Atlanta Restaurant Scene with John Kessler 

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

Plum Cafe restaurant review, Roswell

  • 10:00 am Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 by Jenny Turknett
Plum Cafe's tres salad plate

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of Plum Cafe, which is located in Roswell just off Canton Street.

Plum Cafe prides itself on providing options for guests with dietary restrictions and for those who have a particular interest in tracing the origins of ingredients. Plum Cafe’s owner, Monica Bolsoni, commits to quality sourcing and boasts that nearly 75 percent of products used are organic. She uses only line- and pole-caught tuna. She draws from her South American roots, using  gluten-free yucca root flour in recipes.

Plum Cafe’s concept works best at lunch when its healthy focus and laid back service are [More]

Southbound restaurant review, Chamblee

  • 10:00 am Thursday, September 25th, 2014 by Jenny Turknett

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of Southbound, Chamblee’s new restaurant located in an old mercantile-turned-Masonic-Lodge. I gave it a grade of 2 stars.

Southbound was transformed into a local gem over a 25-month restoration period. Now rustic, fresh and stunning, it gleams with brick, dark woods and reclaimed accoutrements all in alignment with the character of the antique structure.
And as captivating and inviting as this decor du jour is, it seems to promise a level of execution that the kitchen doesn’t yet deliver. That’s not to say you won’t enjoy a stewy, rib-sticking dish of rabbit [More]

A revisit to Better Half

  • 12:12 pm Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by John Kessler
Pork shoulder with corn pudding and watermelon

The black bean puree was more of a black bean doodad. It looked like an oversized Hershey’s Kiss, and when you poked it with a fork, it lifted off the plate whole. It tasted soft and inoffensive, like a black starchmallow. For some diners this might be the deal breaker, the item that pushes the dish from the “like” to the “don’t like” tally.

That happens at Meloy does like sweetness more than I do, but I’m always happy to adjust because he knows how to layer flavors. Roasted beets pair well with whipped, aerated blue cheese, but then, when you [More]

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]