Atlanta Restaurant Scene with John Kessler 

Atlanta restaurant reviews and food news with John and the AJC's dining team

Marbar Beachside Cantina restaurant review, Decatur

  • 10:00 am Thursday, September 11th, 2014 by Jenny Turknett

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of Marbar Beachside Cantina in Decatur. I’ve given it zero stars and a rating of fair at this time.

Marbar’s casual “beachside cantina” flair could be a home run with families in Decatur. Seafood-heavy Mexican fare with good pricing on great drinks could carve a successful niche in most any neighborhood. With its beautifully relaxed decor and expansive selection of tequilas and mezcals, Marbar should be a place customers want to linger over margaritas and platters of carne asada tacos. Unfortunately the “shoulds” and “coulds” here don’t translate into “dos”. Mediocre cocktails [More]

Etris Kitchen & Bar restaurant review, Roswell

  • 10:36 am Thursday, September 4th, 2014 by Jenny Turknett

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of Etris Kitchen & Bar. I gave it a grade of 2 stars.

Etris Kitchen & Bar in Roswell just implemented a menu overhaul to coincide with the arrival of its new chef Boyd Rose. Offerings have shifted from tavern-style pizzas and burgers to more composed small plates and entrees fit for “families and foodies,” which owner Massi Mekhmoukh said is the restaurant’s target market.

Ultimately, this neighborhood spot will need to get the nod of approval from the locals it serves. Families will appreciate the satisfying fare, the [More]

A return visit to KR Steakbar

  • 11:42 am Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 by John Kessler

Chris McDade, the opening chef at KR Steakbar, has left the restaurant to go work in one called…

…wait for it….

Marta. Yes, Marta. It will be located along the Five Points Station Northbound track, and the only way to pay for food will be a Breeze Card.

The above statement is partially untrue. Marta will, in fact, open soon in New York and specialize in thin-crusted Roman-style pizza. (Arrivederci, napolitani!) With the move, McDade not only returns to New York but also to his former employer, Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group.

I think McDade’s move is a loss for Atlanta. Though [More]

First Look: Asian comfort food at Makan

  • 3:58 pm Thursday, August 21st, 2014 by John Kessler
photo by Becky Stein

In tomorrow’s paper I’ll take a first look at Makan, the new restaurant in downtown Decatur that serves new-style Asian comfort food. Chef/owner George Yu says he was inspired by Asian-American chefs such as Roy Choi, David Chang and Danny Bowien who have redefined Asian comfort food for a new generation. Yu, who was born in Taiwan, serves up a variety of Chinese and Korean influenced appetizers, noodle soups and rice plates.

You can read my initial reaction to the restaurant here. 

Smokebelly restaurant review, Buckhead

  • 1:00 pm Thursday, August 14th, 2014 by Jenny Turknett

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of Smokebelly, the new Buckhead restaurant from the folks behind Tin Lizzy’s and the Big Ketch. I gave it a grade of 2 stars.

Smokebelly attempts to fill the smoke shack gap in Buckhead with what it calls “chef-crafted ‘cue.” Yet  the smart design, a harmonious collection of Americana, detracts from the fare, building expectations sky high. Everything else is over-the-top and you’d expect the grub to follow suit. But the flavors here are just too delicate for barbecue. Instead, those cheffy touches favor the “skinny fixins,” or light [More]

850°F Barpizza restaurant review, Milton

  • 1:00 pm Thursday, August 7th, 2014 by Jenny Turknett

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of 850°F Barpizza, which is located in Milton.

When co-owners Glenn Griffiths and Nick Manocchio opened 850°F Barpizza, they attempted to recreate their own backyard Neapolitan pizza parties. Pies topped with San Marzano tomatoes and bufala mozzarella on a lightly flame-kissed crust circulate through the crowds that have already found this soiree. Belly-filling spaghettis, like the pizzas, are satisfying enough, if not the best specimens you’ve ever had. And if you can ever get your server to bring you a beverage, you’ll just enjoy a night [More]

The Bishop restaurant review, Avondale Estates

  • 10:24 am Thursday, July 31st, 2014 by Jenny Turknett
smoked fried chicken

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of The Bishop, located in Avondale Estates. I gave it a grade of 2 stars.

When Luellen Marshall opened The Bishop this past spring, she was determined to create something unique. Sure, The Bishop sources regionally and seasonally. It supports local vendors like Pine Street Market and Wild Heaven Craft Beers. And yes, the its interior has the de rigueur rustic-meets-industrial character.

But Marshall hopes The Bishop will provide a distinct experience for Avondale Estates. And it almost does. This community-focused neighborhood bistro is snuggled into the area’s iconic Tudor Square. [More]

Endive Publik House restaurant review, Atlanta

  • 1:00 pm Thursday, July 24th, 2014 by Jenny Turknett
beef tenderloin with sweet potato nettle

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of Endive Publik House. I gave it a grade of 2 stars.

Endive, which began catering operations in 2003, recently added restaurant service three nights a week. You’ll find this new neighborhood hangout, Endive Publik House nestled back in the Loring Heights area, just a stone’s throw from Atlantic Station in Midtown.

Endive has taken on the challenge of bridging the chasm between catering and restaurant dining, but it is still straddling the two worlds. Servers and bartenders are still working to make the jump and the reasonably priced menu [More]

First Look: Polaris at the Hyatt Regency

  • 8:55 am Thursday, July 24th, 2014 by John Kessler
photo by Becky Stein

There are a couple of things you need to know before planning a trip to Polaris — the everything-old-is-new-again revolving restaurant atop the Hyatt Regency:

Polaris doesn’t take reservations and isn’t particularly big. So if you’re hankering to set foot inside the landmark blue dome, which first lit up the Atlanta skyline in 1967, plan accordingly.
The food offerings are slight, though pretty to look at and often tasty. But if you go looking for a full dinner you might be disappointed. Your mission should be drinks from a canny retro-modern cocktail list, a few nibbles, and an evening finished elsewhere.

You can [More]

Lusca restaurant review, Atlanta

  • 1:00 pm Thursday, July 17th, 2014 by Jenny Turknett

In tomorrow’s AJC, I have a review of Lusca, the new Brookwood Hills restaurant from the folks behind East Atlanta’s Octopus Bar. I gave it a grade of 3 stars.

At first glance, it may seem like things don’t quite jibe at Lusca. There’s a lot going on here. But this one’s worth a second look.

Lusca doesn’t have the edge of sister restaurant Octopus Bar, but it isn’t the place for a traditional three-course meal. The fare reflects the varied cooking experience of co-owners Angus Brown and Nhan Le and comes together as a melange of Mediterranean-inspired seafood, [More]