By Joe Duffy
“Bold and opinionated is how we like to describe our cuisine,” says Carson Kitchen GM Molly Barlow. The Alpharetta City Center newcomer is one of three locations from Woodstock, GA native Cory Harwell, the Chef and President. Salt Lake City and Las Vegas are the two others. When I heard the announcement of its City Center launching, onward to Google I went.
Quite impressed by the reviews from the Sin City original, my anticipation was piqued. The Downtown Las Vegas locale is rated No. 21 of 3,489 restaurants in Vegas by Trip Advisor. Considering that over the last dozen or so years, the city in the desert is invariably cited high on nearly every plausible best food city list issued, such exaltation is lofty. Far from an outlier, the noble evaluation is heavily corroborated elsewhere.
Carson Kitchen fancies to mingle and balance the gustatory system in many of the small plates/tapas sized entrees. Savory, sweet, tart, and acidic the bacon jam with havarti, which is “far and away the most popular item at all three locations” is emblematic of that. Cheese, which has no sugar, has long been paired with marmalades and jams, perfectly complementing each other. And bacon? Come on man! It mates well with just about everything. This signature appetizer is served piping hot with accompanying toasted baguette.
Your life is incomplete unless you’ve consumed roadside pork cracklings in South Louisiana or at least pork rinds somewhere other than off a supermarket shelf. Carson does a great version via the poultry parallel to that: crispy chicken skins. Crackly, crunchy, and tasty, it’s made harmonious by sweetly counterbalancing with smoked honey served on the side. Following Molly’s counsel, I dipped it the aforesaid jam, a recommendation I will second.
The killer shrimp has a light coating and covered with creamy Amarillo pepper sauce. Yet again, the temperate dressing is intensified with fresh jalapeno peppers. Yes, the dish stands out minus the peppers, but don’t be one of those “but can I order it without” people here with this dish or any. Clearly each ingredient is integral for equilibrium and you are doing yourself an injustice to diss the chef. Order everything “as is.” This rivals East Cobb’s Seed Kitchen & Bar’s shrimp sambal is my favorite shrimp appetizer in Current Hubville.
Even the “devil’s” (not a typo) eggs surpass the one’s your aunt reliably creates and brings to the annual family cookout. The crispy pancetta and caviar toppings are central for both texture and taking it to the next level flavor.
The chicken thighs may be quintessential of how each dish is developed with so much more profundity than a mere glance at the menu would imply. Deboned and flattened thin like pressed meats in many Latin American cuisines, these are as tender as any yardbird I’ve ever had. The mayo-based Alabama white sauce boosts this dish with complex flavor. It packs some punch but shouldn’t intimidate those timid of food being too spicy.
Within the last year somebody asked me on Twitter (@calvulcan) for a guidance where to relish the foremost bread pudding. It was an infrequent example of me not responding with at least one if not several suggestions. Now I have one. The glazed donut interpretation is crowned with a three-rum caramel topping. It’s substantial enough for sharing, but luscious enough that you may want to obtain your own.
Harwell states the menu is inspired by his grandmother’s food in nearby Woodstock. It was originally a partnership with celebrity chef Kerry Simon, who was taken away much too early at age 60, a victim of MSA, a degenerative neurological disorder. Both Harwell’s grandmother and the highly decorated chef Simon should be quite proud.
There is more for me to test for future visits. Within taunting field of vision, I observed several orders of macaroni and cheese being dispensed. So far, everything I embraced proved at least as good as it appears if not better. That’s a good omen for said delectable looking southern staple. There is no shortfall of stupendous burgers in AlphaRoz, but Carson serves a butter burger giving them a distinguishable attribute. No need to sojourn to a middling burger chain to enjoy the Wisconsin interpretation on a burger.
Other than for allergy or miscellaneous other healthcare reasons, the consideration of heading off to a top-shelf restaurant and seeking to exclude an ingredient in incomprehensible to me. If you are wolfing at a selected enterprise such as any endorsed by me (ahem), put your faith in the chef. (S)he knows what she/he is doing to have attained that prestige. Carson Kitchen loves to fuse the flavors, tastes, and textures as much as any restaurant. Ordering unaltered is always a canon to follow but it’s an even grander cardinal sin here to do otherwise.
This American food exemplar features fearless and bolder flavor most frequently experienced in “ethnic” cuisine. It’s not too avant-garde to intimidate those who relish familiarity, but much more intrepid than you ordinarily encounter in American cuisine.
Often menu portrayals are written by PR wordsmiths rather than foodies. Empty buzzwords and cliches are seldom validated by what arrived from the kitchen. But when CarsonKitchen.com declares they serve, “reimagined comfort food prepared with approachable fine-dining ingredients,” the author nails it.
I’m insanely jealous of anyone who dwells along the newfangled Alpha Loop, which unites downtown Alpharetta to Avalon. The number of presently prevailing quality eateries within walking distance of each would have been pure make-believe when I wore a younger man’s clothes. But here we are. Carson Kitchen is another formidable addition.
Carson Kitchen Atlanta
4 South Main St
Alpharetta, GA 30009
Sound Bites: I aspired to vex the new Vertigo Café in the former Mellow Mushroom (same owners) at Haynes Bridge and Old Milton. In addition to the clear reasons, hunting new cafes is how I roll, I’m eternally captivated by both house specialties and items I seldom see on a list of options. Ziva, an Israeli dish is “our signature delicacy,” which transforms to “I’ll order that” for me.
Plus, from the ghost of Newtown Rec sports parenting past, I recognized the proprietors are pleasant individuals whose success is easy to root for. The Yemen layered dough, filled with three ingredients (mine had bacon, feta, mushrooms) was undeniably extraordinary. Whether or not everything is as standout as their very forcefully declared forte, I don’t know. Yet. But I prized losing my ziva virginity. https://www.vertigo-cafe.com…
Not enough pizza alternatives is an archaic dilemma in my review mirror. Still, I’m a big fan of upscale Restaurant Holmes, so when they premiered a pizza joint in the Halcyon food hall, no way in H-E double hockey stick I would bypass the occasion to investigate. Interesting, there was less char on the bottom of the crust than other Neapolitan pizzas I had, but it included a decent amount on top. The four family members not away at college harmonize it’s very good. Covid and all, we brought it home cognizant that the only infallible review would be if I ate it at Halcyon. I mean almost-in-Cumming to Roswell isn’t around the block. My daughter and I shall make a reappearance and devour a pie right out of the oven. During off hours, on a pleasant day where open-air feasting is a likelihood, social distancing is no issue in the food hall and the nearby common space. There are ample outdoor tables spread out to regulations. Oh and grab a beer at Cherry Street while you are at it.
Joe Duffy: As one of the biggest food snobs on Planet Earth, I’m interrogated continually for restaurant guidance. When the desired genre is daily breakfast (the list gets lengthier for weekend brunch), there is a clearly defined top two: the previously examined Hen Mother Cookhouse in Johns Creek and Gracious Plenty Bakery & Breakfast in Roswell. Just as HMC is run by a husband and wife chef team, Gracious Plenty is directed by betrothed Jasmin Willis and Conner Slewitzke.