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Restaurant Review - Tiburon Grille

Right next doorWayne and I could not get a table when we first visited Sala. Well, we weren't willing to wait the hour to 90 minutes being quoted. Do you people really wait outside restaurants this long? I'd rather eat a radish over the sink than loiter 90 minutes on a sidewalk. So, turned away, we walked next door to Tiburon Grille (1190 N. Highland, 404-892-2393), where a table was available, probably only because we were so early. A reservation is usually necessary here too. Tiburon has had quite a history. Its name derives from the Marin County town near San Francisco as homage, I assume, to the California cuisine that was so popular when it opened. Over the years, it seems to have waxed and waned in popularity and to have succumbed now and then to a tedious trendiness. But somewhere in the last few years, it has settled into being a completely reliable purveyor of straightforward American cuisine. Entrees feature a heavy Southern accent. There's not a touch of weirdness on the menu — unless you count the ostrich — and I've never had a bad meal here. Service is always top-rate and the restaurant is convivial — publike — without raucousness. I started with venison chili ($7), a huge bowl full of freshly ground venison, caramelized onions and a chili sauce that, frankly, I thought was a bit strong. Not that I didn't eat every drop, but I also wish the meat were a bit less ground up. Wayne's ginger-curry crab cakes ($8.50) were the better choice. Scallions and basil, as well as ginger, seasoned the cakes, which were served in a lemongrass coconut curry sauce. Among entrees, my usual choice here is the fried chicken breast, cooked in a cast-iron skillet and served with collards and garlic-mashed potatoes. At $9.50, it is a bargain and certainly some of the best fried chicken in our city, owing to its traditional cooking. I do wish they'd offer more than a breast, though. I actually did not order the chicken this meal and ordered grilled shrimp with Stilton cheese grits ($15.50). The grits were also topped with thin slices of andouille sausage and onions sauteed in balsamic vinegar. The vinegar, which becomes sweet when reduced, added a kick to a dish that's become popular on lots of menus around town. Wayne, carb-loving Wayne, ordered fettuccine topped with chicken breast, andouille sausage, spinach and mushrooms ($15). A garlic and sherry cream sauce drenched the noodles. Nice comfort food. You'll also find shrimp and crab etouffee, honey-lacquered duck, baked Irish salmon under cheese souffle, an ancho-pepper filet mignon and wild striped bass cooked Provencal-style. I suspect Sala's overflow crowds will be knocking on Tiburon's doors, perhaps giving the restaurant renewed popularity. The irony is that the better meal, for the present, is at Tiburon.