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Archive for November, 2008

Red Robin

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving as much as I did. Now back to regular programming.

I’ve been eating at chains the past week and one of the stops I made was at Red Robin up in Cumming at The Avenue Forsyth (a brand new outdoor mall). It’s fascinating to note that every single food establishment in and around this mall is packed to the rafters every single weekend. Packed.  With 45 minute waits. Every single one of them. Even the yuckiest of them all. If I was gonna open a restaurant, it would be here. It’s a gold mine.

Red Robin

But back to my chain dining… The place looks like a chain, smells like a chain, even sounds like a chain. As with any other chain, it’s bright and it’s loud. Really loud. With a bevy of over-eager teen-aged servers.

My order of choice was obviously a burger, seeing that it’s their specialty. There are quite a few burger choices on the menu but I settled for a cheeseburger since it’s easier to compare with other burgers. Burgers here come in two temperatures: “pink or no pink”; which is their chain speak for your preferred doneness. They also come with bottomless steak fries.

Red Robin

The burger was meh. In fact, I wanted to shout, “where’s the beef?” I could not taste the beef at all with the large amount of toppings. First of all, the beef patty was tiny and the buns were huge and tasteless. Then, it didn’t help that it also had a whole handful of shredded lettuce, two huge slices of tomatoes, 2 slices of cheese, 7 onion rounds, 4 big pickle slices, and 3 teaspoons of mayo.  It’s like eating a salad sandwich. And although the steak fries were steaming hot, they were limp and bland. For around $10 I prefer to go to Five Guys where I can get 4 burgers which are far more superior in taste and quality.

Inside scoop:

Flavored teas have free refills

The scoop:
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Spirits
370 Peachtree Pky
Cumming, GA 30041
(770) 781-0200
Sun-Thurs: 11a-10p; Fri-Sat: 11a-11p

Red Robin on Urbanspoon


Mega Taco

I got a tip from a Mexican friend who swears by Mega Taco’s house-and-hand-made tortillas. This place is located on Beaver Ruin road which is peppered with Mexican establishments. It sits in a sleazy-looking plaza right next to Little Giant Farmer’s Market. I love farmers’ markets so I went in to check it out and was so cheated to find out that it was nothing but a gigantic grocery store. Really, they probably have the inventory of 4 Krogers in there with aisles twice as long and twice as much. But I digress.

Mega Taco

I was told about this item on their menu called Molcajete which I so wanted to order but it was huge — one order is good for two persons (priced at a measly $13.99). An assortment of meats are served in a big molcajete (a footed stone mortar) and the picture looks very appetizing. But I was alone for a quick lunch so I settled for some cheesy cheese dip and tacos instead.

Mega Taco

The cheese dip was cheesy and had the perfect consistency but I would have loved it to be spicier. For some reason, the jalapeño bits in it were tasteless. No heat whatsoever. The chips were big pieces, warm, and very crunchy. I was amazed at how every chip was unbroken — every single one of them including the very last one in the bottom of the basket. Neat. The salsa isn’t your usual tomato-onion salsa. Instead, theirs is made with smoky ancho peppers pureéd with what I sense is adobo sauce, tomatoes, and garlic. It was very, very good. And spicy.

Mega Taco

Everything on the menu looks like huge portions and although I’m quite a big eater, I was running errands and just didn’t have time so I opted for three tacos instead: tripe, steak, and chicken. I must say, the corn tortillas were fantastic. They were really fresh, had great corn taste, and were substantially sized. Each taco comes with 2 grilled corn tortillas topped with heaping portions of meat. The tripe were stir-fried and very flavorful. I just didn’t like that some were chewy and some were more tender than the others. I’m wary when it comes to un-fried tripe but these didn’t have that funky smell in them. They were very good. The steak were moist and tender; as was the chicken. Both the steak and chicken were cooked in aromatic spices that were very tasty. These big tacos were only $1.50 each which can’t be beat.

This place really warrants a second visit so I can try other things on the menu (including and especially the molcajete). So far a great place for big, flavorful, and very inexpensive tacos.

Insider tip:
Located right across from St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

The scoop:

Mega Taco Mexican Taqueria
2055 Beaver Ruin Rd
Norcross, GA 30071
(770) 248-0097

Mega Taco Mexican Taqueria on Urbanspoon

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Calavino’s

Calavino's

A lot of people were saddened (me included) when The Roman Lily Cafe decided not to renew its lease. But folks will be happy to know that the chef and owner, Calavino Donati, has re-emerged as Calavino’s At Oakhurst, serving Italian cuisine. I had the pleasure of dining here a couple of weeks ago during their Soul Food Fridays and I have to admit I was hesitant at first because I thought, what Italian place serves southern food? But the menu looks promising so off we went. And boy, were we totally blown away…

Calavino's

Located in downtown Oakhurst Village in Decatur, the place is nice and comfortable. With a huge bar area separate from the dining room. It was also packed during our visit. Perhaps because Doria Roberts (the Doria Roberts) was performing that night. We were greeted warmly by Calavino, one of the sweetest persons I’ve ever encountered. She was busy expediting, greeting, busing tables. A true hands-on chef. And owner.

Calavino's

Calavino's

After being settled into our table, with a good view of the stage, we decided to start with the Fried Green Tomatoes topped with goat cheese and caramelized onions. The tomatoes were huge and crunchy. I really liked the goat cheese topping and caramelized onions. We also had the Wild Mushroom Brushetta made with grilled baguette rounds then topped with a generous amounts of wild mushrooms and goat cheese. The toasted walnuts in the topping made this appetizer quite interesting, and very enjoyable.

Calavino's

For mains, we had the famous Turkey Meatloaf (a mainstay at The Roman Lily) and the Duck and Waffles. The turkey meatloaf was delicious and very moist. It was slightly spicy from the poblano peppers and the onion, garlic, and corn really helped with the flavors, which broke the monotony of an otherwise ordinary-tasting dish. I also loved the creamy tequila gravy it came with. For sides, the rosemary mashed potatoes were tasty; and the dill-havarti mac and cheese was really cheesy. The spicy collards were great — not bitter at all; and the black-eyed peas with charred tomatoes were very flavorful. Overall a great dish that became even more perfect with the chosen sides.

Calavino's

The Duck and Waffles was another winner. The duck breast was a good portion. It had a thick, crunchy batter of spicy cornmeal which was nice. The whole wheat macadamia nut waffle could have been bigger but it had great texture and was very good, nonetheless. It was already sweetish so the molasses on the side wasn’t necessary at all. The cinnamon butter was a nice touch, but the Jezebel Jam made with blackberries and jalapeños elevated the waffle (and the dish) to a new level. It was fantastic.

Calavino's

For dessert, I had a bite of the Roman Lily staple banana cake drizzled with homemade caramel sauce served with vanilla ice cream and fresh bananas. The banana cake was dense and moist, not too sweet, really lovely; the caramel sauce was a tad too sweet for my liking but easily scraped away. I love the fresh bananas with it.

Talking with Calavino, I was told that she is totally going southern in the next weeks to come and will abandon the Italian menu altogether. Great move, in my opinion. Her southern offerings are really solid. Calavino’s is a true hidden gem in this part of town. The great music and full bar are an added bonus. Go if you haven’t. You won’t be disappointed.

Insider tip:

Around the corner from the Universal Joint, Steinbecks, and Matador Cantina. Street parking and the plaza across the street provide additional parking spaces.

The scoop:
Calavino’s At Oakhurst
350 Mead Rd
Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 373-5220
Dinners on Tuesday-Sunday from 5-10
Brunch on Sundays from 11-3

Calavino's on Urbanspoon

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Six Feet Under

Part of the touristy things we did while cousins were visiting from Toronto and Kansas City this past weekend was a trip to Oakland Cemetery for some serious (no pun intended) photo ops. Of course, no stop in this area is complete without the requisite visit to Six Feet Under Pub and Fish House. Yes, the quirky name comes from the fact that it lies right across from the cemetery.

Six Feet Under

I really like the burgers here but we just had a heavy breakfast at Java Jive earlier so we just went with baskets instead. The Catfish Tacos were really good. They were huge soft tacos with big chunks of fried catfish, mixed cheeses, jalapenos, tomatoes, cabbage, and cucumbers, all drizzled with wasabi sauce, and a side of salsa verde. The cabbage provided a really good crunch while the jalapeños and salsa verde gave them a nice constant heat — not too spicy, but spicy enough that you can feel it in your tongue. The tortillas were good sized and were fresh and soft. I love the Homestyle Chips that comes with the order. They were crunchy and not oily. Really, they’re better than any potato chips.

Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under

The other baskets we had were fish-and-chips, catfish, oysters, and shrimp as well as side orders of onion rings, fried okra, and zucchini fries. All were good and fresh tasting. The seafood had a light coating of cornmeal batter that I liked (instead of the heavy, chewy, floury, fast-food batter that I hate). The zucchini fries were good but turned soggy after a while; with the batter completely detaching from the zucchini. A slightly thicker batter would have solved the problem. The onion rings were very, very good, though on the oily side. They were sweetish, too, which makes me think they were Vidalia.

Overall a very good, light meal. I’m not a big fan of (southern) sweet tea because I find it way too sweet, but my cousins who’ve never had them before are now huge fans. Huge!

Insider tip:
Located at The Jane on Grant Park.

The scoop:

Six Feet Under Pub & Fish House
437 Memorial Dr SE
Atlanta, GA 30312
(404) 523-6664

Six Feet Under on Urbanspoon

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Java Jive

I had cousins from Toronto and Kansas City visit this past weekend. We were in the Poncey-Highlands area and I know there’s a lot of choices for breakfast. But we were on a time crunch so we landed at Java Jive where I know the lines won’t be as long. Sure enough, no wait.

Java Jive

Our entire table opted for the morning’s special which is fresh hashed corned beef, mixed up with potatoes, plus two eggs, and a biscuit. If anything else, you must, must get the biscuit. It is just a teeny bit crunchy on the outside yet moist and pillowy on the inside. I can eat 6 of these in one sitting! The corned beef was pretty good, too — large bits of fresh corned beef that wasn’t salty at all, coupled with big chunks of potatoes, cubes of green pepper, and some onion slivers. Overall, a good, filling dish.

Java Jive

I’m a big breakfast eater so I also got a Gingerbread Waffle and a small order of cheese grits. I didn’t like the waffle that much. It was soft — like pancake soft and cakey and had way too much gingerbread flavor. Too strong tasting, in my opinion. The cheese grits were good, though (creamy yet still had lots of grits).

Java Jive is a great breakfast place. It is both funky and retro with antique fans and stoves adorning the place. I love their biscuits. Too bad there aren’t any egg combos on the menus where you can get 2 eggs with a choice of meat. Anyway, we were all stuffed so we walked off what we ate at the Georgia Aquarium where we saw Mr. X Files up close and personal, graciously signing autographs. Who said he was a diva?

Insider tip:

Cash only. ATM located inside.

The scoop:
Java Jive Coffee House & Cafe
790 Ponce De Leon Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30306
(404) 876-6161

Java Jive on Urbanspoon

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