q at 1238 Dekalb Ave NE Atlanta, GA 30307, right on the border of Little Five Points and Candler Park, at the Dekalb Ave overpass across Moreland. This is a stand-alone business with limited parking, fortunately there's a side-street where you can park as long as you're not blocking one of the resident's driveways - you'll see some cones where residents would prefer that you not park so please respect those and you'll be fine (also beware the couple of blank spots near fire hydrants - you have been warned).

Fox Bros as a company has become an Atlanta institution serving ups some fantastic BBQ, originally at Smith's Olde Bar before coming to the current location. I don't recall what was here before - seems like it wasn't a restaurant when I lived in L5P but at some point I recall eating some vegetarian food at the previous joint (Fried Green Tomatoes comes to mind?). I always thought it a bit ironic that it became the home of smoked meats.

This was my first time at Fox Bros actually sitting down and eating as every previous time the wait has been an hour so my party has always gone elsewhere. I have ordered from the counter in the past and my company used to frequently cater from these guys but less so now (most recently a couple of Fridays ago) so I'm very familiar with the food - the quality of the rub and rind here indeed supports the multiple rewards they're received - they usually find themselves in the Top 10 lists of BBQ places in Atlanta and sometimes Georgia. Thinking about the food makes my mouth water, even as I'm writing this.

Yesterday started as a regular get-together as I was with a friend and suggested that we have a late lunch here before hitting Arches Brewing for a talk on local beer history (awesome new brewery in Hapeville, by the way, that you need to try). We came by around 1:30 PM and were told there was an hour wait - as neither of us had breakfasted, we decided to make our way to Krog Street Market then head to the brewery when they opened at 4:30. We were joined by one other and around 6:00 thought we would try Fox Bros again. I guess I had so oversold Fox Bros that they really, really wanted to experience it, even after I suggested we go to the exceptional Pit Boss (also close by the brewery) - I think we got to Fox about 6:30 and figured that we could wait out the 1.5 hour wait-time for a table (and believe me, I never wait more than 30 minutes but my friends really wanted this Q, especially after standing in the smoke-filled air). We ordered a round of beers and waited outside.

When we came earlier in the day it was raining and so crowded that the hostess suggested we could wait on the patio under the umbrellas - since there was a small table unoccupied we set up our wait there and had a beer. By then the buzz from the brewery was pretty much gone - we were just conversing - I asked the server if we could order and were told very politely that no, we had to wait to be seated. No big deal but I had to try, right? After about an hour we were asked to vacate the table - a bit weird as we could have eaten and been gone as we were waiting to be seated but no sweat. We got a second beer and stood near the railing. We were half-way though the second beer when we got the very efficient text notifying us that the table was ready. We walked to the corner and had just been seated when things get interesting.

The manager? came by to let us know that we were cut-off from any more alcohol - that there was some report of an incident and that it was OK for us to eat but no more beer. We looked at each other bewildered and starting asking about what we did? She left for a bit then returned to say that my friend Arvin had threatened one of the servers with his beer glass - what? We told her that there must be some mistake - we were all there and it just didn't happen, but she didn't back down. It was a bit of a "eat and GTFO" moment. So we ordered the bone-on beef rib, the pulled pork, a rack of pork ribs with a side of slaw and Texas toast. Food was awesome as usual but as I sat there I started getting a stomach ache - not because of the food but because I couldn't reconcile the attitude we were receiving from this place of business.

As many of you know, I worked in the industry as a chef for 10 years, retiring after a stint at Indigo Coastal Grill near this very restaurant - I used to bike to work from my house on North Highland and know this neighborhood. Having worked both front and back of the house, I have a keen understanding of the restaurant business and the need for restaurants to protect their staff - I totally get that. But this was just weird. The three of us weren't being obnoxious, weren't loaded or exhibiting anything that would make the business perceive us as being threatening, just a bald Asian, an Indian guy and a Russian who all worked together in the past, having some light conversation and waiting/starving for food. It's my opinion that whoever pointed us out was just mistaken - either something we did was misconstrued (and I was there so I'm not sure what that was) or, more likely someone just mistook our table for another group. The fact that we were so bewildered should have provided some clue to the "manager" that we weren't the right group. We basically ate our food and left.

I can understand if something happened - heck if we were drunk and belligerent I would expect to be thrown out as the actions of one can upset the whole restaurant dynamic. If something had indeed happened, why wasn't the cop stationed in the parking lot leading us off premises? Instead we get an "eat and GTFO"? And herein lies the rub. This whole incident has my gut twisted up as I do love the food here, but the night just rings with a level of arrogance that I don't find very palatable. In fact I don't think I can every come back as the events have ruined Fox Bros for me. To think that my friends were so enthralled by my description that we waited for 1.5 hours to sit when we could have gone to innumerable restaurants elsewhere in Atlanta, only to be treated with suspicion and disdain, speaks of a restaurant where good service has been replaced by ego and contempt for those customers who buy their wares. Perhaps I'm being sensitive? I don't know but right now I'm done with Fox Bros.

-- John

(also posted in a shorter form to Yelp)
Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, July 4, 2016

Kani House - Buford Atlanta Georgia

You can find Kani House at 3208 Buford Drive, GA 30519 right across from one of the main Mall of Georgia entrances. It's fairly easy to find with the front facing Buford Drive. Parking is all around the building and there's usually plenty - you can overflow to either side in adjoining lots. The exterior of the building has a terracotta-looking roof and exposted rafters to give it the appearance of a traditional Japanese building - a bit pagoda style but without the upward-turned corners.

I've eaten a Kani a few times over the years but it's been a while Kani is a Japanese steakhouse style restaurant that serves Hibachi (technically teppanyaki) style food cooked on a flat griddle (teppan) by flamboyant chefs, after the venerable Benihana. In reality Hibachi-style cooking is usually done over a small charcoal fire (like those little cast-iron grills that used to be available everywhere). I'm not sure who popularized the term "Hibachi" to mean this type of cooking but it's been a pet peeve of mine - they even call it a grill instead of a griddle - grrr. Kani also serves sushi with several specialty rolls and nigiri.

Unlike many other teppanyaki restaurants, the tables are exposed to one another so you can see what's happening across the room (most of these style restaurants tend to divide up rooms to two sets of tables, where the chefs are back-to-back). here each table can hold about 10 people - I've been in other restaurants where the cooking surface is larger and 14-16 can be comfortably seated - I actually like the setup at Kani better as it doesn't feel as cramped.

You order your drinks and meal from a short menu from the kimono-ed waitresses, who then serve you soup and a salad while you wait for your chef. You can also fill-out a sushi menu and enjoy an assortment of nigiri, rolls or sashimi. The soup is your basic chicken broth with some sliced button mush rooms and green onion. The salad is a typical iceberg lettuce chopped up and served with carrot slivers, purple cabbage and a very good ginger dressing. I also ordered some hot sake to shoot back as things got rolling.

From the menu I would recommend anything listed under "Hibachi Grill" but especially the Kani House Specials. You receive a ton of food and it will be tasty - most of the specials are combinations and due to the way things are cooked it will keep food on your plate during the entire process, especially if you get shrimp, steak and chicken (or any combination of a seafood, beef and chicken). Tonight I ordered the Chef's Special withFilet Mignon, Shrimp and Scallops.

This particular chef started things out with the fried rice - I typically don't do fried rice unless I cook it myself but the guy did give me a little taste - not bad here at all. As is typical, he "lit stuff up" with a bit of alcohol as is expected. The shrimp and scallops were delicious as expected - this is really one of the best ways to prepare seafood. The veggies came next - a mix of zuchinni, carrot, broccoli, onion and cabbage tossed with sesame seed, oil and soy sauce - a very basic saute but oh-so-satisfying.

My rare filet was also cooked perfectly. I also got to taste a spicy tuna roll that one of my dining companions ordered. Good but nothing special - I've had the sushi here on previous occasions and it's fair but not fantastic. The special meals all come with a choice of sorbet or ice cream - just enough to feel like you got your money's worth.

Service is always excellent at these places and the servers here were very attentive. All around an awesome experience.

-- John

(also posted to Yelp)
Kani House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Tazikis Mediterranean Cafe - Sandy Springs Atlanta Georgia

You can find this location of Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe at 5610 Glenridge Dr, Sandy Springs, GA 30342, the strip of restaurants at the foot of Windsor at Glenridge where you'll also find Sushi Nami, Da Vinci's Donuts, Qdoba Mexican Eats, and Blue Moon Pizza. Parking is your basic nightmare with too few spaces for the number of businesses serving food, primarily at lunch but also apparent during busy nights (I'm guessing the focus was on Windsor residents, not realizing the need for convenient food in an area starving for quick eats).

I've eaten at other locations of Taziki's and have already reviewed the Alpharetta location - this location on Glenridge is much the same. A fast casual restaurant focusing on Mediterranean cuisine - one of my favorites - where many of the ingredients are produced fresh and you pretty much see the origins of what you're eating. As with the other location the food here is surprisingly good for a chain. There's quite a bit of seating inside as well as a few umbrella-ed tables out front. Service is reasonably fast and they have a few craft beers on the menu. They also have several salad and vegetarian offerings.

The interior has a long counter where you can view the food being prepared and examine the menu. When you get to the end someone helps you order and provides you with a number- make sure you order everything you want as when it's busy you don't want to have to get back in the long line (it will fool you - I typically arrive early to beat the rush and within 30 minutes the line can stretch to the door).

On  this day we ordered a mix that included:

*Homemade Greek Lemon Chicken Soup - your basic Greek soup that you usually find with Orzo - this version had some fresh cilantro added which seemed a bit odd to me - it threw the flavors off a bit from what I'm used to but still tasted good. If it was parsley it fooled me as it had the typical cilantro flavor.

Mediterranean Salad with Grilled Lamb - Fresh grilled and seasoned Colorado lamb; Mixed lettuces with garbanzo beans, roasted red peppers,red onions, diced tomatoes, roasted pecans, and feta, served with Taziki’s homemade balsamic vinaigrette. I thought this was quite good and has become my "regular" order.

Grilled Chicken Gyro - Taziki sauce, tomatoes, mixed lettuce, and grilled onions - served with potato chips and a side of roasted potatoes. The sandwich was good but I though the potatoes a bit under cooked (same for all I tried).

Grilled Beef Tenderloin Gyro -Taziki sauce, tomatoes, mixed lettuce, and grilled onions- served with chips and ketchup (yes I have a friend/coworker who put ketchup on the gyro and then told me he didn't like it). This would not have been my first choice but the bit of beef I tried tasted fine.

Grilled Veggie Gyro - Pesto aioli, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, grilled red peppers, grilled onion, and feta. I did not try this but Sid said it was good and I believe him. Served with chips and roasted potatoes.

In all the food is good and consistent here, just like my previous experience and both the person taking the orders and the guy delivering the food were nice and responsive. The restaurant is fairly new and still clean and they serve Monday Night Brewing. What's not to like?

-- John

(also posted to Yelp)
Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato