Feedbag - Tex-Mex for Morningsiders

Caramba Cafe caters to the locals

It might have been my imagination, but I could've sworn that every patron at Caramba Cafe stared at us as we were being seated. Perhaps I'd read too much on the website, which touted the family and familiarity that the restaurant values. As a first-timer, I got the feeling that I was walking in on someone else's family dinner. Perhaps the slowness in getting menus, water and some attention could also be attributed to the fact that we were not part of the regular rotation.</
We started out by poring over the margarita menu. There were so many choices with such subtle variations that it was hard to choose. We finally decided on a "Regular Rita," made with Cuervo Classico, and a "Mia's Amada Margarita," concocted with 1800 and Cointreau. Our waitress argued that the Amada would be too tart. The tartness was not the issue, however, the drink was a bit on the watery side, as if the ice had melted into it while it was hanging out at the bar.</
Chips came to the table with the generic pureed salsa of tomato/onion/garlic/jalapeno combination that has become industry standard. Neither bland nor overly piquant, it was just what you'd expect from a neighborhood Mexican restaurant. The cheese dip we ordered was appropriately creamy and teeming with minced green chiles.</
The sopa de pollo was a nice combination of a heady broth, tomato, rice, chicken chunks, onion and a back note of cumin. Paired with a cheese quesadilla, it was a Mexican take on the nostalgic winter dinner of chicken soup and a grilled cheese.</
"Dinner A" came with a taco and two enchiladas of choice. The chicken taco (hard shell) was standard stuff, and the cheese enchiladas echoed this same lackluster presence. The enchilada sauce was heavy and tasted "red" more than anything else, with no distinct flavor to it.</
My tacos al carbon were a bit one-note, with an apparent overdose of allspice in the marinade. They were laden with well-cooked bites of beef that harmonized with the pico de gallo and guacamole salad accompaniments. In a Swiss moment, I played fondue with my last taco and the remaining cheese dip, satisfied with the result.</
Overall, Caramba Cafe serves Morningside well as the neighborhood gathering spot. Littered with regulars, it's apparent that the customers come for the treatment and community as much as for the steadily satisfactory Mexican fare.</
Under the influence</
Rathbun's 2006 interactive cooking classes begins Sun., Jan. 15, featuring a menu with an "Asian Influence." Four teams of three people create dishes from scratch, and then a guest joins them for a complete dinner with wine pairings. Classes run from 1:30-4:30 p.m. At 4:30 p.m., each student's guest arrives for appetizers and wine pairings. Dinner begins at 5 p.m. and ends around 7 p.m. Cost is $350 per person (includes one person in the class, two people for dinner with wine pairings, a complimentary chef's jacket) Call 404-524-8280 for reservations. 112 Krog St., Suite R. www.rathbunsrestaurant.com.</
Birthday Opa!</
Kyma celebrates its fourth anniversary Wed., Jan. 18, with a fete that will include Greek cuisine, wines and dancing all evening. Executive Chef Pano I. Karatassos will collaborate with his colleagues from other top Buckhead Life restaurants to prepare a celebratory multi-course meal. The anniversary menu is $65 per person, with wine pairings for an additional $20. Live entertainment will begin at 7 p.m. Reservations are recommended: Call 404-262-0702. 3085 Piedmont Road. www.buckheadrestaurants.com/kyma.</
Here's looking at you, kid</
Every first Wednesday of the month, Imperial Fez hosts a monthly sampling of Moroccan appetizers and wine tasting. The next "Taste of Morocco" is Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. Cost is $28 per person. 2285 Peachtree Road, 404-351-0870. www.imperialfez.com.</
Off the menu</
Pura Vida offers themed "Mesa Latina" dinners, held monthly. Chef Hector Santiago prepares a special menu that focuses on a different theme for each dinner: Themes include "Culinary Meccas of Spain," "Techniques from WD-50 [a restaurant in New York City]," "Tapas Culture of Spain," and more. Each dinner has a pre-set menu, with a wine pairing available. 656 N. Highland Ave. 404-870-9797. www.puravidatapas.com.

Where to Eat
Food Events