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Redeye - Basted and wasted September 09 2004

Variety is the spice of life, they say. On Juniper between Fourth and Fifth streets, however, it might be more apropos to say spice is the variety of life. Spice the restaurant, that is. And Salt the restaurant. And Mitra and Mu Lan — you guessed it — the restaurants. Four lushly renovated houses serving up a wide-ranging assortment of flavors, whether you're on the Atkins, South Beach, gourmet or liquid diet.

Offering $5 cocktail Wednesdays featuring a monthly top shelf libation, Spice makes Hump Day a little easier to climb over, trip over, tumble over, whatever suits you. The ingredient, Belvedere vodka both times I visited, is regularly a luxury spirit that would be good almost straight — the way plenty drink it in their Catholic schoolgirl martinis (that's an extra dirty martini). But the bartenders — especially the feisty Gina — willingly took the challenge to offer up sass in a glass. You felt catered to with the snap of a shaker, whether sized up as citrus or sour, tart or tangy.

Lodged in the bar's narrow corridor adjacent to Spice's atrium dining room, our party felt almost as warmly tended to and simultaneously razzed as if at our favorite neighborhood bar. The main differences were that our neighborhood bar isn't bathed in a cobalt cascade of aquarium blues, doesn't play boutique house and downtempo, doesn't serve duck confit spring rolls and isn't visited by power lunch corporate types who use talk about dining at Chops and stopping in to see the chef before buying a round at Beluga as a come-on. But after $5 martini round three, that shit's not pretentious, just hilarious.

The goal had been to keep tight time, beelining from restaurant to restaurant to sample one drink from each. But once we finally mustered the energy to settle in with some sangria at Mitra to cleanse our palettes, the objective had downgraded to "walk straight line." With one carafe of syrupy tangerine-tinged white sangria and another of crisp apple-infused red sangria between the six of us, however, we felt both at the height of sociability and seclusion on the block of contemporarily sleek scenes and homey haciendas. Whether variety is the spice of life or vice versa, we were properly wetted, feted, peppered, salted and otherwise pickled and prepped for another midweek expedition in the near future.

Freak 'em and geek 'em down

On Sat., Sept. 4, thousands of geeks invaded Atlanta to attend two decidedly different annual events: Flavourset's Science Friction social-lite convergence, and the Dragon*Con "multimedia popular arts" convention.

The "geeks" who stopped by Science Friction — which took place at eleven50 — were really only geeks by association. Billed as "a futuristic exploration into movements in modern art, cuisine, fashion and music," I expected folks wearing jet packs. Instead, the spot was packed with manicured muscle men and technology-enhanced women dancing to tunes from the Blade 2 soundtrack.

Held downtown at both the Hyatt Regency and the Marriott Marquis, Dragon*Con drew sci-fi/ fantasy geeks of the costumed persuasion. And sure, it would be easy to make fun of grown men dressed as Storm Troopers, but you have to give them credit for creating incredibly authentic threads. However, even non-geeks know a bunch of tattered scarves, mounds of grease paint and glitter just looks crappy compared to an officially licensed Star Trek uniform. My advice: Buy a sewing machine and a few "Babylon 5" DVDs.

Keep one RedEye open. And send all comments, questions, observations and invitations to redeye@creativeloafing.com.