Atlanta Dinner Picks

кухненско обзавежданеThis is a list of ten memorable restaurants in the Atlanta, GA area that I have been to (over the past, say, three years) who meet the following criteria:
Good for entertaining (bringing clients/dates/friends&family)
Excellent waitstaff
Menu includes vegetarian-friendly options as well as interesting options for those with a standard North American diet.

This is in no way an exhaustive list, only some highlights that have ranked very high with both myself and guests. A lot of these have been venues for various dates, and some have been used as meeting spots when friends have come to visit from out-of-state. The vast majority of my dining out has been with non-vegetarians, so there’s a resistance for hitting all-vegan or entirely-vegetarian restaurants. Each of these has great vegetarian options available right on the menu, so that ordering doesn’t feel like you are asking them to remodel the kitchen with a “special request” when all you want is an option that is carcass-free. Some of these are much more formal, and some are very casual. All of them are exciting spaces that are also quiet enough for conversation.

On to the list (not in ranked order):

  1. La Tavola (latavolatrattoria) – This is one that comes to mind any time a special occasion comes up. When friends or family come to visit, when it’s someone’s birthday, any time I have an excuse to go, really. La Tavola is fun and interesting, has some really great veg options, and has a way of being formal and nice without being rigid or stuffy. The dining area can be very full at prime times, but there are really wonderful tables on the deck out back which are fantastic for spring brunch/lunch… (hint, hint. This week? Anyone?)
  2. Eros (erostapas) – Tapas and music. Right off I-85 at Monroe Drive, It’s in the multi-level what-used-to-be bank building. The tapas are great, and the space creates an interesting indoor-outdoor “patio” feel. It’s a great spot for a gathering, since it’s finger foods and music, as well as space that’s easy to move around in.
  3. Sugo (sugorestaurant) – Sugo has a fusion of Italian and Greek influences. Their staff is very friendly and knowledgeable. The food is spectacular. All three of their locations are North of the perimeter.
  4. Artistry (No known URL) – I’m not clear about whether this one has recently closed, is currently being renovated, or if it has recently changed hands. I had a great experience there. It was well-appointed, had live jazz musicians, and the food was great. My date on that night still mentions from time to time how awesome the steak and the shrimp was. I ate like a king on a wide variety of veg hors d’oeuvres. The waitstaff completely bent over backward. I hope they aren’t closed.
  5. Thai Spice (thaispiceatlanta) – This is Thai done beautifully, and with a lot of style. It’s the best Thai I’ve tried north of the perimeter.
  6. The Flying Biscuit (flyingbiscuit) – There’s nothing wrong with the various new locations as they became a chain, but I’m talking specifically about the original location just outside of Candler Park. There’s a completely different feel to this one. I was floored by the devil “burger”, but when you’re looking for something more “down home”, There’s nothing like the vegan bbq burrito.
  7. Buddha (no known URL) – This gem is right off I-75/I-85 at the end of the 10th Street bridge. Mostly Chinese fare, they have an extensive vegetarian menu, and are open incredibly late, which is handy, since it’s around the corner from Primal, and just a few blocks from Door44, Sutra, Opera, etc.
  8. Mambo Italiano (mamboitaliano) – This is a really neat traditional Italian place with a wonderful staff. The place is decorated like 1950s Italian. Great veg lasagne, good drinks.
  9. Octane (octanecoffee) – This is a wonderful independent cafe with great plates coming from the kitchen, some of the best baristas in North America(They kick butt every year in local, regional, and world barista competitions), and the space is relaxed, yet abuzz. Maybe it’s the caffeine. They have a second location near Emory University that I really should check out, since that would be much closer for me.
  10. Ecco (ecco-atlanta) – Of all the restaurants on this list, it’s been the longest since I’ve been to Ecco. Ecco is managed by the same group as La Tavola. It’s a much more formal dining experience than La Tavola, and I did a full review after my first trip there..

Where are your favorite dining spots in Atlanta? Leave a comment and let me know.

VD Epoch 13

This year is the only time that VD will be coupled with the Unix epoch rolling to sequential number. Of course, the two are a few hours apart, but hey, any excuse to celebrate dorky geek trivia *and* being a more-or-less willing target for a heavily-armed, floating infant deserves a nod.

For the geek-deficient, here’s the executive overview:The epoch for Unix systems is 1/1/1970. To these systems, this date is the beginning of our current time. When you request today’s date, the create date of a file, or the last access date of a file, the system has that info stored as the number of seconds since midnight January 1, 1970. For the most part, this number is reformatted to the date style you are used to reading in your part of the world. Programmers, analysts, and administrators often use the raw number to do faster calculations of dates without t trouble of programming around things like leap years and daylight savings shenanigans. Yesterday evening, the number reached a sequential pattern. It’s like noticing that your car’s odometer has rolled to all 2’s (like mine did a few weeks ago)

Besides that, yesterday was Friday the 13th, and we have another Friday the 13th next month.
The new Friday the 13th movie was released last night. It’s supposed to be a remake of the first three in the series, so there should be lots of room for serious cheese. Hopefully, it will have some good scary, gory parts, and probably some t&a and drugs, but definitely a lotta cheese.

Oh, and on this VD, the floral industry would like to once again thank you all for creating an incredible demand for out-of-season product. They grow them artificially in greenhouses on another continent and ship them in at a premium, and them charge a premium to you. Thanks for looking out for the planet there. What if next year, everyone buys something local and in-season? Think of the transportation savings. Even more than that, think of how much fresher the flowers will be, since they won’t have spent so much of their little bloomin’ lives in a shipping crate. And you would be helping the economy in your own neighborhood.

That said, I’m going to share a non-mushy VD sentiment.
Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Well, I suppose it’s non-mushy. I didn’t actually poke at it to find out.

Back to the polls

Last night I left work and trekked over to pick up the girls, and then stopped by the polling place on the way home. This is the first time I’ve taken the girls with me to the polls, so it was a bit of an education, after all of our talks a couple of weeks ago about the general election. They showed some concern, “But Obama already won, so why are you voting again?” “That was for The president and for several other jobs,” I explained. This was followed by a glossy overview of the House and Senate, and the basics of runoffs, recounts, and terms of office. They are suddenly at an age where they are reading all the signs and pointing things out that the signs say (which tells me that very soon, I’ll be explaining what the dials and lights are on the car dash, and will soon thereafter have two backseat drivers).
The Manual
The traffic was really heavy in the area, and we got there about ten minutes before seven and quietly got in line. The queue seemed long at first, but moved very swiftly. We got about halfway through the line when they announced that the polls are closed, that everyone currently in line would be able to vote, but that anyone arriving thereafter would not be able to. This seemed fair, because the polls were scheduled to close at 7pm, and it was a few minutes after at that point. When we got to maybe 6th in line, there was the highly anticipated noise of a disgruntled latecomer, furious at not being allowed to vote. It was hard to make out any of the arguments outside the building, but all the expected noises were in accompaniment, including a very loud, “…in the cold to come down here and do my part!” Those of us still in line chuckled quietly as the polling officials and volunteers exchanged glances and suggested that they might need backup.

Peeking at the ballot

In preparation for voting day tomorrow, I was looking at some of the local amendments that will be on the ballot for GA, and found some really vague verbiage (if you could possibly imagine that). The little bit that will show up on the ballot itself looks innocent enough, which is why most people will just vote yes or no without understanding it.
I found A good breakdown over at VirusHead that deserves a good read-through by anyone in GA who hasn’t already voted.
From all the news coverage of the early voting and tales of people spending hours and hours waiting in line to vote while precincts had network outages, it looks like it will be a history-making voting year in many more ways. I hope to hear on Wednesday that voter turnout is at an all-time high, and that all demographics are more interested in politics in general. No matter which way the presidential election goes, there will be an historic precedent made (either by “race” or by gender), so there won’t really be a surprise there.
Another good surprise would be finding that all of the heavy discourse has not only brought more of the public to the polls, but also has them interested in their local government. I’d like to see statistics on exactly how much stuff is done more or less “by default,” or under the radar of those who will be affected. Not by hiding, but by the public not paying attention.

Technicolor Starbursts

Back at the end of the spring, I went to a Friday night Braves game, one of the first games in the season, versus the Diamondbacks. The seats were pretty close to the visitors’ dugout, along the third base line close to home plate. Usually, that is an excellent place to be when looking to catch foul balls, especially since there are lots of left-handed batters on the Arizona team. None of the fouls landed close to us, but thanks to Mark, I had another bonus in store. I suggested a short walk during the end of the 5th inning, and lead the three of them up the flights and flights of stairs to the top level, where there were tons of too-perfect photo opportunities. We went over to see the gigantic Coca-cola bottle constructed from Braves memorabilia, and I pointed out a secure area, “No one is allowed back in this area. Let’s go in!”
Mark greeted us, and showed us around the blast area for the fireworks show, Which is really impressive if you haven’t seen that kind of setup in person before. Several racks made of 2X4’s and large PVC piping were arranged in rows, each with a softball-sized charge wrapped in paper, and miles of wiring connecting each one to a series of control boards and fuses, and then to what used to be a laptop, but that night, they were run all the way to the room where the PA control system is located, so that the firing would be synced to the music. That night’s musical theme was entirely made up of AC/DC songs. From the blast area, you get a really nice vantage point to see the stadium, of course, but also a lot of downtown Atlanta, where we could see many of the buildings still undergoing repair work from the tornado that ripped through downtown the night before St Patrick’s Day.
After leaving the blast site, we headed back down to our seats, watching the game on the monitors on the way. The Braves had a good lead, and they called the game early. We got all the way back down to our seats with only a few minutes to spare before the fireworks show began. Singing along and watching the technicolor starbursts fill the sky with a mild breeze flowing in, I pointed out that one of the shells that had just made the intense green and purple flare had been in our hands only minutes before.
It was a really awesome and fun night for all of us. The Braves won, we got to see and do a bunch of out of the ordinary things, and we made some friends and got to just hang out, too. Sorry no pics this round, dear sweet internet, as they are classified by request. Some video of the show is available at Mark’s blog.

taken for granite

In the past couple of years, my sister has suggested an activity that is becoming a staple in our family gatherings, especially when our relatives from out-of-state are here. The first time around, it was on Thanksgiving Day, and after we had filled up on the bounty, we packed all of the teens and kids into the car and went to hike Stone Mountain. This was a great activity, and here in GA, it’s really still rather mild in late November. This past weekend, we went for that hike again, the first where I have taken the girls. It’s a very different challenge during the summer, but is great excercise as well as a bonding experience for all of us.
I really wish I’d packed more water for the ascent this time, and think that they should consider making some water fountains available at the pavillion that sits halfway up the trail to the top.
I was looking at the Atlanta paper today, and there was an article about some local clubs that have been organized over the years who go and climb the mountain every day, which is marvellous if you have the time and means.
After our climb back down, we took some blankets to the lawn and saw the laser show (I used to go all the time, when we lived in the area during my younger years, but I hadn’t seen it in a long time). There is a new company in charge of the whole production, and they are using a lot more in the way of projections, pyrotechnics, and the like. It’s not a bad show at all. If you are visiting the Atlanta area, you should add it to the “see list” for one evening.

(post-)Punk rawk show

On an entirely different weekend evening from the Red Letter Agent show, spent appearing at work-related functions, I wrapped up and blazed into the chilled wind, I got to the parking deck and found with great relief that I’d had the foresight to put comfortable clothes in the car.
The clock had already been ticking for a while, and I had seen the Ga Music Concert Series listing, and wanted to be able to see as many bands as possible.
Yes, this one was at Vinyl. It’s a neat venue. The only downside to going to the “cw complex” is that the parking for the building is pretty high. Parking within a block or so is really cheap, but they usually lock up and go home by midnight. So if you park cheap, you have to leave to show really early.
I went through the wardrobe quick-change of magical proportions and drove down into midtown.
After getting parking, I went inside to find that Tendaberry was on stage and in the middle of “Cold Boy”. Hmm. Only two bands for me tonight. Tendaberry is a Post-Punk and Soul inspired band who forged their bonds on the campus of Morehouse College here in Atlanta. I can definitely hear the influences of the Kinks, Sly and the Family Stone, and Arcade Fire. Here are some pictures I snapped:
The keyboardist, Shane, was missing that night, but the remaining three showed bare temerity in their play. The Cold Boy and Righteous Waiting tracks got the crowd moving and Jonathan playfully injected some ’60s Soul lyrics into the mix (1967 to be exact), which the crowd really loved.

Now if I appear to be carefree
It’s only to camouflage my sadness
And honey to shield my pride I try
To cover this hurt with a show of gladness
But don’t let my show convince you
That I’ve been happy since you
Decided to go, oh I need you so
I’m hurt and I want you to know
But for others I put on a show
Just like Pagliacci did
I try to keep my surface hid
Smiling in the public eye
But in my lonely room I cry
The tears of a clown

That’s him in the white coat there in the second pic.
After Tendaberry, the last act of the night was The Ski Club. After setting up, they started to play, and the energy level in the place ramped right back up again. John And Kyle more or less tag team the lead song by song, and there are plenty of stage antics going on for the whole show, including smashing of guitars, spilling of drinks, and good-natured tomfoolery. At one point, Cliff tossed an empty PBR can off the stage and actually hit his mock target. Whoops!
Barcelona and Happysad are really good tracks to check out if you haven’t heard them before.

Overall, it was a great show, and I’m glad I got to see both bands. There were a couple of other bands I wanted to see, but since they are all local, I’ll be sure to catch them another time.