Maybe it’s because of my epic trip last year, but lately I am crushing hard on Vietnamese food. Usually in order to get the good stuff, you have to venture into an international part of town like Norcross or Buford Highway. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I do it all the time. But I was most impressed to find an upscale Vietnamese restaurant complete with complimentary valet right in West Midtown. Go, Atlanta!
The décor at Le Fat is very classy and vintage. The service is attentive. The drink choices are plentiful. And the food is wow. I was ultra impressed when I asked about a certain wine and our server said I could taste it first. This place is legit! I don’t remember seeing any Asian wines or beers on the list, though, which would have been a nice touch. (Thankfully they do have my fave, Vietnamese coffee.)
Le Fat decor
Le Fat decor
Out of 10
We finally went to check out Suwanee Town Center recently. In addition to a picturesque green space, some shops and some fountains for the kids to play in, it also has of course a bunch of restaurants. Many of them are chains – Ippolito’s, Mellow Mushroom, Five Guys, etc. – but there were also some originals too.
We decided to try Suwanee Park Tavern because well, beer, but also their outside seating looked so inviting. Inviting it was – with a nice awning for shade and a great view of the park. It was also super quiet, which we love. Our server was friendly, and the food was pretty good too. Overall, a nice spot.
Suwanee Town Center
Out of 10
It seems like as soon as I discover and fall in love with a restaurant in this town, it changes its menu or closes. I loved the Taiwanese TJ House in Duluth when I first tried it, but before I could even return for round two, I heard that they had changed their menu entirely and were serving Cantonese food instead of Taiwanese. (I think they have even closed entirely since then.)
So I was pleased to find out that some of the folks behind the old TJ House had opened a new spot in Doraville called La Mei Zi. I was even more pleased to learn that they served a lunch buffet on the weekends. I love me a good buffet, especially an Asian one!
I’m happy to report that my friend and I were both quite pleased by La Mei Zi’s buffet, so hopefully they don’t shut down anytime soon. The buffet included several soups, about a dozen or so main dishes, and a few desserts. They also served free plum juice with the buffet. The dishes were a mix of Americanized and more traditional fare. I truly think it would please any palate.
La Mei Zi Buffet
Out of 10
I’ve been hitting up Norcross hard lately. My latest stop was Ba Bellies near Peachtree Corners. Described as an Asian gastropub, and affiliated with the delicious Vietnamese restaurant, Nam Phuong, also in Norcross, it basically sounded like heaven on earth to me. However, they inexplicably only serve brunch on both Saturday and Sunday (instead of lunch), so brunch it was.
The brunch menu was a bit odd. Since Ba Bellies had been described by others as fusion cuisine, I expected to find traditional brunch dishes spiked with Asian flavors. But what I actually saw were some menu items that sounded purely American, and others that were purely Asian.
Needless to say I went for the Asian dishes ‘cause I can get a waffle anywhere. Some of the items I saw on the brunch menu online were not on the menu we were given in the restaurant, while others that weren’t on the brunch menu online made an appearance on the physical brunch menu – so expect to be surprised by the menu if you go. I went with the Crispy “Tiger” Sprouts and the Sweet Chili Wontons.
Sweet Chili Wontons and Crispy “Tiger” Sprouts
3 out of 10
I love me some Cuban food, so I was excited to try Mojitos in historic Norcross. I was also excited because I had never been to this part of Norcross, but had seen it many times on one of my favorite shows, ABC’s Resurrection, which filmed there but was unfortunately not resurrected for a third season.
This area of Norcross is filled with buildings dating back to the 1800s, some of which were immediately recognizable to me from TV, so it was very exciting to check things out. I literally felt like I had gone back in time or stumbled onto a TV set. It was really cool.
While historic Norcross delivered, Mojitos did not. I did love the vibe of the restaurant though. The intimate space with brightly colored Caribbean art made me feel like I’d traveled to Cuba. That feeling unfortunately started to fade when I was served a lackluster pina colada. How do you mess up a pina colada? This one needed way more sugar.
Mojitos pina colada
I have always loved Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward for its historic, laid-back charm. With the addition of Krog Street Market, it’s only gotten better. While the market is a bit of a destination, it’s just small and quirky enough to fit into the neighborhood and add to its charm versus detract from it.
A modern-day food court with tons of artisan fare, there’s lots to admire about Krog Street Market. Here are some of my favorites:
- While it can be tricky to find a spot, parking is free. This luxury is becoming less and less common in Atlanta.
- There is plenty of food to choose from, but the market is still small enough to walk around it a few times before making a selection. I like choices, but too many can be overwhelming.
- Since the closing of the beloved Gu’s Bistro on Buford Highway, this is now the only place to experience the ultra-satisfying Gu’s Dumplings (and other limited selections from the former restaurant’s menu).
- It’s not just all about eating. There’s drinking too! Perhaps the coolest thing about the market is Hop City, where you can find a mind-blowing selection of craft beers. Since you are able to buy them by the single bottle, I made an awesome variety pack for my husband one Valentine’s Day (in addition to snagging a few interesting brews for myself). You can also drink these beers as you walk around the market. And they have a bar where you can order by the glass if you want to be more sophisticated!
- If you’re not up for alcohol, you can get a mean smoothie at Nature’s Garden Express. I got a banana chai smoothie there that was to die for. It was the perfect dessert after slamming a bowl of Gu’s Dumplings.
- If your thirst is still not quenched, then prepare to be wowed. In addition to a fountain of free water, there’s also a fountain serving up free sparkling water!!! I love this so much I can’t stand it.
Lately I am living for Asian bakeries/cafes. There are two in particular that have my heart.
I first discovered Caffé Bene in Flushing, Queens. My husband and I stayed at a boutique hotel there over Thanksgiving last year and noticed that this place was abuzz even on a holiday. I got a massive piece of banana bread, and being fresh off of my Vietnam trip, I was delighted to find Vietnamese coffee on the menu. (If you have not had Vietnamese coffee before, it is a dream from heaven. Super strong coffee mixed with sweetened, condensed milk. It is deliciously indulgent and will keep you awake for days! Though the version in Vietnam is much stronger than the ones here.)
Anyway, I was halfway through my brick of banana bread when my husband sat down with something very curious. It was a giant piece of bread covered with what looked like squeeze cheese, and also…honey??? Come to find out it is called Garlic & Cheese Honey Bread and it is one of the greatest creations of all time. Sweet, sticky, garlicky, cheesy…it is so wrong it just has to be right!
Caffe Bene Garlic & Cheese Honey Bread
Kevin Gillespie’s Gunshow is all about the ‘wow factor,’ and I must say, I was wowed. Instead of getting my friends another lame gift card for Christmas, I decided to treat them to a night at this magical eatery. Never being able to predict Friday night traffic in Atlanta, I arrived about 30 minutes before everyone else, and was pleasantly surprised to be warmly welcomed with a seat at the bar and a very attentive bartender.
At a destination dining spot like this, I was afraid I’d be awkwardly standing alone in the small entrance until the rest of my party arrived. (This was the fate of diners who arrived later in the evening because it got super crowded. But since I got there fairly early — around 6:30 p.m. — I was instead treated to a theatrical presentation of the Old Fashioned, Gunshow’s house drink.)
As the bartender set a sugared cinnamon stick across the top of my drink and lit it on fire, then warmed up an orange peel and stuck it in there too, I was nothing short of delighted. Things got even better once my husband and friends got there and we started chowing down.
The Gunshow Old Fashioned
Between attending the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, taking a spontaneous trip to Vietnam, and trying a bunch of new restaurants, 2015 was an epic food year for me (hence I had to hire a personal trainer in December). I really stuffed my face good, so it’s hard to pick just a few of the best dishes I ate, but nonetheless, here is what I believe to be my top 10 list for 2015 (in no particular order).
Chef Special Spicy Tofu – Mamak – Atlanta, Georgia
I started the year out with a bang, trying Mamak, a new Malaysian restaurant on Buford Highway, and becoming instantly obsessed with it. I was so excited, in fact, that I just had to do a video. There was lots to love about Mamak, but the Chef Special Spicy Tofu had me at “hello.” (Check out my post/video for more juicy details.)
Chef Special Spicy Tofu – Mamak
Tonkotsu Ramen – Umaido – Suwanee, Georgia
I took a chance and selected this place (pretty close to my house) for my 2015 birthday dinner with some friends and family. I was a little nervous because the friends were coming from way ITP and aren’t typically that thrilled with the OTP experience. Luckily the swoon-worthy bowls of ramen at Umaido made them totally forget that they were approximately 42,000 miles from Atlanta (in their minds). A good time was had by all, and I have returned to Umaido several more times for that Tonkotsu (despite their lackluster service). Come to think of it, I should probably go there for lunch this week…
Tonkotsu Ramen – Umaido
If you read my last post, you know that Vietnam was the most awesome place I have ever been. That post provides an overview of my trip, and lists the top 10 experiences I had on my tour. In this post, I continue to tout the virtues of Vietnam by recapping 10 more amazing things about the country.
1. It seemed like everywhere we went – hotels, tourist attractions, people’s homes – we were given free tea. Sweet tea, earthy tea, hot tea, cold tea, caffeinated tea, herbal tea – the variety was endless, and they were all delicious!
2. Speaking of the hotels, they were all amazing. The level of service reminded me of the U.S. hotels of old. First off, instead of just randomly giving us shampoo and lotion in the room, they provided all of the necessary amenities – toothpaste, body wash, combs, slippers, robes, Q-tips – you name it. They also supplied more free bottled water than I could even drink, as well as little candies in the evening. On top of those little touches, they would practically do anything we needed without hesitation – make a restaurant reservation, call a cab, install a SIM card in my phone, come to my room to show me how to use the air conditioner, come to the business office to show me how to use the computers, restore electricity in my room when I blew a fuse at 3:30 a.m. – you know, the usual. All of the hotels also offered extensive breakfast buffets included with the room charge, and many also had pools as well as spas with very affordable services. One also had a free shuttle into town since it was a little ways out. We are really lacking that value and service here in the States these days – our hotels in Vietnam were so nice I felt like a pampered princess!
Hoi An Trails Resort & Spa, Vietnam
Royal Lotus Hotel, Halong Bay