ponce city market & botiwalla – atlanta, ga

hello, fellow food lovers!  this post comes direct to you from the urban vibe of ponce city market!  the group was well overdue for a new restaurant night, so kyle helped us decide on pcm.  with stores and restaurants galore, it was the perfect spot for our tuesday night get-together.

phillip, kyle, kari, bank, and i all met up at the corner of ponce and glen iris to explore the wildly popular ponce city market that has basically exploded and become a local atlanta favorite, all within the past year or so.  i’ve been to the chelsea market in new york city and krog street market here in atlanta, but ponce city market took me by surprise.  i think it’s because it was my first time and i really had no idea what to expect.  this monstrous construction, though, is a feast for the eyes as much as it is for your appetite (and your wallet).

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pcm is floor after floor of atlanta’s finest shops (think west elm, anthropologie, binders) as well as up-and-coming restaurants trying to make a name for themselves.  there’s the main food hall that hosts most of the eateries, but if you take the spiral stairs up a level, you’ll find a fancy steak house and even more space just waiting to be claimed and developed.

pcm was bustling for a tuesday night, and considering the massive parking deck they have underneath it all, i can only imagine the chaos that ensues on the weekends.  ask any local and they’ll tell you the same, that when new things crop up in our city, we are all too eager to get a first glimpse and immediately make it our new favorite place.  it’s true!

the five of us took a stroll around to check out our options.  many of the restaurants have dining tables available, but like krog, you can order and then take your meal to a common eating space in the middle of it all.  it doesn’t have large, cafeteria-style seating like krog, but they’ve set it up so that everyone in your group can easily order from whatever place they like and still get to eat and enjoy the food and atmosphere together.

without any real direction, bank suggested we try botiwalla the indian street grill.  botiwalla is the latest adventure by the chai pani restaurant group out of asheville, nc.  chai pani has several different established endeavors, including their mg road bar & lounge and buxton hall barbecue.  and, if you want a taste of chai pani without having to travel out of state, you can find them right in downtown decatur.

well, with nothing else spinning our spurs that night, we all were in agreement.  indian street fare it would be!  time to eat!

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each of us ordered from the friendly cashier and then found a table on their outdoor patio.  each restaurant on that side of the main food hall has their own designated al fresco dining area, which is super nice.  the evening eventually cooled off with a breeze, and i can imagine how refreshing it would be out there during the spring and fall months.  we relaxed while catching up on life and people-watching all the other patrons around us.  pcm definitely has attracted all different kinds of folks from around the city, and i suppose that is part of what makes it such a cool and hip place to be.

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it wasn’t too long before our piping hot and very fragrant food was delivered by the friendly waiter, and we didn’t waste any time digging in – this group was hungry!  we’ll start with the appetizer, a very good place to start.  🙂

kyle and kari ordered the spdp, puff crisps stuffed with potatoes, onions, cilantro, and chickpea noodles.  now, from the sound of it on the menu, it reminded me very much of the mouthwatering and irresistible samosas i usually get at naanstop just down the road from the condo.  when the little boat of these crisps arrived, though, i think everyone at the table was a little confused.  i think we had all expected them to be much larger than they actually were.  but, since we are an adventurous group, we dove right in to give them a try.  kari’s reaction was simple and straightforward:  the crisps were cold and crunchy and she wouldn’t order it again.  kyle commented that the flavor was much different than whatever it is he had expected.  bank’s review was simple:  “i no likey.”  phillip gave it a bit more of a chance, saying that it takes some getting used to, but when food tends to be a matter of eating in the moment, do we really have the time to get used to it?  perhaps not.  although he didn’t mind it as much as the rest of ys, phillip conceded that he would not pay for it himself.  disappointingly, the menu was guilty of false advertising in describing this dish as “mindblasting…”  i mean, the fact that it was the only food that didn’t get finished all night pretty much says it all.

after that underwhelming appetizer, we got to the entrees.  we’ll start to my right with kari, who had the paneer tikka roll.  this hot buttered naan roll was filled with onions, bell peppers, desi slaw, onions, cilantro, chutney, and chargrilled indian farmer’s cheese (which is called paneer; and, just fyi, the cheese looked more fried, but who’s going to argue with fried cheese?) that had been marinated in yogurt, lime juice, kashmiri chili paste, and north indian spices.  unlike her unappealing starter, kari was highly satisfied with her roll.  the cheese was still very creamy despite being grilled and there was a very nice crunch from the slaw.  there wasn’t too much spice to scare her away, and she would definitely get it again.  success!

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continuing around the table we come to kyle and phillip who both ordered the kashmiri tri-tip roll.  also served in hot buttered naan (man, what a great vessel for great food!), this roll was all about the natural, grass-fed beef with all the tasty condiments you would expect.  although delicious on its own, kyle highly recommends drizzling some of the hot sauce or even cooler yogurt sauce on top of this roll.  phillip said the steak was awesome and seasoned nicely.  although a bit spicy on its own, the meat was “so flippin’ good” per phillip’s review.

at last we come to the final entree of the evening, the botiwalla lamb burgers.  now, bank and i both ordered this dish, but we initially actually requested the lamb boti kabab roll.  the cashier taking our order insisted that if we like lamb we have the botiwalla lamb burgers instead.  happy for his honesty, i’m now curious why he prefers the burgers over the roll…oh well!  we both had the burgers and i’d say we were both highly satisfied customers.  the burgers are described as sliders, but i’d say that’s a bit misleading.  these burgers were sizeable on their own, and even though they might look on the smaller side, they were quite filling.  i almost couldn’t even finish mine!  on the left you’ll see the standard burgers and on the right you’ll see bank’s, which he requested his be served on naan.  both options were good choices for this dish that had the lamb seasoned with cumin, ginger, chillies, mint, and cilantro.  there was so much flavor in these tiny patties!  bank loved the desi slaw, and i can’t argue with that comment.  i’d add that there was plenty of butter on the buns for mine.  🙂  the only thing we both noticed was that the patties certainly looked as if they were frozen prior to cooking.  i suppose i can’t discount botiwalla too much, but i had in my head each bite that, as phillip put it, the texture reminded me of oscar meyer turkey sausage.  again, maybe not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.  overall, i’d certainly recommend this dish to a friend and would have no problem eating it again myself.

all-in-all, each of us would glady dine at botiwalla again.  the outdoor, open-air seating was a great option for our group, and the tables and chairs were in keeping with the restaurant’s vibe.  oh, and bank loved the ice cubes.  they were GINORMOUS.

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