Just in case you didn't know, the Wall Street Journal's critic named Miss Ann's plate-sized Ghetto Burger his favorite burger in America in 2007 (despite failing to mention its slather of chili). The citation created lines with hours-long waits. These have moderated somewhat but no addict can be deterred by a wait, anyway.
I thought the day after Thanksgiving might mean a respite from the wait and I was sort of right. Business was constant - mainly teenagers, it seemed - but most folks ordered their burgers to go. There's also a porch with a lot of seating, but it's not too cozy on a winter day. In any event, I scored a bar stool right away.
Then I waited 30 minutes for my double cheeseburger, fries and lemonade. I'm not going to go into a florid description of the burger. It, like all the others on the menu, is a respite from the gourmet burgers that have flooded America. These are big messy piles that threaten to inflict a temporomandibular disorder.
There were three people working behind the counter during my visit while Miss Ann sat at one end chatting with customers. Nonstop. It was rumored for several years that the diner was for sale. I asked the very hospitable woman helping out in the kitchen what had happened. She said "the deal fell through." The New York Times published an article in 2010 blaming the bad economy.
I do have a warning about the place. I'm sorry to say it has become very dirty. I'm not talking about the floor particularly, but the walls are all coated with grease. It needs major sprucing.
I've been unable to learn who the new owners are, but Mama's is not part of a chain. The change occurs shortly after Taco Cabana's parent company announced a public offer of $2 million in common stock.
They said it couldn't be done but I actually ordered the al pastor torta at Mama's Friday night about 1 a.m. That was after consuming a gigantic burger at Ann's Snack Bar around 2 p.m. I thought I wouldn't be hungry for 24 hours. I was wrong and the former Taco Cabana seemed like the only choice.
The menu hasn't changed much. My torta wasn't bad, but I'm not sure why that are calling its pork filling al pastor. There was no taste of pineapple and I did no see a rotisserie in the kitchen. Nor was the meat in any part caramelized and there wasn't a spot of orange to be found. It was more like shredded carnitas with grilled onions, some avocado, and a few jalapeno slices.
I was at least partly right about my hunger. I couldn't eat the bread and scraped the meat onto the plate and anointed it with one of the red sauces on the condiment bar. (The green sauce was like water.)
Whatever else I could say about Mama's, I was glad to see a Carmen-Miranda-like face on the sign out front.
When Stir It Up, a Jamaican restaurant in Little Five Points, closed back in August, I was forlorn. Owners (phenomenally beautiful) Vivian and (phenomenally talented) Christopher Williams made the decision after a series of conflicts with their landlord.
Now - oh happy day - the restaurant has reopened in Midtown on 12th Street. My Friday night dining pals and I dined there last week during its "soft opening." We had visited the original location more than any other restaurant during the last three-plus years.
The food ranges from hot-and-spicy jerk chicken (pictured) or shrimp to milder dishes like brown stews made with various meats and seafood. Thus, the scotch-bonnet scaredy cats can dine deliciously without fear. Williams' sauces, as I wrote in 2011, are layered with flavors. It's not that the brown stew doesn't have a piquant quality, but it's comparatively subtle, offset by diversionary sweet notes.
The menu is abbreviated for the time-being. The salted cod with cabbage and fried dumplings, a particularly savory dish, is not on the current menu but will return, along with others in a week or two.
The restaurant is roomier but still cozy, with a heated patio and downstairs space still in the works. It is open for lunch as well as dinner 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-8 p.m. Sunday. The phone number, hard to find for now, is 404-600-5871. Honestly, I'd call ahead to make sure it's open.
Ria was a town character as much as a chef. She was kind, funny, and had a powerful sense of the campy and the kitschy. There were flashes of it all over Sauced, from the paneling to 50s-style lamps and taxidermy. As I recollect, years earlier she operated a restaurant in Little Five Points whose decor duplicated that of a mobile home.
Ria was into the punk scene and was a co-founder of MondoHomo, a queer arts and music festival (that was discontinued after its sixth year in 2012). Ria and I agreed in several conversations that queer culture needs to be nurtured and developed despite the increasing assimilation of the LGBQT population. MondoHomo also explored ways that art can facilitate political change - something you rarely see in Atlanta.
As it happens Donnie Reider, another organizer of MondoHomo, died in November too. Ria cooked for his memorial gathering.
I live very near Ria's Bluebird and recall its opening 14 years ago. It launched the revitalization of commercial buildings at the corner of Memorial Drive at Cherokee Ave. Over the years, the diner's lunch and breakfast dishes have grown more inventive, but Ria remained famous for her pancakes - something she complained about on "Chopped." She wanted to demonstrate her broader skills.
Ria was one of those people who proved that eccentricity is not a liability. It is an asset and should be cultivated. I'm sure Charles Bukowski would have approved of her when he wrote, "Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead."
(A celebration is planned Friday, Dec 13, at Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points. The AJC has plenty of pictures from last Saturday's graveside services at Westview Cemetery. More than 1,000 people attended.)
The city that gave America Ru Paul now has something like a Vegas dinner theater, Lips on Buford Highway. All the servers are drag queens, who, after dinner, mount the stage to put on a show.
I've not been there yet, but friends tell me it's a fun experience. The closest I've come to such was a dinner at Lucky Cheng's in New York City some 20 years ago. That restaurant, which recently moved from the East Village to Times Square, was formerly a gay bathhouse, the first openly gay one in America. It operated from 1971 to 1983.
Lucky Cheng's remains popular with celebrities and part-time metrosexuals who consider the venue a journey to the heart of cool. It will be interesting to see if Lips, actually part of a chain, will attract the same kind of crowd. Charlie Brown's Cabaret, in the old Backstreet club, certainly did. Brown is among the performers at Lips.
I wondered if Lips, located in the recently incorporated Brookhaven, might undergo the same kind of harassment that has plagued the neighboring Pink Pony. It appears not if this, reported by GA. Voice, is still true:
"We are thrilled to welcome Lips to our growing business community in the new city of Brookhaven," said Arthur Freeman, executive director of the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. "The presence of a fine dining atmosphere with live entertainment adds a prestigious element to the Chamber's economic development initiatives."
Most of the restaurant's entrees are under $20, and a prix-fixe, three-course meal is available. There's also a "gospel brunch" on Sundays. You'll have to wait a few weeks for my next Grazing column to read about dinner there.
MetroFresh was a favorite lunch spot for years, but I burned out and have been there infrequently in the last year. And I've rarely been there for dinner at all. Owner Mitchell Anderson expanded the original restaurant's size early this year to increase seating and install a wine bar. (He's also expanded catering operations and, of course, opened a second location in the Botanical Gardens a few years ago.)
Eight of us, surprised to find a parking space in the continually packed Midtown Promenade lot, dined there last Friday. We all ordered from the ever-changing menu of specials. Those who chose the ribeye steak, served with fingerling potatoes and mashed butternut squash, probably made the best decision. But the mahi mahi and grouper produced as many clean plates.
But I convinced them to go and, to my surprise, everyone liked it. In fact it earned rare designation as "a restaurant I'd return to."
I cannot imagine what the logic is behind this. As it's now set up, you have to go to the rear of the store and put your trash in the receptacles that are part of the sweetners-cream bar - which is often crowded. Maybe it is all about feng shui.
That's especially true of the clientele - almost exclusively "ladies who lunch." Indeed, with one exception, we were the only men present in the full dining room. (The restaurant is also open for dinner.)
We all ordered the same thing from the specials menu - a meatloaf sandwich on a baguette with lettuce, tomato, and American cheese. I'm usually scared of meatloaf. When I was a kid, they were always greasy as hell, topped with ketchup, and made me really sick within 10 minutes of the first bite. Cafe Lapin's, traditionally wrapped in bacon, was not the least bit greasy and the two thick slabs on my sandwich had great flavor. I chose a caprese salad for my side. Not bad, especially for out-of-season tomatoes.
I hadn't eaten there in a long time, and was surprised to find the place almost empty. In all honesty, I've come to like Chateau de Saigon more. Flavors at Co'm are still strong, but presentation isn't what it used to be. That may make no difference at all to most people, but I thought it was part of the aesthetic there.
KILL IT!! Love you guys!
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