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Baroni - Courtesy TFL
One of the worlds most famous chefs failed. Wolfgang Puck is arguably the world's first celebrity chef, and certainly the first to capitalize on his name and endorse a seemingly endless list of food and food products. But sometimes even the best strike out. Such was the case with the only outpost of Wolgang Puck Express in Atlanta, located in SoBuck. Woodfired pizzas, fresh tossed salads, and international sandwiches just did not seem to fit the SoBuck tastes and after several years, Puck finally retreated.

Fast forward months later and in comes a veteran of the Atlanta restaurant scene. The same group who operates Barondi, and Publik House in Midtown decided that where Wolfgang failed to succeed, they could do different. Up goes the paper on the windows; dust, construction, and crews follow, and then opens their newest concept - Baroni.
Baroni on Urbanspoon
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Dining Room - TFL




While there was definitely something different, the place seemed eerily the same. It is as if the ghost of Puck would just not let go. The bar is in the same place. Check for the wood burning pizza oven. Check again for the minimilast decor, and European touches. Check for the pared down menu of wood fired pizzas, fresh prepared salads, and international sandwiches. Obviously the operators here thought Puck must have done something wrong other than the above mentioned similarities.

In one of our earliest review, we named Barondi the best and most authentic pizza in Atlanta. Several years later, we still stand behind this proclamation despite the influx of several strong contenders.

Replicating this format could not possibly fail. Or could it? (as of this publishing, no failure) On one of our first visits, the most delicious Italian bread was delivered table side. Olive oil, fresh ground pepper, and real parmesan cheese ensued and satiation was immediate.
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Sorry Bread, no Fresh Pepper
Subsequent visits the bread morphed into poorly made pizza crust, and the pepper mill never materialized. We begin to think that Puck could have cursed this location for ever. But then we had the pizza. Thin, hot and with just the right amount of char - Baroni makes a mean pie. Fresh ingredients are evident with prosciutto sliced so thin, you could read the menu through it. Arrugula tasted young and fresh, and the olive oil was always top rate.
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Yum - TFL
The Marghartia pizza was spot on most visits. The crust tended to be somewhat inconsistent, perhaps owing to temperature problems the entire restaurant had been experiencing. We will write that off as opening jitters, and move on.
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Margharita Pizza - TFL
All things said, Baroni is a decent replication of the uber successful Barondi. Whether this concept will appeal to the Eugene loving SoBucks more than the Puck Express did will remain to be seen. This will certainly be a challenge, and there are few better operators in Atlanta. We wish Baroni the best, but will more than likely continue to visit Barondi when that Italian urge surfaces.
 
 
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Sweetwater Georgia Brown
Sweetwater was one of Atlanta's first micro brewers founded by two college buddies back in the mid 1990's. Slowly expanding, they moved from their original production facility on Fulton Industrial Blvd, to their current, state of the art facility in midtown.
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Sweetwater Schwag!
As with most breweries, Sweetwater offers tours of the brewery Wednesday through Saturday starting at 5:30pm. Again as most brew tours do, Sweetwater offers 8 samples with each ticket. This configuration has created one of the most popular happy hour destinations in Atlanta. Crowds pack in the entrance, fitted out to feel like a very hip bar in metro Atlanta, and belly up to the bar for the extensive array of Sweetwater brews.
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The Crowd, the Bar, and the Sun !
For $8, you receive a souvenier Sweetwater glass and 8 tickets. Each ticket can be redeemed for a beer of your choice from the many tap stations behind the bar. Each station is staffed by several eager Sweetwater employees helping the lines move quickly. They only fill the 20oz glasses 2/3 full, but even with that amount, 8 servings will make most beer afficiandos very happy. Some nights the brewery has live bands and cooking/food demonstrations. The night of our visit Publix was there handing out relatively nothing. With kegged beer only, the crowd looked one semester removed from the college frat scene. This was an excellent way to support the local business, enjoy an inexpensive happy hour ($8 won't even buy one martini in most buckhead establishments), and mingle with the young and the beautiful. You might even learn something about the brew business !
 
 
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Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad - Bones
There was a time in the restaurant world that it seemed as every corner had a steakhouse, and there was no such thing as too big. The mother of all big, Fogo de Chao, will serve you pound after pound of gaucho steaks until you surrender your Brazilian "Poker Chip" to red and roll yourself to the valet. Then came the Steak/Sushi combo, the Steak/Game style, and let's not forget the ubiquitous Steak/Lobster(with crusteceans the size of a small automobile). While some of these have come and gone, others have come and will soon be gone, and then others have barely seen a blip in their year to year sales.

Here at TheFoodList, we prefer our steaks old school - we call this the Steak/Privilege category. There is no better example of Steak/Privilege than Bone's on Piedmont Road. For the past 30 years, Bone's has been serving up Prime Steaks, and dayboat fresh seafood like no other. In 2009, the restaurant's 30th year, Bone's was named best Steakhouse in the United States by Zagat.

It all starts at the door and the service. Returning customers are almost always greeted by name. Bartenders address you by surname, and your drinks and tab are always carried over to your table. The waiters (all male) wear tan jackets embroided with their name, and again address you by name. The wine list is sick: deep, extensive, current, and reasonably priced.

And then there is the food. The Steaks are hand cut daily, and aged USDA Prime. Finished with a spoonful of stock. The seafood is the freshest you can find in Atlanta, and the produce is sourced locally daily. After sampling everything on the menu several times, TheFoodList has narrowed it down to the can't miss. Start with the Lumb Crab cocktail and the Shrimp cocktail - ols school style, and spot on. Next move to the Ceasar or the house salad with granny smith apples and blue cheese(pictured). For the main course, Steak is king here, and there is no better cut than the NY Strip. Here they offer two sizes; both are cut and prepared to perfection, and the large size is plenty for two. The Crab legs are an excellent alternative, but why come to steakhouse? To complete the meal there is nothing better than the southern pecan pie with vanilla ice cream wisely outsourced from Nancy Cole's bakery in Decatur.

Once you try the best, those other fads and trends come and go hardly noticed. The best of the best do not get to the pinnacle of the chain without reason - same can be said for cruising through the recession with little or no apparent loss of business. Just as the Porsche 911 was hardly changed for 25 years, Bone's continues to dominate the Steakhouse food chain.

 
 
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Paces 88, one of the restaurants in the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead, advertises itself as an American Bistro. The setting, decor and service all were as perfect as touted, but the food left much to be desired.

First we ordered the Lobster cake sandwich. The sandwich was so salty as to eliminate all taste of the lobster. Makes one think the lobster was from last week's special.

Next we sampled the Shrimp and Grits. This dish was  sweetened with raisins giving it a "desert" flavor; not particularly as enjoyable as it would have been sans the sweetness. Shrimp and Grits is a standard in the South - "sweetened"? this is pratically sacrilege. The goat cheese tart was quite good and the chicken liver pate excellent. Pate is not much different than Alpo; nor is the skill to assemble much more sophisticated. A European hotel better offer solid Pate.  

Summary: prices were reasonable and again the service made the experience worth the visit. More Atlanta restaurants should learn this service level - makes a mid range meal digestable ! 
Paces 88 on Urbanspoon
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