It had to happen. A few months ago, I received the news that the surgery I had on both my knees in February 2006 "was not fully successful." In other words, until I have it redone, I remain disabled. Until now, there's nothing I haven't been able to do except resume leg-pressing 800 pounds in the gym and walking down stairs without turning sideways like your arthritic grandfather.
Most restaurants have plenty of handicapped access, and there are elevators to second floors usually. But when I arrived at the new Six Feet Under (685 11th St., 404-810-0040) in west Atlanta, I was told there was no way to the rooftop patio for crips like me.
The patio was the main reason I wanted to visit the restaurant. Its view of the Midtown and downtown skylines has received complimentary reviews from friends. (The original Grant Park location also offers an upstairs patio, that one with a cool view of the future – Oakland Cemetery.)
Oh well, we were also told there was an hour wait for a seat upstairs, so I cheerfully limped to an indoor table near the bar. The downstairs area of the new restaurant is cavernous, with lots of dark wood and the usual funky signs and pictures. We sat amid a mainly high-energy younger crowd. The enthusiastic staff could be similarly described.
The menu is identical to the Grant Park location's, so I was not on any errand to do a serious review. Wayne and I both ordered our favorites – catfish tacos for him and shrimp and grits for me. Both dishes have elaborate descriptions, but all the ingredients boil down to "delicious" in your mouth.
I have one complaint about the shrimp and grits. It was served in an iron bowl that was too large for its contents. The sound of my fork scraping against the iron, trying to scoop up the grits, was annoying to anyone sitting in the vicinity.
I sent Wayne upstairs with my camera to shoot some pictures of the patio, and he agreed with friends that it's a delightful spot.
Besides being gimpy, I'm also late now and then. Somehow, I had not made it to Bhojanic (1363 Clairmont Road, 404-633-9233) until last week when I had lunch there with my friend Jeff. The restaurant serves mainly northern Indian cuisine, meaning you'll find plenty of meat on the menu.
Bhojanic, initially a secondary business of a catering company, is open daily, except Sunday, for lunch and dinner. The gimmick here is Indian "tapas" with a fusion twist. Honestly, I did not encounter any fusion food, although the recorded jazz playing was an agreeable alternative to Bollywood and Ravi Shankar. In fact, the restaurant hosts live jazz Wednesday and Friday. There's "Indian lounge music" on Saturdays.
Jeff and I ordered four not-so-small plates. My favorite was the alu tikki – fat potato cakes fried until crunchy and served with garbanzo-bean curry, cilantro onions and some chutneys. My next favorite was Chicken 65. I've eaten this often at Zyka, where the marinated chicken is batter-fried. At Bhojanic, the chicken, marinated in yogurt and spices, is not fried and comes to the table almost genitally pink. It's tossed with curry leaves, green chilies and mustard seeds.
We also ordered classic chicken tikka, chicken marinated and roasted on skewers with bell peppers and red onions. Our final choice was a luscious dish of Indian "flat cornbread" with roasted eggplant, caramelized onions and tomatoes.
You'll also find bargain-priced thalis – the combo meals served in round metal bowls on a metal platter. They are most popular in south India. You can have vegetables only or choose a meat from the daily specials.
This is a great space with lots of personality, as well as excellent low-priced food.
If I was simply late getting to Bhojanic, I was very, very late getting to 5th Runway Café (420 14th St., 404-496-4822). This restaurant was originally located in College Park near the airport's fifth runway, and its Middle Eastern cooking received pretty universally positive reviews.
Then it moved to 14th Street, next to the mosque there. I have to say it was the most surreal experience I've had in a long time.
On a Monday night, the restaurant – decorated in a kind of lovably kitschy way – was empty. The owner was personable but – I'm not kidding – nearly everything we ordered was met with the same statement: "I'm sorry, we do not have that."
A few times, he told us he had something. We sighed with relief. Then the chef came out and held a brief, whispered conference with the owner. "I'm sorry," he reported to us, "but we do not have that."
He explained that he was a new owner and that he intends to change the entire menu next month. I asked why he was changing it, and he said he was simply eliminating dishes nobody seemed to like – like the roasted lamb I wanted. "The lamb had a strange taste. Nobody liked it," he said.
What we did order and receive was mainly subpar. A starter of hummus that was to be topped with "sizzling minced meat and pine nuts" came to the table with greasy, cold, crumbled meat on it. My falafel sandwich was frankly inedible. The falafel was room temperature and had utterly no crispness. Instead of being served in pita, it was in a heavy flour jovan-style wrap.
Wayne's mixed grill – chicken, minced beef and shish kebab, served about a pile of rice bigger than the mosque dome next door – was better. The baba ganouj was also decent.
Embarrassingly, the owner tried to make amends for the menu deletions by bringing a huge platter of free food to the table, including more hummus, some oily grape leaves stuffed with overcooked rice and some greasy fried globes stuffed with minced beef and pine nuts.
The gesture left me uncomfortable, and I entertained the notion of propelling some of the food to the restroom for disposal. Instead, I kept hiding the uneaten stuff under a magazine and stuffed some into napkins. Yes, I feel bad when I can't eat a nice person's food.
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