Tia Maria’s European Café

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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?!

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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.

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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.

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

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The bar to the right.

 

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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Tables for Tails!

Table for Tails! ❤

My Dad still thinks I’m crazy, but I argue that adopting Gryffin is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I knew that I wanted to support a great organization as well as find my first fur baby, so it just made sense to go to the Atlanta Humane Society.

Here’s Gryffin living the tough life once I brought him home.

I didn’t go in looking for a kitten. I actually wanted to adopt an older cat. But at 1 year old, this loud mouthed love nugget wouldn’t let me take no for an answer. We’re coming up on his second birthday and first full year with me on June 15th.

With that said, I hope that everyone can consider helping out the AHS by participating in Tables for Tails on Thursday, April 16th.

Tables for Tails is their annual dining fundraiser in which patrons who dine at participating restaurants know that up to 20% of their total bill (food and beverage) will be donated to the Atlanta Humane Society.

How amazing is that? Also how easy is that? So please consider supporting this great organization by grabbing dinner at one of the following participating restaurants. They’re organized by neighborhood to make it a bit easer.

Here’s another picture of Gryffin hating his life.

 

Be sure to tweet us (@_goodeats) and the AHS (@atlantahumane) pictures of your Tables for Tails dinner!

Atlantic Station

Meehan’s Pub
The Pig in the Pearl

Buckhead

Anis Café & Bitro
Eclipse di Luna
Fado
Gusto!

Decatur

Ratio: Bake Shop

Downtown

Der Biergarten
Twin Smokers BBQ
Inman Park
Babette’s Café

Midtown

Loca Luna
Max’s Wine Dive
Nueveo Laredo Cantina
Six Feet Under
STK Atlanta
West Egg Café

Sandy Springs

Nancy
Teela Tequila
Tin Can Fish House & Oyster Bar

Vinings

Paces & Vine

Virginia Highlands

Murphy’s
The Family Dog

To learn more about this event, click here.

This is one of my favorite pictures of him. I was enjoying a dinner I made and felt like someone was watching me. Oh? Hello!

Buttermilk Kitchen

Buttermilk Kitchen
4225 Roswell Road Northeast
Atlanta, GA 30342 | 678.732.3274

Parking |Yes
Hours | Tuesday – Friday 8 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday 8 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

First and foremost, I’d like to dedicate this review to my GPS – Mz. Garmin. That raggedy hot mess brought me all sorts of half ass backwards ways around Atlanta, but eventually got me to where I wanted to go. Thanks. I guess.

I’d like to think my natural state of cynicism means that you can trust my reviews. It’s not that I can’t be impressed. It’s that when I am impressed you know it’s a pretty solid endorsement.

I got to Buttermilk early, around 9 a.m. (they start weekend brunch at 8 a.m.) and decided to take a seat at the bar versus getting a table. The inside is so adorable I wanted to make fun of it for hours. I mean…this place is country kitchen meets hipster paradise meets my Mom’s kitchen. The hostesses seemed to be able to get out of the wait staff uniform, which are denim shirts and bowties. The ladies don’t wear bowties but they do look like Taylor Swift doppelgangers. Okay, not all of them. Just one.

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I loved these flowers so much.

 

Needless to say, I was in love with the place. And bitter. I don’t like falling in love so quickly. Taylor Swift should write a song about Buttermilk Kitchen.

Anyways.

I was quickly greeted and offered coffee (yesssssss, please) and then spent a good 10 minutes struggling over the menu. It wasn’t fair. The struggle wasn’t even between two things; it was between all items on the menu. Pumpkin pancakes with candied pepitas, mascarpone and cognac ganache? Or maybe the basic two eggs, biscuit and breakfast potatoes? Then again there’s the chicken biscuit with house pickles and roasted red pepper jelly that I have been coveting from a distance for ages.

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The brunch menu.

 

I went with the two eggs (I take mine over easy), a biscuit and breakfast potatoes. I figured if I couldn’t make up my mind I might as well stick to basics.

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My breakfast – fried eggs, biscuit & hashbrowns.

 

Now, Buttermilk Kitchen actually has a mission statement and I love it:

Buttermilk Kitchen’s mission is to nurture people through food by use of sustainable, local ingredients. A kitchen where most everything is made in-house from scratch, paying tribute to its name, “buttermilk” which refers to the liquid utilized after butter was churned; carrying out the philosophy of letting nothing go to waste.

We use local and organic products whenever possible and always the highest quality seasonal ingredients available.

We proudly feature Holeman & Finch artisan bread, Batdorf & Bronson coffee, fresh dairy products, cage-free eggs, local and organic produce, all-natural preservative free meats, local grass-fed sausage, and other products of the finest quality.

My food came out freaky fast to the point of suspicion. I bit into a potato thinking, “if it came out this fast it probably wasn’t freshly made” and proceeded to embarrass myself in front of my server. It was so hot. Not hot like, in the microwave hot. Hot like, out of the oven hot. The outside of the potato was crunchy and the inside fluffy…it was so good. Schooled by a potato. 10+ life points to my server for pretending like he didn’t witness all of this happen.

The potatoes were tasty, salty (the right amount) and rosemary-y. If you’re not a fan of rosemary maybe go for the grits instead.

My eggs made me want to hug the guy next to me. I don’t pretend to be able to taste the difference between cage-free vs caged eggs. I don’t even know if it’s supposed to affect the taste or it’s just a nice way to let the damn chickens live. But for a simple egg, it was so tasty. They weren’t swimming in oil or grease, which can always bring a breakfast to a screeching halt.

The biscuit was perfect and made me second-guess my choice…maybe I should have just gone for the chicken and biscuit. I could have put butter or jam or honey on this thing but I chose to just eat it as is. It was so flaky and so buttery inside I didn’t want to mask its taste with anything else.

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Biscuit lovin’.

 

Aside from the food, which was great – I really appreciated the fact that the atmosphere here was light. You think you’d be greeted with this really uptight feeling just because it sort of looks like a hipster paradise but everything and everyone is so relaxed. People aren’t there to make an event out of brunching in the way that has sort of given brunch this bad reputation. They’re simply there to eat really, really good food with friends and family.

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Mason jars for days. Obviously.

Oh, and my favorite part? My server somehow knew that I was going to need a coffee to go. It’s the little things like that that will set you apart from other establishments. I took him up on the offer and left Buttermilk Kitchen feeling well fed and GOOD. I wasn’t bogged down by grease ridden, heavy processed breakfast food. I left feeling full and energized. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that way leaving a restaurant before. I’ve spent a lot of time in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Providence and Boston trying to find a breakfast place that I could say was my “favorite.” I can say without hesitation that Buttermilk Kitchen is my first (in all of my 20 odd years of eating out) favorite breakfast place.

I’ll be back, and I’m coming for that chicken biscuit.

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The view from the bar.

Foodie Spotlight: Chef Suzanne Vizethann

Why do just one Foodie Spotlight when you can do two?!

This weekend is Taste of Atlanta and we jumped at the chance to ask Chef Suzanne Vizethann a few questions before the event. In addition to nurturing people through food by use of sustainable, local ingredients – we’d also like to throw out there that she was named champion on Food Network’s Chopped.

Boss.

We cannot wait to see what this force in the kitchen has in store for us this weekend!

Buttermilk Kitchen
4225 Roswell Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30342

Ph: 678.732.3274

Facebook | Twitter

Photo from ButtermilkKitchen.com

Have you faced challenges in your career as a woman in a notoriously male dominated industry? What would be your advice to other young women hoping to break the glass ceiling in the food industry?

Suzanne Vizethann (SV): Yes, of course! It has been challenging, but I honestly think it just made me work harder.  I also think when you are really passionate about something (as I am) it’s hard to fail.  My advice to other young women would be to work hard and learn how to be tough.

What is your favorite dish to make when you’re at home?  

My favorite dish to make when I am at home is pan-roasted chicken with salsa verde or my dad’s spaghetti with fresh pasta.

Who (or what) do you draw your inspiration from when you’re in the kitchen?  

As simple as it sounds, most of my inspiration comes from local produce we receive at the restaurant.  I love utilizing vegetables in unique ways, i.e. making Swiss chard dumplings or squash onion rings.

Photo from ButtermilkKitchen.com

What is your favorite place to eat in Atlanta (outside of your own restaurant of course!)?  

I love the Kimball House, BoccaLupa and Rosebud.

What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s Taste of Atlanta?

I am looking forward to the Friday night kickoff party! I had a really good time last year and thought it was a great turnout.

Photo from ButtermilkKitchen.com

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!

Zeal Modern Eatery

Zeal Modern Eatery
1255 Johnson Ferry Road, Suite 42
Marietta, Ga. 30068

Phone: 678-401-7142
Email: info@zealrestaurant.com

Hours

Lunch
Monday – Friday: 11:30am-3:00pm
Saturday – Sunday (Weekend Brunch) – 11:00pm-3:00p

Dinner
Monday – Thursday: 3:00pm-10:00pm
Friday: 3:00pm – 11:00pm
Saturday: 3:00pm-11:00pm
Sunday: 3:00pm – 9:00pm

Marietta, GA

On Tuesday, I braved the ridiculous and nonsensical Atlanta traffic to have dinner at Zeal Modern Eatery with the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Society.

Zeal opened up 8 months ago, and from my research before my dinner they’ve gotten a lot of mixed reviews. Some people sang its praise and gave it 5 stars on Yelp while others complained of mediocre food and slow service.

I arrived trying to keep an open mind, and I’m glad I did.

The venue itself is wonderful, with large banquet size tables, small tables of four, booths and a huge bar that sits in the “living room” where you can grab a seat or play some shuffleboard. They do have an outdoor patio and I would probably come all the way back out to Marietta just to take advantage of that alone.

The outdoor patio.

The “living room.”

The main dining room (right before closing, that’s why it’s empty!).

The bar.

The table ordered a variety of dishes and we all kind of mixed and matched.

Before I go into what we ate and what we thought of everything – let me just say this: Zeal has only been open for 8 months and they are going through growing pains. However, the owner was at our table a few times throughout the night asking us to be explicit with our reviews. He genuinely is looking to improve in any way that he can, and I believe that they will. You don’t always come across restaurant owners who want to hear the truth…and he was gracious and sincere about it.

They’re good eggs over there.

Starters

Fried Green Tomatoes (gf) | Fig Goat Cheese, Arugula | 7

Duck Poutine (gf) | Duck Confit, Fries, Gravy, Mozzarella | 12

Tandoori Chicken and Lamb Skewers (gf)  Mint Raita 11

Oysters

Entrees

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin* (gf) | Stuffed with Peaches, Mascarpone, and Jalapeno, Mashed Potatoes, Jalapeno Glaze | 19

Blue Cheese Tenderloin* (gf) | Topped with Blue Cheese Butter, Wild Mushroom Risotto | 22

NY Strip Steak & Frites* (gf) | Garlic Herb Compound Butter, Fries | 27.5

Pan Seared Airline Chicken (gf)|  Peach Chutney, Herb Roasted Fingerling Potatoes | 17

Sides

Truffle Mac and Cheese  |  7

Wild Mushroom Risotto  (gf)  | 7

Dessert

Honey goat cheesecake with a raspberry compote

So we were asked to keep an eye out on service and quality of food. Service was okay. Our server was friendly, but seemed nervous. A lot of complaints on review sites mention slow or generally bad service. I know what it was like when I first started serving…I was always nervous, I had to push through my shyness to deal with customers who expected and demanded, the service they’d get from a seasoned waiter versus the girl who had been doing this a couple of weeks. Things like forgetting to ask how some of my colleagues wanted their steak done were small oversights that seemed to repeat themselves. It all screamed “growing pains” both for the restaurant and for the server. So, if you go…be gentle! They’re on the right track and it seemed like they were all really looking to improve, which is half the battle.

Right off the bat, I’d say go to Zeal to share some appetizers and wine either on their patio (which I was slightly obsessed with) or the bar. I felt like these plates and the desserts were the strongest of the night and I loved the wine we had.

Loved the label.

As you probably noticed, Zeal is a Gluten-Free haven! So, so many dishes are geared towards GF allergies and I love it. I have a couple of friends who struggle with Gluten allergies and aside from salads or salmon, there never seems to be much on the menu for them when we go out.

The fried green tomatoes were good. The cornmeal batter was crunchy and stuck to the tomato without an issue…and the tomatoes were cooked all the way through. What made this dish next level was the, wait for it: FIG GOAT CHEESE.

Each tomato was topped with whipped goat cheese that was mixed with figs and topped with fresh lemon zest. Oh. My. Life. I could have sat down with a bowl of this cheese; a spoon and a bottle of wine and just bask in the gloriousness of this combination. *Fans self*

Fried green tomatoes.

Fried green tomatoes.

I also got to try the Duck Poutine – it was decadent. Definitely a dish you should share (thanks Milla!) but one that will go quickly. The duck was tasty and they certainly aren’t stingy with it either, which is always nice to see.

Duck poutine.

The tandoori chicken and lamb skewers were…confusing. I think both my skewers were all lamb. The meat was moist, but it lacked a lot of flavor and the charred marks on the skewers were visually appealing but tasted bitter.

Kabobs.

Kabobs.

Oysters? Delicious. They’re not on the menu but they had them in house for National Oyster Day. Although they forgot the token rule for oysters (separate them from the shells!) I managed just fine (hands up for my New England roots, woot woot!).

Oysters.

I didn’t get to try all the entrees, but I did ask everyone how their meals were. My lamb and couscous was a hit and a miss. The couscous was to die for, light, fluffy and super tasty. The lamb was slightly over cooked for medium and lacked flavor. I am a purist, and I can often eat any type of meat of food in its original state without it being transformed and be content. But meats like lamb NEED a decent seasoning or else it tastes gamy and dry. I ordered a side of the mushroom risotto as well. Although the texture was a bit off, the flavor was on point and they didn’t skimp on the mushrooms.

Lamb.

Lamb.

Risotto.

The folks at the table who ordered their steaks all had their steaks come out at the perfect temperature, which was a big thumbs up!

The chicken dish came out and I couldn’t help but giggle. A small bit of chicken and about a half a bushel of fingerling potatoes…whole. They weren’t cut. I have never in my life seen that at a restaurant before. I think they were aiming for something in the presentation, but it was a miss. It won’t hurt to cut the potatoes up, and in fact it will make the dish look better! No one wants to get his or her plate to see that the color scheme for the entire thing is BROWN! Maybe it’s just me…

Dessert was a whole other thing…another gluten free option, I tried the Honey Goat Cheesecake with a Raspberry compote.

Goat cheese cheesecake.

You heard me.

Honey GOAT CHEESEcake. GOAT CHEESE. IN A CAKE. Unf.

I inhaled that cake, and I would drive all the way to Marietta just to drink wine and eat that cake. It was phenomenal. The goat cheese gave it a light creaminess, which was a great change from the sometimes-oppressive heaviness of regular cheesecake. It was slightly sweet because of the honey and the raspberry compote was PERFECT. Not too sweet, just the right compliment. The only disappointment here was when I realized it was gone.

Coffee.

Overall, Zeal seems to be on the right track. They’re struggling with consistency and are scrambling to get service on point but I have no doubt in my mind that they’ll get there. I think they’ve set a bar way, way high for themselves with the amount of food they have on the menu…but the dishes that they get right, they get RIGHT. They’re worth the chance. The ambiance is very conducive to hanging out for some time, so grab a group of friends take advantage of that patio and for goodness sake try that fig goat cheese and let me know what you think!

Disclaimer – My meal was comped by Zeal, but my opinions are 100% my own and were in no way influenced by any outside sources.

Smokebelly

Smokebelly BBQ
128 East Andrews
Atlanta, GA 30305

Ph: 404-848-9100

Hours

Sunday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Before checking out Jeff Ross at Improv Atlanta, we headed to Smokebelly BBQ to grab a couple of drinks and some food.

I guess before I go into my long winded experience here, I’ll save some of you the trouble: it was meh. 

It was good. I mean, I ate everything. My drinks were good. But there was something so fundamentally blah about everything there that just weighed funny on me.

Maybe it’s because Smokebelly is attempting to bring this idea of BBQ to a notoriously uppity part of Atlanta (whattup Buckhead) to people who no matter how Southern they claim to be would probably eat ribs with a fork and knife.

The decor? Beautiful. The entire establishment is a well thought out design meant to evoke that ever so popular hipster/rustic/but chic feeling. Yeah, you have exposed brick and wooden tables, but the tables are so new the wood is shiny to the point where you can see your reflection in the top. All the patrons were in the same sundress and all the men bought their khaki shorts at the same store. Everything about it felt cookie cutter and forced.

I ended up getting the Chopped Brisket Sandwich and a side of the Sweet Corn and Edamame Succotash, my friend got the pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac’n’cheese.

The pulled pork sandwich was dry and although the menu boasts about the BBQ sauces on your table, ours had none. We asked our waiter but he seemed to forget and at that point we were already so disappointed we didn’t feel the need to fight it.

The mac’n’cheese was lukewarm, and nothing about it seemed creamy…or enticing. It reminded me of the left over mac’n’cheese on the stove that’s congealed but you eat it anyway because you’ve drank a half a bottle of wine by yourself and anything seems appealing (or is that just me?). When I pull up a bite of mac’n’cheese I want to see that ooey-gooey cheese trail follow my fork!

For a perfect example of this, check out my pictures of the mac’n’cheese at TAP.

The brisket sandwich was okay. I enjoyed the flavor but they betrayed the one consistent pattern I’ve seen at all phenomenal BBQ joints: the brisket was smothered in BBQ sauce. Was it tasty? Err, yeah. Salty, but good. But brisket should stand on its own. Then if you want to add the BBQ sauces that were supposed to be on our table, so be it.

My sweet corn and edamame succotash was good…the first bite wasn’t the same as the last. All the oil had seeped to the bottom of the bowl, so I ended up not finishing it. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I love edamame! And I know what they’re probably doing is trying to create fun and new exciting sides for BBQ…but if you can’t get that right, then stick to a classics and give me the option for some collard greens (there’s no option for that on the menu).

Instead they had “Smokey Braised Kale” – I mean really? Can you pick a trendier food than kale?!? Just…give me collard greens!

Service was slow and disorganized. We got our food and drinks without too much of a wait, but our conversation was constantly interrupted by no less than three different servers approaching our table asking if anyone had seen us yet, did we need anything? I guess +3 points for being attentive and -5 for not having an organized section system worked out for your servers!

Our waiter, although friendly, mumbled. We asked a few times for him to speak up (we couldn’t hear him!) and he just…didn’t. And the outdoor patio was not loud at all. Then when we decided we didn’t want any starters he asked us three more times “are you sure?” Listen man, I know you’re aiming for the ideal check here, but pestering us won’t change our minds!

All in all, it wasn’t the worst experience. If you go, you’ll enjoy your food, you’ll enjoy the drink and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the people watching as much as we did. I just expected more than “it’s okay” and was disappointed.

If you want REAL BBQ there are a thousand other places you should hit up first – and you’ll need to leave Buckhead to find them.