Weekend Eats ATL

…because calories don't count on the weekends

Article 14 small plates


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14 Reasons to Love Article 14

Article 14 is one of my favorite Midtown spots for a cocktail and an evening bite.  I’ve dined at the place half a dozen times, but have rarely ordered anything other than the Kale Yeah salad, simply because it’s so delicious.  During a recent meal, I branched out and found many other reasons to love the place…

  1. Cocktails: Article 14 has a menu full of fun and unique cocktails.  The zesty melon cooler was right up my alley – vodka, watermelon, lime, and red pepper flakes.  It was subtle, not too sweet, and a little spicy from the red pepper.
Article 14 cocktails

They also serve an excellent dirty martini, if that’s more your style

2.  Lobstah: The lobster roll special made me feel like I was dining on the coast of Maine.  The lobster was served chilled with diced celery, and piled into a toasty bun.  Although the sauce looks a bit heavy, it was actually light and zesty.

Article 14 Atlanta

Fresh Maine lobstaaa

3.  BWD: The bacon-wrapped dates are a staple at Article 14.  The sweet dates were wrapped in a slice of thick-cut and crispy bacon, and topped with a drizzle of aged balsamic.

Article 14 menu

Bacon-wrapped deliciousness

4.  Deviled eggs: I’m not normally big on deviled eggs, but Article 14’s version struck my fancy.  Instead of mayo, the yolks were whipped with goat cheese, and sprinkled with crispy prosciutto and scallions.  They goat cheese made them tangier, creamier, and so much more delicious than the regular version.

Article 14 midtown

Deviled delights

5. & 6.  Peaches & Prosciutto: We had to get in an order of the grilled local peaches before they disappear for the next 9 months.  The juicy peach slices were wrapped in prosciutto and grilled with just the right amount of char and glaze from the saba sauce.  I wouldn’t want to have peaches any other way.

Article 14 small plates

Peachy keen

7.  Tomatoes:  The heirloom tomato salad was the best I’ve had all summer.  The dish was vibrant, beautiful, and flavorful.  The colorful heirlooms were perfectly salted and drizzled with EVOO.  And then there was that delicate (and also perfectly seasoned) piece of burrata on top.

Article 14 Atlanta

Heavenly heirlooms

8. & 9.  Kale + Bacon:  Even though I was branching out, I couldn’t possibly go without a bite of the kale yeah salad.  Article 14 has somehow managed to turn kale into bacon.  The smoky bacon vinaigrette is seriously addicting.  I could eat it all day long.

Article 14 kale yeah

Kale or bacon?

10.  The burger was too tasty-looking to pass on a bite.  The double beef patty was perfectly medium rare, topped with aged white cheddar, and served on a challah bun.  With a pickle on top.  Mouthwatering.

Article 14 menu

A solid stack

11.  Lemon Tart:  I wasn’t really hungry for dessert, but had to at least try a few bites of the chocolate lava cake.  You know, for research purposes.  The cake was disappointingly overcooked, and definitely lacking in the lava department.  Had it been cooked more like the moist and fluffy lemon tart, I might have had more than a few bites.

Article 14 dessert

Deceptively un-lavalike

Article 14 dessert

Now if only they would replace the lemon part with chocolate

12, 13, & 14. The 3 S’s (service, speed, seasonal):  The service was excellent, and I don’t think we waited more than a few minutes in between courses.  I really enjoyed exploring Article 14’s menu, and the chef did an excellent job highlighting so many seasonal ingredients.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for fall, I hear bacon-flavored kale is in.

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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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Saltyard: Tasty Small Plates in Buckhead’s Backyard

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but I’m much more of the “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression” mentality.  Newly-opened Saltyard passed the first impression test with flying colors.  The restaurant opened several weeks ago right next to Watershed in Brookwood Hills (aka the no man’s land on Peachtree between Buckhead and Midtown).

Conceptually, the restaurant focused on small plates, with an assortment of Italian, Spanish, and Mediterranean influences.  Saltyard’s atmosphere was casual, upbeat, and slightly edgy.  The kitchen opened up right into the front of the restaurant, which resulted in being hit with a mouthwatering aroma upon entering the restaurant.

Even better, was the fact that we were seated at the chef’s table, which sits right at the entrance and looks directly into the kitchen.  I actually loved the fact that the table was somewhat isolated from the rest of the restaurant, because it can get pretty loud in there on a Friday or Saturday evening.  It was certainly more conducive to carrying on a conversation in a large group.

Saltyard Atlanta

Can’t complain about the chef’s table

When you’re dining at a small plates-style restaurant, the best only way to tackle the menu is to order as much as possible.  My favorite thing about dining with a large group is the opportunity to taste lots of dishes.  I guess the company would be a close second…

Saltyard’s menu was strategically broken down into a handful of sub-sections:

Bar Snacks

The “cheddar bay” biscuits with garlic and parsley were far superior to your average bread basket.  They were served hot out of the skillet, and nicely browned on top.  Inside, they were the perfect combination of flaky and cheesy.

Saltyard Atlanta

I’m not even normally a biscuit lover…

Saltyard Atlanta

…but I was after this bite

Deviled eggs are one of those dishes that I’m just never going to love, so I didn’t bother to try a bite of these.  I thought I’d include the photo in case there are any deviled-egg lovers out there…

Saltyard menu

I didn’t really see the need for a skillet-presentation on this one, seeing as how they were served chilled

Raw/Cured

The house-cured salmon chips were probably my second favorite plate of the night.  This dish was a sophisticated twist on a bagel with lox.  The thinly sliced potato crisps were smeared with lemon-dill marscapone and topped with layers of smoked salmon.  The salmon was dusted with a sprinkle of roe, fried capers, and a sprig of fresh dill.  The salty salmon and capers were nicely balanced by the mild acidity and creamy texture of the lemon marscopone.  No complaints about the size either; perfect for sharing.

Saltyard Atlanta menu

Smoked salmon never gets old

Saltyard Atlanta menu

Yum.

The beef carpaccio, on the other hand, did not quite live up to my expectations, although I didn’t actually taste the dish…

Saltyard Atlanta menu

Someone at the table perfectly described this as “very inappropriately cooked carpaccio”

I initially thought our server had brought us the incorrect dish, given that anything carpaccio is traditionally (or always as far as I’m concerned) served raw.  After consulting with the kitchen, our server informed us that they actually serve their carpaccio medium-rare.  Hmm, they should probably specify that on the menu…

Saltyard menu

This is beef carpaccio, really??

Interestingly enough, they’ve now updated their menu to call this dish “seared rare beef.”  I’m not sure I would classify the beef I received as rare, but at least it’s a more accurate description than carpaccio.  I’m not big on sending dishes back, but this one went straight back to the kitchen.

Cheese/Charcuterie

I love a good cheese plate.  This sampling did not disappoint.  The Greendale Farm aged tomme (similar in texture and flavor to brie) was by far my favorite.

Saltyard Atlanta menu

Loved the cutting board presentation on this one

Bruschettas

The “tuna tonatto” was absolutely the most delicious bruschetta I have ever tasted.  The olive oil grilled baguette was topped with diced ahi tuna, chives, and a melt in your mouth truffle spread.  There was so much tuna piled onto this dish that it was falling off left and right.  No complaints from me about that.  The flavor combination of the tuna and truffle spread was outstanding – you can’t really go wrong when combining two of my favorite ingredients.  Favorite dish of the night, no question.

Saltyard Atlanta menu

This was pretty difficult to share

Veggies/Salads

While grabbing a pre-dinner drink at the bar, I spotted a server walking by with a plate of brussels sprouts.  I was sold right then and there.  The sprouts were simply prepared – roasted with lemon and capers.  Ironically, they were slightly under-seasoned in the salt department, but nothing that a sprinkle from the salt shaker couldn’t fix.  Definitely a good addition if you’re looking to get some greens in.

Saltyard Atlanta

If only I could learn to cook veggies this well, I might actually eat them

Aside from the carpaccio incident, our entire experience at Saltyard was flawless.  Our server was great, and I enjoyed every single dish I tasted.  For the most part, the dishes were pretty traditional, with a few unique and interesting twists (can’t say I’ve ever had tuna bruschetta before this meal).  I would return to Saltyard for the bruschetta alone, but would love to branch out and try the roasted mushrooms and pan-seared scallops, among others.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that my first impression of Saltyard is going to be a lasting one.

Saltyard menu

A complimentary birthday dessert was the cherry on top of a delicious meal


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How Do You Happy Hour?

A Thursday evening happy hour is often the perfect only way to make it through a long and seemingly endless week.   This past Thursday, I unintentionally succeeded in crossing not one but two restaurants off my list.

Having read so much about the amazing cocktail program at Seven Lamps, I convinced my fellow happy hour-goers to meet me there for drinks and apps.  Prior to my arrival, they got a head start with an order of oysters on the half shell.  The oysters weren’t a great start, and things only went downhill from there.

Seven Lamps oysters

#oysterfail

While I’m guessing they were trying to be “cool” with the presentation, it missed the mark.  I’m not sure anyone actually wants to eat cocktail sauce that comes out of a test tube.  A mini bowl or ramekin would have been sufficient.  On second thought, horseradish would have been nice as well.  The crackers were another problem.  Not only were they too small for the oysters themselves, their convex shape caused the oysters to slip off mid-bite.

I arrived post-oysters, and not a single server or bartender approached our table for at least fifteen minutes – until we flagged someone down, that is.  We were the only patrons in the restaurant.  The bartender only acted slightly annoyed that we were inconveniencing him by ordering drinks – two “75 Souths” and one unmemorable cucumber-vodka concoction.

We got two of the three drinks and the bartender finally showed back up at our table to inform us he had forgotten about the third.  He must have been busy making drinks for all the other patrons in the restaurant…except that there weren’t any.  We switched it up and went with the “Snow White beer-tail this time.

Seven Lamps cocktails

75 South, Snow White (a little heavy on the ice), cucumber-something

The Snow White was the final straw.  It tasted like an unappetizing, watery Hoegaarden.  At this point, we decided to forgo our original plan and went in search of appetizers elsewhere.

We walked around the corner to Cook Hall, and the evening made an immediate 180-degree change for the better.  Our server, for one, was absolutely phenomenal.  He was attentive, provided delicious suggestions, and was very knowledgeable about pretty much every item on the menu.

We arrived just in time for happy hour and decided to try all five of the $5 “snacks”, plus a few extras.  Everything we tasted was good and perfect for sharing.

The duck tacos were my favorite.  The duck was crispy, the tortillas were housemade and fresh, and the chipotle coleslaw was refreshing and slightly spicy.

Cook Hall appetizers

Duck taco duo

The popcorn shrimp was a clever, tasty, and quite literal dish.  The fried shrimp were served atop a bed of buttery popcorn, and drizzled with a bit of ranch.  The strange combination of flavors came together quite nicely, although the popcorn did get a little soggy under the ranch.

Cook Hall appetizers

Popcorn + shrimp, who would have though they actually tasted good together

The roasted radish bruschetta was bright, flavorful, and light.  The sourdough bread was grilled, smeared with a layer of delicious honey butter, and topped with roasted radishes.  The clean flavor of the radishes perfectly complemented the rich and creamy honey butter.

Cook Hall appetizers

A unique take on “bruschetta”

The pimento mac & cheese surprisingly didn’t taste much like pimento cheese at all – a good thing, because I do not care much for pimento cheese.  The mac was served right in the skillet and topped with panko crumbs for a little extra crunch.

Cook Hall appetizers

We didn’t need the skillet to keep the mac & cheese warm – it wasn’t around long enough to get cold

The deviled eggs were my least favorite dish, probably because I don’t really like deviled eggs to begin with.  The eggs were made with gulf blue crab and dusted with paprika.  I probably could have done without them.

Cook Hall appetizers

If you like deviled eggs, you’d probably like these

Per our server’s recommendation, we also ordered a few non-happy hour extras.  The house made ricotta was the best thing I tasted all night.  The ricotta was light and fluffy, drizled in honey, and dusted with black pepper.  When smeared atop one of the olive oil brushed flatbread pieces, it made for a delicious bite.

Cook Hall appetizers

We had to get extra flatbread to ensure we didn’t leave any delicious ricotta behind

The jalapeño-cheddar fritters were another winner.  They were crispy and salty on the outside, creamy and spicy on the inside.  They basically melted in your mouth and left you wanting more.

Cook Hall appetizers

It took approximately 30 seconds until this bowl was empty

As an added bonus, the cocktails at Cook Hall were spot on as well.  I tried the Grapefruit Cooler, which combined tequilla and grapefruit with a splash of Monday Night Fu Manbrew.

Cook Hall cocktails

Tasted kinda like a grapefruit margarita

The Basil Shandy combined basil-infused vodka with an IPA and raspberry.  Both cocktails were refreshing, unique, and beautifully presented.

Cook Hall cocktails

I didn’t get much IPA flavor in this, but refreshing nonetheless

If the rest of Cook Hall’s menu is as delicious as our appetizer sampling, this is certainly a place worth returning to.  Seven Lamps on the other hand, not so much.