Weekend Eats ATL

…because calories don't count on the weekends

Marcel Atlanta


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All’s Well at Marcel

Up until the end of June, a classic steakhouse was one of the few things in Atlanta that Ford Fry didn’t have.  Things changed in July when he opened Marcel in the former Abattoir space.  Although I was sad to see Abattoir go, I was pretty excited about the new addition to Atlanta’s steakhouse scene.

At first glance, I loved what they did with the space.  The dim lighting, leather booths, and velvet curtains definitely gave off an “old school” steakhouse vibe, but then there were modern twists like the bright and mirrored bar in the center.

We ended up sitting in the bar room, so there was no reason not to start with a dirty martini.  One martini later, Marcel got its first check in the blue cheese-stuffed olives box.

Marcel Atlanta

So far, so good.

Marcel Atlanta

By 9 pm, the bar was packed.

To soak up all that vodka and vermouth, our server immediately brought out a plate of piping hot bread that was likely pulled out of the oven 25 seconds earlier.  If you’ve ever tried one of the famous English muffins at the Model Bakery in Napa, then you’ll know why I was so excited about this particular bread basket.  Marcel’s version looked deliciously similar and melted in your mouth just the same.  Thank goodness they only gave us one each, or else I might have skipped the steak altogether.

Ford Fry Marcel

Extra butter, please.

Although I was hoping for a tableside preparation when I ordered the Caesar a la minute, everything else about the salad was exactly what I wanted.  The romaine was crisp, the croutons were buttery, and the dressing was perfect.  Although it wasn’t served tableside, you could tell they had just mixed everything up minutes ago, hence the “a la minute.”  Also, never underestimate the importance of a chilled salad served on a chilled plate.  It can make all the difference in the world.

Marcel Atlanta

Caesar, a la minute

If steak isn’t your thing, Marcel has tons of fresh seafood options.  There were several east and west coast varieties on the oysters du jour list, and they were served with baked sea salt crackers and all the necessary fixings.

Marcel Atlanta

Oysters on ice

The sole meunière was classically prepared and beautifully presented.  They brought the fish out whole for a preview, and then returned it minutes later, filleted and ready to eat.  The fish was cooked nicely – flaky throughout with a crispy pan sear.  The subtle lemon-butter sauce really allowed the sole to shine on its own.

Marcel Atlanta

Sole with some soul.

A day or two before I dined at Marcel, I read an interesting article that compared steaks on a price per ounce basis at all the big name steakhouses in Atlanta.  The verdict?  Marcel was the most expensive steakhouse in Atlanta.  So naturally, this made me even more eager to give their steak a try.

I went with the 8 oz filet madame, and Chad with the 14 oz bone-in filet monsieur.  Fitting, I suppose.  Ever since my horrific experience at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, I am extra careful and overly specific (almost to the point of obnoxious, really) when ordering a steak.  In this particular instance, I am pretty sure I used some combination of extremely rare, blue, barely cooked, and cold center.  I also specifically requested a cool plate.  Crystal clear, right?  Wrong.  My first steak came out on a piping hot plate and was barely medium rare.

Marcel steak Atlanta

This is how a normal person might prefer their steak…overcooked.

Contrary to popular belief, I really don’t enjoy sending back $50 steaks.  So if anyone has a suggestion about how I can be more clear about the whole rare thing, I’m all ears.  I will say though, that Marcel recovered very gracefully from this misstep.  The manager was extremely apologetic and brought out a new steak right away (not that it takes much time to sear a steak for 20 seconds on each side).

Marcel Atlanta

And this is what I prefer…perfection.

The second steak was served on a cool plate (check), with a cool, red center (double check).  The outside of the steak was nicely seared  with a salty-buttery crust.  The filet was ever-so-slightly marbled, and flavorful enough that it didn’t need any of the additional sauce add-ons that the menu offered.  It was really delicious, and worth waiting for.  Did it taste $.62/oz better than Kevin Rathbun’s filet?  Probably not, but keep in mind that, like any other steakhouse, you’re paying for the entire experience, not just the steak.

Side-wise we tried the creamed corn and the scalloped potatoes.  Both sides were creamy, cheesy, and decadent to the point where a few bites was enough.  They were definitely sharing-sized portions.  The crispy, baked crust that encased the creamed corn was to die for, and I don’t even really like corn.

Marcel Atlanta

Creamy & crispy, with a hint of corn.

Marcel Atlanta

They do offer some sides that aren’t covered in butter & cheese…but where’s the fun in that?

In the end, despite the minor steak snafu, I had a great experience at Marcel.  I was impressed with the food, and the service didn’t skip a beat.  Judging by the jam-packed crowd at the restaurant, I don’t think Marcel is going to struggle to sell any steaks, higher price tag and all.

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At the Corner of 4th & Swift

The first time I went to 4th & Swift was back in 2008, and I can still remember down to the last scallop what I ate that night.  Now if only I could apply my ability to recall those specific details to something a little bit more useful, like counting cards in blackjack.  Since then, I’ve probably been back to 4th & Swift a dozen times, because it’s one of those restaurants that always delivers.  Chad and I drove by the other day and realized we hadn’t been in ages, so we quickly set out to change that.

As with most good meals, this one started with a dirty martini + blue cheese olives.  The last few restaurants I’ve been to have apologetically said they “don’t do blue cheese olives”, so I was more thankful than normal for this particular cocktail.

4th and Swift Atlanta

One martini, two martini…

I’ve been on a big food-sharing kick lately, so we did two rounds of smaller bites and saved room for dessert.

4th & Swift Atlanta

The market menu changes all the time, so there’s always a reason to return for another visit

Round 1: crispy brussels sprouts salad + wood grilled octopus

After a bite each of the first two dishes, there was no doubt it my mind that 4th & Swift has still got it.  The brussels sprouts dish was similar in terms of flavor profile to the delicious salad I had at Lusca a few weeks ago, but this time with crispy sprouts instead of raw.  The sprouts were served with sliced apples and drizzled in an apple cider reduction.  The tartness of the granny smith apples was offset nicely by the sweetness of the cider.  A sprinkling of toasted pecans added a nice nutty crunch to the salad.

4th & Swift Atlanta

It’s hard to believe that I once thought of brussels sprouts as the enemy in vegetable form.

The wood grilled octopus dish reminded me just how much I love octopus when it’s cooked well.  The octopus was served with grilled beets and beech mushrooms, but the addition of taramosalata and mint yogurt was what really made the dish stand out.  Taramosalata is somewhat hummus-like in terms of texture, but the roe makes it nice and salty.  The light and minty yogurt worked really nicely to balance the taramosalata’s saltiness and creamy texture.  It   On paper, the dish sounds like A LOT, but the Mediterranean flavors worked together in such a tasty way.

4th & Swift menu

More flavors than octopus legs on this dish

Round 2: local mixed greens + glazed pork belly

A few weeks ago, I said that The Spence’s pork belly was cooked better than any pork belly I’ve ever had.  After having eaten 4th & Swift’s pork belly, I’m going to have to revise that statement.  The pork in this dish was unbelievable.  The meat was so tender and succulent, with a really nice and crispy glaze on the outside.  We didn’t even need a butter knife to cut through it.  The pork was served with a tomato jam, black garlic, some charred bok choy, and a handful of boiled peanuts.  After my first bite, I was seriously tempted to hide the pork from Chad and keep it all for myself.  In the spirit of sharing, though, I fought the temptation.

4th & Swift atlanta

Officially the new “best pork belly I’ve ever had”

The local mixed greens were relatively uninteresting, but a good option for those who just want a fresh green salad.  The greens (which were entirely too large and required extensive chopping) were served with roasted beets, toasted pecans, fennel, and some shaved ricotta salata.  I honestly wasn’t sure if the salad was dressed, but it was pretty dry, so there certainly wasn’t enough to cover the enormous greens.  I’d skip this one next time and replace it with any of the other delicious vegetables 4th & Swift has to offer.

4th & Swift Atlanta

Not a salad to write home about

Round 3: sticky toffee pudding

When I order dessert, there is a 99.9% chance it’s going to be chocolate.  In this case, it took a very persuasive server to convince me to go with the sticky toffee pudding over the ganache glazed chocolate cake.  She was spot on.  Those Brits really know what they’re doing with the whole sticky toffee pudding thing.  Honestly, I think we both wanted to lick the bowl clean to ensure that we didn’t leave any of that toffee sauce behind on the plate.

4th & Swift dessert

How do they get it so sticky?

Eater Atlanta recently published an article about the “20 Classic Restaurants Every Atlantan Must Try.”  In the Atlanta restaurant scene, where new restaurants come and go in the blink of an eye, I’d say 4th & Swift is on the path towards becoming a classic any day now.  I know I, for one, will continue to return to this place again and again for years to come.