Bistro New York: Truck drivers and Korean karaoke 

A favorite memory while in France was visiting a bistro that was frequented by blue-collar truck drivers who stopped in at odd hours for manly, inexpensive cheese and fruit plates. The essence of the bistro there did not carry the attitude it does here. Rather, it was one of the few French places where there was no attitude -- just good gastronomy pared down for the workingman; a variation on the diner.

So it's either by accident or ingenuity that Bistro New York has the French feel of a workingman's hangout as well as the American aesthetics of an artsy cafe. Then add that it's Korean-owned and there's karaoke every night.

The real surreal: Bistro New York's location is part of its dichotomy. Located on Pleasandale Road in Doraville next to Atlanta's busiest and most insane truck fueling station, QuikTrip, where truckers fill up and panhandlers linger, Bistro New York seems a contradiction.

Here's the equation: For breakfast and lunch the bistro aims at providing pragmatic eats in large portions for drivers on the go. By night, the prices rise and the menu changes to a Korean medley of hot pot soups, tofu and kimchee platters. There's bold art on the walls, round, roomy booths and bookshelves with Korean titles alongside the arbitrary Bill Clinton's My Life, all accented by an unusual array of dried seaweed crackers and antique teapots. An elegant bar serves up rice wines, specialty cocktails, and all manner of coffees and chais. There are several private rooms for karaoke where one can sing "Love Me Tender" in Korean until 5 a.m.

Bistro bizarro: The breakfast menu consists of basic cheese-and-egg croissants ($1.99), cereals, muffins and a few unconventional breakfast items such as clam chowder and hot dog biscuits. Lunch offers a little more. There is the classic meat and two veg selection with a drink thrown in for $5.56. Good bets include the fried chicken with collard greens and squash casserole. There are vegetarian sandwiches, bistro clubs and other standards for $4.99. Hamburger combos ($4.99) include french fries and a drink. The grilled chicken salad ($5.49) includes hefty slices of tender breast meat. The various gourmet flavors of New York cheesecakes are good (especially the raspberry-laced), and the cakes are all fresh, moist and light, and sliced thick for $2.99.

From eggs to octopus: At night there is a much more upscale menu consisting only of Korean fare. One of the best sampled was a seafood pancake -- a large round of fluffy egg batter stuffed full of octopus, shrimp and what seemed to be abalone and clams. Served with a soy ginger sauce reduction, it was an omelet kicked up Korean style. Various red beans, noodle bowls, teriyakis and hot pots are offered for those who want to get energy to go into the karaoke den and get their private Elvis on.

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