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Bakeshop by TFL
Another concept from the great genius of Bob Amick and Concentrics is the affiable Bakeshop. With Jonathan St Hilaire at the helm, this appears to be an owner operated French "style" bakery. Hilaire has been the pastry chef for Concentrics since the early 2000's beginning his career in Atlanta with the downtown Ritz. Well trained, and creative, he channels all of the right ingredients for Bakeshop.

Offering breakfast and lunch, with focus being on all things bread, Bakeshop is a fantastic addition to the mini food court at Peachtree and 8th street. Each sandwich is based on a signature bread, and named accordingly. The salads are fresh and seemed to be made to order on our first visit, but not seemingly so on the 2nd. Hmmm ?????

The bread and sweets are the star here, with additional menu items failing to impress. The sandwich meat appeared to be Boars Head at best, and Sysco Imperial at worst. The drink selection was inferior to the BP convenience store cooler - offering coke, and coke products in cans and plastic bottles. On one visit, we requested mustard only to receive two plastic sleeves similar to the mustard that comes with a Turner Field hot dog.

In the end we expected more from a local legend, but were never dissappointed with the baked goods and sweets. We only wish Bakeshop would take its baking intentions and apply to the rest of the restaurant. Most bakeries can not survive off of bread alone, and standing in the heart of midtown, Bakeshop might not be able to either. Get some artisan beverages, sides, and condiments to go with that fantastic bread !

TFL Overall Rating: 3.7 out of 5 Stars.

Bakeshop on Urbanspoon
 
 
Farm Burger
Decatur's Farm Burger
Some might think there has been a recent glut of burger joints to descend upon Atlanta. While TFL certainly agrees, getting a quality burger and excellent fries is not so easy. For some reason beyond us, we have Five Guys being the fastest growing franchise of 2009. We now have Doty's Yeah Burger looming, celebrity fave Flip, and Sweet Auburn's anamoly Grindhouse. We have yet to sample Doty's burger, hyped out over Flip, and a huge fan of Grindhouse - but still believing Houston's to be the best burger in Atlanta. 

Into the burger madness enters Farm Burger, sister enterprise from Athen's Farm 255. Localist and sustainalist (is there such a word?), Farm 255's proprietors, much like are own Bacchanalia, take the farm to table organization seriously. Owning and operating a couple of local farms, Farm's owners provide the majority of beef, pork, and produce to their growing restaurant group. 
Ethical Eats
Eating Right has never been Tastier
Farm Burger on Urbanspoon
Burger Perfection
Sorry Shaky!
At TFL, we like to eat the best available. When we shop, we buy what looks best, not what we saw on TV yesterday. Burgers are no different. Locally sourced makes a huge difference in the burger wars. Once you have had freshly ground beef, cooked immediately, other burgers begin to resemble hockey pucks or worse. Farm Burger recognizes this as well; their house temp appears to be a nice warm medium rare (pic). Most other burger joints smash and flatten leaving no temp opportunity other than well done. This is what truly makes Farm Burger's product superior to most, and comparable to our benchmark - Houston's.

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Garlic Herb Fries
And then there are the fries. For us, the fries are the lynchpin of the Burger restaurant. We don't really care how they are prepared, we simply want, in order of importance, Hot, Crispy, Seasoned, Creamy Centers, and served to maintain all of the above. We have yet to discover fries that compare to McDonalds except at the rare occasion when all the necessary steps are taken to deliver the exceptional french fry. Unfortunately, Farm Burger is no different. Offering fries, sweet potato, and onion rings - Farm Burger appears to not cook to order, and the end result is apparent. Soggy, luke warm, and sparingly seasoned - we hardly saw any parmesan cheese on our order, FB's fries need some work.
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Bacon Cheeseburger with Housemade Pickles
At the end of the day, the burger at Farm Burger is one of Atlanta's best. The sides may need some work, but serving tall boy Miller's (the Champagne of beers) and Abita Root Beer, Farm Burger is here to stay and clearly an industry leader.

TFL Overall Rating:  4.1 out of 5 Stars.
 
 
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Greasy, soggy, limp and pathetic - Picture by TFL
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Five Guy's Burgers - picture by TFL
Five Guy's Burgers were one of the first new chains to infiltrate Atlanta. While the concept was unique and refreshing, couple of years later, the burger is king, and Five Guys could be on the downslide.

Appearance wise, 5Guys does it to perfection. Clean simple dining rooms, open kitchen, red and white tile to match the red and white sacks of Idaho potatoes. They even post glamourous reviews of their concept all around the restaurant. Offering patrons free peanuts while they wait for their meal is always appreciated, and the employees are all friendly and attentive. The menu is sparse and straight to the point - burgers, hot dogs and grilled cheese. Fries two ways, and fountain drinks. Dessert or shakes? We did not see any. Salads? Veggie options? None either. But we at TFL enjoy a niche operation specializing in one or two items that are unlike any tasted before. Unfortunately for 5Guys, they do not seem to have anything crave worthy.

So in a rare TFL action - we will now name the 5 worst things about this restaurant. Usually we can find 5 great or even acceptable things, but here we were actually dissappointed at every turn. Maybe when burger joints were few and far between the McDonalds and Burger Kings, 5Guys was something else - but in this day and age, your burger and fries better rock. When you can go to McDonalds and get a double cheese burger with still the perfect rendition of a french fry and a coke for $2.99, one better deliver far superior results to be able to charge 3-4 times that in price. 

(these are in order from worse - 5 to inedible - 1) 

5. The bacon. When you charge $2+ for bacon, please use thick sliced and naturally smoked. We can cook up oscar meyer processed bacon at home.

4. Dessert. Why no shakes? Maybe even some cookies? A brownie? 5Guys needs something to cover your grease laden stomach after eating here. TFL's suggests McDonalds Choco-Banana shake. Extra stop, but needed.

3. The grease. It is everywhere, and the smell lingers. At least use higher quality.

2. The burgers. Cooked to well done (but so is McDonalds), and mashed flat, these burgers are nothing more than grease patties with elaborate toppings. $6+ for a double is out right stealing. The buns at least are always fresh and absorbent - although we would prefer the absoprtion of juice as opposed to grease.

1. The Fries. OK so they give you 2lbs of french fries. BFD. We wouldn't care if it was 10lbs, cause they suck. We are of the group of crispy frie fans. Soft pillowy center is OK as long as the outside is crispy. When ever we go here, we ask for the fries to be WELL DONE, CRISPY, BURNT, DOUBLE FRIED etc... and they still come out limp, greasy, not a cripsy one to be found. But plentiful, oh so plentiful. They do charge over $2.50 per order.

To conclude, you can get basically the same burger with better fries for $3 vs $11. For this price, you are better off spending about $5 more (with a tip) and sit down at Houstons for a burger cooked anyway you want it (we suggest med rare)!

TFL Overall Rating:  2.1 out of 5 Stars.
Five Guys on Urbanspoon
 
 
Cedar Planked Salmon
Cedar Planked Salmon - Courtesy of Woodleywonderworks/Flickr
H.D. Pappas emigrated from Greece to America at the turn of the 20th century. Like most immigrants he brought a commitment to quality and service that provided the core and strength of our United States. 100 years later, his great-great grandsons still carry on that tradition in monster corporate style. With over 50 restaurants around the country, encompassing 6 or more different concepts, this family run company does it better than most. 

Pappas restaurant
Pappadeux in Norcross is sure to be one of their most proud achievements. Located on the urban sprawl of thoroughfare Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Pappadeux’s Seafood Kitchen brings in the masses, serves impeccably fresh seafood, and seems to hardly slow down between meals to tidy up. The wait can often extend beyond 45 minutes, the parking lot must hold 200 cars, and the restaurant itself must seat 350 at a time. They pack it out every night on a street littered with suburban sprawl, half vacant strip malls, Lavenderia’s, and Auto parts retailers. Clearly most patrons drive from afar to come to this Cajun style seafood mecca. TFL thinks when originally locating on JCB, the Pappas family saw a different future. No matter, this place brings in the +/- $30 a plate customer by the thousands. 

With all of this, one might believe at some point the food and service would be compromised. Not true at any turn. The fish is exceptionally fresh, prepared to perfection (nothing worse than over/under cooked fish), and served in massive portions. The prices are similarly massive in price, but once you see the size of the meal, few ever complain of being overpriced. The menu is deep and diverse with Lincoln log like cheese sticks and huge specialty drinks bringing Bourbon Street to middle America. 

At TFL, we put quality over all else. We would rather wait for two hours, sit on an IKEA bar stool, and bring our own cutlery to enjoy the best quality food available. We do not discriminate between Chain and owner operated, white tablecloth and finger licking BBQ or hand prepared cuisine and mass produced foods. We only want GOOD. With Pappadeuxs, fresh seafood, consistent quality and big fruity/festive drinks are the order of the day, and this place does it better than most. 

With out further ado, here is Pappadeux’s top five:

5. Oysters. If you like ‘em fresh, big, and cheap – this is your place. You can get a dozen raw oysters on the half shell for under $8. They make them fried (perfectly cooked), Rockefeller’d, Po’ Boy’d, and in traditional Gumbo.

4. Salads. The Caesar Salad topped with shrimp or oysters is fantastic. Tangy and smooth. The star of the salad options is the Greek (appropriate!) – 11 ingredients mixed right at your table, house made dressing, and salty feta cheese topped with a crunchy greek pepper is the best rendition we have ever seen !

3. Toppings. Several of the daily specials and regular menu items are topped with some sort of rendition of a cream based, cheesy mushroom/spinach/shrimp/crawfish/oyster combination. Try any of them – never disappointed.

2. Cedar Planked Salmon (pictured above). We know you have seen this at every seafood, steak, or grill type restaurant, but few do it better than Pappadeux. Topped with fresh herb butter, cooked to a perfect medium rare, and garnished with a roasted lemon – this is salmon heaven.   

1. Shrimp and Crawfish Fondue. Every successful restaurant does something better than anyone else. Here it is this $14 appetizer. Served with toasted garlic bread, and their ubiquitous cream sauce – this is a dish to NEVER miss. Order as your entrée, or split it with your table. This dish makes comfort food a destination!

TFL Overall Rating  4.2 out of 5 stars. 
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen on Urbanspoon
 
 
Steak
USDA Prime Ribeye, Courtesy of VirtualErn/Flickr
When beef is raised and slaughtered properly, graded USDA Prime (see picture), little else needs to be done to prepare a perfect steak. A little salt and pepper, perhaps some butter, au jus, or a splash of lemon after cooking. Conversely, when beef is raised poorly, much needs to be done to enhance and create tasty flavors. At Stoney River steakhouse, they take their seasonings seriously. The house featured steak is, get this, coffee cured filet mignon. Coffee you say? Correct. Furthermore, this chain seasons their standard steaks with a house blend which tastes like salt, pepper, garlic. When you go, they do give the option of a seasonless steak - which is for the bland palate. 

TFL has patronized Stoney since it first appeared on the Atlanta food scene roughly over 10 years ago. The menu used to boast of Prime beef, an extensive and deep wine list, seafood and other non meat items to entice the ever expanding vegan audience. Recently it appears, the menu has changed and so has the product. Now all steaks are listed as "premium" beef (not USDA grade or terminology), and the Menu is no longer bound in leather but instead is the one page large posterlike that is done to perfection at Houston's. There is still the house cured coffee filet, and lobster tails to be added to any entry for $16.99, and a strong wine selection. The entrees are no longer a la carte, but the prices seemed to have gone up. Interesting position in our recession mired economy.  The appetizers hover around the $10 mark, and most of the cocktails appear on the check at a similar price. The rolls are still delicious donut like orbs served with honey butter - just don't eat to many otherwise you will miss out on the food you actually have to pay for.

The bottom line Stoney delivers solid food, good drinks/wine, and great atmosphere - at top shelf prices. The locations in Atlanta continue to pack the rooms, and business does not seem much different than several years ago. Quality food always keeps them coming back in Atlanta even though the check can resemble a luxury car payment. 

Here is TFL's top 5 from Stoney River: 

1. The Shrimp - They have not lowered their shrimp standards - Jumbo Gulf shrimp are available in the classic cocktail, panko fried, and our favorite, Whiskey Shrimp served on french bread toast garnished with fresh tarragon.

2. The Sides - Stoney goes over and above when it comes to side dishes; Velvety mashed potatoes with carmelized onions, creamy sweet potatoes with honey butter, freshly sauteed spinach, or huge baked pototoes with all the toppings.

3. The Seafood appetizer platter - Often done, but few are as tasty as Stoneys. You can pick and match any appetizers on the menu, but we suggest all shrimp options, scallops, crabcakes, and do not miss the lobster tail.

4. The Lobster - while about $10 more than Outbacks, these coldwater tails can be prepared in numerous fashions, but the tempura style is an Atlanta signature, first created by Panos at the Fish Market.

5. The steaks - We always judge a steakhouse by their NY Strip, and here it is prepared to perfection, and house seasoned. The Filet is also exceptional, and all cuts appear to be center cut. While they have foregone the USDA Prime graded beef, they do age and handcut all beef in house which ensures a consistent and good looking steak every time.

TFL Overall Rating  3.6 out of 5 stars.


Stoney River Legendary Steaks on Urbanspoon
 
 
Chinese Pizza
Chinese Pizza, Courtesy of Helga's Lobster Stew/Flickr
Food wars are nothing new to the industry. Ever since the beginning of the modern restaurant, there have been competitive and often tragic battles over popularity, and whose food is the best. McDonalds and Burger King, Chili's and Applebees, ChicFilA and ... well nobody there yet. TFL recently opined on the saturation of burgers, and would now like to address the parallel universe - Pizza.

Calling Pizza ubiquitous would be a disservice. As the picture above shows, even in the deepest parts of Asia, Italy's food ambassador has made it's way. Here in our beloved city Atlanta, Pizza has become a flat out armeggedon. Of course we have a plethora of Dominoe's, Pizza Huts, and Papa Johns, but who outside of a university campus (age) truly enjoys these fast food renditions. We also have adult chains, California Pizza Kitchen and several others that offer grown up toppings fired in wood burning ovens. Recently, however, there has been a flood of entries into our favorite category, the independent operator.

The hype on Atlanta Pizza reached an ear deafening crescendo with Antico Pizza Napolitana. This place must have the most brilliant PR firm seizing on all things social media. APN has had over 400 people extole their opinions on Urban Spoon alone. Their pies are ridiculously expensive (20-28$) and must either be carried out, or consumed in the kitchen tables, or one communal table outfitted with those over achieving brown paper towels one usually finds in the rest area rest rooms. Their claim to fame is noteworthy; authentic wood fired ovens reaching over 800 deg F, ingredients sourced directly from Italy, and certification from Italy's most prestigious pizza authority. Their website is even in Italian with an Italian domain (.it). San Marzano tomatoes are supposedly used, and buffala mozzarella is brought in fresh from the motherland. And the Pizza? Certainly authentic. When TFL first visited, the pies were delicious and cooked to perfection. Subsequent visits have revealed the restaurant is eating it's own hype. Word on the street is the fresh imported buffala has been replaced by a frozen domestic product, and the pizzas have become soggy and seemingly undercooked. We guess when the line is out the door, customers eager to drop $25 on a pizza and some branded bottled from the N GA mountains, you better move the product through the kitchen as fast as possible.

In the past year, there has been many other notable entries into the pizza war:

Varasanos. This guy made pizza in his home oven for ten years before opening his first restaurant. Again authentic, but the overuse of fresh mozzarella creates a soggy pie.
Max's of Atlanta. This is from the conglamerate Concentrics. Coal Fired, unique for sure, and great for our downtown scene.
Hearth. This is brought to you from the team that created Azios to be a more family friendly place (read suburbia).
Maddios. Again another location created by fast casual phenoms behind Moe's Southwest Grill. A Good Pie, that is made fast and fresh right in front of you.

We at TFL, have had a favorite pizza place that has remained unchanged for the past 5+ years.... Baraonda. This place is run by an Italian husband, and a Dunwoody wife (insert your own punchline here). We believe this is the best and most authentic pizza in Atlanta. The crust is always charred just right, crispy on the crust, toothy in the center. The sauce is perfection, light enough to not overpower, balanced perfectly between sweet and acidic. While the cheese is not buffala, it is a well made product. The salads and sandwiches here are great, but the pizza is the star! This same owners have recently opened Publik attached to the Fox Theater, and will soon open Baroni in Wolfgang Puck's old Express location in SoBu (South Buckhead). If they continue to offer the simple, fresh, and authentic fare in the new places as they have done at Baraonda, then success will surely follow.

FYI: TFL judges all pizza restaurants by tasting the simple cheese pizza (usually referred to as Marghareita), and several of the house created combinations.  We feel this gives insight to the authenticity, while allowing the creativity of the individual operator to appear.
 
 
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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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Courtesy Flickr and Kate Raynes-Goldie
There are burgers, and then there are Burgers. Does anyone even remember who this ad was for from this picture (left)? We remember it was Paris Hilton. We believe it was for Hardee's - they do have a thing for sexy women eating burgers. But alas, this is only a burger.

Recently in Atlanta, there has been a blossoming trend of burger joints. You first had Top Chef, R. Blais with Flip - Danile Boulud meets frozen nitrogen. Then there is Whataburger, Five Guys, Canyon something, and of course the bigs - Burger King and McDonalds. Let's not forget Ann's Snack Bar and the ghetto burger - to much extras for TFL, but R. Sokeil at the Wall Street Journal named Ann's the best burger in America - right here in Atlanta !!!  Just has there has been for decades, burgers can be found on most restaurants menus, and a few (Houstons) really get it right. Most do not.
 
One of our favorite websites is from NYC, and called Hamburger Today. These people travel the country searching for a better burger. They do come across some tasty looking morsels, and also some ridiculous combinations. They have been to Flip, they have been to Ann's and even Vortex - all very good burger destinations. They have yet to visit Grindhouse, Atlanta's newest entry to the burger war.

This restaurant was opened by a lawyer, come real estate developer, come restauranteur Alex Brounstein. Working for the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, he saw a perfect low cost opportunity to dip his feet in the food biz. Fast forward 6 months, and Alex is rumored to have bought a building near the Piedmont/Cheshire Bridge corridor. Do we need to say, this is a good Burger? Smashed, grilled on a flat griddle, and perfectly fresh, Grindhouse makes a classic. Onion rings, fries, and sweet potato chips round out your meal and extra thick milk shakes will finish you off.

The Burger is the star here. Stick with the classic beef, and build it any way you want, or choose one of the Grindhouse combos. The french fries here are crinkle cut and of the frozen variety but perfectly seasoned and well cooked (crispy - nothing worse than limp french fries). The prices are reasonable (read: $10 avg), and the service is your typical intown attitude, with the owner hovering for nearby for any rescues and recoveries. Counter seating is available in two places, and parking is validated.

Never visit the Auburn Curb Market without checking everything out. This is one of the only places in Atlanta you can find tongue, offal meat, Fred Flinstone short ribs, and more collards and pigs feet than you could eat in a year. Of course this comes with all of the character of old school Atlanta, with Asian vendors next to Carribean, next to Polish - all offering unique and hard to find items. Go visit Grindhouse today, and be sure to pick up some smoked turkey wings for the commute home !!!


Grindhouse Killer Burgers on Urbanspoon
 
 
Courtesy of Flickr, and Jairo BD
This week, SFoodie launches "Don't Sound Like a Tool," a series of audio pronunciation guides to sort-of-common-but-not-obvious words we keep encountering on wine lists and menus. No more shame, no more pointing, no more taking on the accent of a language you don't speak (though we're relieved our president shares this particular weakness).

Click here to continue reading and be able to listen to actual pronunciations.
 
 
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To some travelers, the food is just as important as anything else a destination has to offer. We offer one of our sister site's top ten cities foodies should visit. This is global cuisine, with all of the fixings. Of course our patron saint, Chef T. Keller, made the list.