A neighbor started Park Cafe about eight years ago. It was a quaint soup/salad/sandwich place back then. They’ve since sold the place and I was curious to see what new owner Chef Michael Ganley (of the Ritz Carlton fame) has done to the food and the place. As expected from a 5-star chef, the place has a 5-star atmosphere, but in a homey, cozy kind of way.
Knox House, where Park Cafe calls home, was built in 1899. It was the home of the first Mayor of Duluth, John Knox. It was renovated in 2001 — half of the area went to the original specialty sandwich place, the other half to a craft store, and the upstairs for office space. Despite the renovation, the character of the house was kept intact with the mostly original hardwood floors and paneled walls. Today, Park Cafe occupies the entire 2-story half of the building with a patio for outside seating and a foyer that doubles as a wine market.
I’ve heard about Chef Mike’s fried green tomatoes appetizer so I went for it. A stack of crisp green tomatoes, battered and golden fried came with a slice of warm brie cheese sandwiched in the middle then topped with fresh spinach leaves drizzled with thick balsamic vinegar and served with a bacon balsamic reduction with candied pecans, and diced fresh zucchini and tomatoes. This is probably one of the best versions of fried green tomatoes I’ve ever had. I love the play that the brie cheese and spinach gave to the fried tomatoes — it’s almost as if I was eating a salad, but with a much better flavor and texture. The balsamic reduction was not only perfect on its own: well-balanced salty-sweet flavor with the zucchini, tomatoes, and pecans adding a nice crunch; it was also perfect for the slightly tart green tomatoes. An absolute winner. And big enough for sharing.
I decided to go for another lunch specialty of the house: the country meatloaf sandwich. Two thick slices of meatloaf laced with mushrooms were grilled then served on a buttery, toasted bun then topped with fried onion rings, salad greens, and tomato slices. The meatloaf was delicious. I liked that they don’t serve it with boring lettuce. The fried onion rings were crisp and perfectly fried and lent just the right amount of saltiness to the sandwich. I chose the housemade slaw for my side and it was just as tasty.
I was already too full by this time and I don’t really eat desserts but my server talked me into tasting the sweet potato creme brulee. It was delectable. But I would have preferred its consistency to be a little bit more firm. Although delicious, it felt like I was eating applesauce.
Overall, I was very pleased with my meal. Service was impeccable — attentive, friendly, and efficient. Total lunch bill came to $26 before tip ($9 for the app, $9 for the sandwich, $6 for the dessert, and $2 for the diet Coke). Pricey for lunch but everything was delicious and everything on the menu is housemade. Park Cafe rivals all the hip and trendy spots ITP. This is a true gem, not only in the suburbs, but in this part of town — a fine dining establishment with great food and service.
Reservations for lunch recommended. There was not a single empty table on my visit. Even the upstairs dining area was filled.
Lunch served daily even on weekends. Brunch served on Sundays. Closed on Mondays.
Park Cafe Restaurant & Wine Market
3579 W Lawrenceville St NW
Duluth, GA 30096
Sunday 11am – 3pm Brunch / 5pm – 9pm Dinner
Tuesday – Thursday 11am – 3pm Lunch / 5pm – 9pm Dinner
Friday – Saturday 11am – 3pm Lunch / 5pm – 10pm Dinner