It's been one of those weeks. I traveled to two new restaurants, both of which were closed, caught a cold and lost my appetite. So I'm playing catch-up with a few recent revisits and feedback this week.
First up is Olive Bistro (650 Ponce de Leon Ave., 404-874-5336). Steve Masri's cafe, which first opened in Little Five Points, has long been my favorite for simple Mediterranean cuisine from the Middle East, as well as Greece and Italy.
Masri closed the Little Five Points location some time ago and sold his Italian cafe in Morningside four months ago. Now he has expanded the Ponce restaurant's menu and is offering a fairly extensive selection of Mediterranean wines, too.
The hummus and falafel, fried chickpea patties served with tahini, have no equal in the city. As an appetizer, Wayne and I ordered an entree platter that allows you to choose from four dishes on the small-plates menu. Besides the falafel and hummus, we chose baba ghanouj and the roasted, marinated eggplant, probably my favorite here. The platter offers one earthy flavor, lit up with golden olive oil, after another.
Another favorite is the Tuscan white-bean salad with lemon, garlic, olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes. This, like most of the food here, is too garlicky to permit conversation for hours afterward with anyone who didn't dine with you. The lack of garlic-free dishes is my only complaint about the cafe.
Masri prepares two specials daily, one of them always a ravioli, which I ordered. It was filled with smoked chicken. Wayne ordered the other special, tortellini filled with Italian sausage. Both pastas were bathed with his signature tomato-basil sauce. I've also recently sampled the chicken roasted in rosemary, lemon and the inevitable garlic, as well as a lamb kebob with rice, lentils and salad.
The cafe is open for lunch as well as dinner. There is a lengthy menu of inexpensive sandwiches made with pita, including gyro – many people's favorite. But I recommend you try the falafel.
Conclude your meal with baklava.
Jake Gyllenhaal works here
"Actually, yes, I've been told that a lot," our server, BJ, told us during our meal at Power Plant (476 Edgewood Ave., 404-474-1735).
We'd asked him if anyone else had told him he looks like Jake Gyllenhaal with dreadlocks. An industrial-design student at Georgia Tech, BJ is Celebrity Look-alike Waitron of the Week.
Power Plant continues to surprise me with its tasty vegan cuisine. I usually feel kind of queasy about ordering things such as "hot swings" – faux chicken wings made out of God-knows-what – but the Power Plant's are tasty if not exactly chickeny. The wood skewer on which the "meat" is fried is as close as you get to a bone.
Wayne ordered "spare ribs" in a barbecue-peach sauce, served over mashed potatoes with grilled asparagus. Frankly, the "ribs" looked like giant insects to me, but they were surprisingly palatable. I ordered the bacon cheeseburger, which really was the best vegan burger I've ever tasted, right down to the crunchy fake bacon and the fake patty and fake cheese. Honestly, it was better than most bloody burgers in this town. I also ate a big bowl of collards that featured no fake fatback or salt pork.
There are problems here. The decor is terrifyingly yellow, without a single piece of art on the walls. The gray floor is scuffed up and the men's bathroom is a nightmare. There should be a recorded voice that shouts, "Go into the light, Carol Ann," when you flick on the blinding fluorescent light that illuminates every oversized pore in your face, turning you the color of a fresh corpse. It doesn't help that the walls are a blue that doesn't occur in nature.
"You're an industrial-design student. Fix that bathroom," I told BJ.
"I'd love to," he said.
My final complaint: A bit too much of the menu is fried and the kitchen can be unbelievably slow.
Here and there
Village Pizza (186 Carroll St., 404-586-0040) in Cabbagetown should be on your list of cheap-eats destinations. I go here because I like to be reminded that I'm 100 years old. The staff reminds me very much of the defunct Tortillas' crew of students and wannabe rockers. The clientele is often heavily alternative. One recent evening I saw three shades of henna highlighted with bubblegum-pink and other candy hues.
But the real attraction here is the great pizza. It's hand-thrown, kind of fluffy but not too thick. I like the four-cheese white pie best, sometimes adding pepperoni, if Wayne insists. It's among the best white pies in the city.
If you want a side salad, get the Caesar. ...
He hasn't named it and can't project the date of opening yet, but Café Diem owner Andy Alikbaksh will open a restaurant in Castleberry Point, the new mixed-use development in the downtown Castleberry Hill neighborhood. Construction has not yet begun on the development, so don't plan to visit anytime real soon. ...
MetroFresh in Midtown Promenade is now serving breakfast, 7-9:30 a.m. weekdays. The menu includes: fresh fruit, in-season berries with Greek yogurt, freshly toasted granola, a hot cereal of the day, freshly baked bran muffins, hard-boiled eggs, grilled chicken breasts, French-press coffee, loose-leaf tea, fresh orange juice and fresh grapefruit juice. ...
Crave, formerly Iris, has closed in East Atlanta Village. A "help wanted" sign in the window means a third incarnation is imminent. Come home, chef Nicholas Bour! ... That neighborhood also recently lost Honey's, which probably produced more negative mail than I've received about any restaurant in memory. ... Rumor is that Honey's owners have sold their other property, Cantina La Casita, which remains popular despite the lack of a liquor license in recent weeks. ...
Metrotainment Bakery (691 14th St., 404-873-6307) is now offering special-occasion pastries and cakes that are gluten- and sugar-free.
"Celebrity Pumpkins (Part 2)":
The horror, the horror!
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