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Review: Stir It Up

New family run Jamaican joint shows Little Five Points some love

"I totally underestimated this restaurant," my dining companion says, contentedly looking down at her empty plate. "I don't know why." After a few minutes of consideration, she says, "Probably the name. And the location."

It's true. What would you expect from a restaurant called Stir It Up in Little Five Points? It's hard not to love this scrappy neighborhood and its dedication to every long-gone countercultural heyday. But food is not one of the reasons to come here. Vintage clothing, good beer, and good music, yes. Remembering and trying to relive the thrill of walking into Junkman's Daughter for the first time, way before Hot Topic had co-opted punk in the malls across America, sure. Lovingly prepared, built-from-scratch food? Not so much. Not until now.

Stir It Up bucks numerous trends, its location being one. But I also wasn't expecting such a suave, comfortable room when I first walked through the doors, and certainly not the chandelier and grey velvet-clad alcove that makes up the main dining room. I wasn't expecting the gracious, friendly service. And I definitely wasn't expecting food this good. Run by husband-and-wife team Christopher and Vivian Williams (he is the chef, she provides the service), Stir It Up serves Jamaican food prepared in a way that's rarely seen outside of Jamaica. That is to say, unless you have a Jamaican grandmother who refuses to cut corners and makes everything from scratch. And since most of us don't, the majority of the Jamaican food we've had has come from steam tables, prepared with sauces and seasonings from a jar.

Even in that form, Jamaican food can be delicious. Pre-made Jamaican beef patties are the food that ripped me from the lofty hands of vegetarianism when I was 16, and I'll gladly eat the jerk chicken dished out cheaply at most take-out joints. But what's served at Stir It Up is a different beast.

The Williamses seek to bring Jamaica's mishmash of cultural heritages to the plates of Atlantans. Christopher grew up in restaurants in Jamaica owned by his father, an Indian/Jamaican chef who specialized in Chinese/Jamaican cooking. It therefore makes some kind of crazy melting pot sense that my friend especially liked Stir It Up's mellow yellow curry, its turmeric, pimento and allspice heat sneaking up slowly on the palate. She said it somehow reminded her of her Filipino grandmother's curry. The restaurant's name, an obvious ode to Bob Marley, has a more poignant meaning in that global context.

Stir It Up's jerk chicken tastes of the careful layering of spices - thyme, Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice - each spice with its own distinct note, each contributing to a fragrant melody, tinged with heat. Bone-in chicken is brined in a house-made mixture for 24 hours, and then smoked in the on-site barbecue pit. The sauce on the brownstew chicken channels everything that's good about the scrapings from the bottom of a roasting pan, all those juices and caramelized fat merged into one luxuriant, deep auburn gravy.

Stir It Up doesn't currently have a liquor license - the owners hope to have one by the end of the year - but it does have Jamaican lemonade made with lime and brown sugar that varies from tart and bracing to slightly cloying, depending on the day.

There's a human element to this place that works for it and against it. You can taste the care and love in the food. But some of the cooking does fall flat. The beef patties just taste like regular beef patties. I wasn't enamored of the cabbage and saltfish - the veggies were greasy, the salt cod tough and chewy. It may be an authentic presentation, but if salt cod isn't already a favorite of yours, this dish won't change your mind.

Menu items tend to run out a lot. I never did get a taste of the curried goat, although the menu warns it isn't always available. At the end of the evening, almost the entire menu can become unavailable. You might find that a piece of the rum cake, a gorgeously moist yellow cake with a wicked rum-soaked exterior, is hard to come by. That's because the chef's sister bakes it ahead of time, and when it's gone it's gone. Stir It Up is a family-run establishment and it shows, in the warm vibe, the soulfully prepared dishes and the restaurant's inconsistencies. I'll take the human element with all its flaws any day. This food tastes of love.



More By This Writer

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[http://clatl.com/atlanta/double-zero-napoletana/Location?oid=3432475|===__Double Zero Napoletana__=== ]Tues., March 13, 5-10 p.m. __Supper Club at Double Zero Napoletana.__ Treat your taste buds to a trip to Southern Italy at Double Zero Napoletana on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 as it hosts the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s Supper Club dining event. The menu features pizza, fresh pasta and seafood, as well as Antipasti and Sfizi, handmade pastries, and gelato. ===__Details__===

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Article

Monday March 12, 2012 02:31 pm EDT

  • James Camp
  • Double Zero Napoletana

Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant Tue., March 13, 7 p.m. Bushmills Whiskey Tasting. Fadó and radio host Rich Sullivan of 92.9 davefm are hosting a whiskey tasting. $39.95 covers a tasting of five whiskeys and six dishes. Master of Whisky Kevin Mulcahy of Diageo will be on hand to lead guests through the tasting and explain each whiskey to attendees. 20...

| more...
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*wikimedia commons
*He stank
What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if Duke beats FSU in the second semifinal game today, that is - at half time it's looking far from guaranteed with FSU up 33-31). State had a lead as large as 7 points early in the second half, but Carolina came back to tie it up. It stayed that way right down to the buzzer, with UNC up by 2 with 1.2 seconds left. State just couldn't pull off that miracle. UNC won 69-67 

See? I can write like a sportswriter. 

But just because I can write like a sportswriter doesn't mean I want to. What I really want to say is, GODDAMN THAT WAS A CLOSE AND EXCITING FUCKING GAME. Also, Ramses the Ram is very, very stinky. He did a lot of his dancing right beside me, seeing as I'm at the end of press row right next to the UNC band, and by the end of the game that ram stank. 

Here's the thing: for a team with national championship hype, NC State shouldn't have given UNC that much trouble, even with one of their star players out. On the up side, State's performance proves definitively to me that they deserve a place in the NCAA tournament, which their defeat of Virginia on Friday is widely thought to have earned them. 

UNC Coach Roy Williams agrees that NC State ought to be in the tournament. At the post-game press conference he said "If I was on the NCAA tournament committee I'd fight very hard for NC State to be in the tournament. There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the best 68 teams in the country." He also refused to answer any questions before his players, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, had been addressed. "We need to get them back in the shower," he said. "They smell bad up here."

I'd love to stick around and see the end of this Duke FSU game, but I've got beer to drink! See ya tomorrow for the championship game."
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What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if Duke beats FSU in the second semifinal game today, that is - at half time it's looking far from guaranteed with FSU up 33-31). State had a lead as large as 7 points early in the second half, but Carolina came back to tie it up. It stayed that way right down to the buzzer, with UNC up by 2 with 1.2 seconds left. State just couldn't pull off that miracle. UNC won 69-67 

See? I can write like a sportswriter. 

But just because I can write like a sportswriter doesn't mean I want to. What I really want to say is, GODDAMN THAT WAS A CLOSE AND EXCITING FUCKING GAME. Also, Ramses the Ram is very, very stinky. He did a lot of his dancing right beside me, seeing as I'm at the end of press row right next to the UNC band, and by the end of the game that ram stank. 

Here's the thing: for a team with national championship hype, NC State shouldn't have given UNC that much trouble, even with one of their star players out. On the up side, State's performance proves definitively to me that they deserve a place in the NCAA tournament, which their defeat of Virginia on Friday is widely thought to have earned them. 

UNC Coach Roy Williams agrees that NC State ought to be in the tournament. At the post-game press conference he said "If I was on the [NCAA tournament] committee I'd fight very hard for NC State to be in the tournament. There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the best 68 teams in the country." He also refused to answer any questions before his players, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, had been addressed. "We need to get them back in the shower," he said. "They smell bad up here."

I'd love to stick around and see the end of this Duke FSU game, but [http://clatl.com/omnivore/archives/2012/03/06/win-tickets-to-sweetwaters-brew-your-cask-off-and-try-xl-cls-40th-anniversary-ale|I've got beer to drink]! See ya tomorrow for the championship game."
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*wikimedia commons
*He stank
What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if Duke beats FSU in the second semifinal game today, that is - at half time it's looking far from guaranteed with FSU up 33-31). State had a lead as large as 7 points early in the second half, but Carolina came back to tie it up. It stayed that way right down to the buzzer, with UNC up by 2 with 1.2 seconds left. State just couldn't pull off that miracle. UNC won 69-67 

See? I can write like a sportswriter. 

But just because I can write like a sportswriter doesn't mean I want to. What I really want to say is, GODDAMN THAT WAS A CLOSE AND EXCITING FUCKING GAME. Also, Ramses the Ram is very, very stinky. He did a lot of his dancing right beside me, seeing as I'm at the end of press row right next to the UNC band, and by the end of the game that ram stank. 

Here's the thing: for a team with national championship hype, NC State shouldn't have given UNC that much trouble, even with one of their star players out. On the up side, State's performance proves definitively to me that they deserve a place in the NCAA tournament, which their defeat of Virginia on Friday is widely thought to have earned them. 

UNC Coach Roy Williams agrees that NC State ought to be in the tournament. At the post-game press conference he said "If I was on the NCAA tournament committee I'd fight very hard for NC State to be in the tournament. There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the best 68 teams in the country." He also refused to answer any questions before his players, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, had been addressed. "We need to get them back in the shower," he said. "They smell bad up here."

I'd love to stick around and see the end of this Duke FSU game, but I've got beer to drink! See ya tomorrow for the championship game.             13066795 4986952                          ACC Tournament semifinals: UNC stinks (no really...they smell bad) "
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Saturday March 10, 2012 04:24 pm EST

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What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if...

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Article

Thursday March 8, 2012 11:36 pm EST
NC State ended their first half against Boston College with a 3-pointer and then finished the game with TWO 3-pointers in a row to soundly beat BC 57-78. This made me happy. I've never understood what Boston College is doing in this conference in the first place. Also, NC State is such a great scrappy underdog team, I've always loved them. Here's how it works: NC State hates UNC and thinks... | more...
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*wikimedia commons
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On Tuesday, I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative Loafing be presented in a town-crier format, where the news, local restaurant reviews and "Are you Shaved?" are read aloud in public squares by folks sentenced for misdemeanors in Fulton and DeKalb.

Congrats, Steve! 

The runner up, who doesn't win anything but my undying love, is Nicole Wójcik, who sent an entry that included this:

In five years, will CL have a homepage compatible with my internet-ready Acuvue Konnectd contact lenses?
 
Later in life, will CL ensure that I'll be able to connect to Omnivore by simply gazing into my infant's eyes during a feeding?

That is so awesome."
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On Tuesday, [http://clatl.com/omnivore/archives/2012/03/06/win-tickets-to-sweetwaters-brew-your-cask-off-and-try-xl-cls-40th-anniversary-ale|I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater]. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative Loafing be presented in a town-crier format, where the news, local restaurant reviews and "Are you Shaved?" are read aloud in public squares by folks sentenced for misdemeanors in Fulton and DeKalb.

Congrats, Steve! 

The runner up, who doesn't win anything but my undying love, is Nicole Wójcik, who sent an entry that included this:

In five years, will CL have a homepage compatible with my internet-ready Acuvue Konnectd contact lenses?
 
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On Tuesday, I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative Loafing be presented in a town-crier format, where the news, local restaurant reviews and "Are you Shaved?" are read aloud in public squares by folks sentenced for misdemeanors in Fulton and DeKalb.

Congrats, Steve! 

The runner up, who doesn't win anything but my undying love, is Nicole Wójcik, who sent an entry that included this:

In five years, will CL have a homepage compatible with my internet-ready Acuvue Konnectd contact lenses?
 
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That is so awesome.             13066763 4974292                          Omnivore - Brew Your Cask Off ticket winners "
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Article

Thursday March 8, 2012 04:21 pm EST

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On Tuesday, I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative...

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Also, I'm at the ACC Tournament. Woo-hoo!!"
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Also, [http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2012/03/08/acc-tournament-gets-going-at-phillips-arenaam-i-the-only-person-in-atlanta-who-cares|I'm at the ACC Tournament]. Woo-hoo!!"
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Also, I'm at the ACC Tournament. Woo-hoo!!             13066758 4973971                          Omnivore - Fresh Loaf has some stuff on it: Atlanta food deserts, me blabbing about basketball "
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Article

Thursday March 8, 2012 02:59 pm EST

A couple of things of note over on Fresh Loaf: Thomas Wheatley has a post up about the frightening U.S. Department of Agriculture's map of Atlanta's food deserts. That's deserts, not desserts, don't get your hopes up.

Also, I'm at the ACC Tournament. Woo-hoo!!

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