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GRAZING: Eating the world over in the ATL

Our food critic eats to the beat

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Photo credit: Cliff Bostock
THE VARSITY: The chili-cheese dog shrinks in broken inferiority beside a cluster of towering onion rings tingling with grease and a fried peach pie that prepares to unsheath itself and submit to teeth.
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DAILY CHEW: A cozy corner in the Chew’s new indoor hangout. There are plenty of tables too. Photo credit: Cliff Bostock

Daily Chew

My favorite lunch in the last month came from this restaurant operated by the zen-nishly named Stop Think Chew, which delivers clean, locally sourced meals. At this new venue, diners can order at a window for takeout or enjoy the recently opened dining room. It’s a cozy informal space with full table service. I’ve sampled two dishes and both were seriously spectacular. One was a pita sandwich stuffed with veriasso smoked salmon with lemon labneh (thick yogurt). Other flavors included onions, capers, dill, sumac, and salad greens. The second dish was a roasted veggie salad (to which I pointlessly added rotisserie chicken). Flavors include salad greens, tahini, cabbage, hummus, pickles, and charred eggplant, which never tasted so good before. — Cliff Bostock

Daily Chew, 2127 Liddell Dr., 404-600-4155, dailychewatl.com  IG & FB: @dailychewatl

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NAM PHUONG: Wayne Johnson surveys half his birthday dinner with Rose D’Agostino. Photo credit: Cliff Bostock

Nam Phuong

Vietnamese food is flourishing to a degree it hasn’t since the early ‘80s. Recently, restaurants like Pho Cue have taken the historic, elegant hybrid of Southeast Asian and French cuisine for a ride through Texas bbq pits. If you want to stay true to the original, Nam Phuong is the place to go. At least twice a month, I feast on classic rice noodles topped with shrimp, caramelized pork, pickled carrots, and lettuce. Dump the entire container of fish sauce on the bowl. (I add extra sriracha.) Two spring rolls round out my meal. There is much, much more on the menu. — Cliff Bostock

Nam Phuong, 4051 Buford Hwy., 404-633-2400, and 5495 Jimmy Carter Blvd., 770-409-8686. Menu

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EL TESORO: Whatever you eat here, don’t miss the crunchy, creamy, spicy, meaty, or meatless mulita. Photo credit: Cliff Bostock

El Tesoro

Few restaurants have eased the pain of COVID takeout as much as this treasure. There is no indoor seating, but even in winter, people are showing up to graze in the huge open-air dining room. Tequila raises the temperature as much as the six fire pits. I’ve never eaten anything bad here but, then, I haven’t eaten anything but the mulita in the last year or so. It’s basically a quesadilla made of two stacked corn tortillas filled with melted cheese and poblano/onion rajas, plus the meat or vegetarian alternative of your choice. There’s more! The outside of both tortillas is seared with cheese. Then you dribble crema on top. It’s under $10! There’s a lot else I’d like to try here, above all the appropriately twice-cooked carnitas. — Cliff Bostock

El Tesoro, 1374 Awkright Place, 470-440-5502, eltesoro.com  FB, IG, T: @eltesoroatl

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BOCCALUPO: Chef/owner Bruce Logue extrudes Italian-American reality. Photo credit: boccalupoatl.com

BoccaLupo

If there’s any restaurant I love that I have been unfaithful to during the last few years, this is it. Chef-owner Bruce Logue reeducated my palate around 2010 when he came from Babbo in New York to work at La Pietra Cucina. He convinced me that Italian-American food was not all a corrupt impersonation of classic Italian cooking but a cuisine of its own. I ate lunch at Pietra weekly for two years. Nothing at BoccaLupo is even mediocre but if you want your tongue to sing, drape it with black spaghetti, hot Calabrese sausage, and red shrimp. You might want to tune up first with marsala glazed octopus with saffron potatoes. — Cliff Bostock

BoccaLupo, 753 Edgewood Ave., 404-577-2332, boccalupoatl.com  FB, IG, T: @boccalupoatl

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MASTERPIECE: Dry-fried eggplant hides its transformative powers behind a rather banal appearance. Photo credit: masterpieceduluth.com

Masterpiece

You might remember the War of 10,000 Chinese Chefs about 10 years ago, maybe more. Chefs of legendary skill, fame, and peculiarity appeared and disappeared here like tastebuds poisoned by Sichuan peppercorns. Luckily, Rui Liu, a truly extraordinary chef of mainly Sichuan style, has remained at this restaurant. I’m sorry that it’s located in Duluth, but it’s worth an expedition. Whenever you read about the place, two dishes are immediately mentioned — the dry-fried eggplant and the braised pork belly. The latter comes to the table looking something like a glossy black meatloaf and really does taste like nothing you’ve ever eaten, which is to say that I don’t have adequate adjectives at hand. The eggplant is no silly emoji, but it has all the polarized textures and flavors of man at his complicated best: crackly and a bit salty on the outside but lovingly creamy and a bit fiery-sweet on the inside. Yup. — Cliff Bostock

Masterpiece, 3940 Buford Hwy., Duluth, 770-622-1191, masterpieceduluth.com

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THE VARSITY: The chili-cheese dog shrinks in broken inferiority beside a cluster of towering onion rings tingling with grease and a fried peach pie that prepares to unsheath itself and submit to teeth. Photo credit: Cliff Bostock

The Varsity

I want you to go here, as I did last year. I was shocked that I loved the onion rings and the fried peach pie. I hated the dawgs and I annoyed someone so much that he sent me an emailed death threat: “Leave the Varsity hot dog alone, asshole. There are more painful ways to put you out of your misery than making you shit too much.” Thanks, bro, I ‘preciate the scatological warnings! I had written: “The hot dog of course was the most revolting thing I’ve put in my mouth since I was potty-trained. The greasy, stinky, yellow-stained chili made with ground-up mystery meat was slimed with hidden slaw from hell and yellow cheese that wouldn’t melt. Somehow, the baloney-tasting hot dog itself and its bun literally broke as if it were crying to be put out of its misery. Two bites and I was done. Sorry, dog.” Go, eat, and tell me I was wrong. — Cliff Bostock

The Varsity, 61 North Ave., 404-881-1706, thevarsity.com  FB: @thevarsity. IG, T: @thevarsity1928

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LITTLE BEAR: The bare face barely reveals the revelatory repast within Summerhill’s renowned restaurant of canine impersonation of a chef and a bear. Photo credit: Cliff Bostock

Little Bear 

When COVID ruined our lives by throwing us into a medieval prison of our own thoughts two years ago, this restaurant had just opened in Summerhill.  Chef/owner Jarrett Stieber, well known for his earlier pop-up, Eat Me Speak Me, was forced to limit himself to take-out, which was by far the best and weirdest I’ve eaten ever since the flu pandemic of 1918. Now, the restaurant has reopened its small dining room, takeout has been discontinued, and you can eat at a table like a champ! At this writing, you’ll encounter dishes whose menu descriptions add up to a free-form poetic food fight: “chicken liver custard winter citrus gelee, greasy pickles, chocolate strange flavor sauce, gem lettuce cups.” Go ahead and “treat yo’self! Add caviar yogurt” to your root-veg latke. You can order a la carte or drop $48 per person for a prix fixe, four-course meal. — Cliff Bostock

Little Bear, 71-A Georgia Ave., 404-500-5396, littlebear.com  IG, T: @littlebearatl

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SUPREMO TACO: For the best experience, walk up and eat on foot. The splendid tacos and quesadillas here do not like to loll about in your car seat. Photo credit: Cliff Bostock

Supremo Taco

This taqueria with a walk-up window and a small patio for dining-while-standing is adjacent to  Grindhouse Killer Burgers’ parking lot. You probably didn’t know there is intense competition in our city — sort of — to create a perfect rendition of southern California’s Chicano street food. This is the winner! I absolutely love the tacos here, especially the lamb barbacoa with consommé, the al pastor, and the chicken mole. But I gotta be honest. I made a pact with myself after ordering takeout four or five times to always eat on the premises, even if it meant squatting in the parking lot. The reason is that they were  piling way too much in the same takeout containers. By the time I’d get home — which isn’t far — I’d have a gooey mess. On the very rare occasion I do takeout, I order the fried quesadilla or choriqueso only, maybe some churros. They withstand the journey. Above all, I discourage you from ordering online, because you likely won’t be getting something as fresh as when you order at the window. — Cliff Bostock

Supremo Taco, 701-B Memorial Dr., 404-965-1446, supremotaco.com  IG, FB: @supremoguey

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CHATTAHOOCHEE FOOD WORKS: The latest and most hospitable food hall has 31 booths of international flavors, including Banh Mi Station. Advice: Pay attention to the time of your visit; traffic in the area can be miserable. Photo credit: Cliff Bostock

Chattahoochee Food Works

Food halls, formerly known as food courts, have evolved into something like surreal upscale carnival binge-a-ramas. This latest and greatest is part of The Works, a warehouse development on the West Side, repurposed into another mixed-use golden ghetto. The food hall, with seriously pedigreed designers, maintains a human scale despite its 22,000 square feet. It is a step way above the echo chambers of the Valhallas of Krog Street and Ponce de Leon. You can find some fab food here — from South African and Vietnamese to noodles, cupcakes, and Lebanese barbecue. There are 31 booths and areas that allow you to sit back and chill instead of wolfing down, oh, six kimchi corn dogs and fleeing to a restroom for a moment of silence.—Cliff Bostock

Chattahoochee Food Works, 1235 Chattahoochee Ave., chattahoocheefoodworks.com  IG, FB: @chattahoocheefoodworks

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BIG SOFTIE: Nothing medicates like an ice cream cone that scraps all pretensions of moderation. In fact, Big Softie is technically inside LIttle Tart Bakeshop, so you can wipe the ice cream off your face with a palm-sized almond croissant. Photo credit: Cliff Bostock

Big Softie

For years, I’ve been addicted to the Toffee-Coffee Arctic Swirl at most Zestos. Now, at last, I have found an alternative in Grant Park. Big Softie! True story: I heard about it from a friend’s mother who was dying in a hospital north of the city. She said soft-serve ice cream would be a perfect last meaI and I offered to pick up something rich, creamy, cold, and confusing. She swooned — in a good way, not a death-rattle way. My go to: vanilla ice cream, pink praline, toasted coconut, and a caramel coating — Cliff Bostock

Big Softie, 66 Georgia Ave. (no phone), bigsoftieatl.com, IG, FB: bigsoftieatl


—CL—





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