Beyond Seattle 2011: October (Amazing in Atlanta)

Actually, let’s first take care of the one November restaurant: Olde World Apizza in North Haven, Connecticut. It’s admittedly sad that my trip didn’t allow even a few more minutes to go a few more miles down the road to New Haven. Being so close to a pizza mecca, I had to settle for a secondary choice. Here I ordered a pie that was half plain, and half mozzarella. Not bad, but it made me pine for a trip to Pepe’s. I should be in New Haven this coming spring, so maybe I’ll have the chance to improve upon this:


Now, back to October, when my first trip took me through Oakland, and afforded me the opportunity to try Hawker Fare. It was fantastic. It’s reasonably priced with quick service, and the food is bold and bright. I started with this green papaya salad:


And then took my server’s suggestion in ordering the “24hr Pork Belly ‘tom khem’ style with five spice, sweet soy and preserved vegetable mustard.” I like that the restaurant includes authentic ingredients like dried shrimp and preserved vegetables, and this pork belly with rich, filling, and completely fulfilling:


Bright and early the next morning I headed to Atlanta. This would be a very quick stay, but I managed one meal at Holeman and Finch Public House. This is a very popular place, and even at 11pm I had to wait nearly an hour for a table. Bar noise spills over to the small dining area, but when my food arrived, I was at peace, as the menu offers many intriguing possibilities that appeal to an offal lover like me. First, though, some succotash with sweet peppers and vidalia onions–a rich vegetable start to the meal:


Next up: pan fried-rabbit livers with pole beans and pickled peaches, an interesting and fun combination of ingredients:


The “Parts” part of the menu had bone marrow, veal sweetbreads, and more (plus, I was told that the house hot dog is something special), but I chose the veal brains with black butter as a very hearty way to end this delicious dinner:


The day after returning to Seattle, it was off to the Yakima Valley, with that experience documented here. From there, I had a quick trip to eastern Oregon, which included a nice stop at the Great Pacific Wine and Coffee Co. in Pendleton. This seems to be a perfect place to enjoy a meal and some live music on selected nights. My stay, though, would be brief (and without live music, though I was pleased to hear Peter Himmelman on the speakers) but enjoyable as I noshed on this “beast” sandwich (roast beef with pepperjack, garlic, sweet onions, and stoneground mustard on sourdough) and a Caesar salad:


It was back to the east coast the following week, with a meal at Zafra in Hoboken, New Jersey. This cute little Cuban Latino restaurant gets good reviews. What I ordered turned out to be more potato-heavy than I intended, with those dishes a little sweeter than expected, such as the classic patatas bravas (in spicy tomato and smoked paprika sauce):


For the main course, I got steered toward the enchiladas de pollo (chicken-filled enchiladas with a green tomatillo- hoja santa sauce, served with refried beans and Mexican crema). Like the other dishes I tried, it was good, though not amazing:


Most disappointing about the experience was being told I could try one of their acclaimed spiced hot drinking chocolates (apparently very rich) at their little shop just around the corner. But while that shop had chocolate bars for sale, they said that the restaurant was the place for drinking chocolate. Frustrated, I gave up.

I’d find better Latino food the next day at Valencia Luncheria in Norwalk, Connecticut. This is a sweet little spot doing a bustling business–testimony to its quality. Overwhelmed by arepa and empanada choices (including some sweet choices, like chocolate & plantain), I ultimately ordered a lunch platter with a pernil (Venezuelan pork roast) arepa, chicken liver empanada, ceviche, rice and beans, and avocado:


Valencia was a fun stop on the way to Rhode Island, where I had some late night work. Hours later, looking for a snack to hold me over, I read good reviews about a place called Pick Pockets in Smithfield. Good food in a gas station? Why not! Here’s the interior:

pick pockets int_600_938

The friendly workers described my many choices, and I happily settled upon a “pocket” with lamb and falafel, loaded with toppings and spiked with spicy hot sauce:

pick pockets food ri 935

The next day took me on a long road trip to Binghamton, New York, where I was faced again with lack of time for a proper meal. Due to the September flooding that devastated the city, hotel choices were limited, and I found myself doing an unusual stay at Traditions at the Glen, situated on a golf course. I took my meal in the tavern, and had one of the most nondescript burgers and fries:


After brief time back in Seattle, I headed back to Atlanta, this time with time to have perhaps my best road trip meal of the second half of the year. Online, I scouted out a place called One Eared Stag, a fairly new restaurant in a funky part of the city. First of all, the space is gorgeous. You walk into a fun little bar area, and then turn into a very open dining room with a communal/large group table in the center. The bookcase sports the best collection of cookbooks. And the food…

I started with confit chicken wings cooked in duck fat, served with aged (year-old), cured hot sauce and buttermilk dressing:


Next, a beautiful plating of candela fuoco radishes with whipped lardo and radish top gremolata. This seems almost silly to order, but the radishes were bursting with flavor, with that lardo adding intense richness:


As for an entree, I was torn. As at Holeman and Finch, there was a housemade hot dog that looked promising. A BLT with pork fat mayo and a fried egg called to me, as did a lighter option of a Virginia lump crab roll. I watched a country fried pork chop with squash succotash and tomato jam come out of the kitchen, and was almost sold. But I went with what was at the top of the list: “pork & beans” made with belly, chorizo, and Italian white beans, topped with a housemade chicharron:


Stunningly delicious. Someone said something about dessert, but I was simply too stuffed, and satisfied, to go further.

I was hungry late that night, so I stopped at Penang for a comforting bowl of Asian noodles. It was minutes before closing time, but they were happy to send out Penang kari mee (noodles in spicy lemongrass-coconut curry with shredded chicken, shrimp, and “oiler” tofu) that hit the spot:


I had a weekend at home and then another quick trip east to finish the month. Cleveland meant hope for a chance to check out a Michael Symon restaurant, but with very limited time (an all-too-familiar theme), the best I could manage was his B Spot Burgers chain. These are upscale burgers in a casual setting, so I settled in with a “Yo!” burger with fried salami, coppa, hot peppers, provolone, and shasha hot sauce (and a side of Lola fries with sea salt and rosemary):


The burger was decent, though the fries were forgettable. I was tempted to try a vanilla bean apple pie bacon shake, but that seemed over-the-top. I did avail myself of the pickle bar with lots of interesting offerings, and finished up my meal and another year on the road:


Olde World Apizza on Urbanspoon

Hawker Fare on Urbanspoon

Holeman & Finch Public House on Urbanspoon

Great Pacific Wine & Coffee Co on Urbanspoon

Zafra on Urbanspoon

Valencia Luncheria on Urbanspoon

Pick Pockets on Urbanspoon

Traditions at the Glen Tavern on Urbanspoon

One Eared Stag on Urbanspoon

Penang on Urbanspoon

B Spot Burgers on Urbanspoon

B Spot Burgers on Urbanspoon

B Spot Burgers on Urbanspoon


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2 Responses to “Beyond Seattle 2011: October (Amazing in Atlanta)”

  1. Kristen Curtis
    February 10, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I really enjoyed reading your reviews! Now I know who to check with for great eats while traveling, and at home in Connecticut. If you know of any “must go” places in CT, please let me know. I’ve done all the obvious ones like Pepe’s, (and most of Wooster St.), in New Haven, but i’m looking for something new and exciting. Thanks!

  2. Jay
    February 10, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    Thanks! Looks like I might be in New Haven next month, maybe with a chance for just one or two meals. Open to your suggestions!

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