A couple of culinary trends have inspired the opening of two new Atlanta restaurants. Home Grown Ga. in Reynoldstown features farm-to-table cooking and Yeah! Burger in the Westside (obviously) puts hamburgers front and center.
Home Grown Ga. (968 Memorial Drive, 404-222-0455, www.homegrownga.com) is located in the space formerly occupied by Mammy's Kitchen and, while the owners have white-washed the lividly pink exterior of the building, they have preserved the diner-esque feel of the interior. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch only, including brunch on weekends.
The owners are Lisa Spooner and her partner Kevin Clark, who has worked for Spice, Paul's and Sun in My Belly during the last decade. To the extent possible, Clark features locally grown ingredients whose sources are listed on a chalkboard. For example, the Southeastern Horticultural Society's "farm crew" recently provided the dried herbs for a dish of roasted pattypan squash from Love is Love Farm in Douglasville.
This is simple, comfort-style food. The lunch menu typically offers a couple of sandwiches and one entrée, with lots of vegetable sides. My favorite has been the barbecued chicken sandwich, the menu's most expensive dish at $6.50 (sides are $2 each). The sandwich is made with vinegary North Carolina-style barbecue sauce and Texas toast.
A shocker was the "nearly famous Georgia peach sloppy joe." It's 100 percent vegetarian, made with a sharply spiced meat substitute and chopped peaches. It tastes a lot better than it sounds.
Breakfast is the usual diner menu of eggs, pancakes, French toast and biscuits, which can be stuffed with your choice of meats. I have to say I have mixed feelings about the biscuits, which are made "with lard, buttermilk and White Lily," according to Clark. My first one was way too dense but a second one during my next visit was fluffier.
As I told Clark, biscuits are like barbecue in the South: nobody agrees what constitutes a good one. My mother made very thin, crispy biscuits and I still prefer those over the thick, doughy ones most people like. You'll have to form your own opinion about Clark's.
Scrambled eggs with bacon and super-creamy grits were average and dirt cheap. What I really like most here are the vegetables. I've sampled collards, black-eyed peas, yellow squash, purple potatoes and organic radishes, as well as the pattypan squash, my favorite.
Shaun Doty's Yeah! Burger
Few burger joints have been as urgently anticipated as Shaun Doty's Yeah! Burger (1168 Howell Mill Road, 404-496-4393, www.yeahburger.com). It's all about naturally and humanely raised meat, organic ingredients and nostalgia.
You have your choice of burgers here. You can have them made with chopped grass-fed beef, bison, or naturally raised turkey. There's also a grilled chicken breast and a veggie burger, along with hot dogs. Buns are white or whole wheat. (There's a gluten-free white one available for $1.25.) You choose from a list of free toppings or you pay $1 more for cheese and certain others such as bacon and avocado. Then there are various sauces, including "bacon jam," aioli, white barbecue sauce and a spicy relish. You get your first sauce free. Additional ones cost 50 cents.
Fries, onion rings, chili and coleslaw all cost $2.99 more. Most of the ice cream treats are $5.99. I think you're probably getting a feel for how your bill can add up quickly here (as it does at most of the new burger temples). I spent $17 (with tip) on a soft drink, chili, fried pickles and a hot dog one night. Bye-bye, Varsity.
The burgers here are inconsistent. The beef burger is wisely served as a stack of two patties. Grass-fed beef needs to be cooked super hot to get a nearly crispy exterior and a medium-rare interior. Unfortunately, the kitchen won't cook the beef less than medium-well. That's probably good for your health, but not so good for taste. I've had two of the burgers and my first actually did arrive nearly medium-rare and tasted great. The second was gray throughout and was totally unappetizing.
A bison burger tasted better than the beef and, frankly, the grilled chicken has been the best sandwich of all. The veggie burger is made with organic red peas, which is great, but the patty I sampled was gooey and tasted like undercooked falafel. I want my veggie burger with a firmer texture.
Hot dogs are also made with grass-fed beef and definitely have better flavor than the usual. Chili is robust and burns just right. Fries have been unpredictable. During two visits they were stuffed in a bag, which, of course, caused them to turn limp. During a third visit, they were served in a paper tray and retained crispness.
I've only tried one ice cream dish — a "concrete" made of soft-serve vanilla blended with Heath bars and chocolate espresso beans. There are other choices, but my goal was to replicate the toffee-coffee Arctic Swirl at Zesto. Everything was primo except for the slightly watery texture.
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