Feedbag - Righteous, dude

Damn fine pub grub at mellow Righteous Room

I confess, I have a soft spot for the Righteous Room. My husband and I had our first date there many years ago. It's not exactly romance central — it's a bar, after all — but it's comfy and cozy, and their food is actually pretty damn good. I'm not talking Floataway Cafe or Watershed good, of course. But as pub grub goes, you could do a lot worse.

As a rule, everything on the menu is messy and meant to be eaten with the hands. (We might've had our first date here, but we wisely skipped dinner and just had beers). My personal favorite is a huge, gooey turkey melt sandwich. Crunchy, griddled flatbread cradles smoked turkey, melted white cheddar, sunflower sprouts and a generous dollop of horseradish sauce. Be prepared — the sauce will smear across your face and dribble down your arm. Just go with it.

After stealing a bite of my husband's grilled cheese, I was leaving grease fingerprints everywhere, but I was a happy camper. Melted cheese, juicy tomato, sunflower sprouts and buttery Texas toast make for a satisfying sandwich. The fries are crispy, thick-cut wedges. They're great plain but truly sublime with salt and vinegar — the ambrosia of bar food.

The only thing I've tried that really turned me off was a freeform veggie burger. Also served in flatbread, the burger had the loose consistency of a sloppy joe, but instead of meat it was filled with oats and grains. The problem was that the mixture had been fried in so much oil that it was literally dripping with it. Any health benefits flew right out the window.

Even better than the food at the Righteous Room is the atmosphere. It's got that warm neighborhood vibe going: casual, friendly, a little grungy, totally unpretentious. The whole Poncey-Highland neighborhood is like that: All the bars and restaurants seem to have the same agreeably mellow vibe.

The Righteous Room isn't much more than a hole in the wall, with just a handful of tables and a cozy booth at the back. For better or worse, not a thing has changed in the years since we had our first date there. They've always got a funky assortment of works by local artists hanging on the walls. And anybody who DJed at their college radio station will fall in love with the jukebox (think Pixies and Smiths mixed with David Bowie and Stevie Wonder). The place has definitely earned its name. It's righteous indeed.

Covering Brookhaven to Inman ParkHANUKKAH HELPER During Hanukkah, Dec. 8-15, Alon's Bakery & Market will prepare holiday specialties including potato latkes, whitefish salad, challah bread and sufganiot, jelly-filled doughnuts that are a traditional Hanukkah staple in Israel where the bakery's namesake, Alon Balshan, was raised. 1394 N. Highland Ave. 404-872-6000. www.alons.com.

SANTA'S COMING TO TOWN It's not too soon to make reservations for Breakfast with Santa at Buckhead Diner. The annual event, held this year Sat.-Sun., Dec. 11-12, is a family favorite. Kids and parents get to enjoy a special holiday breakfast and a visit with Santa Claus. Santa's elves provide the entertainment, and each child will receive a special surprise stocking from Santa. $30 per person. 3073 Piedmont Road. 404-262-3336. www.buckheadrestaurants.com.

SANTA'S COMING TO TOWN, TAKE TWO Another option for intown families is the Food Studio's first-ever Breakfast with Santa. It takes place Sat.-Sun., Dec. 11-12, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Parents and kids will be served a two-course breakfast followed by a special visit with Santa and a gift to take home. Cost is $34 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Children under 1 year are free. 887 W. Marietta St. 404-815-6677. www.thefoodstudio.com.

FILL YOUR BELLY (AND STOCKING) Midtown's Nam continues its series of benefit dinners Mon., Dec. 13. The dinners are aimed at raising money for local nonprofit organizations. In the spirit of the holiday season, this month's dinner benefits the Empty Stocking Fund. Call 404-541-9997 for reservations. 931 Monroe Drive, Suite A-101. www.namrestaurant.com.

HOLIDAYS, IRISH-STYLE During the month of December, Meehan's Public House in Brookhaven offers a special Irish holiday menu in addition to its regular menu of pub favorites. The four-course, prix-fixe menu ($25 per person) features Galway Bay oysters, pan-roasted guinea fowl with chestnut stuffing and caramelized parsnips, and gingerbread cake for dessert. The menu is available at both lunch and dinner. 4058 Peachtree Road. 770-467-9531. www.meehansalehouse.com.

SWING INTO THE SEASON Vine in the Highlands will host a special dinner on Christmas Eve. There will be a single, reservation-only seating at 7 p.m. The five-course menu will be $45 per person (a three-course option for $36 is also available). 1190 N. Highland Ave. 404-892-2393. www.vinerestaurant.com.

SPICY NEW YEAR'S It's never too soon to start making plans for New Year's Eve. This year, Spice will host a special dinner featuring seasonal favorites. The three-course menu is $50, and the four-course menu is $65. A credit card is required to hold a reservation. 793 Juniper St. 404-875-4242. www.spicerestaurant.com.

NEW YEAR'S PASTA-BILITIES Another option for New Year's dining: Pasta da Pulcinella. The Midtown eatery will host a special four-course dinner with wine pairings and a champagne toast. Two seatings at 6:30 and 9 p.m. $100 per couple, $55 per person (doesn't include tax or gratuity). 1123 Peachtree Walk. 404-876-1114.

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