Sunday, June 03, 2007

Suburban Nightmare...

So, for the uninformed, I'm now working for THE MAN, down in scenic Duluth, GA. When I say, THE MAN, I mean I'm working for the single largest financial entity in the world. The name rhymes with, oh, let's say, KittyPoop.

With that being said, upon my employment in the greater Atlanta suburban area, I set out to find sustenance that wasn't of the McAppleKentuckyFriedSubway brand. This has been a more difficult endeavour than I once dreamed. However, I have persevered, and located a few gems, along with several stinkers. Links for the gems, naught but mockery for the non-believers.

First up, was to locate a reasonable 'cue shack within lunchtime driving distance of the office. Not knowing any better, I first struck out for a local outpost of Shane's Rib Shack. If there is barbecue in hell, this will be it. I got a combo platter, to attempt to try as much of the menu at once as possible. Of everything I ate, only the greens tasted like they had been cooked on premises, and not just reheated there in a steam tray. The sauces had no realy rhyme, reason, or notable flavor either. I'd rather eat at Sonny's.

Nevertheless, I continued my search, and a few weeks later found myself at the local Dreamland BBQ location. Dreamland eminates from a stand in Tuscaloosa, AL, if the website copy is to be believed, and the food does not contradict the name. Real, juicy, smoky 'cue. Excellent sides, especially the stew and mac & cheese. The sausage is the hidden gem of the menu, but everything is good. They only serve Pepsi, but, I'll forgive them for that transgression.

Not simply satisfied with finding a good 'cue stand, I struck out to try new avenues in food. First, a little background. The Duluth, GA area was once a mostly empty area on the outskirts of Atlanta. Then, in the late 1980s, the scourge of 'Federally Enforced Bussing of Students to areas of DeKalb County where non-caucasian people reside' caused one of the single largest 'White Flights' I have ever borne witness to. Duluth, GA was one of the many areas that grew exponentially from this 'White Flight'. Now, some 20-odd years later, the non-caucasians are back, and what may be a bust for some people's perceived property values, is a gigantic boon for my palate, and waistline. This is exemplefied in the sheer number of Asian-flavored restaurants within a 10-minute drive of my employer, specifically those of the Vietnamese persuasion.

My favorite of the three near me is What The Pho. The service is lightning fast, the staff friendly and helpful, and the place is spotless. My current favorites on the menu are the Pho Tai Gan (pho with rare steak and beef tendon, which has a flavor that I can liken favorably to Beef Jello), and any number of varieties of Com Tam. For what it's worth, the Vietnamese are a people who know their way around a pig, in all it's tasty glory. I guess French Colonialism WAS good for something. You should also give a taste to either a lychee or soursop smoothie if you go. The soursop has the particular bonus of tasting like an Orange Julius.

Other tasty Vietnamese joints near the office are New Saigon and Saigon Cafe.

Lest we think I'm turning Vietnamese, I also felt the strong desire to find a pie place that didn't have the word 'Papa, Hut, or Domino' in the title. In this geas, I was also ultimately successful. Rudy's NY Pizza is an example of pie done right. Nice, thin crust, spicy but not overly so sauce, extensive toppings list. Bonus for having fantastic steak fries available, that become triply-good hangover-cure food when coated in cheese and REAL BACON (not that I would go to work with a screaming hangover, ever...). One thing that Rudy's regrettably does not do well is their interpretation of the Gyro. Fear not, for I have found the solution to that as well.

The Georgia Diner is your stereotypical in a good way Greek Diner. Serving a melange of items from classic breakfast fare, big, beefy burgers, to several Greek standards, the Georgia Diner is one of the best greasy spoons I've had the pleasure of invading recently. The gyro special at lunch is one of the steals in town as well. Extra bonus points for being open 24/7, should I ever need it.

Lastly, but by no means leastly, I give you my super-secret-hidden-gem of a place. I am hesitant to give it out, because that might mean fewer tasty roast-beef-on-a-baguette sammiches for SAWB, but, they need the props. Georgia French Bakery Cafe may well serve the most sublime of sammiches in all of Atlanta-dom. The owner is an emigrated Frenchman, who knows his craft inside and out. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING i've consumed has been utterly fantastic. The baguette is simply not to be missed, and it shines as the vehicle for their roast beef sandwich, which is paired with a balsamic mayonaise, and a sweet red onion relish. Bring cash, and preferably a pocketful of change, as Oliver tends to run short of small bills and coins by lunchtime.

As for the future of dining, I've got a few places lined up in my sights. Most notably, a franchise of Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which has the distinction of being a Zagat-rated burger joint, as well as a new Indian place that has promise, as well as a lunchtime buffet. Places that I won't go back to? Ledo Pizza, which may be some of the worst pie ever invented, and The Armaan, which has the distinction of having already undergone a management/menu/focus change, 3 months after opening, after having spent a purported 7 figures on construction in the first place. Yes, that's the death-rattle you hear.

Any thoughts, comments, or suggestions, please apply below.


sophmom said...

We just got a Five Guys in Chamblee and The Youngest swears by it. I've only had bites of cold leftovers but even they were good. I haven't heard of any of the rest of those places but that French Bakery Cafe sounds fabulous, if I ever find myself out there. Pig and Chik (Sandy Springs and Chamblee) isn't bad for bar-b-que, although the sides are just okay ('cept the broc, which is good). They have three sauces though: regular, Carolina Hot (a vinegary delight) and Mustard (maybe it's the Mustard they call Carolina) and they're all good. There's also the Old Brick Pit (a little farther down P'tree Industrial). It's not bad. I've eaten at Dreamland out in Alpharetta once and it was excellent. I like Slope's too. You still have to go into town for the best.

S.A.W.B. said...

In town or way the hell out in the sticks (check the archives for my discourse on Hometown BBQ and Jimmy's Smokehouse among others).

I grew up spitting distance from Chambodia, literally. I could name about a thousand decent-to-fantastic places to eat in-town, but they're all a minimum half-hour drive from the office...foul accursed suburbs...

Dante said...

I was down in Norcross at the 141/Peachtree Industrial split for a year and never did find anything good aside from the Dreamland. And given there are exactly two things on the menu I can order at Dreamland (the chicken and the chicked sandwich), that got old pretty fast. Thankfully, I'm back in Athens now so I do have a decent variety of quick-but-not-fast food. I'll even make the lunch trek to Fresh Air on occasion to pick up some BBQ for myself and the wife (since she works spitting distance).

Rumour has it that a Five Guys will be coming to the Oconee County area near the F-You Wal-Mart (built right at the Oconee/Clarke County line on the Oconee side after Clarke County fought Wal-Mart tooth and nail on their relocation schemes). But do note that I used the superfluous British "u" in rumor to denote that this rumor has the reliability of a British tabloid rumour. The Five Guys in Gainesville is most excellent but the one in Dawsonville is pretty meh.

sophmom said...

Yeah, s.a.w.b., it's been a job working in beautiful downtown Chamblee (seriously, Old Chamblee is pretty cool and getting cooler IMHO). I will check out your posts about Hometown BBQ and Jimmy's Smokehouse. :)