Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wanted: Good Restaurant That Accepts Large Parties


An enjoyable dining experience with a restaurant that meets the following qualifications:
  • Will take reservations for parties of 8-14 people
  • Will separate checks
  • Will provide reliable service
  • Is located in or around Atlanta, Georgia
  • Is not Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, California Pizza Kitchen or the like
  • Provides a decent atmosphere
  • (Does not have to be a four or five-star restaurant but must serve good food)

You see, it seems as though very few metro Atlanta restaurants meet the above qualifications.

I went to Taqueria del Sol (Decatur location) with family a few weeks ago, knowing it would be a challenge to all sit together. We were already a tough-to-sit group of seven, then we complicated things when our party arrived in waves versus all at once. Because management won't allow you to save a table until after everyone orders at the counter (fair enough), we were stuck sitting across the room from each other. And while it has nothing to do with being able to sit together, I can't help but share this: Would you believe that management wouldn't let me give already-bought chips and salsa to the remainder of my family while they stood in line? As I handed a plate to my brother, a manager said, "you can't give them chips while they stand in line!" I asked, "why not?" He responded with, "because then everyone ELSE will ask for chips while they stand in line." I was thinking, "not my problem..."

I thought Tap (1180 Peachtree Street; Atlanta) fit the bill based on previous good experiences; however, when I went with a group of 14 friends last weekend, we had painfully slow service. I will say that I was still grateful for the split checks and decent food and good beer.

You all read about my Antico debacle from earlier this month. If you ever want to reserve the chef's table, keep the 10-person-max rule in mind!

Suggestions? It seems I run into this challenge several times a year when planning birthday dinners and family outings. Help!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Winter Clothes Wearing Comes to an End

Wearing my black shorts and tights one last time. (And yes, we do have astro turf on our back porch - yikes!)

Kiss your cold weather clothes goodbye until October!

Considering its nearly April and I live in Georgia, I figure I won't have many more opportunities to don sweaters, tights, lined pants or heavy jackets.

The birthday celebration for Maria and Kyle at Tap this weekend was a perfect opportunity wear my "winter shorts" one last time.
  • Cowl neck sweater - Gap (gift from parentals)
  • Cuffed shorts - H&M ($25)
  • Black platform pumps with patent tips - Nine West via Ross ($25)
  • Patterned tights - Intimissimi (10 euros) (tights also seen here)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Takeout Adventures: Peruvian Chicken

If you were to evaluate what I've been eating over the past few days, you'd think I was covering a beat on City of Decatur takeout options. Saturday was Subway for lunch then Publix sushi for dinner. Sunday lunch was delicious panini sandwiches and three-cabbage coleslaw from Java Monkey, followed by Noodle peanut noodle dinner bowls for dinner.

Nope. The exorbitant amounts of takeout is due to us moving from our seedy Virginia-Highland apartment into our new casa in Decatur. Since we've been busy moving and I am not being paid to review restaurants, we've been exploring new, affordable takeout options in our new 'hood.

For dinner tonight, I did an imaginary drive-through of downtown Decatur, trying to brainstorm spots we haven't yet explored. Then it came to me.

Las Brasas!

Every time we've been to Feast, we've curiously peered over at the Peruvian rotisserie chicken place next door. I had a good feeling about the place. A quick Urban Spoon search validated my quest for tasty chicken at Las Brasas: a mere seven reviews but all incredibly positive. I read things like "best chicken in ATL" and "I am constantly recommending this place to people." Jennifer Zyman had good things to say in her 2008 Creative Loafing review. Okay, the stage was set.

I dialed up Las Brasas (310 East Howard Avenue; Decatur, GA; (404) 377-9121), where a nice gentleman answered the phone and did not bark at me to "hold please." I said I wanted to make a takeout order, but that I did not actually know what I wanted. I asked for his recommendation.

He proceeded to patiently tell me that the rotisserie chicken is most popular — and that Las Brasas runs a $6.95 special that includes a quarter chicken, one side and a drink. Side options included pinto beans, rice, sweet potato fries, steamed veggies or sauteed veggies. I wish I could have ordered the whole menu! I went with the chicken special (with sweet potato fries) for Dan — and a rotisserie chicken salad for myself. The order taker recommended the balsamic vinaigrette. I was also tempted to order the special potato salad this man recommended, as layers of potatoes with a creamy cheesy sauce and Peruvian spices sounded pretty damn good.

When I arrived at the humble, painted red cinderblock restaurant ten minutes later, I noted a nice little patio that would be great for casual, summer dining. I was greeted by a friendly man named John (likely the proprietor). John was cheerful, gracious and happy to see a new customer. As he finished packing my food and printing my receipt, John asked, "Kathryn, do you like hot sauce?" I said, "sure." So he grabbed a second dressing/sauce from the back and threw it into my bag.

Dan's hearty-sized chicken breast was juicy, tender and flavorful. The sweet potato fries, while not likely fresh to order, were still tasty. My salad was comprised of simple-but-delicious romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, perfect avocados and sliced chicken. The vinaigrette was good but the creamy/spicy/avocado-y second dressing was even better. We both finished the meal very satisfied. Two meals and a drink: $15.

Las Brasas is open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. They also provide complimentary delivery for orders $15 and up in a limited area. See the menu here. Because Las Brasas doesn't have a liquor license, they allow BYOB for patio dining.

If you check out Las Brasas this summer, you may find us on the patio with pinot grigio in tow.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Antico Birthday Party + a Lil Pizza Drama

Dan and I planned a little friend/family gathering at Antico to celebrate my 2?th birthday.

Overall*, the night was really enjoyable. I couldn't ask for better pizza -- or better friends, for that matter. It was some friends' first trip to the Naples-style pizza mecca.

Here are some photos from the evening.

A birthday gift to myself: a box of wine wrapped like a present. (Antico is BYOB)

Mega tasty cake from the Antico bakery (delicious, spongy layers of yellow cake -- with a touch of lemon flavor -- amidst layers of a tasty creamy/whipped frosting). This dessert was reminiscent of the "Tres Leces" cake from one of our favorite restaurants (Tierra). Mmmm. Cake was $32, I believe.

*The pizza drama:

About three weeks prior to my birthday, I called Antico to reserve the larger, wooden table back in the kitchen.

Flash forward to my birthday (Tuesday). The kitchen (where most of the seating is and where most of the eating takes place) was relatively quiet. Our party rolled in from about 7:15 to 7:45, until we eventually had about 22 people hanging around our table. After a few minutes of noshing on tasty margherita pies, an employee approached us to tell us that Giovanni di Palma (the owner) wanted to charge us a $50 upcharge for violating the "10 people maximum" rule. She went on to ask if we wanted to discuss it with Giovanni himself.

Seeing in that we hadn't heard previously that only 10 people were allowed to come with our party, we did want to speak with the owner. Neither of us was looking to cause trouble; we merely wanted to sort through the miscommunication.

The same friendly employee came back a few minutes later, saying that Giovanni was sticking to his policy: he wanted to charge us a corking fee because he doesn't accept private parties larger than 10 people.

A few minutes later, we found an audience with Mr. di Palma. He seemed a little agitated with us. I told him that when I called, the person on the phone did mention that the table seated 1o - but I said to that person on the phone something along the lines of "that's fine. Our party will be bigger than that, but we don't mind taking turns eating and standing." (Also considering people are always standing around the tables in the crowded "dining room" - AND that my friends would all be ordering pizza, I hadn't worried about the size of our group. Not to mention, it was a week night).

We went on to say that the corking fee wasn't too much ($3 to $4/person to BYOB isn't a bad deal) - it was the fact that this fee and the group size limitations hadn't been previously disclosed to us that was the problem. Giovanni then told us that it's his fiance who's the business manager, and that she ALWAYS tells people very directly and clearly that the table seating is limited.

Giovanni was firm in his belief that we had been explicity told that we could have 10 people max. I responded saying, "I know you don't know me, but it is not in my nature to take what someone tells me and totally disrespect and ignore it. If I would have been told that it was important to have only 10 people, we would have only brought 10 people."

If you're curious about his reasoning (maybe you're asking why he would turn down big private parties), it's because Giovanni wants the kitchen dining room to be an experience for all who enter. If someone drives from Flowery Branch or LaGrange for an Antico pizza, they would be smothered by a private party such as ours. Like we told him that night, that's all fine and well - but we hadn't been told that previously. Giovanni said he turns down large private parties all the time in lieu of letting people have a nice, intimate dining experience. He said it's not about making money.

We later heard that this isn't the first time this very same misunderstanding has occurred. Also, we heard that he had never before instituted a corking fee on a week night.

In the end, we chalked it up to a miscommunication and called a truce. He didn't make us pay the fee (not that it mattered). Our only wish is that others don't encounter this same miscommunication. After the 15 minutes of slight drama subsided, it still end up being a great night with much fun had by all. I'm curious though; if we had not made a reservation and just rolled in there 22-large, would we have been kicked out?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fancy Kicks

Major kudos to the husband, who birthday gifted me with some super-amazingly-interesting-and-sexy open-toe sandals... totally by himself*!

I've been busy mentally putting together outfits, ranging from cuffed jeans, boyfriend blazers and white tees — to black mini-dresses. These things are going to get some major wear. :)

*I'm not kidding. I did not drop hints. I did not have my friends send him anonymous tips. I did not whisper wishes in his ear while he was sleeping. I'm so impressed!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fall 2010: Maxi Skirts (Love 'em or Leave 'em?)

Will long skirts make it big in 2010?

Fab Sugar, acting on cues from Fashion Week, is suggesting maxi skirts will be all the rage for Fall 2010. 

Photo via FabSugar.

If I can find a versatile pattern or color for an affordable price, I'll give it a whirl. What do you think?