Why Buy the Cow? 

Love the deck, but food and service suffer at Cowtippers

Cowtippers has a fabulous deck, doesn't it? I can't say the interior of Midtown's notorious "gay steakhouse" does much for me, with its cheesy honky-tonk theme. But the big, breezy deck is marvelous. Besides the obvious allure - all that adorable male eye candy in tight T-shirts and designer jeans - a table in the shade of a giant river birch is one of the great pleasures of summertime in Atlanta.

Maybe I should just stop here, because everything else I have to say is sure to guarantee me a landslide of hate mail. I know, I know - Cowtippers is practically an institution. But delightful deck or not, the menu has problems and the service is terribly uneven.

Over the course of dinner, our big, brooding server said a total of about 15 words to us. I thought he must just be the strong, silent type, until I saw him practically fawning over the table to the left of us. Behind us, he actually sat down and chatted. Did we offend?

Even after he forgot one of our appetizers and we had to flag another server to inquire about it (ours was MIA), he never came by to apologize or reassure us that everything else was in order. Now that I think about it, maybe he was irritated with us because we weren't drinking. Did I catch a roll of the eyes when I ordered sweet tea? Perhaps.

The food was only marginally better than the service. Steaks, burgers and sandwiches with cutesy names populate the menu, punctuated by a few Southwestern flourishes. Congealed queso with a dollop of bland chili confounded us: Greasy blue corn chips went in, but they broke off mid-scoop. A basket of rolls had the telltale gummy texture of microwaved bread.

An open-faced steak sandwich featured a tender cut - flatiron steak - but the flavor got lost underneath a pile of mushrooms, onions and bland processed cheese. Soggy steak fries weren't worth the calories. A burger cloaked in cheddar and bacon and cooked to a juicy, pink medium was a vast improvement. The bargain-priced "Rustler's Rib Eye" ($14.95) was another happy surprise. A hefty 12 ounces, the steak had a nice exterior char and robust beefy flavor.

So what gives? If they're capable of turning out a decent steak, why does everything else ooze mediocrity? It seems to me that Cowtippers is coasting along, putting minimal effort into food preparation or service. It's high time they popped that jalopy into gear.

florence.byrd@creativeloafing.com

Global Buzz Set to open in Midtown is the Globe, a casual cafe that will feature bistro fare and a convivial setting. Besides a dining room and bar, the Globe will also offer a library lounge and outdoor seating. Executive Chef Joshua Perkins, formerly of Brasserie Le Coze and Di Paolo, plans to offer quick nibbles for breakfast, a cafe menu at lunch, and a dinner menu with highlights like pan-roasted grouper and steak frites. Look for the Globe to open Mon., May 23. 75 Fifth St., 404-541-1487. www.globeatlanta.com.

Lounge ActRestaurant Eugene in Buckhead has added a smaller, more casual Cafe Menu, available in the lounge area Mondays through Thursdays. The menu, designed to appeal to the neighborhood crowd, will offer 12 items for under $12. They've also opened a small patio for dinner and cocktails. 2277 Peachtree Road, 404-355-0321. www.restauranteugene.com.

HOT TICKET The 17th annual Taste of the Nation Atlanta is happening at the Intercontinental Buckhead Thurs., May 19. The event, one of the country's biggest culinary benefits, features food prepared by some of Atlanta's top chefs, as well as fine wine, live entertainment and a silent auction. Chefs from more than 40 local restaurants will participate. Local beneficiaries include Genesis, the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Project Open Hand. General admission $175, VIP $275. 7-10 p.m. Call 678-417-0902 for more information. www.atlantataste.org.

Look Who's 1 Rathbun's is celebrating its first birthday this month. The restaurant hosts a dinner party Sun., May 22, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Festivities include food stations, full bar, live music and a Big Green Egg raffle. $75 per person. 112 Krog St. 404-524-8280. www.rathbunsrestaurant.com.

Culinary Adventuring Sotto Sotto continues its Tour of Italy dinner series Tues., May 24. This month's focus is the Italian region of Liguria. The four-course menu is $39 per person. 313 N. Highland Ave., 404-523-6678. www.sottosottorestaurant.com.

Springtime in the Kitchen Wisteria welcomes warm and sunny weather with several new additions to its menu. Look for seasonal dishes like lima bean and green pea soup, chili-rubbed grilled Gulf shrimp, homemade ricotta and black pepper ravioli in sage pesto, and coriander-rubbed salmon over a citrusy avocado and grapefruit salad. 471 N. Highland Ave., 404-525-3363. www.wisteria-atlanta.com.

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