Food 101 becomes Rosebud; Arizona Pub opens

Monday night brunch in Morningside

Rosebud (1397 N. Highland Ave., 404-347-9747) is the new name of Food 101 in Morningside. Executive chef Ron Eyester bought out the co-owners recently and rechristened the restaurant. The name derives from one of the guitars played by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.

Ordinarily, any reference to the Grateful Dead is immediately alienating to me. I used to write an annual column in which I invited people to send me their tie-dyed clothing to destroy in a ritual bonfire. I usually got far more angry e-mails than clothing.

There is nothing very Deadhead about Eyester’s restaurant. A few cosmetic changes, including fresh paint and refinished tables, have been made, but the effect remains elegantly cozy, a feeling that is reinforced by an unusually good staff of friendly servers who can talk articulately about the menu. Lizzie is server of the week.

The menu has not changed much. Eyester has altered ingredients and side dishes on some dinner entrees, principally to lighten them up, it seemed to me. He has, however, added some new starters. Prices befit the times and start as low as $10 for a grilled country ham and pimento cheese sandwich. Most of the entrees, accenting Southern style, are under $20.

We happened to visit on the restaurant’s first night with its new name. It was a Monday, when the restaurant features its “Monday Night Brunch” in addition to the regular menu. The brunch menu doesn’t include starters, so we ordered appetizers from the regular menu.

One of the new starters was probably my favorite taste of the evening. It was three slices of toast spread with a chicken-liver pate and topped with a relish of chopped bread-and-butter pickles, then garnished with crunchy bits of smoked bacon.

Wayne, Southern to the bone, ordered the pimento cheese, a menu standby that is now served with cayenne-dusted crackers instead of bread. The serving was gigantic — plenty for two — and tasty. It was a bit cold and, like most pimento cheese, it tastes better when it reaches room temperature. So take your time.

Brunch, as I’ve written countless times, is not my favorite meal, largely because I find the whole notion of hybridizing breakfast with lunch silly. The results always seem to be mega-calorific. Now we have breakfast hybridized with dinner — even stranger, but it’s hard not to appreciate the prices, most of which hover around $12.

I ordered an L.A. classic, a fried chicken breast with a waffle, served with absurdly creamy grits and hash-brown potatoes. If you can finish this without having heart failure on the spot, you should bequeath your circulatory system to science. Flavors? Great, although the grits, despite their enormous quantity of cream and butter, were rather nondescript. The chicken was hot and crispy, fried to order.

I also ordered a side of Benton's country ham. I grew up eating country ham cured by an uncle, so I feel compelled to sample it whenever I see it on a menu. Usually, it’s not even really country ham, but the Benton product is authentic. I want a whole ham.

Wayne ordered a brunch item called the “ultimate pancake.” It was a huge pancake, doubled over with a filling of smoked bacon and scrambled eggs. Ordinarily, sausage is also included, but the restaurant was out of it. Wayne drenched the pancake in maple syrup — not my favorite effect — but I got a taste before he ruined it. It works.

I get nostalgic when I visit this location. It’s where Alix Kenagy opened Partners and Indigo Coastal Grill in the ‘80s and really began the commercial resurgence of the area. Mambo, the city’s definitive Cuban café, was across the street (and is now at the Wyndham on 10th Street). These were among the city’s first chef-driven restaurants and Eyester is continuing that tradition.

In Candler Park

The Arizona Pub (130 Arizona Ave., 404-370-0550) has opened after a long, mysterious delay. The bar, like the condo development it fronts, features a kind of retro-post-industrial-neo-Bauhaus-prefab look. Or something. It’s really cool.

We visited only a few days after it had opened and, for now, the pub is serving an abbreviated menu of the usual bar food. There’s no intention to produce a gastropub-style menu, but a few substantial entrees will be available.

The building is two levels. The downstairs is mainly occupied by a bar for serious drinking. There’s another bar upstairs with a larger dining room that has so many windows, we felt a bit like we were dining in a tree house. There are two patio/decks off the dining room. It’s a really magical space, especially as the sun sets.

Oddly, the view of sky and clouds gets competition from four flat-screen monitors. We watched the Tour de France, remarking on the beautiful Provencal landscape while ignoring the window view. Oh well.

As bar food goes, Arizona’s is good. I started with a decent Caesar salad. Wayne ordered 10 wings with one of the hottest sauces we’ve ever encountered. The owner explained that the kitchen makes a basic habanero sauce and then reduces it to varying degrees to produce a mild or beyond-Thai-hot version.

I ordered a good burger with cheddar cheese, bacon and grilled onions, plus a side of chili. I haven’t eaten chili con carne in many years, but enjoyed it. I liked the stuff when I was a kid and my mother would cook it — while she literally gagged over and over because she found the smell so nauseating. Every taste has a memory, yes?

Here’s a departure from the norm. Arizona is exhibiting some really good- quality artwork by Mark Sandlin and Red Weldon Sandlin, a married couple. The theme of the mixed-media work is “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee’s pivotal book whose 50th publication anniversary is this year.

A great place to hang.

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