Folks are always asking me about the best places to eat and drink around town. Last week, I decided to flip it and ask them the same question. Maybe the election season is finally taking hold of me, but I entrusted the populace to guide me. For one day, I was not in charge of where I ate. I took a chance. Where I took breakfast, lunch, dinner and even between meal treats, was left up to my friends and colleagues.
I got some good suggestions and of course ended up with more suggestions than I had time to actually use. So I filtered out the places I had been (Thumbs Up, Pappasito’s, 5 Seasons, among them), leaving only those which haven’t had the pleasure of my company. Still, left with too many places (there was no way I was eating more than one of the same meal), I randomized the remaining list to select the 4 winners (sorry Busy Bee, Las Palmeras, and Tiny Bistro).
This is how the day transpired…
0830 Breakfast – R. Thomas Deluxe Grill
A 24-hour, breakfast at any time joint isn’t unusual. R. Thomas, though, is probably the most unusual of its kind, in the area. It’s a mixture of Margaritaville, Majestic Diner and Howard Finster’s backyard. I must admit that I had my reservations as I walked past the exotic birds and colorful bric-a-brac.
The sparse crowd was a perfect mixture of bar and club industry folk coming off a long night, business people making power plays (presumably), college students furiously highlighting poignant text, and Herman the Regular finishing his eggs and sipping coffee.
I had the Benedict Thomas, home fries and tea. The main dish, of course, was R. Thomas’ take on the classic eggs benedict. Instead of English muffin, it comes on wheat toast and your choice of ham, veggie sausage or bacon. I chose the sausage just for variety. The hollandaise was thankfully traditional. But there was a weird sprinkling of red spice over it all. It could’ve been paprika. At the time I didn’t think to ask. It wasn’t bad…just differently weird, like the place overall. The eggs were poached perfectly.
The saving grace for the meal – the home fries. Cooked simply with a bit of onion, salt and pepper, I could have eaten two plates full. Nothing weird here.
0945 Treat – Sublime Doughnuts
This lace had been on my list since I discovered it at Taste of Atlanta. The plan was to stop in to pick up a few and indulge later in the day. So much for planning. It took me 10 minutes to make my selection. Luckily there wasn’t anyone waiting behind me in line. They would’ve been piiiiissed. So with a little help from my pastry slinger in the knit doughnut hat with ear flaps (she was cute so I cut her some slack), I walked out with a plain white paper sack with four doughnuts.
Strawberry ‘n Cream – fresh, ripe fruit, luscious cream crammed into a light doughnut lightly dusted with sugar… it was perfect
Smores – described as “a warm childhood memory”, graham cracker and chocolate topping, with a marshmallow center… i liked it, didn’t love it… if you get one, make sure you nuke it for a few secs, it’ll make a difference
Chocolate on Chocolate – who wouldn’t like that? not this guy… it is especially notable because it wasn’t a cake-type doughnut which most chocolate ones are…bravo!
Orange Dream Star – it’s like eating a creamsicle… a star-shaped doughnut, with cream filling and a tangy orange frosting… a crowd favorite, I’d get it every time
So my midday snack ended up being an extension of breakfast, really. Really. It shouldn’t have been that way. Whatevah man.
1300 Lunch – Desta Ethiopian Kitchen
Ethiopian cuisine was new terrain for me. I was excited to indulge in something truly different from the norm. Desta looks like it was converted from a dry cleaner. It’s tiny on the inside but has an outside deck which is probably nice in good weather. I didn’t care. None of that was why I was there. Onto the food…
It was suggested that I try the tibs. That’s not a typo. Tibs. Not tips. Tibs apparently means meat cut into little cubes and cooked with delicious spices. After some patient schooling and review of the menu by my server Tedy G., I was ready to eat. I had lamb tibs with rice, a side of gomen (collard greens), and injera (Ethiopian bread).
I MUST experience more Ethiopian food. It was delicious! I couldn’t identify a single spice used. The tibs were at the same time salty (but not), tangy (but not), citrus (but not), and spicy hot (but not). My mouth was confused! Either way, Desta is on my “return” list.
I had the injera just to try it. Because I had rice with the tibs, it wasn’t necessary. It’s a nice spongy texture and slightly sour taste, like sourdough, which I love. Beware, it is quite filling and you get a lot with each serving. Get it if you have one of the more saucy dishes.
The godem was equally good and just as confusing to my palate. As Tedy G. suggested, it went perfectly with the lamb. Desta was hands-down the best stop of the day and I hadn’t even had dinner yet.
1830 Dinner – Marlin & Ray’s Seafood Bar & Grille
Though my gut was busting, I ventured out for a seafood dinner. It ended up being just a couple small appetizers. I just couldn’t take much more food. And I didn’t want my visit to be spoiled because I left with a tummy ache.
I sidled up to the bar because it was happy hour and the dining room was full of families. Oh what a bargain the happy hour turned out to be. Get a variety of beer and drinks for $1 – $4, and a selection of appys for $2! Oh happy day! I indulged in mussels and seafood gumbo.
The mussels were, in a word… bad. They were nice and fresh but woefully over-seasoned, with the predominant culprit being salt. Served in a greasy tomato broth, I ate four of a baker’s dozen and called it quits. The presentation was pretty, though. Back to the drawing board with the recipe.
The seafood gumbo was as good as the mussels were bad. It was perfectly spicy and chock full of seafood bits and chunks. A tall draft beer (in my case Sweetwater 420) paired with it nicely.
The only real strike against Marlin & Ray’s is there are no oysters on the half shell on the menu. WTH!? Anyway, I’ll go back, in spite of that and the mussels, to give the place another chance. Plus, the staff was exceptionally nice.
Let me tell you something. Eating three full meals a day is a bit filling. For as much as I eat regularly, or for as much as I appear to eat, I’m not used to 3 squares a day. I haven’t had that type eating schedule since my days in Uncle Sam’s Marine Corps.
All and all, it was a good eatin’ day. I was full at the end. I made some new food discoveries, and put a couple of places on my “return” list. Thanks to my Foodie Faithful for the great suggestions – Shawn D., Natalye H., Alicia T., Diane M., Leigh H., Rose S., Erica Nicole, and Greg C.
Maybe next time y’all can join me.