Thursday, January 6, 2011

Empire State South - Atlanta


As much as I enjoy the classic diner breakfast, I can’t help but feel that I’m sort of wasting time. With Each visit to Atlanta, I have the feeling that there are better things available. Sure, the White House Restaurant has its charm and Goldberg’s has the New York kitsch and deli counter, but I want a new take on the Southern classics. I want house cured bacon and big, flaky, peppery biscuits. Actually what I really want is Holeman & Finch to start serving breakfast, but I think that’s a long shot. In the meantime, I thought I would take my sister’s suggestion and try out the breakfast at Empire State South, Hugh Acheson’s first foray in the Atlanta market.

Once I found parking, I was quite surprised to see what was beyond the doors at Empire State South. I don’t know what I was really expecting as far as décor, but the great lengths of dark wood made for a comfortable, if a bit dark dining area. A feature that really stood out was the Grab and Go section of the restaurant. Apparently, the inhabitants of 999 Peachtree Street have the luxury of never leaving their building in search of a quality breakfast and/or snack. No, I’m not jealous of that….not one bit.

Looking through the menu, there was a nice assortment of healthy breakfast choices. With house-made granola or Doc’s Porridge, it seems like you can feel both full and healthy. Well, as healthy as a dish with crème fraiche and brown sugar can be. All that sounded lovely but I had my eyes set on one or two interesting dishes. First was the Chicken Biscuit.
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There’s no pretense of a healthy breakfast here. It’s fried chicken on a biscuit topped with pepper jelly, but, in this instance, healthy isn’t important. I was more interested in the taste. I have rose-colored memories of Popeye’s chicken biscuits with gravy as Saturday morning breakfasts, would this create a new memory?
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Well, the biscuit was quite large and flaky and it arrived with a beautiful crust. The chicken was a perfectly nice piece of juicy, fried white meat. The jelly provided a nice sweet accent to the main players but what was missing was any spice. I expected the pepper jelly to bring a sweet, possibly searing heat to the table; instead, this was a perfectly serviceable chicken biscuit but a little on the bland side.

Even though the Chicken Biscuit could have been a nice, albeit small breakfast, I decided that I needed to satisfy a morning lust for red meat. Luckily, Empire State South had just the thing: a plate of Scrambled Eggs.
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Don’t you wish all your scrambled eggs came with a side of hanger steak? Although I was slightly disconcerted about an arugula salad for breakfast.
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To begin the eggs are perfectly cooked. So often, I’ll come across scrambled eggs that give the Mojave a run for its money in dryness, but not here.
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The side of house-jam was perfect for the toast. It seems like it had all the flavors of a mulling spice: clove, cinnamon, maybe a little cardamom, allspice. As best I can describe, it tasted like a jellied version of Christmas.
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From the perfectly charred crust to that gorgeous medium rare, this hanger steak was a visual stunner.
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Unfortunately, this steak lacked even the most basic of seasonings. I loved the smoky flavor and temperature but the absence of salt & pepper let this steak fall flat.

Well, let’s recap. The biscuit was delicious, the chicken and the pepper jelly needed work. The steak and eggs were beautifully cooked but the steak was lacking even the most rudimentary seasoning. I love the flavor of beef, but without salt and pepper, it can’t get out of first gear. In short, I really enjoyed breakfast at Empire State South except for the accents. I realize I’m a fan of pungency and pronounced flavors, but I was hoping for just a little more. That being said, I still thought this was a better choice than most of my other breakfasts in Atlanta and I won’t hesitate to try Empire State South for lunch and dinner, but that will have to wait for another visit.

Empire State South Address & Information
999 Peachtree St NE. Atlanta, GA 30309 // 404.541.1105 // Empire State South Website // Empire State South Menu // Empire State South Reservations
Empire State South on Urbanspoon

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