Weekend Eats ATL

…because calories don't count on the weekends

Gypsy kitchen atlanta

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Buckhead Atlanta: Gypsy Kitchen

Gypsy Kitchen was one of the first restaurants to open in the new (and long awaited) Buckhead Atlanta development.  The restaurant parallels Peachtree, and is right next to its sister (or brother, rather) restaurant, The Southern Gentleman. On the inside, you’ll find lots of dark wood paneling, unique lighting, and a kitchen that partially opens up into the restaurant.  The open kitchen was neat for about fifteen seconds, until I started sweltering from the overheated restaurant.

The menu features an assortment of Spanish style tapas – cured meats & cheeses, snacks, appetizers, plates, etc.  It’s definitely an “order and share” kind of place, so that’s exactly what we did…

The meat & cheese board was pretty minimal, and by minimal I mean that the portions were pretty unproportional to the prices.  The manchego, chorizo, and san simon were all tasty, but I could have skipped the bresaola.

Gypsy kitchen atlanta

For $28, they could have at least thrown in a marcona almond or two.

Most of the other dishes we tried were some combination of greasy and under-seasoned, to put it simply.  The roasted mushroom caps were [under]cooked in a parsley-hazelnut sauce that was just a little bit way too oily for my liking.  The result?

Gypsy kitchen menu

Soggy ‘shrooms.

The chicken croquetas tasted like deep-fried balls of…nothing.

Buckhead Atlanta Gypsy Kitchen

Fritter fail.

The patatas bravas were undersalted and served with the same visually unappealing aioli as the croquetas.

Buckhead Atlanta restaurants

Really though, why is that aioli so yellow?

The octopus dish was doused in oil, and then smothered in an unnecessarily rich (yet bland) potato puree.

Gypsy kitchen Atlanta

Oily octo

The Spanish cigars were deep fried (surprise) and stuffed with blue cheese, dates, and jamón serrano.  They were crispy, but it was difficult to taste anything other than fried.

Gypsy kitchen menu

Buckhead restaurant or carnival fare?

The “paella” fried rice was the only really tasty and flavorful dish of the evening.  The crispy rice was tossed with shrimp, chorizo, and peas, and topped with a perfectly-cooked fried egg.

Gypsy kitchen atlanta

Wish we had skipped the others and ordered three of these.

At the end of the meal, I sort of felt like I had just eaten seven of the same dishes, with varying degrees of greasiness and tastelessness.  They even served a few of the dishes over a piece of paper, presumably to mop up some of the extra grease (refer to Spanish cigars above).  Gypsy Kitchen was disappointing, to say the least.  Stick to the Iberian Pig or Cooks & Soldiers if you want twice the flavor and half the grease (okay, grease rant over).


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Good Looks for Cooks & Soldiers

Cooks & Soldiers has been open for a few months now, and I recently tried it for the first time.  The bar area of the West Midtown establishment is open and bright, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows that make up the front wall.  The main dining area is pretty large, although the tables seemed a bit close to one another.  As luck would have it though, we were seated at the beautiful marble private dining table adjacent to the bar.

Cooks & Soldiers Atlanta

The cocktail was too sweet, but it was certainly pretty

Cooks & Soldier’s basque-inspired menu is broken down into two main sections: pintxos (small bites) and asador (grilled meat, seafood, and vegetables).  The portions are large enough to share, but small enough to leave you wanting more.  We may or may not have ordered a second round of one or two of the plates.

Our server provided a really nice (albeit long-winded) overview of the menu, and recommended some of his personal favorites.

We started with two of the pintxos tradicionales, which are essentially duos of toasted bread with various toppings.  The first was topped with jam, goat cheese, caramelized figs, a slice of prosciutto, and a drizzle of balsamic.  The flavors worked really well together, mostly savory with a hint of sweetness from the jam & figs.

Cooks & Soldiers small plates

A perfectly savory bite

The second was simpler: fresh tomato, prosciutto, and a sprig of cilantro.  It was probably the least interesting thing we tasted all night, and could have used a drizzle of olive oil, in my opinion.

Cooks & Soldiers

Simple, but I could have skipped this one

Next we moved onto the pintxos especiales, which is where things really started to get tasty.  The croquetas de gambas were served fresh out of the fryer over a tangy garlic aioli, with a dash of malt vinegar on the side.  The crispy little fritters were comprised of shrimp, roasted corn, peas, and piquillo peppers, for a little pop of heat.

Cooks & Soldiers midtown

Fritters for all

The atun y frutas dish was definitely my favorite.  The seared tuna was served with an heirloom tomato medley over a buttermilk crème fraiche.  There were also a few interesting cubes of melon gelee.  Although the tuna was delicious, the tomatoes were the real star of the dish, and that little drizzle of olive oil really enhanced their flavor.  As for the crème fraiche, well, that goes well with anything.

Cooks & Soldiers small plates

One of these simply wasn’t enough.

The chistorra in a blanket were, as the name suggests, fancy pigs in a blanket.  And they were delicious.  The croissants were crispy, flaky, coated in a cider glaze, and dusted with sea salt.  The slightly spicy sausage was so tasty with a dip of the sweet and mapley mustard aioli.  If only there had been four of them.

Cooks & Soldiers menu

The bigger the sea salt flakes, the better.

The grilled octopus was another seafood delight, although I have to disagree with our server about it being the best in Atlanta (St. Cecilia’s still wins that prize).  The octopus was charred and served over a chickpea puree with bits of chorizo and smoked marcona almonds.  The textural contrast of the puree, the octopus, and the crunchy almonds was spot on, and the olives added the perfect touch of salt.

Cooks & Soldiers seafood

Loved the octo-presentation

The bikini, also known as a grilled cheese, was deliciously savory and cheesy.  Layers of white American cheese, prosciutto, and black truffles were oozing out of this sandwich.  As an added bonus, the white bread was absolutely drenched in butter (yes – this is a good thing).   I will say, though, I was a little confused about the name.  I didn’t really want to be anywhere near a bikini after enjoying this decadent bite.

Cooks & Soldiers menu

You’re never too old for a grilled cheese

I was pleasantly surprised by the deliciousness of the veal cheek, because it honestly didn’t look that appetizing.  The braised veal was tender enough to cut with a fork and had so much flavor.  The mashed potatoes were the perfect way to mop up every last bit of sauce.

Cooks & Soldiers dinner

Fancied-up meat & potatoes

We couldn’t decide on just one dessert, so we ordered three.  Naturally.  The chocolate tarte was a no brainer.  The rich and decadent Valrhona chocolate sat atop a graham cracker crust and was sprinkled with sea salt.  It was accompanied by a corn gelato and a little lump of creamed corn, which I did not understand nor care for at all.  Why ruin the chocolate by adding corn?  The tarte was absolutely delicious, and the corn remained untouched on the side of the plate, where it shouldn’t have even been in the first place.

Cooks & Soldiers Atlanta

Separation of corn & chocolate

The gateau basque was sweet and simple, but I’m not really one for fruit desserts.  A layer of pickled strawberry compote sat beneath the slightly-savory almond crème fraiche cake.  The cake itself was perfectly cooked – far from dry on the inside with a crispy crust.

Cooks & Soldiers dessert

Definitely a lighter dessert option

The lemon-goat cheese cheesecake was the most beautiful and the tastiest of the three, and it’s not easy to win over a chocolate tarte.  I loved the slight tanginess of the goat cheese, and it definitely made for a much lighter and fluffier-than-normal cheesecake.  A poached peach slice and a peach granite accompanied the cake, to sweeten up the savory goat cheese.

Cooks & Soldiers atlanta

Can’t get better than tasty AND beautiful

I have to say, I was extremely impressed with the food, pace of service, and presentation at Cooks & Soldiers.  I never felt rushed throughout the dinner and I loved that they served all the dishes on slate boards.  I didn’t try one dish all night that I didn’t like, and that’s quite impressive given that we ordered eleven of them.  There were only a handful of items on the menu that we didn’t try, and you can bet I’ll be back to order them soon.

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Back to Bocado

Bocado is a place that I love to frequent for cocktails, but a recent visit reminded me how much I love the food there as well.  Speaking of cocktails, though, Bocado is home to the Dog Day, also known as my favorite cocktail in the city.  Despite the fact that it hasn’t been on the menu for about three years now, the bartender whipped one right up.  The Dog Day is perfectly balanced and never fails to deliver on the refreshing front.

Bocado atlanta cocktails

The Dog Days are still NOT over.

Bocado menu atlanta

Although Bocado’s menu changes all the time, the quinoa dish is a staple, and it’s one of my favorites.  The toasty quinoa is served with cranberry beans, lime-zested cashews, and slices of cucumber, radish, onion, and avocado.  Huge slices of avocado, I might add.  It’s really light, but at the same time, the quinoa adds a hearty nuttiness to the dish, while the creamy avocado adds a hint of richness.

Bocado atlanta


I rarely turn down the opportunity to order octopus when it’s available, and Bocado’s was executed really nicely.  The octopus was roasted (with a perfect char on the outside) and served over a radish and sweet onion salad.  The smoked paprika seasoning on the dish was bold, but simple enough to let the octopus flavor shine on its own.

Bocado atlanta

Octopus + smoked paprika = delicious

The yellowtail crudo was equally as delicious as the first two dishes.  The fish was thinly sliced, perfectly salted, and most importantly, fresh out of the sea.  It was marinated in a really tasty olive oil broth with poppy seeds, sliced radishes, and a hint of cucumber.  I loved the way the radishes and cucumber added a nice, clean balance to the saltiness of the yellowtail, making the dish a great pallet cleanser for the rest of the meal.

Bocado menu atlanta

Perfectly sliced Yellowtail

As a precursor to the main event (aka the burger stack), we shared a snack plate to tide us over.  The “snacks” consisted of marinated olives, glazed nuts, pimento cheese, and trout dip – all served with fresh baguette slices.  First of all, the mini-mason jar presentation of the dish perfectly captured the essence of the snack plate concept.  The savory snacks were really tasty and perfect for sharing.  I’m pretty sure we scraped the smoked trout and pimento cheese jars clean, and didn’t leave so much as a walnut or olive behind.

Bocado Atlanta

A quartet of snacks

And last, but certainly not least, the burger.  Bocado’s “burger stack” is nothing less than crave-worthy.  As the best burgers are, Bocado’s is simple: two patties, American cheese, house b&b pickles, and a toasted sesame seed bun.  And a side of crispy fries.  On a side note, I’ve concluded that sesame seed buns are far superior to those that lack the extra bit of crunchy texture. Additionally, burgers served on H&F buns are far superior to those that are not. It’s hard not to compare Bocado’s burger to H&F’s, given that they’re similarly delicious.  I honestly can’t say which burger I prefer, but hey, there’s room for more than one perfect burger in this town.

Bocado burger

Bocado’s famous burger stack. Split four-ways, this left me wanting more.

There’s a reason that Bocado is high on my ATL FAVES list, and it’s because I’ve yet to try a dish or a drink (though I’ve only tried one) there that I didn’t like.  I’m hoping my next visit will include some combination of another Dog Day and some sunshine on the back patio.

Piedmont Park Atlanta

All food aside, here’s another reason why I love Atlanta.  You simply can’t beat a spring Saturday in Piedmont Park.

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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.

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Float Away, Floataway Café

Floataway Café has been floating around (no pun intended) the middle of my “restaurants to try” list for a little while now.  I finally checked it out a few weeks ago with a group of friends, and I have to say I was not impressed.  The restaurant is hidden away behind a couple warehouses in the Emory/Druid Hills area.  The space is definitely warehouse-chic, with high ceilings and lots of natural light.  Floataway’s concept was something along the lines of a modern blend of Mediterranean, Italian, and French cuisines, although I’m still a little bit unclear on what exactly they’re going for.

The menu is broken down into a few sections: cold & warm starters, pizzas, pastas, entrees, and vegetables.  The pizzas all looked and smelled pretty delicious, and I wish now that we had gone that route.  Per our server’s recommendation, we started with the gulf blue crab fritter and the octopus.

The crab fritter was nice and crispy on the outside, but it was way too thick.  This resulted in a slightly mushy texture throughout the center of the fritter.  It was served over some sautéed red onions and tomatoes in an oil-based sauce, which didn’t exactly help with the mushiness.

Floataway Cafe

Fritter failure

The octopus dish had a really nice combination of flavors.  It was served over some roasted purple potatoes with a zesty cumin-spiced yogurt.  However, the octopus itself was poorly cooked.  Octopus has a very small window in which it goes from perfectly cooked to overcooked, and the chef definitely missed the window here.  The texture was a little rubbery for my liking.

Floataway Cafe atlanta

It probably doesn’t help that I now compare every octopus dish I eat to St. Cecilia’s version

Entrée-wise, I went with the trout, which was served over a side of pureed chickpeas (aka hummus) with a nice roasted chickpea and red onion garnish.  I never would have thought to pair trout with chickpeas, but the combination worked really well together.  The trout was nicely cooked and crispy on the skin side, but I really would have liked a bit more sear on the other side as well.

Floataway Cafe atlanta

I’ve yet to find a hummus-anything combination that I don’t love

Chad went with the grilled hanger steak.  I’m never really a fan of non-steakhouse steaks, and this one was no exception.  The steak was served pre-sliced with a glob of buttery garlic sauce on the side.  Unfortunately, the sauce didn’t quite mask the fact that the steak itself lacked flavor.  The best part of the dish was the side of pommes frites.  The frites were pretty delicious, as French fries usually are.

Floataway Cafe atlanta

News flash: adults over the age of 5 can cut their own meat

Overall, I thought the experience at Floataway was mediocre at best.  I didn’t eat one bite the entire evening where I thought, “wow, that was delicious.”  The service was definitely nothing to write home about either.  In fact, the drink service was painfully slow, especially given that the restaurant was not crowded at all for a Friday evening.  At the end of the day, Floataway definitely floated down to the “one and done” section of my restaurant list.

St. Cecelia Atlanta


St. Cecilia: A Little Slice of Buckhead Heaven

After making my third visit to St. Cecilia this past Friday, I came to the conclusion that Ford Fry will eventually take over the city, and then maybe the world.  I’m pretty sure that I already came to the exact same conclusion after multiple visits to The Optimist and King + Duke, so this was certainly not an earth-shattering revelation by any means.  St. Cecilia opened in Buckhead in the old Bluepointe space back in January.  The restaurant focuses on Mediterranean-inspired coastal cuisine, with an emphasis on (delicious) seafood and pasta dishes.

The space is absolutely stunning, and a drastic 180-degree improvement from the drab and outdatedness that was Bluepointe.  The restaurant has ridiculously high ceilings, surrounded by an entire wall of floor to ceiling windows.  The gorgeous, white marble bar, however, is the clear centerpiece of the restaurant.

Speaking of the bar, the cocktails and bartenders at St. Cecilia are fabulous.  I haven’t yet tried a drink that I didn’t like, and I’ve tried quite a few, to be honest.  The Green River (gin, muddled arugula, and black pepper) was savory and refreshing and the Barber of Seville (vodka, prosecco, and muddled strawberries) made for the perfect summertime concoction.

St. Cecelia Atlanta

Get there early if you want to snag a seat at the bar

When it comes to muddled-anything cocktails, I’m generally easy to please.  I think my favorite, though, was the classic dirty martini, complete with freshly stuffed blue cheese olives, of course.

St. Cecelia Atlanta

Ice cold & filled to the brim

St. Cecelia Atlanta

Martinis all around

Our meal at St. Cecilia began with a loaf of warm, fresh-baked focaccia with whipped ricotta.  The bread arrived perfectly salted and olive-oiled, and the ricotta, light and fluffy.  It took a lot of willpower to save room for the rest of the meal.

St. Cecelia Ford Fry

This certainly helped to soak up some of the martini

The menu is broken down into several sections (crudo, antipasti, salumi, pasta, and “after-pasta”), with portions on the smaller side.  Side note: small portions sizes means that it is perfectly acceptable to order anything and everything on the menu that strikes your fancy.  Our server provided a wonderful overview of the menu, and we opted to start with the strawberry salad and the charred octopus.

The strawberry salad was simple and light.  The arugula and watercress were just barely drizzled with a hint of lemon and olive oil, and were topped with fresh strawberries, goat cheese, and pistachios.  I would highly recommend it if you’re looking for a lighter option to ease your way into the meal.

St. Cecelia Atlanta

Loved the beautiful, brightness of the strawberries

The charred octopus dish was perfect (so perfect that I’ve ordered it on all three visits to St. Cecilia).  Even Chad, who is not an octo-lover, deemed it his favorite dish of the entire meal.  The octopus was lightly grilled, which resulted in a wonderful char and a perfect texture throughout.  It was served over an Italian bean salad, with oregano, and a nice olive oil-based broth.  The dish was light, bursting with flavor, and satisfying.  I think next time we may have to order two of them.

St. Cecelia Buckhead

This one is a MUST order

From the pasta section, we tried the spring mushroom risotto.  Although the antipastis set the bar extremely high, the risotto did not disappoint.  The dish was rich, creamy, and everything you look for in a risotto.  The earthiness of the porcini mushrooms balanced so nicely with the fresh parmesan and buttery flavor of the pasta.  The texture was actually slightly on the al dente side, so you didn’t get even a hint of mushiness that so often comes as the result of an overcooked risotto.

St. Cecelia Atlanta

Those mushrooms…

As we delved into the “After Pasta” section of the menu, the meal only got better and better.   It took us about .2 seconds to decide on the black bass and the arctic char, which turned out to be my favorite dishes of the evening.  The black bass might have been the most perfectly cooked piece of fish I’ve ever eaten.  The skin was out-of-this-world crispy, while the fish itself was succulent and super flaky.  The simple salt, pepper, and olive oil preparation of the fish really highlighted its fresh and delicate flavor.  It was served with a nice duo of sweet, Vidalia onions and porcini mushrooms.  The charred octopus was a fierce competitor, but the bass ultimately prevailed as my favorite of the evening.

St. Cecelia Atlanta

Like I said, you can’t cook a fish more perfectly that this one.

The arctic char was a close second.  Similar to the bass, the fish could not have been cooked more perfectly.  The outer skin was deliciously crispy, while the fish itself was impeccably mid-rare.   The fish was topped with grilled artichokes, caper berries, and drizzled with a lemon butter reduction, which provided the perfect combination of salty-buttery to accompany the char.

St. Cecelia Atlanta

Look at the char on that char…

Even after a delicious and satisfying meal, I always have room for dessert when chocolate is involved.  Per our server’s recommendation, we ordered the Valrhona dulcey tart to share.  The rich and chocolaty mini-pie was topped with homemade pine nut ice cream and apricot slices.  It was the perfect end to a perfect meal, especially considering that Chad was willing to split the dessert on a 90-10 basis.

St. Cecelia Atlanta

And beneath all that ice cream…chocolaty deliciousness

From start to finish, our experience at St. Cecilia was absolutely flawless.  Despite the fact that the restaurant was jam packed on a Friday night, our server was attentive and didn’t seem to mind the fact that our dinner turned out to be a four-hour long event.  Although I’ve recently migrated south from Buckhead to Midtown, there is no doubt in my mind that I’ll be willing to endure the five-mile long traffic jam we call Peachtree Street in order to return to St. Cecielia.