da vinci’s donuts – sandy springs

i was on my way to work this morning and had every intention to make a quick stop and grab a bagel to eat for breakfast.  it was after i accidentally passed the light to go to panera bread, though, that i had to be spontaneous and make a change in plan.  as i leisurely cruised up roswell, it dawned on me that there is a donut place right on the way to the office, and i hadn’t yet tried it.  even better, i had a coupon!  well, that made the decision easy!

i took a left off glenridge, swung into a parking spot, and opened the door to the sandy springs location of da vinci’s donuts.  with that first step, i was in donut heaven.  the donut smell was so authentic that i felt like i had been transported to another place.  i don’t know where exactly, but i imagine it’s a place filled with puppies and chaise lounges and lots of windows and donuts stacked on platters on every surface you can see.  sure, we’ll call that donut heaven!

anyway, the whole idea here at da vinci’s is to make a really great donut that you can top yourself or enjoy with one of their specialty creations.  their cake-like donut is a great base for whatever you’re going to put on it.  and one of the best parts?  they’re small!  i know, a small donut?  how can that be a good thing?  well, when you’re eating it with chocolate icing or maple bacon, less is more.  and since i had a coupon, i was ready to try nearly every option they put in front of me.

i quickly decided on the da vinci’s dozen, 16 donuts placed in a donut box that actually looks quite similar to another type of food delivery box.  interesting…

with so many to select, i was able to practically get one of each specialty flavor they had out that morning.  how nice that it worked out that way!  i couldn’t help but smile as i looked at those cheery donuts peeking back at me.  almost too cute to consume!  almost.

when i got to the office, i immediately dug in, as i was pretty hungry.  i chose to go with the cinnamon and chocolate glaze on my first round.  the first thing you’re going to notice about any of their donuts is how light they are.  this place has cake donut making down to a science, and you may come to believe they have that recipe just about perfect.  the cinnamon donut was soft and scrumptious and not too sweet.

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the chocolate glaze, though, for me personally was a step above the cinnamon.  the chocolate glaze is the perfect consistency for this little donut, not overpowering.  after the three bites it took me to finish it off, i concluded that their version represents the quintessential chocolate glaze donut.  how’s that for a review!

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and since there were a few donuts left in the box, i decided a third mini donut couldn’t hurt.  this one was by far my favorite, the strawberry shortcake.  i mean, come on!  how precious is this little cutie pie!  the smell alone was enough to make me drool.

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if you feel your sweet tooth itching for satisfaction down here in the atlanta area, i highly recommend you take a chance on da vinci’s donuts.  if these pictures and adjectives aren’t enough to convince you, here’s the last argument i’ll make:  they also serve jittery joe’s coffee!  noms!

krog street market – atlanta, ga

it has felt like eons since we did an official restaurant review, so i promised myself i wouldn’t go two months into the year without changing that fact.  last wednesday kyle, kari, phillip, and i carpooled to the southeastern part of town to check out krog street market.

since it was the first time there for kari and i, we didn’t quite know where to start.  so, we let the experienced boys lead us on a loop of the place to check everything out.  this development has been around for a little while now and whoa!  it’s obvious why people all over town love it.  it kind of feels like a grown-up food court where you can pick from several types of cuisine depending on your preference that day.  there are also tons of store fronts for local artisans who are selling anything from dog treats to handmade soaps.  there’s even an adult beverage shop right next to the bar where you can go to get away from work, life, the kids, whatever it may be!  if you’re a small business supporter, krog street market is the place for you.

i had been craving greek food for a while and finding yalla! online is what actually led us here.  kari was on board for greek as well, but phillip and kyle wandered elsewhere for their meal.  the yalla! stall is very inviting if you ask me, and i guess other people felt so, too, because there was a little bit of a line.  kari grabbed us a couple menus and we joined them.

the yalla! menu is perfect because one side has all the menu options and the other has a little glossary of terms for you to ensure you are ordering something you will fully enjoy.  although i had been coming in completely convinced i was in the mood for lamb, my mind changed the second i saw falafel as an option.  done and done!

as we waited patiently, we both liked the fact that you get to watch as the chefs make your meal.  they take care with each dish, treating food like the form of art i truly feel it is.  as our orders approached, we heard one of the line cooks call out a lamb laffa.  we both looked at the tray in amazement.  the laffa is massive!  it’s a humongous flatbread that’s used as a sandwich wrap.  kari and i were both convinced the laffa is something you can easily share between a couple people.  it looked filling and delicious!

after retrieving our orders, we found the boys had done the favor of finding some seats for us.  to give to that “community” feel, krog street market has long tables perfectly designed to encourage conversation among groups.  this layout also obviously lends greatly to some stellar observing and people watching.  i bet it was intentional; what do you think?  😉

hungry boys!

hungry boys!

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urban grub – nashville, tn

a couple weekends ago i made the 4-hour drive west on i-24 to see my high school friend luke wed his best friend bailey.  the wedding was lovely in a lush estate outside the city, and the band played us into the night as we danced and laughed under romantically lit tents, reminiscing with old friends about our teenage years.

earlier that sunday, though, i had strolled into town in the young afternoon and needed something to eat, for the reception was quite a ways away.  i asked my kind airbnb host meg for a local recommendation, and she was quick to reply that urban grub had a good brunch and wasn’t too far from the apartment.  sounded good to me!

after parking over on gilmore avenue, i dodged the drizzle and was warmly greeted by the hostess.  she quickly seated me at a table for one on their covered patio, a perfect spot among the industrial fans, space heaters, and cool autumn winds.

my waiter chris approached with a glass of water, prepared to take my order.  i informed him that i had only about an hour before i needed to go get all dolled up for the wedding, and he was quick to get to business.  i told him i had been eyeing their eggs benedict with crab (they call it the oskar bennie), and he was happy to say it was one of his favorites, a great choice for a first-time visitor.  done and done!

chris hurried over to put in my order and then was back in a flash with the most darling basket of homemade buttermilk biscuits i’d ever seen.  they were accompanied by freshly salted butter and from-scratch blueberry jam.  uuhhhh, yes, please!  these little pouches of heaven were the perfect starter, and i enjoyed them throughout the meal with dem preserves and butter.  mm!

mm, bizkits.

mm, bizkits.

in nearly no time at all, my brunch was swiftly served in front of me.  looks tasty, doesn’t it?

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i wasted no time digging in, mainly because i was short on time but also because i didn’t want my dish getting cold.  the hollandaise was not too hollandaise-y and had a nice spritz of lemon that was pleasing to the palate.  the eggs were poached to perfection, not too runny but not too cooked.  now, i have never personally poached an egg, so i don’t know what makes me a poached egg expert, if anything, but the only experience i have myself is when i watched mary willa do it up in greensboro.

the english muffin was nice and crispy and didn’t get soggy from all the sauce.  the only thing that truly seemed to be missing was more crab.  i was expecting generous lumps of crab piled atop each side of the muffin, but there was only a spoonful sitting in between, not enough if you ask me.  i would love to have had a bit of crab with each bite of the muffin and egg, but that day was not the day for it to happen.

the grilled asparagus was a welcome addition to the plate, but if i’m being completely honest, those gouda grits were the star of the show.  i couldn’t shovel them in my mouth fast enough, giving no second thought to how all that cheesy and buttery indulgence wasn’t doing my waistline any favors.  as my mother would say, “apply them straight to my hips!”  hehe.

overall, the atmosphere here at urban grub is a bit of hustle and bustle.  it’s a big restaurant, so there are lots of tables, which means lots of hungry customers.  it was a touch louder than i would have liked, but since i was by myself, i didn’t mind too badly.  plus, with nothing to really hear, i was able to watch as the falcons marched on to victory against the local tennessee titans.  rise up!

i could easily picture myself spending a lazy sunday afternoon here with the girlfriends, nursing mimosas and snacking on biscuits all day long.  aw, yisssss!

sublime doughnuts – atlanta, ga

so, i’ve got a mound of vacation days to use before the new year rolls around, so i recently took a week day off from work to let the computer and myself kick back and relax.  i thoroughly enjoy taking time off during the week in my town because it gives me a chance to explore and do things that don’t fit into my weekend schedule.

on the slate that day was a visit to my sister-in-law’s office, a hydra facial at phillip’s mom’s office, and then lunch with my man.  despite the strong desire to sleep in, i got my morning started so as not to waste the day.

with a little time to kill before meeting up with kari, a brilliant idea hit me like a ton of bricks:  get a quick bite at sublime doughnuts!  my dad had seriously told me about this place years ago, and my first visit was long overdue.  google maps directed me to 10th and hemphill, and after a few missed turns, i found a parking spot just for the kessie girl.

i had no idea what to expect but was delightfully surprised as i entered.  i think the word to describe it all would be happy.  the upholstered chairs and cheery colors are quite welcoming, and the staff reflected the atmosphere.  the ladies at the counter were helpful and pleasant and ready to answer my many questions.  they gave me the quick run-down of the selection, especially those that would travel well (i was going to birmingham that night with phillip to visit my parents and planned to bring a few back for them).  i picked out half a dozen with their help and showed myself to a table.

in a spot across from me was an employee who i assumed had to be the manager.  we chatted for a few minutes before he hopped up to help with the growing line of loyal (and maybe new) patrons.  if i’d had a bit more time to spare, i surely would have talked off his ear.  i don’t at all doubt he would have been fun to interview.  next time!

with a sweet tooth like mine, i knew something chocolate-y was in order, so i bit into one of the a-town creams.  every bite of this doughnut was perfectly balanced, from the flavorful dough to the subtle chocolate to the rich and decadent cream filling.  despite how i’m describing it, you should know that it isn’t at all too sweet.

i easily could have had another, but i refrained.  i didn’t want these strangers thinking i was a total junk food addict.  speaking of junk food, did you ever read the berenstain bears as a child?  i vividly remember the one titled junk food, the words in big, bulbous purple letters on the yellow cover as papa bear, brother bear, and sister bear gorged themselves on candies and chips.  oh, and we cannot forget mama bear, looking on in disdain and disgust.  does it mean something that i so clearly recall this specific adventure of the bear family?  probably so, but until those subconscious realizations surface, i’ll obliviously carry on in life.  join me, won’t you?

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as i headed out, i thanked the manager kindly for the exceptional service and delectable treats.  “you’ve made the start of my day a great one,” i said.

“well,” he replied, “it’s all about spreading the doughnut love.”

nicely put!

the next day in birmingham we had the rest of the half dozen for breakfast.  mm, nutritious!  mom and dad loved the caramel apple fritter.  i had a nibble of the orange dream star that was utterly divine, and phillip practically was doing backflips after enjoying the reese’s peanut butter cup doughnut.

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all in all, i’m extremely glad i finally made a visit to sublime doughnuts.  the place and its staff are so genuine that you’ll have a hard time walking out of there without a smile on your face.  🙂

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pho king – atlanta, ga

is it just me, or has it been nearly a lifetime since we did a restaurant review?  you’re absolutely correct, my dear.  the last spot we wrote about was the infamous guest blog by my father for bone garden cantina back in july, so, yes!  it’s been too long!  i decided to finally put an end to the madness, which is how we found ourselves last week at pho king just a few miles down peachtree.

phillip <3s pho!

phillip

for whatever reason, i’d been craving vermicelli desperately, so it’s no surprise what i would end up ordering.  however, no one else at the table except kyle and i had enjoyed vietnamese cuisine before that night, which means there was lots of fun in store.

as everyone flipped back and forth among the menu’s pages, i took in the atmosphere around me.  pho king looks like a small new york joint from outside, but you’ll actually find some decent seating once you walk through the front doors.  although i felt a bit cramped between kyle and alison, it could have just been the 20 million plates and bowls that would come to crowd me.  sure, we’ll go with that.

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however, that argument may be hard to make when your big brother is all up in your grill.  hey, bro!

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after i looked at the picture and had my fill of laughs, the classic song “private eyes” came to mind right away.  you’re welcome.

meanwhile, kari, phillip, and nathan were just whoopin’ it up on the other side of the table.  those little troublemakers.  🙂

okay, okay, enough about us (even though i could go on for days), let’s talk food.  first out were the eggrolls and soup.  we all started with something, and as far as the pho is considered, i think the general consensus is that it was a hit and that the bowls were quite large, even the small size!

phillip and i had a small bowl of the pho with brisket.  it came out piping hot and very delicious.  when i inevitably catch my first cold of the winter season, a big bowl of pho just might be the ticket to make me feel better.

p3 - pho with brisket.

p3 – pho with brisket.

kyle’s pho with round steak looked like a renegade after he topped it with fresh jalapenos.  this trooper, though?  he ate the whole bowl and then enjoyed some leftovers that the others of us had.  get it, son!

across and to my right, nathan had the fried rice with marinated tenderloin beef chunks, which was highly recommended to him by our waitress as the best meal on the menu.  it would turn out that there was truth in her statement:  nathan ate up every morsel!  not only did he say he’d get it again, he said, with much enthusiasm, that it was ridiculously good.

across from him and to my immediate right, nathan’s lovely wife alison went with the grilled pork rice plate and thoroughly enjoyed it.  she was a member of the clean plate club that night, no questions about it!

i only got a shot of the aftermath. whoopsies!

i only got a shot of the aftermath. whoopsies!

on my other side, kari tackled a small bowl of the chicken pho, number p7, along with a couple of fried eggrolls, item a2.  i didn’t really get a review from her, but she seemed to like dining out on something a bit different, and i bet with enough persuasion i could convince her to come back.  hehehe, let the planning begin!

across from me, my sweetheart phillip chowed down on menu item r3, the grilled chicken rice plate.  the rice only needed a splash of soy sauce to perfectly accompany the well-cooked and well-seasoned chicken.  although those chicken breasts may not have looked like much, i promise you they filled phillip to the brim.

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and now, the moment you have all been waiting for, my review!  okay, i know you haven’t been waiting, but i just have to talk about my experience!  let me first get something off my chest:  when i say i love vietnamese food, that really means that i’ve only ever had vermicelli and have been hopelessly devoted to the stuff from the first time i ate it.  my heart will forever be held by this irresistible rice noodle dish, no doubt about it.  the vermicelli here at pho king is on point, a very large and satisfying serving of which i almost ate every chopstick-ful (thank you for letting me make up that word right now).  the grilled pork was to die for, although i did miss the eggroll that the menu said should have come with it.  besides that, each ingredient was complementary to the others, and i spent the better portion of dinner with my face buried in my bowl as i slurped up each bite.

after paying the checks, we rolled out with satisfied, and very full, bellies.  to be honest, there’s absolutely no reason to not come back to pho king, and when the yearning for rice noodles strikes again, you’ll know where to find me.

bone garden cantina – atlanta, ga

Hello, all.  Due to Kelsey’s meeting with FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland, she has graciously allowed me to be, for the first time ever, a “guest blogger” for the review of Bone Garden Cantina in Atlanta.  This is Kelsey’s Dad; she has mentioned me in prior blogs, so I hope you will like and enjoy this review.

First of all, guilty as charged, this blog/review will be written from a guy’s perspective.  In addition, I have worked at Saks Fifth Avenue in Ladies’ Shoes, so I am uniquely qualified to see, understand, and comment on the male and female perspective.  Also, I love clarity, so I will let you know what to expect, what not to expect, etc…

From purely a food perspective, on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best, I would put Bone Garden at a 9.  Bone Garden is definitely worth the drive.  On the menu there are some “plates/combos,” but most of the menu is a la carte.  Portions are of good size, but 2 a la carte items would be a filling meal.

As Kelsey knows, I love things in chronological order, so following will be a step-by-step, comment-by-comment review.

Location.  In Atlanta off of I-75, a bit of a challenge to find but worth the drive.  Sidebar, as Kelsey knows, I am “technically challenge,” so she found and wrote the directions to Bone Garden.  Also, if there were a Mount Rushmore for both being “off the radar” and “king of conspiracies,” I would be on them both.  Kelsey can tell you of my mistrust of online banking, the Internet, GPS, etc…  Regarding conspiracies, the Kennedy assassination, Oswald did not act alone.  Watergate, classic example of the federal government not telling the truth.  You have probably seen this all over:  it’s not so much the crime but the cover-up.  Whatever, Bone Garden is worth the drive – get there.

Wait Staff.  ASK FOR KATIE.  If needed, mention my name.  She’s witty, charming, knows the menu, knows her tequila.  ASK FOR KATIE.

Victoria and Katie.

Victoria and Katie.

Seating.  This is important for me.  I am 6’4″ and asked for a table, not a booth.  The staff happily accommodated us.  Reason for table vs. booth?  Easy, I like to stretch my legs.

Atmosphere #1.  This is important.  Bone Garden has concrete floors.  Very loud.  Sound bounces everywhere.  If you are looking for a quiet, intimate dinner, DO NOT GO HERE.  Guys, on the other hand, if you want to have a great Mexican dinner and not hear what the others are saying, go here.

Atmosphere #2.  Guys, this is important.  Ladies, if a guy takes you here, this is what to expect.  Guys, if the girl has a great sense of humor, likes to drink, this is the place for you.  If she does not have a sense of humor, do not take her here.  If she DOES have a sense of humor, you’ll love this place.  Eat, drink, do not order from the dessert menu at the restaurant, get on I-75 ,the fast lane…you get the picture.  If she DOES NOT have a sense of humor or is high maintenance, eat, drink lots, do not order from the dessert menu at the restaurant, get on I-75, drop her off and say good night, go back to Bone Garden…you get the picture.

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House Rules.  I loved this.  On the menu there is a set of “house rules,” great stuff.  Kind of like ordering soup from the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld.

Wait Staff.  Did I mention to ask for Katie?

Ordering.  We ordered three different items.  Victoria ordered the Mole Plate:  two seasoned enchiladas topped with chihuahua cheese, homemade green mole sauce, fresh avocado flown in from California, tomatoes, queso fresco, Spanish rice, and refried beans.  Yummo!  The chicken enchiladas are great.  I had 2 a la carte items.  #1, taco, barbacoa de chive, slow braised goat, topped with onion and salsa verde.  It was just OK, would not order again, would rather try other items on the menu.  #2, tamale, Puerco Azteca, corn masa filled with free-range pork and onion, steamed in a banana leaf and served with salsa verde.  THIS WAS FANTASTIC.  Order it.  I will definitely order this again.  Yummo!

Wait Staff.  Did I mention to ask for Katie?

Summary.  I would DEFINITELY go to Bone Garden again.  As long as you understand Atmosphere #1 and #2 outlined above, you and your guest will have a terrific time.

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As Kelsey has mentioned in prior blogs, I am the guy who would prefer the Silver Skillet vs. Buttermilk Kitchen.  That pretty much says it all.  In my book, Bone Garden Cantina is a definite “home run!”

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naanstop – atlanta, ga

recently for nrw we wanted to keep things a little bit more casual, and as i drove home from disco kroger that sunday before, my eyes glanced left at the intersection of piedmont and lenox and there, right before me, was exactly where we would go that week:  naanstop.

i’d been dying to go there ever since they opened last year, and considering kyle, kari, and clark had already been and didn’t mind going back, it seemed like it’d be a win.  phillip and i met kyle and kari there at 7:30 sharp, and since it was still light out, i insisted we take a picture in front of the sign.  perfection!

striking a pose!

striking a pose!

clark had described naanstop as an indian chipotle, and as phillip held the door open for me and i walked in, i realized he was exactly right.

first, get in line.

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next, pick if you want a wrap, bowl, or salad.

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then decide what your filling will be.  so many good things, how can we choose just one?!

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finally, pick your chutney.  it’s really a sauce/dressing to top your selections.  get crazy!  heck, if they’ll allow it, maybe mix and match.

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at last you can choose some sides and drinks.  per kyle and kari’s recommendation, we ordered some garlic naan, a great carbohydrate supplement to what would end up being a great meal.

we grabbed a table, and as i took a look at everyone’s meals, i was excited to dig into my kabob bowl with basmati rice, onions, peppers, spinach, and cool chutney.  the meat was tender and juicy, and the cool chutney was a classic choice that didn’t overpower the rest of the bowl.  i would gladly order it again, but i would probably ask for double spinach.  can’t get enough of those leafy greens!

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next to me, phillip had a lamb naanwich on garlic naan with peppers, onions, spinach, and sweet chutney.  he started ripping the foil off in ravenous fashion when i stopped him just in time.  “phillip, the sign said not to unwrap it!”  and sure enough, he just started laughing at himself because not five minutes earlier he had taken a picture of the very sign that tells you not to unwrap the naanwich but rather to just peel the foil off as you eat.  silly boy!

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yes, that’s more like it.  🙂

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across from me, now, kyle had what i think might have been my favorite bite of the night:  the regular samosa.  i took one taste and couldn’t stop myself from saying, “ooh, baby, that is the stuff.”  the flavors were so wonderful and the pastry so flaky that it wasn’t until a few minutes later i finally realized why i loved it so much; it reminded me exactly of the green thai curry pie at panbury’s.  as i was sitting there thinking about panbury’s and savoring the eats of my first naanstop experience, i was in food heaven.

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at naanstop they’ve got a lot going for them.  besides a simple concept, the food is quite fresh and handmade, things that make me feel much better about eating out rather than sweating like a wildebeest in my tiny, hot kitchen making dinner.

the only thing i ask naanstop work on before i return?  that water dispenser at the soda fountain!  it was taking its sweet time, a slight inconvenience for thirsty patrons.

the silver skillet – atlanta, ga

our dad came in town recently for a weekend getaway, and considering i hadn’t seen him since a hometown visit back in march, i was thrilled for the opportunity to have some quality family time.

we were nearly all together while he was here:  kyle, kari, phillip, and i spent those two days hosting dad at some atlanta classics like el taco veloz and the buford market.  when sunday morning arrived, we piled in the cars and made our way to the silver skillet.  dad had heard about this local institution about a year ago on the food network, and considering it had been featured in movies and tv shows like remember the titans and traveling man, he just had to go and see it for himself.

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illegal food – atlanta, ga

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we’ve been on a roll with nrw through the month of may, and last week was no different.  per nathan’s recommendation, seven of us met up in virginia highlands to try out illegal food.  illegal food actually got its start as the first kitchen incubation project at the edgewood game bar joystick.  chef steven lingenfelter gained quite a following from the locals as he reinvented two of america’s favorites:  burgers and fries.  the success at joystick led them to their very own restaurant, and interestingly (and sadly enough) they now occupy the space that once was my beloved bar meatball.  bar meatball had a short life but will always have a special place in my heart.  it was hard to walk into that building knowing that i wouldn’t be having risotto meatballs over mashed potatoes and covered in gravy, but i guess that’s just how life goes sometimes.

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the one sushi + – atlanta, ga

we’ve been kicking nrw back into high gear now that the busy month of april has come and gone.  last week we enjoyed a lovely and relaxing dinner at varasano’s pizzeria in south buckhead, and this week we took it to the neighborhood of brookhaven for a little sushi.  i’ve been madly craving it for a little while now, and even though i wasn’t sure who else would be on board, the one sushi + would be the host for our sweet party of eight.

since their name is a little longer, i am going to affectionately refer to the one sushi + as ‘tosp’ throughout the rest of this post.  sound good?  i thought so, too!  okay, so tosp is kind of hidden here on caldwell road, just off dresden.  there’s always a new restaurant popping up in this little strip of boutiques and eateries, so it shouldn’t surprise me that i hadn’t yet heard of them.  and as it would turn out, tosp used to be a coffee shop way back when.  with a reservation at 7:30 p.m. sharp, i walked in to meet bank, liz, nathan, alison, eric, claire, and phillip at our large table.

i don’t typically think of sushi restaurants as “cozy,” which is how tosp describes itself, and upon walking in, the word “urban” is what came to mind instead.  there are these sizable sheet metal light installations that hang above the dining space and the concrete floor.  the huge window walls let the natural light come in, a good thing because otherwise it would be very dark and sensual in here.  again, cozy definitely isn’t the right characterization, if you ask me, but i was totally digging the dense modern vibe i was getting.

the place settings are clean and crisp.  i love the white plates and bowls because it gets to show off the colors of the super fresh ingredients of their menu.  a good simple contrast to the busy artwork on the walls.

we’d made it halfway through the week, so we all agreed on some adult beverages in addition to our water glasses.  most of the fellas got sopporos and most of the ladies got cocktails.  phillip went with the sake, which he loved, and i also very much enjoyed the novellum chardonnay from france.  mm.

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