Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Marietta Diner Family Restaurant - Marietta, Georgia

Our culinary tour of the Atlanta area found us in Marietta, GA this week at the Marietta Diner.

The Marietta Diner is owned by a Greek family and while you'll find the typical breakfast offerings and patty melts on the menu, you'll also see many Greek specialties as well.

When we were seated, along with our menus and the standard bread basket, we were given spanikopita, a delicious Greek spinach pie. That was unexpected and a very pleasant surprise.

Spanikopita - Greek spinach pie

My love for diners goes way back. I love everything about them, the atmosphere, the attitude and the food. My favorite diner meal is a grilled cheese sandwich and fries and the Marietta Diner didn't disappoint.

The menu at the Marietta is massive. There are page after page of omelets, sandwiches, burgers, typical "blue plate" meals and those Greek specialties. I looked over the menu but I pretty much knew what I was going to order.

After giving us a little while to look over the huge menu and enjoy our spanikopita the server came back to take our orders. I ordered the grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and tomato and my dining companion ordered the bacon cheeseburger. We also ordered some disco fries which according to the menu come covered with cheese and gravy. These sounded enough like the poutine that I love that we gave them a shot.

Disco fries!
 Before we knew it the food was out. My grilled cheese came with a pickle spear and a side of potato salad. (Confession time, I'm not a big potato salad fan, unless it's warm German potato salad but this was not that) My friend likes potato salad so he had it and said that it was ok. Let's be honest, none of this is fancy food. It's just good simple food with no pretense to be anything else. I enjoyed the food at the Marietta Diner. It was exactly what I expected it to be.

Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Tomato

Bacon cheeseburger

That all said, what I was most looking forward to was the desserts they serve. Most diners have a dessert case, maybe even an iconic round glass case, home to cakes and pies. Well, the Marietta Diner takes the dessert case to a whole other level. The server actually took me to the case to pick out the cake or other dessert that I wanted. We walked up to the case and our server led me through the almost overwhelming variety of choices. I decided on the Many Sins cake, with its many layers of chocolate, mousse and whipped cream. So good!

Mmmmmmm, cake!
 The Marietta Diner is a typical diner with a twist. You can get a good grilled cheese sandwich here or bacon cheeseburger and also spanikopita, moussaka and souvlaki. If you ever find yourself heading to the Marietta Diner my advice would be to skip right to dessert. If you have room after your giant slab of cake I can recommend the grilled cheese sandwich and disco fries.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chef Henry's Louisiana Grill - Acworth, Georgia

One of the things I wanted to do while in the Atlanta area was check out the restaurant scene. The place we visited this weekend is in the city of Acworth, Georgia.

From the Acworth, GA visitor's website:
The Civil War brought “The Great Locomotive Chase” through Acworth in April
1862 when James Andrew’s Raiders stole the famous engine, “The General,” in
nearby Big Shanty (now Kennesaw, GA) Sherman was headquartered in Acworth for several days. The town was spared the torch until November 1864; many homes and buildings were burned.

Downtown Acworth offers a big variety of restaurants, cafes, unique shops and places to hear live music. One of those notable restaurants is Chef Henry's Louisiana Grill. The restaurant was featured on ABC's Nightline when Chef Henry won the ABC sponsored People's Platelist Contest. I had heard good things about this place even before we arrived in the Atlanta area. On Saturday we headed out to see what all the fuss was about.

Henry's Louisiana Grill serves a brunch menu on Saturday from 9:00am until 11:30 am. While I love brunch we were there for lunch. We arrived around 11:30 not realizing that lunch service didn't start until noon. No problem, we put our name on the list and prepared to wait. But, the hostess told us that the restaurant pager worked in and around all of the shops up and down the street. Great! No being held hostage in the restaurant's vestibule waiting for a table. We took the opportunity to walk up the street to some of the shops. The whole area had a quaint, historic feel and we enjoyed exploring.

While we were waiting Chef Henry walked out amongst the waiting crowd offering still warm, powdered sugar covered beignets. Things were off to a great start.

 A little bit later the pager went off, our table was ready and we headed in. The interior of the place is all high ceilings, wood floors and big windows. Many of the tables have old church pews for seating. There is a lot of eclectic works of art hung all along the restaurant's walls. Let me stop right here and apologize. While I was able to grab a few pictures of the food I didn't really get the interior. The place was crowded and I didn't have much opportunity to get photos. Besides, I was too busy stuffing  my face.

We were seated right away and asked about our drink orders shortly after. We were told that someone, other than the waiter taking our drink orders, would be our server for lunch. It ended up however to be more of a team effort. Which worked out just fine.

Some moist and delicious cornbread from the bread basket

While we were looking over the menus Chef Henry came through the dining room and stopped by each table. He was armed with Mardi Gras beads and handed them out to all of us. He stopped at our table, thanked us for coming in, and draped beads over our heads. I was left with a warm, genuine feeling. Definitely didn't feel like someone going through the motions.

After looking at the menu and hearing about the specials we made our choices. We started with the Jambalaya Fritters served with a jalapeño remoulade sauce. Jambalaya is a Cajun rice dish with sausage and seafood. This already great dish was formed into a fritter, fried to a crisp on the outside with a delicious creamy interior. Between the plentiful seafood, creamy rice and the jalapeño remoulade it had great flavor. I'd have this dish again in a heartbeat.

Jambalaya Fritters with jalapeño remoulade sauce

I knew what I was going to order for lunch before we even arrived. I was there for Chef Henry's Louisiana Grills' signature dish, the Louisiana Ooh La La. This is a seafood dish (there is also a chicken version available) that features flash fried oysters, shrimp and crawfish all served in a Tasso ham, spinach and roasted garlic cream sauce. The whole works can be had over bread or pasta. (I chose the pasta). I'm not going to try and describe this dish other than to say it was delicious and I enjoyed the hell out of every single bite.

Louisiana Ooh La La

My lunch date ordered one of the daily specials. A breaded and lightly fried pork chop served with roasted new potatoes and an over easy egg. All of this covered with a spicy, fantastically seasoned, tasso gravy. Ok, all of that I just typed might as well have been blah, blah, blah. As soon as this dish hit the table I regretted not ordering it myself. I actually, I kid you not, almost ordered it along with my Ooh La La. Total lunch envy. I was very lucky and my friend decided to share a few bites with me. Damn that was a great bite of food. Spicy without being hot, seasoned perfectly, crispy potatoes with creamy insides, crisp pork and that gravy. Easily one of the best dishes I've tasted so far this year.

Pork Chop Special

There were many tempting desserts on order but for once I was just too well fed and satisfied at the end of lunch to do any of them justice. Next time. Cause let me tell you, there'll be a next time. Chef Henry's Louisiana Grill served up some of the best cajun and creole style I've ever had outside of Louisiana. If you're ever in the area, hell, if you're ever within 50 miles of this place just go.  Maybe you'll get lucky and that fabulous pork chop special will be on the menu board.

Happy travels!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Adventures of Flat Stanley

We were asked to participate in my nephew's elementary school's Flat Stanley project. The premise of the project is to connect the kids with someone (another class or school or a family member) through the mail. The FS that represents the student you are helping will usually be sent via the mail. Of course, technology being what it is, some kids will now do the project via the Flat Stanley app. Progress. Our nephew lives in Rhode Island so sending him off to Minnesota seemed quite the adventure.

A week or so later we received a packet in the mail from my nephew's teacher. In it was Flat Stanley himself, a diary for recording Flat Stanley's adventures and instructions on returning him when his adventure was through. (As it turned out this was one of two of these projects we participated in, we did one for our niece as well.)

We took Flat Stanley out of the envelope and took him out around town to have his picture taken at various local sites. At some of the locations we picked up a few things to round out FS trip. He got postcards, magnets from the zoo and a few other things.

Once we had all of the pictures, trinkets and diary entires, back Flat Stanley went into his envelope for the return trip home.

He survived the journey back to school and was displayed in class for a parents night visit. According to our nephew Flat Stanley had a great visit in Minnesota and he had fun talking about it to his class. Perfect end to Flat Stanley's adventure.

Have you done a Flat Stanley project with your kids or nieces or nephews? Where did your Flat Stanley visit? Please comment below as I'd love to hear all about it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chicago, IL - Not just for layovers anymore

Chicago for me has always meant a stopover, a place I ended up on my way to somewhere else. Well, no more. We finally planned a trip with Chicago as the destination and I'm really glad that we did.

 We were only in town for a weekend and our goals were modest; eat some deep dish pizza, see the submarine at the Museum of Science and Industry and have lunch at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill. Mission accomplished. However, I realized while we toured the city by bus that we definitely need to return, and soon.

We missed the culinary experience that is Goat and The Girl and Publican and I didn't make it to the Skydeck of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). But we plan to remedy those oversights on our next trip along with eating a Chicago style beef sandwich and their much lauded hotdogs.

Thanks once again to a Hop On/Hop Off type bus tour we were able to see a great deal of the city for a really reasonable price and at a nice pace. (For my money the Hop On/Hop Off bus tour is a great way to get a feel for a city. It's especially nice to be able to get off at one stop, see the sights, then get back on for the rest of the tour or just to the next stop. Definitely worth the price of admission.)

We stayed in the Old Chicago Water Tower District along the Magnificent Mile at the Hotel Sofitel. We were within walking distance of Frontera Grill and right near one of the tour bus stops. I'd stay in that area again when we return.

Besides lunch at the Frontera Grill (I had a wonderfully seasoned grilled ribeye there, fabulous) we also ate at the Weber Grill Restaurant. What first caught our eye was the huge Weber grill attached to the side of the building.  Good steaks, burgers and one of the best grilled meatloafs I have ever tasted. Worth checking out if you enjoy good grilled foods.

We had the requisite deep dish pizza, not from one of the famous, iconic pizza places, but from a small joint near the hotel. The pizza was good and the beer was cold so a winner in my opinion.

The Chicago Museum of Science and industry was a fun way to spend a morning. While we were there to see the submarine, a German WW II U-boat, we spent time enjoying many of the exhibits. I also got the first of what would soon become a Mold-o-Rama collection (or obsession, the jury is still out).

Now that we've gotten out of the airport and actually spent some time in this former layover city I don't know what took us so long. It won't be long until we return.


Are there any cities that you've only experienced as a waypoint that you now want to visit? If so what are they? Please share your thoughts and comment below.