Monday, October 31, 2011

Revolution Pizza - Charlotte

It’s not a particularly long drive from Atlanta to Charlottesville, a little more than 600 miles, but I decided to make this trip a leisurely one. So instead of charging up I-85 for a one day drive, I broke the trip in half and stopped for a night in Charlotte. I’ve never spent much time in this city as it’s mostly been a benchmark on the drive to DC, but I was hoping to rectify that. After checking into my hotel, I did a little research and soon found myself in NoDa, Charlotte’s historic arts district, on the front porch of Revolution Pizza.


Before delving into the pizza selection of the menu, I tried Chef Meredith’s Fried Wings. With Revolution Pizza’s beer selection, chicken wings were a natural choice and the lure of a family secret dredge recipe and a double fried cooking method was too much to pass up.

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Hoping to find the true family recipe preparation, when ordering I asked the waitress which sauce was the original. She told me that naked was the original.

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While I enjoyed the extra crispy skin, juicy meat, and subtle pepper taste of the batter, I really wish I had gotten these wings buffalo or teriyaki style. If it’s any consolation, the dill ranch was a fine companion to the wings.


While realizing just how bad I was at North Carolina centered trivia questions, my pizza arrived.

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Named for the neighborhood, the NoDa is a Revolution Pizza signature pie topped with Grateful Growers pulled pork, peppadew peppers, caramelized onions and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
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I was hoping for a little more brick oven char on my crust but this was still a fine pizza. The caramelized onions and balsamic reduction offered a helping of sweetness with just a little tart twang to go with the unctuous pulled pork. Speaking of which, I wish there was a little more on the pizza but the ingredients were nicely balanced and made for a tasty pie.


Good local beers, crispy chicken wings, above average pizzas, and a trivia night in a cool neighborhood, these are all the ingredients for a great, low-key night in Charlotte. I do wish I had been in town for one of Revolution Pizza’s beer dinner if only to see what Chef Meredith can do with free reign, but for a casual night in Charlotte, Revolution Pizza is not too shabby.

Revolution Pizza Address & Information

3228 N Davidson St, Charlotte, NC 28205 // 704.333.4440 // Revolution Pizza Website // Revolution Pizza Menu

Revolution Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Quan Ba 9 - Atlanta

Like a serial that never ends, it’s time for the next installment of dining on Buford Highway. For this episode, Jennifer and I find ourselves at Quan Ba 9, an oft overlooked storefront in a small strip mall. Never heard of Quan Ba 9? Frankly, if it hadn’t been for The Blissful Glutton neither would I. In one of her Ethnic City posts for Creative Loafing, Zyman extols the virtues of Quan Ba 9’s various salads, the pho, and the house specialty, Mi Quang Ba 9, a noodle soup with chicken broth. Having trust Zyman’s opinions for a number of years, it was all the reason I needed to drag Jennifer to this hole in the wall on Buford Highway.


Taking another cue from Zyman, our first dish was an order of the beef carpaccio or Bo Tai Chanh.

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Here long strips of thinly sliced beef are coated in a sweet, spicy sauce that is punctuated with the crunch of carrots, onions, and lotus root.

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A precocious start to the meal, I only wish there was more beef to this beef carpaccio salad.


Having forgotten Zyman’s recommendation to skip the cha gio, an order of the fried springrolls were next to the table.

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The wrappers were thick and crispy but surprisingly not at all greasy.

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While the filling did bear a slight resemblance to minced hot dog and spam, what bothered me was the odd fermented smell. This wasn’t the pungent but pleasant smell of fish sauce or nuoc cham, this filling smelled rotten.


With pho on my mind, the heart of this meal was a bowl of pho dac biet.

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This pho had a rich broth with the distinct taste of onion and what I think was fried shallots.

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The brisket in this pho dac biet was thick, hand cut, and fatty while the meatballs were greasy but with a satisfying emulsified texture.

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Surprisingly, for a bowl of pho dac biet, the shredded tripe and soft tendon were nowhere to be found. Even with the missing offal, this was a decent bowl of pho.

Another day, another satisfying bowl of pho, I can understand why Zyman is such a fan of Quan Ba 9. As always, I barely scratched the surface of the menu but outside of the cha gio, I was pleased with what we received. While I’ll sound like a broken record and say that Pho Dai Loi #2 is still my favorite pho in Atlanta, it’s nice to know that are still hole in the walls worth exploring.

Quan Ba 9 Address & Information

4285 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30345 // 404.636.2999 // Quan Ba 9 Facebook

Quan Ba 9 on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cibo E Beve - Atlanta

Back in Atlanta and this time I’m taking a little break from the wonders of Buford Highway and investigating a new restaurant in Sandy Springs, Cibo E Beve. The newest restaurant from the owners of 101 Concepts, Cibo E Beve is run by chef Linda Harrell. For more on this background information, I’ll defer to a few local bloggers, Foodie Buddha and Atlanta Restaurant Blog.


While names like 101 Concepts and Linda Harrell carry a fair amount of weight, the person that really interested me was the man behind the bar. As we were seated, Jennifer told me that the bartender from Iberico, Justin Hadaway, had been lured to this Sandy Springs location. I had both enjoyed and been perplexed by his cocktails in Decatur, so I was eager to see if his style had changed in the move.
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Described as his take on an old fashioned, it was obvious that Hadaway had not lost his preference for a large balls of ice in his cocktails. At first I thought this was a deconstructed cocktail where I had to mix my own sugar, liquor, and orange, but it ended up as more of a double cocktail where the ingredients above the ice ball mixed with those below to make an even more potent drink. It was a good drink but that ball of ice is always cumbersome.


I’ve mentioned it on this site previously but when I see arancini on the menu, I have to order it. This meal at Cibo E Beve was no exception. I never turn down the opportunity to see another interpretation of a holiday project.
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From the first bite, it was obvious that these were well made arancini. A crispy crust gave way to tender short grain rice with a pungent cheese filling. A simple tomato sauce rounded out the fried goodness; the only thing missing was a meaty filling, but these arancini Siciliani still past muster.


There were plans to explore some of the salumi board, but when I was told nothing was made in house, that plan was rejected. It’s a little sad but Atlanta has spoiled me when it comes to housemade charcuterie. As a result, we decided to enjoy salami in another way with the Soppresate Piccante pizza.

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Fresh from the wood burning oven, this pizza had a well rounded crust.

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With nice hints of char and a thick, pleasantly chewy texture, it was only bettered by the addition of an obscene amount of soppresata. A touch on the spicy side and greasy from so much meat topping, this pizza reminded me of a high-end sbarro where I needed to dab each slice with a napkin.

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However the pizza entered a new realm with the introduction of a few pepperonata peppers. Almost instantly, this pizza jumped into contention with Antico’s diavolo pizza for my Atlanta favorite. These peppers were only introduced to the equation when the waitress came by to check on our table. I mentioned how much better the pizza would be with peppers and she returned with a cup full of pepperonatas. Apparently these were originally on the soppresate piccante pie but customers complained it was too spicy.


Saving the pasta for another time, I took our waitress’ suggestion and ordered the osso buco d’agnello all’estate for my entrée.

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This was meat and potatoes, Italian style. The orange and fennel braised lamb was perfectly rich and tender and went quite well with the sweet sauce. All the while, the crushed new potatoes performed the fantastic trick of being both chunky and smooth. There wasn’t anything particularly complicated about this dish, just well braised meat and starch, great for a cold, winter night but still good for early September.


Needless to say, this first encounter with Cibo E Beve was a successful one. The service was excellent, even if it did border on being too attentive, and the food was well worth the short drive from Brookhaven. A nice feature is that the pizza, bar and antipasti menu is available until 2 am Tuesday through Saturday. Late dinner cravings aside, I’m still hoping to see Cibo E Beve turn the corner and start curing their own meats, making their own pasta, and baking their own bread, but even if they don’t, Cibo E Beve is still a solid addition to Sandy Springs.

Cibo e Beve Address & Information

4969 Roswell Road, Atlanta, GA 30342 // 404.250.8988 // Cibo E Beve Website // Cibo E Beve Menu // Cibo E Beve Reservations

Cibo e Beve on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Family Dog - Atlanta

All I needed to see was the second option in the Snacks section of The Family Dog menu. Underneath the intriguingly named Buford Highway Chex Mix is the dish Housemade Cheetos. One of my guilty pleasures, I sure that Cheetos, especially the puffs, have more in common with cardboard than any real cheese, but sometimes I just can’t resist the temptation of powdered cheese. Needless to say when I saw the words housemade and Cheetos, I knew that The Family Dog was a must; the included pork was just icing on the cake.


First things first, we began with a bowl of Housemade Cheetos.
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I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I read the combination of pork and cheetos but cheese covered pork rinds made perfect sense. It’s little more than crunchy fried pork skin covered in powdered cheese, but it was fantastic. Of course we finished the bowl.


Apalachicola oysters on the half shell are hard to resist.

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I realize this dinner took place in August, but I was hoping the oysters would be served on a bed of ice, not an icy puddle. Serving issues aside, Apalachicolas are always fantastic


In retrospect, the lobster eggrolls may have been a bad decision.

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This seemed to be skirting the edge of high-end stoner food and the combination of noodles and the doughy, take out eggroll wrapper didn’t do this dish any favors.


What better way to enjoy The Family Dog’s selection of beers than with a pretzel?
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Once you made it past the salty, delightfully crunchy exterior, this dough was still steaming. The dough’s sweetness was a nice feature but I would have preferred a more forward accompaniment than the house made honey mustard. It was too much in the vein of sweet and sweeter.


I’m not sure why they call them disco fries, but next to the table was an order of disco fries complete with marrow gravy, pickled jalapenos, American cheese, and a fried egg.

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This plate was too heart healthy, it was in obvious need of bacon.

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Actually, the fries were a little boring on their own. Thickly cut with a salty exterior and with a pillow like texture, these fries were pretty fair with the cheese, but they came into their own when combined with the gravy.
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You might think it was more the gravy than the fries but the fries were more than just a vehicle for gravy intake, they made the beefy gravy that much better. It’s an example of the sum being greater than its parts.


It only makes sense to order wings at a bar, and the twice-cooked Springer Mountain wings with an orange-curry glaze and avocado ranch were promising.
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With the drumsticks, the twice-cooked preparation took its toll with dry meat but beautifully crispy skin.

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The wings fared far better and the avocado ranch played its creamy roll to a t.


Finishing out the meal was an order of the Korean duck quesadilla.

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There’s something about the combination of duck and cheese, it just doesn’t seem to work in my mind and it doesn’t work particularly well here.
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On its own the duck had nice soy sweetness and a hint of smokiness that was completely obscured by the cheese.


I wouldn’t say that we left the Family Dog completely disappointed, but we were more than a little left down by what we received. The ideas of several dishes, like the lobster eggrolls, are great, but the execution left us wanting for more. However,one particularly redeeming quality about The Family Dog is the size of the portions. The pretzels and fries were enough on their own, but I suppose we were a little ambitious when ordering. I wouldn’t mind returning to The Family Dog for cheetos & beer or to try out their burger, but outside of that, when I’m looking for a quality meal, I’ll just go across the street to Rosebud.

The Family Dog Address & Information
1402 North Highland Ave., Atlanta, GA 30306 // 404.249.0180 // The Family Dog Website // The Family Dog Menu

The Family Dog on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 24, 2011

Burgers & Blues - Jackson

When you’re shown to your table at Burgers & Blues, everything seems fine. The walls are covered with blues memorabilia, there are tvs and projectors showing perpetual reruns of sportscenter, and there’s The Whammy Challenge, a contest to eat 3 -1lb patties with the trimmings, a large basket of fries and a root beer float; it all makes for a kitschy yet inviting atmosphere. However things turn awry when you look at the menu. There, beneath the proclamation of “Al Stamps’ Famous Burgers” are the lines “We Give You Choices!!!” ~ ground beef or ground turkey ~ white or wheat bun. Again nothing particularly wrong but underneath that, in parenthesis, nearly lost in the wall of text showing the burger options, are the horrifying words “all burgers cooked well done”.


Although this may seem like an affront to good beef and an insult to a cow that laid down its life, there is some hope but let me clarify. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with a well-done burger. Some places, such as 5 Guys, serve their burgers this temperature and they can be a fair albeit occasionally greasy representation of the breed. However, in that 40-degree range between rare and well done, there’s little room for error on the upper end of the spectrum. Sad to say, I didn't have much faith when I sat down to see what Burgers & Blues had to offer.


Knowing from past experiences that the 1lb monsters sold at Cool Al’s have a tendency to fall apart, I started my time at Burgers & Blues with two four ounce burgers, the peanut butter lovers and the pimento cheese burger.

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On the left, the burger is topped with Jen’s homemade peanut butter sauce and the right, a helping of pimento cheese is the topping.

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From the first bite, it was painfully obvious this was an overcooked burger, but what struck me was the cold pimento cheese. Surely, a burger this overcooked would be hot enough to melt the cheese.

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Sadly, that was not the case as this was just a bland, desiccated burger topped with even blander pimento cheese. If there was one highpoint to this burger, it did make me think how awesome a Parlor Market pimento cheeseburger would be.

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As for the peanut butter burger, it had the same under seasoned, overcooked base but with a runny peanut butter sauce.
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Not much to see here, but if you want a peanut butter burger, you’re better off going to Mugshots.


Knowing that the well-done monstrosities at Burgers & Blues needed all the help they could get, the next time at I stopped by I made sure to look for burgers that could endure that high level of heat. That of course means the introduction of the patty melt.

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If there’s one place that a well-done burger could shine, it’s covered in cheese & sautéed onions while sandwiched between two slices of white bread.

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Actually, this strategy worked fairly well.

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With the beef fairly obscured by salty Swiss cheese and meltingly tender onions, the only missing ingredient was pepper.


Another choice for obscuring poorly cooked beef is the Highway 51 chili cheese burger.
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Topping this burger is an odd chili. There’s not much in the way of spice but plenty of onions, bell peppers, and tomato and while the chili is a little acrid on its own, when combined with the burger and cheddar cheese, it makes for a decent chili cheese burger.


With this second time at Burgers & Blues, I tried to get to the bottom of this well-done fiasco. When I asked my waiter, he returned to the kitchen to get the final word, and the response? Apparently, it’s a liability issue. I’ve heard that line in regards to nationwide chains, but it seems like Burgers & Blues either lacks faith in their cooks or their ingredients.


Even with this faith sapping response from the kitchen, I trudged back to Burgers & Blues for one last shot at burger bliss. This third and final attempt came in the form of the Lea & Perrins Burger.

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Hedging my bets on an 8 ounce burger, I was surprised at what I tasted.

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The flavor of overcooked beef was still there but it had been joined by the familiar tamarind twang of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce. I know that Lea & Perrins can help a subpar burger but this was juicier than I could have imagined and the feta played a nice foil to the distinct flavors of the Worcestershire sauce. Sadly, at this point you’re blurring the lines between a burger and meatloaf. I like to see a burger that can stand on its own virtues not be propped up with a marinade.


I suppose this truth is I don’t really understand the fascination with Al Stamps’ burgers. At Cool Al’s, the wait is long for a crumbly burger that never fully delivers. At Burgers & Blues, the wait may be shorter but the burgers aren’t worth the effort. Yes, there are ways to find a decent sandwich, e.g. the patty melt, but when your basic, namesake burgers bear a closer resemblance to a hockey puck than something you’d want to eat, it’s time to find a better burger.

Burgers & Blues Address & Information

1060 E. County Line Rd, Suite 22, Ridgeland, MS 39157 // 601.899.0038 // Burgers & Blues Website // Burgers & Blues Menu

Burgers and Blues on Urbanspoon