Food Feature: A roaring good time

Restaurants with fireplaces keep winter blues at bay

We're weak. As the weather begins to dip below our comfort zone, we complain about the nippy breezes and search out refuges to warm our Southern souls. Many restaurants comfort diners with one or more fireplaces during the graying days of fall and winter. If you're looking for a hearth to chase away the chill, here are a few places where you also can pick up a bite to eat.

ALI-OLI, Lenox Marketplace, 3535 Peachtree at Oak Valley Road. 404-266-0414. An impressive French mantle takes up one wall. Smiling cherubs that adorn the mantle wait to sun their bums on the soon-to-be crackling fire. The new space hasn't seen a fire yet, but as soon as the mercury dips a little lower, the fireplace will get some use.

BLUE RIDGE GRILL, 1261 W. Paces Ferry Road. 404-233-5030. It didn't take much for the restaurant that pays homage to the Blue Ridge Mountains to light a fire in their stacked-stone fireplace. The fire's been roaring for days now. With timbers rescued from an 1890s cotton mill, painted log walls, comfortable red leather booths and a large porch, you're in the perfect mountain lodge. There's a great apple cobbler to complete the rustic scene.

BREWHOUSE CAFE, 401 Moreland Ave. 404-525-7799. You can always warm yourself with a few spirits or brewskies, but the restaurant and bar in Little Five also sports a raging blaze indoors. Although it's only the beginning of fall, they've already fired up. Just don't get carried away and start trying to roast marshmallows or nothin'.

1848 HOUSE, 780 S. Cobb Drive SE, Marietta. 770-428-1848. The dramatically lit, Greek Revival antebellum home was built, you guessed it, in 1848 and was the site of a Civil War skirmish. But more impressive when the chill sets in is the massive hearth that warms the surrounding floor.

EINSTEIN'S, 1077 Juniper St. 404-876-7925. A favorite people-watching spot, Einstein's patio can get a bit chilly during the cooler months. That doesn't stop some of the die-hard patio diners who stick it out as long as possible. Wise up, warm up and discover Einstein's great indoors. The two converted houses have fireplaces to warm you as you peer at passersby through the windows.

THE FOOD STUDIO, King Plow Arts Center, 887 W. Marietta St. 404-815-6677. The dark, candlelit atmosphere immediately starts to warm your heart, if not your goosebumped skin. But past the cavernous entryway, you'll also feel the glow of a fire. It hasn't seen much action yet, but they're just waiting for a few more weeks of nippy weather. You can still experience the heat of the kitchen in the meantime.

FOX & HOUNDS (and other Derek Lawford Pubs), 1193 Collier Road NW. 404-352-1007. The string of English pubs including Prince of Wales, Hand in Hand and the Rose and Crown all serve up authentic pub fare such as fish and chips and curried chicken. Although our fall and winters don't compare to those in jolly ol' England, they do offer a chance at a fireside chat.

HARVEST, 853 N. Highland Ave. 404-876-8244. This converted Craftsmen-style four-square home aches for a hearth at which to hang stockings and wait for Saint Nick. Well, along with high quality grub to warm your tummy, you'll also get six fireplaces to warm the rest of you. Yes, three upstairs and three downstairs get you a ringside seat to watch the snap, crackle and pop anywhere in the restaurant.

HORSERADISH GRILL, 4320 Powers Ferry Road NW. 404-255-7277. The downstairs fire in this converted horse barn has already been stoked. You'll have to wait a little longer for the upstairs fireplace to see logs roasting, but in the meantime you can enjoy American fare such as chicken pot pie or Carolina-style barbecue.

LA MADELEINE, 1165 Perimeter Center West; other locations. 770-392-0516. Maybe authentic French boulangeries and pastisseries don't offer up a cozy fireside for you, but the Americanized version allows you to toast your own buns while munching on quiche or a baguette. The rustic charm and French roast coffee are enough to transport you across the Atlantic, where you know they're really freezing their asses off.

MARRA'S GRILL, 1782 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-874-7363. You might think you're in the tropics already with the brightly colored fish-themed art that adorns the location. If you need a little more to trick you into thinking it's warm outside, then there's a fireplace to roast yourself in front of. Of course, the fish get similar treatment as many are grilled over open wood fires.

SOUTH OF FRANCE, 2345 Cheshire Bridge Road. 404-325-6963. Don't be turned away by the stark exterior. Inside South of France you'll find charm, warmth and wonderful food. In addition, this bastion of country French fare will have you all aglow at its homey hearth. In no time you'll be as rosy-cheeked as a Provence peasant.??

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