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Not so germane

Cafe Dupri opens, plus a visit to the Colonnade

Where to begin?

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With the server's disclosure that "our liquor license has been temporarily suspended"? Or with another server's explanation that the cop on duty enforces a dress code that prohibits white T-shirts and hats? (I still have no idea if she was joking.)

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My dinner last week at the self-described "so so good" Cafe Dupri (3135 Piedmont Road, 404-846-2773) was among the most disconcerting I've had in years. Owned by record producer and hip-hop artist Jermaine Dupri, this cafe — across from Bone's, next to Edwards Pipe and Tobacco Shop — lacks any discernible sign except for some initials on the door. On a Monday evening, I handed my keys to a valet who parked my car five feet away and bade Wayne and me a cheerful welcome.

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With an interior that is all wood beams, bright lighting, oak-like tables and green booths, Cafe Dupri instantly reminded me of all the cheap motel restaurants I visited during my years on assignment in rural Georgia. The cafe, which opens at 7 a.m., closes late every night. Perhaps most people show up after midnight, and that's why there were more friendly servers than customers during our visit.

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Cafe Dupri is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is served all day and, although I haven't tasted it, I highly recommend it — out of process of elimination. Anything would beat my dinner. For one thing, you can afford breakfast. We spent well over $60 for a meal I mainly could not eat. I had to nosh on protein bars and pickles when I got home.

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The first thing to avoid is the faux Caesar salad. I am betting nowhere else in the city would you be charged $8.95 for a salad with dried-out grated cheese, boiled eggs and chopped romaine that looks like it was poured out of a bag from a grocery store. Lower the price to $4 and get a real dressing.

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Wayne's appetizer, while also worth avoiding, was more palatable. His $8.95 bought a loaded plate of somewhat recently fried green tomatoes — plenty for two — topped with tepid, blackened crawfish and some hollandaise. I didn't catch the asiago cheese it was supposed to feature, but overall the dish was our favorite.

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The $19.95 price seemed reasonable for my entree of three crab cakes. Then again, if you consider the ratio of filler to crab, it was not so reasonable. Their texture was slightly less gooey than the accompanying remoulade. Honestly, I could not eat them.

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Wayne again made the better choice of entrees with the retro "chicken Napoleon." But perhaps I say that because I only had to taste it, rather than eat the whole thing. His $18.95 organic chicken breast was stuffed with feta, tomatoes, spinach and green onions.

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Side dishes were amazingly unappetizing. Asparagus tasted canned, cauliflower au gratin was mushy and tasteless. But the piece of ultimate resistance was turnip greens fried with little pieces of smoked meat. They were ... never mind. Try them yourself.

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Finally, a word about plating. Your entree is presented in the middle of a big, white serving plate with the veggies in little Picadilly-style bowls on the side. Both our entrees had been stabbed with a vertical branch of rosemary.

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Did I get dessert? You gotta be kidding.

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Here and there

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Dupri's describes its menu as American and Southern, so I thought I would pay a visit to the similarly billed Colonnade (1879 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-874-5642), where a sign now urges people to come in to try "Chef Erich's nightly specials."

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We hadn't been here in quite awhile, but the Colonnade never changes. Everyone gets older, of course, but so do we. I counted three wheelchairs and two canes in the vicinity of our table. I often wonder how many people have died in the dining room here. There are far worse ways to go than surrounded by friendly faces and chattering false teeth.

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The bartender at the Colonnade is a total trip. She was making drinks so fast, her hands were a blur. At one point, someone pushed a bouquet of flowers at her and she barked, "I don't have time!" The flowers were pulled back, then offered again. "I said I don't have time!" she repeated. Finally, she grabbed the flowers and hurled them on the row of liquor bottles behind her, not even looking up.

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We tried two of the nightly specials. My meatloaf — a monster portion — wasn't bad, but the bottled-tasting gravy and canned mushrooms were a no-no. Wayne's dish, a hunk of grouper under a lemon-dill cream sauce, was good in that retro-continental way. I still prefer my old favorites at the Colonnade — the fried chicken, the lamb shank and the fried oysters. ...

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Reader Bill Gilmore recommends the Cake Company (2191-B Briarcliff Road, 404-633-3734), where all cakes are $35. He loves the Globe, as do I, but says, "It's quite the urban scene, so don't wear your Abercrombie & Fitch cargo shorts." Actually, I am taking my New York friend Peter there tonight, post-gym, and planned to wear track pants. I guess not. ...

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Steve Drucker writes to report that he spotted a van lettered with "Beren's Frozen Ice Cream" or "Custard" on I-285 in the vicinity of the Stone Mountain Freeway. The van had no address, and Steve is "frantic to know" if the Beren's folks are back in business. If only. Beren's Frozen Custard, with a shop on Buford Highway, was a sweet destination for many foodies 10 years ago. I have yet to find any tangerine ice cream as good as the one they made. ...

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I did a "live interview" with readers of AtlantaCuisine.com last week. (Go to their forum section to read the transcript.) It was actually enjoyable. I fully expected to be eviscerated, but people were kind, even ignoring my indifferent spelling and punctuation. Tom Maicon's board is a great resource and many of the forum participants are excellent critics. Early reports about Piebar and Quinones there turned out to be right on. The board is also a good resource for new restaurants and foodie gossip.

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Leave Cliff Bostock a voicemail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1010, or e-mail him at cliff.bostock@creativeloafing.com.



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