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Feedbag - Veg out

At slightly surreal R. Thomas, eating your vegetables is an adventure

Whatever else you want to say about R. Thomas, south Buckhead's venerated, vegetarian-friendly hole-in-the-wall, the place has character. "Zany" isn't a word I use much, but it's appropriate here. Where else must you walk past cage after cage of sass-talking tropical birds just to get to the front door? Then, once you get inside, you realize that it isn't a dining room, per se, but instead, a huge, tented patio complete with wind chimes, plastic deck furniture and gas heaters.

I can't think of anyplace else that exudes quite the same goofball appeal. Rainbow-striped wind socks stream in the breeze, and plastic pink flamingoes peek out from overgrown foliage. The waitstaff - almost universally young, hippie-ish and good-looking - is friendly as can be.

But goofy or not, R. Thomas is serious about organic and all-natural foods. The menu isn't strictly vegetarian - there are chicken dishes, and even a chopped steak - but it's built around vegetables and hearty grains like quinoa and millet. And it's a bit of a crap shoot: There's plenty to love, but there are also many dishes you'd never order twice. Chips Deluxe falls into the first category - a plate of corn chips blanketed in white cheddar and piled high with "spicy cha cha veggies" (a tangy slaw of carrots and cucumbers) and served with a trio of hummus, red bean dip and salsa.

Also reliable is the Warm Chicken Supreme salad - a yummy and filling mix of chicken, carrots, apples, red peppers and pecans sauteed together and served over greens. The whole thing is tossed in sweet honey dijon dressing. This probably isn't the most diet-friendly salad in town, but it sure is tasty.

Chopped steak, on the other hand, is a dried-out hockey puck on half a bun - a sad, shriveled embarrassment to burgers everywhere. Better to skip the beef and instead customize your own veggie plate with garlicky green beans, smashed potatoes in creamy shiitake gravy, steamed broccoli with fennel and millet corn casserole.

Another quirk about R. Thomas: It's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and breakfast is served all the time. So next time you're feeling ravenous after six cocktails and dancing till 3 a.m., forget Waffle House. There's a breakfast quesadilla at R. Thomas with your name written all over it.

florence.byrd@creativeloafing.com

Valentine's Day dishIt's not all about being a couple on Valentine's Day. Singles should stop by Loca Luna on Thurs., Feb. 10, for the third annual Cupid Party. Festivities begin at 7:30 p.m. It's hosted by 8 Minute Dating. Who knows? You might meet your soulmate in time for Valentine's Day. 836 Juniper St. 404-875-4494. www.loca-luna.com.

MidCity Cuisine celebrates Valentine's Day all weekend long (Fri.-Mon., Feb. 11-14) with a Valentine-inspired, four-course menu. Highlights include truffled potato gnocchi, braised Kobe beef and Valhrona chocolate cake. The dinner is $65 per person, with wine pairings an additional $35. 1545 Peachtree St. 404-888-8700. www.midcitycuisine.com.

The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead will host "A Taste of Love" on Sat., Feb. 12. The event will feature a gourmet dinner prepared by Chef Bruno Menard, wine tastings, a live auction, and entertainment by the Voltage Brothers. Cocktails begin at 6:30 p.m. $200 per person. Proceeds benefit the Epilepsy Foundation. 3434 Peachtree Road. 404-237-2700. www.ritzcarlton.com.

It's a weekend of love at Joel on Sat.-Mon., Feb. 12-14. A special four-course, prix-fixe Valentine's Day menu will be available for $85 per person. 3290 Northside Parkway. 404-233-3500. www.joelrestaurant.com.

Atkins Park will offer a special la carte Valentine's Day menu that includes goat cheese crostini, crab ravioli, black pepper-seared ahi tuna, braised lamb shanks and dark chocolate hazelnut torte. Tables of four receive a complimentary dessert. 794 N. Highland Ave. 404-876-7249. www.atkinspark.com.

At Spice in Midtown, the regular menu will be offered alongside special la carte selections for Valentine's Day during regular dinner hours. The special menu will be available Sun.-Mon., Feb. 13-14. 793 Juniper St. 404-875-4242. www.spicerestaurant.com.

A few blocks over, Toast will be offering a three-course Valentine's Day menu starting at 5 p.m. for $45 per person (excluding tax and tip). 817 W. Peachtree St. 404-815-9243. www.toastrestaurant.com.

The Café at East Andrews hopes to get diners in the mood with a $45 prix-fixe menu ($75 with wines) on Valentine's Day. 56 E. Andrews Drive. 404-869-1132. www.eastandrews.com.??





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