Tia Maria’s European Café


This year I decided to stretch the boundaries of Good Eats: Mundial and cover the 2016 International Portuguese Music Awards (IPMA). The awards show recognizes outstanding achievement in the music industry by international artists of Portuguese ancestry.

It should come as no surprise that a few of the IPMA sponsors are restaurants. After all, if there is one thing Portuguese people are best at: it’s cooking and eating. So that’s what brought me to the door of Tia Maria’s European Café.

I sat down with owner Jessica Coelho to chat about the restaurant, the IPMA’s and the idea of community and what it means to her as a Portuguese-American (PA) woman and as a sponsor to the awards show.

According to Jessica, it was a no-brainer to help support the IPMA’s. After all, how could she turn down supporting a the IPMA’s as a Portuguese-American business owner who runs a Portuguese restaurant?!


A gorgeous xale (shawl) hanging on the wall at Tia Maria’s. Most of the items on the walls are personal or gifts from family, friends and customers.

“I turn it into a night out for me and my staff. Of course, we stay open – a lot of people will come here to have dinner before hand or dessert and coffee afterwards. But it’s nice to be able to celebrate with them too.”

Another deciding factor in her support of the IPMA’s is the changing face of Portuguese-Americans in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. One thing Jessica and I have in common (aside from a great name) is that both of our parents immigrated to the United States from Portugal. Southeastern MA and RI are seeing a huge increase in second and third generation Portuguese-Americans as opposed to first generation, like our parents. They’re younger and are completely immersed in American culture, as opposed to a lot of their older relatives. So there’s a sense amongst first and second generation PA’s to help foster new and modern forms of cultural preservation.


Pictured: Portuguese palissy ware. Every Portuguese-American has seen these in their grandparents homes or their own.

This immediately brought me back to the idea of community at Tia Maria’s. Speaking to Jessica was a refreshing change of pace from the tired, bored and sometimes forced friendliness that plagues some of the trendiest restaurant owners. She’s as real as they come and it reflects in every aspect of her restaurant: from her food, the service, the ambiance and the décor. Tia Maria’s delivers exactly what you need and want from a restaurant: nothing more, nothing less.


You’re greeted with a to-go counter – to the left, the dining room and to the right, a small bar.


The bar to the right.



The entrance to the dining room to the left. Notice the collection of galos along to top ledge, they’re all Jessica’s personal collection!

“During the week we’re definitely more of a neighborhood joint. We have a lot of businesses around us and I know a lot of my customers by name. Between 3-5 we turn into a coffee stop for people. On the weekends we have a lot of tourists who are visiting the Whaling Museum or are from the cruise ships. Then on Sunday’s we have a lot of family’s who stop in usually before or after church.”


Affectionally named, “Tia Maria’s Living Room” this space is used by people looking to spend some time catching up over espresso and a pastel de nata. Sometimes it’s used for business meetings over lunch. The print above the couch was a gift from Maria Lawton, who Good Eats: Mundial interviewed last year.

I asked about the businesses around her and how she got to know everyone. She told me a story that perfectly illustrated how she’s able to make these connections and how she has been so successful as a business owner.

“We used to offer express lunches, but I took them off the menu. Now we have a reason to interact with our customers when they come in. If they only have 30 minutes for lunch, we can tell them exactly which dishes will be best. For example, don’t order a pizza – it takes 12 minutes to cook!”

By removing the option of mindless ordering and eating, Jessica has created a dialogue between her staff and her customers. That’s how connections are made, and that’s why people return.


A testament to her connection with customers: to the far right of the image is an orange plate, and to the left of the plate, three glasses. Those glasses are engraved with the name of the restaurant. They were dropped off by a customer as a gift and to this day Jessica still doesn’t know which customer dropped them off. They’re proudly displayed in the dining room.

Another way she connects with her community? Social media.

“I love Instagram (tiamariascafe). I’ll post a picture of a special we’re offering and it’ll sell out the same day. I don’t use Twitter as much. What do I have to say on Twitter? It moves too fast. Instagram is perfect.”

I told her it seemed like she let her customers and community help guide her in how the restaurant ebbs and flows. It didn’t seem like Jessica was interested in forcing anything on her audience.

“Absolutely. I never thought we would turn into a coffee and dessert place at night, but that’s what happens!”

As the customers engage with Tia Maria’s, Jessica looks for opportunity. Of course, don’t think for a second that she is easily influenced or without direction. She knows exactly how she wants to run her business and described herself as a “little stubborn.”

“I’m always open to constructive criticism but there are some things I won’t change my mind on. Sometimes people will tell me I should play something other than fado. They think it’s too sad. You don’t want to go into an Irish bar and hear Justin Bieber, do you? I want fado music playing here. Besides, if you listen to the lyrics it’s not all sad.”

In fact between the fado, the food, the decorations and the cobblestone streets, it’s easy to forget you’re in New Bedford and not in Porto or Lisbon. Jessica is dead on: it sets the tone of the restaurant.

But let’s step back for a minute and talk food. We all know that’s why you’re here. I asked Jessica if she had a favorite dish.

“Our bifana is amazing…it’s so full of flavor.” The bifana is a pan-fried pork steak topped with hot peppers. It’s served on a Portuguese roll with hand sliced rodelas. All for $7.

I ended up ordering the Chicken Moçambique sandwich. The chicken is sautéed in a zesty saffron-garlic sauce, the same sauce used in the traditional Portuguese dish – typically made with camarão (shrimp). The sandwich was served on a freshly made Portuguese roll and served with a side of rodelas. Again, all for $8. The chicken was extremely tender and flavorful, and it was impossible to not dunk the sandwich in the moçambique sauce that comes on the side.


Chicken Moçambique sandwich ($8).

It’s not very often I enter a restaurant and then leave feeling this good about it. In fact, the last time that happened was probably a year ago in Atlanta. But there’s an undeniable combination of charm, quality and excitement that you get when you enter an establishment like Tia Maria’s. Jessica has put her everything into Tia Maria’s and it shows. We are lucky to have a venue like this in our backyard, and I can’t wait to go back!



The Atlanta Cheese Festival

On Friday I headed over to the Botanical Gardens for Atlanta’s second annual Cheese Festival.

Yes, I said cheese festival.

I took a friend and we both ventured in. This was my first time at the Botanical Gardens and loved having the opportunity to take it all in. They have their Halloween/Scarecrow exhibit up, so that was awesome to take in as we made our way to the vendors.


Botanical Garden sculptures.


Botanical Garden sculptures.

However this event was a miss for me – some of the reasons were completely out of the organizers control (weather, for one) but there were some aspects that I think could have been improved on.

Frankly, the number of people was ridiculous. There was no room, no rhyme or reason to how lines formed. I mean how could there be with over 100 vendors.  I had to throw elbows to get samples and even when I found something I liked, there was no room for me to reach in my wallet to buy some, which was too bad (both for me and the vendors).

The humidity just made some of the cheese, err not as appetizing as how they would be normally. But that falls under the category of “can’t be helped.”

The positives? Some of that cheese was bomb! My favorite was a goat cheese topped with a fig preserve.  There was also a ton of cured meats there that were to die for.


Goat cheese with blueberry preserves.

Atlanta Cheese Festival.

The most creative grilled cheese I ate that night (and probably the most exciting thing to happen the whole festival) consisted of the following:

Krispy Crème Donut
Stilton with Lemon Zest
Candied Ginger
Valrhona “Caramélia” Chocolate


Yeah it tasted as decadent as it sounds.

The runner up (in my book) came from Davios:

Spiced Apple
Peanut Butter


There were so many original creations.


There were so many original creations.

I feel like I’ll be making the Davio’s grilled cheese at home some time…but probably not the Krispy Crème Grilled Cheese. It’s one thing to eat that at a cheese festival it’s a whole other beast when you’re making that in your kitchen.

Overall, not bad. I’m not sure if I’ll be back next year but I would certainly encourage you all the check it out and see for yourself!


Great view of the city.

Disclaimer – I received a complimentary press pass to attend this event, but the opinions are 100% my own and not influenced by any outside sources.

Studio No. 7 | Bar + Lounge

Studio No. 7
393 Marietta Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30313

Hours |

Tuesday – Thursday 5 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Friday – Saturday 5 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Warning: This post might get a wee bit sentimental. But I promise to make up for it with lots of pictures of delicious food.

I moved to Atlanta in February. I had never been here (the city or the state) before I moved. I came with a few boxes and a ton of baggage. This might have been the hardest seven months of my life. There are times when it gets so hard I think about giving up and heading straight home to Boston. But then, there are nights like tonight where everything clicks and it just feels like…yeah Atlanta could be my place for a while.

Studio No. 7 is an art gallery/lounge/test kitchen that opened about two months ago. They invited us in to test some of their new fall menu items. What I really enjoyed about this venue was that every aspect of it was curated by the owners for their visitors. The artwork, the menu, the furniture, the events, the music (which sometimes takes them three weeks to finalize music for a single night!) – everything is thoughtfully crafted to create an engaging and inviting environment. I’ll be back for some of their art openings, but I think their food tonight was a phenomenal representation of how well their concept is executed.


Studio 7 door.

This space is unsuspecting from the outside, but when you walk in it’s huge! First there is a bar to your right, then as you walk in further, you walk there’s a bar in front of you that sits behind a large lounge area. You can then walk up some stairs where there’s a communal table and couches that look out a massive door that I think may have been a loading dock.  Already the ambiance made me want to hang out for a few hours!


View from the upper level we were seated on.


The amazing open wall.


Did I mention they also do movie nights?

From their website:

The TEST KITCHEN is a signature piece of Studio No. 7 offering a delicious array of small plate treats. At our core the culinary concept is Latin American and Asian street food inspired. Our menu coincides with the current exhibit in the gallery or is an exhibit of its own.  This allows the culinary and dining experience to remain fresh and inventive.  Regardless of the concept that is being explored, you can expect quality dishes paired with brilliant cocktails.

Everything – I kid you not – every single damn dish they served was out of this world. I couldn’t believe that each dish got better than the last. That never happens! There’s always ONE dish I’m MEH about. But that wasn’t the case. Everyone seemed to agree.

Here’s a look at what we sampled.
Please note: we were given sample sizes of each dish – so yours won’t look like this when you go! You can expect to get a bit more. They also have entree sizes.


The elote en vaso: charred corn, coconut cream, cotija cheese, habanero, lime zest, smoked paprika, portuguese sea salt – everyone devoured theirs!


Tomato Saffron Soup served with a Venezuelan cheese breadstick (known as tequeños). The soup was perfect. Creamy and not too acidic. Also one of those tequeños is not enough. Never fear, you can order them three at a time on the menu!


Shrimp and yucca; loaded mashed yucca, tomato braised shrimp, house made chorizo. Uhm. STFU RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Honestly, I had no idea yucca could be good. Whenever I’ve had yucca it’s been…yucka (trololol) but this was spot on. I licked the plate. Whatever.


Mini Quesadillas – teeeeeny tiny in size HUGE in flavor. House made scallion flour tortillas, seared veggies, pesto, cheddar, black beans, love.


“Don’t Trouble Me” – named as such because when I’m drinking this I’m gonna need you to “SHHHHH.” Blackwell rum, thai basil, lime juice, ginger beer.

Not pictured? The Thai Beef and fried rice…because I ate it so fast I forgot to take a picture. Hah.



“Festival” – named as such because that’s what’s going to be happening in your mouth. Or your pants. That’s how good they were. Fried cornmeal doughnut, powdered sugar, butter rum sauce and that’s all you need to take you to that next level. Super crunchy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside…not to sweet or oily. Little balls of heaven.


I cannot wait to get back to Studio No. 7. I highly suggest checking their website or Facebook page for updates on upcoming events!

Disclaimer – I was invited as a member of the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Society to enjoy a complimentary meal in exchange for an honest and transparent review. The above review is 100% my own opinion and is no way influenced by the restaurant. 

The Hexx

I tend to avoid writing about products as much as humanly possible. Although I cook as much as I can and try to learn as much as I can, I’ve never really been so impressed with something that I thought I should take the time to write about it. The kitchen is for me; the sassy restaurant views are for you!

However this past Sunday I had the pleasure of being invited over to the home of Ray and Luchi Palermo. Ray and Luchi are the duo behind the QuadCooker – which is the first new design in naturally fired cooking in 100 years.  It gets to professional grade temperatures of 900* F.  They had us over to show off the new Hexx. Essentially it’s the Quad Cooker but smaller! Perfect for camping, tailgating or even hunting.

Insane right?

Okay, time for some honesty here. My obnoxious-New England-self is always, ALWAYS skeptical of everything, all the time. I like to think of it as an asset, but ya know. It can be tiresome to the people around me. I get it. I love you all.

I wasn’t convinced that this QuadCooker was going to be anything special.  I’m not a grill master; I sort of assumed that the wonders of this cooker were going to kind of be lost on me. I still ask my brother to light the grill at home because it freaks me out. Anyways – I digress.


Two Hexx grills ready to go!


The speed at which this grill cooks is ridiculous. You might think that means you end up burning all the things and stuff would be over done (or under done) but that was not the case. In an hour and a half we cooked:

  • Steak
  • Sausage
  • Peppers
  • Apples
  • Pineapple
  • Tomato, scallions and jalapeños
  • Green beans
  • Paella
  • Fried shrimp

Now, notice I said “cooked’ – not all of that was grilled.  You can sit a wok on top of this, a perforated wok, and of course a PAELLA PAN!


Tomatoes, scallions and jalepeños getting grilled up for salsa!


Tomatoes, scallions and jalepeños getting grilled up for salsa!


Grilled apples topped with cheddar cheese, honey and pumpkin seeds. Absolutely to die for.


Grilled apples topped with cheddar cheese, honey and pumpkin seeds. Absolutely to die for.


Does this need a caption? Please.


Paella being cooked on the Quad!


Perfectly fried shrimp!

Capitalization is a must here because holy crap. Anyways, here are some really cool facts about the Quad Cooker and the Hexx.

  • The outside of the Hexx – the part that looks like cement? It’s actually made of the same refractory product they line elevator shafts with to prevent the building from burning up. What does that mean? Well, it means your Hexx might get to be 900* but it’s much safer around children as you can touch the sides and it stays completely cool! I have video proof of this over on my Facebook page.

Do not try this at home. Unless you’re Ray.

  • This grill is self regulated which means once you get your charcoal going, you don’t have to keep messing with it. It can stay at its highest temperature for 2-3 hours without having to be messed with.
  • Clean up is pretty much nonexistent. The grill top should be seasoned, like an iron skillet…the bowl inside can be dumped and thrown in the dishwasher!
  • All of the parts of this grill are made in the USA and most parts are made right in Georgia.

Okay so now you’re wondering where you can buy one. I was thinking the same thing as I chowed down on perfectly cooked steak and paella.

They just launched their Kickstarter campaign today! Head over to their page NOW to put in for your Hexx.

Never used Kickstarter before? Well it’s basically this: Ray and Luchi set a goal of $10,000 – this would cover manufacturing the product and sustaining their business.  So if they reach their goal of $10,000 in 30 days then poof! Champagne and Hexx grills for everyone! But if they don’t, that’s all she wrote. You don’t get charged a dime. But you’ll have to deal with me because I really want my Hexx!

Head on over RIGHT THIS SECOND and read more about the product, the Kickstarter campaign and Ray and Luchi!

And of course if you have any questions for me regarding my time with Ray and Luchi please do not hesitate to reach out via email: goodeatsatlanta@gmail.com

They were phenomenal hosts who have a genuinely phenomenal product and I am thrilled to support them in their Hexx endeavor!


Check out the links throughout the post to learn more about the Quad and Hexx cookers.

The Spence

The Spence
75 Fifth St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30308

Hours |

Lunch: Monday – Friday  11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Dinner: Monday – Thursday 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday – Saturday 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Sunday 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Bar Opens Daily at 5 p.m.

This past Wednesday I joined the Atlanta Travel Massive group for their bi-monthly meet up at The Spence.

Travel Massive connects thousands of people around the world to meet, learn and collaborate in the online travel industry. This meet up was organized by my friend (and former Foodie Spotlight feature) Caroline Eubanks of Caroline in the City and This is My South.

It was a phenomenal opportunity to meet new people, especially in this field. Traveling has been (and always will be) a huge influence in my life. Most notably we had the chance to hear from Jason Seagle and his business partner speak about their new venture called VAYANDO. From their website:

Vayando is a community-driven tool connecting travelers with micro-entrepreneurs in emerging economies around the world. We promote households that have interest and motivation in sharing local knowledge, activities, experience, and skills with those visiting their area. Travelers get a homegrown experience while local entrepreneurs gain opportunity to build their own small business.

It was really a phenomenal concept that I can’t wait to watch grow and succeed! Be sure to check them out on Facebook and their website.

Now on to the venue!

I wasn’t planning on coming to this event to write a review to be completely honest, but after experiencing the food and service I couldn’t help myself!

The décor is pretty standard for most super trendy restaurants these days. Exposed kitchen, open spaces, metal and wood architecture. It’s like Restoration Hardware threw up in there and then your hipster girlfriend showed up and decorated it with her kitchy “flea market finds” that actually just came from Anthroplogie.

I walked through an outdoor patio to enter the venue and immediately wished we were going to be outside for this event! It’s a great space that allows you to enjoy being outside without being on the street.

We were then shown back to a private room that can be closed off by massive curtains or left open to be a part of the restaurant. Our servers that evening were on point. No one was without a drink in their hand for less than 30 seconds (heyyyy) and the passed apps were brought out in a cadence that was not overwhelming but also didn’t leave you ravenous and wondering where they had disappeared to. Some of the passed apps included a beet tartare, fried pimento cheese puffs and raw oysters on the half shell. Every single one I ate was so incredibly delicious. I have never been anywhere where the passed apps were that good!

I mean seriously when is the last time you had a passed app that has made you want to go back to actually try an entire meal? I feel like passed apps are the ugly step children of food…thrown together on a tray just to keep drunken partiers or conference go-ers from passing out.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The head chef is none other than Richard Blais, one of the winners of “Top Chef All-Stars.”

What can I say, I like keeping low expectations…it always makes the surprises just that much better. What I’m intrigued about is that their menu often changes daily since they use local and fresh ingredients. They also try to reflect what they’re “into at the moment” whether it’s an ingredient, band, chef or current event.

If I hadn’t had tried their food for myself you might see me rolling my eyes…but they know what they’re doing and I can’t wait to make a return there some time very, very soon.

Apologies for the picture quality. We had some camera issues so the pictures are not the best quality. However we didn’t want to post a review without any pictures, as we think even the blurry ones give you a good idea of what we were working with!


3393 Peachtree Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30326

Phone | 404-963-9611

Hours | 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. daily

I was invited to Zinburger to try the winner of their third annual Zinburger contest – The Honolulu Baby Burger. It’s priced at $12 and will be featured at all nine east coast Zinburger locations from September 15-21st.

The Honolulu Baby Burger consists of a Certified Angus Beef patty with charred pineapple, volcanic fire roasted red peppers, swiss cheese, mayo and a Hawaiian favorite  – SPAM – all between two oven roasted bronzed buns.

All right, so let’s get this out of the way. The first time I heard about this I was slightly horrified due to the – you guessed it – SPAM!

I haven’t ever had SPAM. All I know about SPAM is that it’s creepy looking when it comes out of the tin with all the bright Mad Men type colors. But hey, if this burger beat out all the rest then I was willing to try it.

The burger came out and the first thing I noticed was that visually, the SPAM didn’t look anything like I thought it would. It just looked like Canadian bacon and it had a similar texture. The sweet from the pineapple and pepper combined with the salty of the SPAM and the savory from the burger patty?


I ate SPAM and lived to tell the tale.

Of course, because Denise (of We Like 2 Cook) is a terrible influence she bullied me into ordering other menu items so we could get an idea of what the rest of the menu was like.

So, we ordered the Ahi Tuna sandwich ($10) which comes with coleslaw, avocado, tamari soy glaze & mayo, the Almost Famous Veggie Burger ($9) which comes with smoked mozzarella, avocado, pea shoots, tomato and mayo.

Both of these sandwiches were on point. The ahi was cooked rare, just like it should be and they definitely don’t skimp when it comes to the amount of tuna you get, which is always a nice change.

Side note: I hate, hate, hate when I spend like, $13 on an “Ahi Tuna App/Entrée/Whatever” and you get it and there’s like, two effin’ pieces on the plate the size of an return address label. So the fact they didn’t skimp is HUGE for me.

The veggie burger was “shut the front door” good. I really love vegetarian dishes but I tend to avoid veggie burgers when I go out. They’re usually paper-thin patties that you can still taste the freezer burn on. Not these! Thick, not at all dried out – these are made in house and fresh daily and you can tell.

Since the burgers are a la carte, we took it upon ourselves to get the truffle fries and zucchini fries. Both were outstanding.

By the end of the meal, we were stuffed…but our waitress convinced us to try one of their milkshakes.

Okay. If you insist.

We split the salted caramel milkshake and let me tell you, it made me blush. It was so good. Honestly – this is embarrassing to admit but I can see myself going back JUST to get a milkshake to go.

The whole experience there was top notch. From the atmosphere, the décor and most importantly the food.

I would highly suggest stopping in at Zinburger the next time you are in the neighborhood. Let us know what you think by tweeting us at @_GoodEats!

Disclaimer –I was invited as a member of the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Society to enjoy a complimentary meal in exchange for an honest and transparent review. The above review is 100% my own opinion and is no way influenced by the restaurant. 

Atlanta Meatball Festival

This Sunday this Sicilian Meatball headed to the first annual Atlanta Meatball Festival! The wonderful Denise Romeo of We Like 2 Cook invited me along and I am so glad that she did.

This event was held in Sandy Springs at the Belle Isle Square and was produced by Taste of Atlantahosted by Chef Linda Harrell and proceeds went to benefit Open Hand, which is the largest community-based provider of home delivered means and nutrition in the country.

Unlike some events I’ve attended in Atlanta (*cough, Food Truck Fest, cough*) I found this one to be extremely well organized which made it that much more enjoyable. We went right to the media table, grabbed our wrist bands, four drink tickets and a gold coin – which we were told we should give our favorite meatball!

The event was small compared to the Attack of the Killer Tomato Fest (review can be found here) but that in no way was a bad thing. It was under one large tent with the food venders lining the outer walls, tables in the middle and a space for a band.

Now, I never thought I’d say this because I like to think of myself as open-minded when it comes to food but I discovered on Sunday that there are some foods that just are better left in their most traditional form.

I hate myself for saying it.
I really do.
I really, really do.

But I stand by it.

Case in point?

Dates and meatballs don’t mix. Sorry.
Tuna meatballs…are technically meatballs but…I just…I couldn’t get behind it.
Putting an “Asian” flare on an Italian food isn’t a flare, is a complete reinvention of the concept.
Buffalo chicken meatballs and blue cheese grits?! Goodness.

I mean – kudos to all the restaurants that really went out on a limb and tried to invent something new. They were all innovative and original, but I’ll always go back to a traditional meatball. I can’t help it. I love it. It’s best in its original and intended form. All meat. All ball. All covered in sauce. SORRY I’M NOT SORRY.

The restaurant to get my gold coin was No. 246, which served a traditional veal meatball topped with cheese and basil. Perfection. I immediately tasted the recipe my grandmother gave me. I noticed there were many people going back for seconds, and I may have been one of them.

Oh, and because we all know how on point and phenomenal my taste is, No. 246 was one of the winners who will go on to compete in the Meatball Throw Down during Taste of Atlanta along with Cibo E Beve (pictured above – their meatball was served on a mascarpone polenta and was my second choice) and Timone’s.

A tip of the hat to those at Taste of Atlanta for their first attempt at the Atlanta Meatball Festival. Well done. If I could hug you all I would. I think there’s plenty of room on the jam packed calendar of food fests for another Meatball Festival and I can’t wait to come back next year!