the big ketch saltwater grill – atlanta, ga

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this week i wasn’t sure where i wanted to venture to for nrw, and as it turns out, i didn’t venture very far, at least as far as mileage is concerned.  after meeting at my condo, we all made the short walk down roswell road to try out the big ketch saltwater grill.  i pass it all the time on my runs, and since seafood sounded like the perfect dinner choice, we found ourselves gathered around a couple of tables and ready to eat.

the big ketch is all about friendly service, a relaxing atmosphere, and the freshest quality seafood that can possibly be brought inland to the big city.  the people here are laid back, encouraging you to enjoy a casual meal with a bit of a “gourmet touch,” as they put it themselves.  well, i would certainly agree with most of those statements.

the big ketch is not nearly as “divey” as i was expecting it to be.  i’m very glad i hadn’t arrived in a t-shirt and sneakers, because it is much more upscale inside than it looks from the outside.  it’s not so fancy that you need to go suit and tie (although you certainly could), but you definitely should come in looking put together.  i won’t say it was a bad thing; it just threw me for a quick moment upon our arrival.  the ambiance is very seaside without being tacky or overdone.  it makes you feel like you should be on the coast, sunny and 75.  it helps that they had some live music going with the guitarist, just enough to know it’s there but not too much so that it interrupts your visit.  i think greg put it well when he said that it’s nice to have a place like the big ketch just a stone’s throw from all the buckhead bars.  it almost feels like a secret, all tucked away and unassuming.  you’ll find that we definitely thought it was a place worth discovering.

liz and bank were joining us for their first nrw of the new year – how exciting!  so drinks were in order for the evening.  liz and i both had the tbk mojito with coconut and cruzan rum.  at first i thought it was a little too soda-y, but as i continued to sip on it, i liked it more and more.  liz and i both agreed that it wasn’t overpowered with mint and that the coconut was a great flavor to add to the mix.

bank thought the ga peach sounded good, so that is what he ordered.  with the 360 georgia peach vodka and peach puree, it was a little tart and sweet but quite tasty.  i’m betting if he weren’t driving that night, he would have had another.  in asking bank for his review of the drink, he kind of chuckled to himself; he clearly had forgotten how curious i get when we try a new restaurant, so to take notes and really taste the food was a familiar but faded experience for him.  as always, i made it fun throughout the night, and he even commented that i was our very own rita skeeter.  ah, should i be flattered?  sure, why not!

the ga peach.

the ga peach.

greg was a hungry man that night, so after placing our drink orders, he promptly asked for some of the sweet and spicy calamari with mango sweet chili sauce.  i let everyone else dig in first, and they thankfully confirmed what i had hoped, that it was not nearly as spicy as it smelled, that it was more like a sweet’n’sour sauce than anything else.  i snagged a forkful before the plate emptied, and i have to say i was not a fan at all.  i did like the idea of pairing it with the cold slaw, but the unfortunate thing is that the calamari was also cold, so even though the texture difference was there, there was no temperature distinction, which i really think would have made it much better.  i also didn’t like that the sauce was already dousing the dish.  liz and i were thinking that if it had been served on the side, perhaps the calamari would not have gotten so cold, and then we would have been able to have as much sauce on a bite as we wanted.  however, none of those things were the case, which made this dish a miss for me.

sweet & spicy calamari.

sweet & spicy calamari.

along with the calamari we were brought a basket of boiled peanuts, complimentary.  now, i think i might shock you all in saying that even though i grew up in alabama, i have never once eaten a boiled peanut.  aah, unbelievable, i know!  well, since there’s no time like the present to make up for all those passed boiled peanut stands on the side of the road, i scooped a couple out for myself and gave them a try.  i was first a little taken aback by the soggy and soft shell, although i’m not sure what i expected because, after all, they had been boiled in water.  of course they were going to be soft!  silly kelsey girl.  anyway, after i tore through the shells, i munched on those soft peanuts, taking in the flavors and texture.  as far as the flavor goes, they still tasted like peanuts, just kind of warm and, thankfully, not too salty.  i kept trying to pinpoint the texture of them as i popped peanut after peanut in my mouth, and then it dawned on me that they were kind of like chickpeas, and i love chickpeas, so that was a good thing!  i did, though, ask the experienced boiled peanut eaters what they thought, for i had no frame of reference against which to compare.  liz said they were okay, not the best she’s ever had but perfectly edible.  bank said they should have been more boiled, that they should have been a little darker and a little softer.  in his opinion, they weren’t terrible at all, just fine.

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it was going to be a little bit before our entrees came out, and since we were all still ready for some more munching, i kindly asked angelo for a full basket of the hushpuppies.  those little fellas came out perfectly warm, and it was in the blink of an eye that almost all of them were snatched up by hungry hands.  even though i say little fellas, these hushpuppies were sizable and substantial.  they were dense without being too heavy and were fried to perfection.  everyone was very impressed by them, especially when you dunked them right into the remoulade.  my dunking was more like dropping, but, hey, if a little is good, a lot is better!  they didn’t fall apart as you ate them, and they were just the right level of mealy, in my opinion.  i’m almost convinced i could have eaten just hushpuppies for dinner and probably have been set.  speaking of dinner, you’ll get a hushpuppy with your entree, so if you don’t think you can conquer a whole basket, don’t worry, you’ll still get a taste.  more hushpuppies!

liz and i were dinner buddies that night, both of us also getting the hot buttered lobster roll.  now, i’d had my first, and best to date, lobster roll in boston back in december with vinh at neptune oyster, so even though i was ecstatic to be eating it again, i was also quite worried that i would be underwhelmed.  well, i am here to tell you that i was wonderfully surprised at how great this lobster roll was.  even though the roll looked a little small, it was almost more than i could consume in one sitting.  the hunks of lobster are big and meaty and fresh, if you can believe it.  they’re in a nice little mound on that piece of toast that is dripping butter from all of its pores.  and then!  you get a little ramekin of melted butter, in case you needed more, which i did, i needed all the butter for that roll!  the dish was insanely savory, and writing about it now makes me want it again.  the fact that i can get a legit lobster roll less than a mile from my house is pretty sick.

as for the sides, liz had the smashed potatoes and i went with the collard greens, because every good southern girl knows you need a little vegetable on your dinner plate.  the smashed potatoes were great, and i personally thought they were even better because they had the skins in them.  that’s how you know they’re really smashed.  the collard greens were cooked perfectly and not overly seasoned.  i’m sure i could have finished them if i hadn’t already stuffed my face with lobster and hushpuppies.  oh well!

at the head of the table, greg ordered the fish in chips, for he’d been craving them all day.  unfortunately, they sounded and looked better than they were.  the fish was beer battered and rolled in kettle cooked potatoes, a taste that greg didn’t particularly prefer.  there was too much breading and not nearly enough fish for his liking.  overall, a “very average” fish and chips.  ooh, it’s getting real in here!  he didn’t use the tartar sauce that came on the side, but i took a dip with my fork and was intrigued.  it was a bit unusual, not your typical tartar sauce, and it definitely had a strong pickle finish.  fun because it’s different, not fun if you want traditional tartar sauce for your fish.  as for the sides, they left much to be desired for greg as well, and that goes for both the broccoli and seasoned green beans.  although he ate every bite on his plate, i don’t think he did so very willingly.

fish in chips.

fish in chips.

we’ll swing it on over to alison who had the asian quinoa cous cous bowl with mahi mahi.  that bowl looked all kinds of hearty with its macadmia nuts, toasted sesame seeds, herbs, veggies, and sweet asian vinaigrette.  it was simply fantastic, a dish she would readily order again if she found herself back at the big ketch.

asian quinoa cous cous bowl with mahi mahi.

asian quinoa cous cous bowl with mahi mahi.

that night bank was feeling hungry also, and after trying to decide between a couple options, he went with the sweet and spicy shrimp po’boy with a side bowl of the lobster bisque.  his plate was piled high, and i think he was very happy with his choice even before his first bite.  he polished off the bisque quickly because it was so awesome.  he then rolled up his sleeves to dig into the po’boy, a po’boy definitely worthy of a serious side bite.  he loved it and didn’t let a single morsel get away from him.

nathan kept up his perfect streak, and although he isn’t a seafood fan really at all, he still found the marinated chicken breast to be a great dish.  he ordered it blackened, and even though it was only slightly spiced, it was still delicious and he was very pleased with it.  he also loved the smashed potatoes as one of his sides and then admitted, like greg, that the broccoli was just so-so.  as someone who doesn’t get overly excited about seafood restaurants, nathan really liked his big ketch experience.

marinated chicken breast with smashed potatoes & broccoli.

marinated chicken breast with smashed potatoes & broccoli.

at last, we come to my eating comrade vinh.  a man of few words, vinh thought the coconut crusted salmon and coconut fried shrimp was amazing.  a generous mixed green salad accompanied the salmon and shrimp with a pineapple-mango salsa, roasted macadamia nuts, and creamy soy dressing.  he did some serious work on that dish, not leaving anything on the plate.  he would highly recommend it as well as the crab and shrimp cake, which he started the meal out with and consumed in quick fashion.

we came to the end of the meal, mostly satisfied and definitely full, easily calling this nrw “audible” a great choice.  the dishes here might appear deceiving, but do not let them fool you.  the portions are generous and will certainly make you feel like you got your money’s worth.  you can stay a little more conservative with your meal or get a little out of your comfort zone; i think they really have something for everyone in your party.  whether it’s fish and shrimp or chicken and potatoes, you’re sure to be happy you came.

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