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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review: Rare Soul Food Tapas

click to enlarge I GOT SOUL: The bar area at Rare retains its cool vintage vibe.
  • I GOT SOUL: The bar area at Rare retains its cool vintage vibe.

If you ever visited the original incarnation of Rare, there's an eerie quality to returning to the newly reopened restaurant. While the bar area and dining room have changed slightly due to the fire that destroyed much of the building in April 2008, almost everything else about the place is exactly as it was when it opened in late 2006. The food is the same. The service is the same. The vibe is minutely less funky, but basically the same.

Rare has always had a strong sense of place. Where else other than Atlanta would you find a restaurant that combined authentically executed soul food and the urban populism of tapas? The original design of the place was inspired: a dark warren of vintage tchotchkes and red velvet, 1930s cartoons playing on old televisions and projected onto the walls of the loungy, pillow-laden back room.

Now, when you step in from the street, the bar area is sleeker, with less of those original touches, and the trip down the hallway to the room in the back (an unlikely hike without a reservation) reveals a sparser, less opulent collection of padded platforms to recline upon. But it's still dark, the old movies still play against the brick walls, and the vibe is still downright sexy. As a destination, Rare screams with potential – a sultry setting for date night or a more social atmosphere for a larger party (the bed-like platforms organized around low tables is simply more fun than traditional seating).

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(Photo by James Camp)

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