I don’t know about you, but once the hot, southern days of summer roll in, my appetite during the daytime diminishes to nearly nothing. I make up for it in the evening! By dinnertime I am famished and looking forward to something delicious and maybe a little lighter. Conveniently, I have Joe Duffy’s contact in my phone. This is one of the many perks of my job. Joe is by far the most knowledgeable when it comes to local food and fare. I asked him to assist me this month, knowing he would both cut my research time down and introduce me to some great food. Good call! Now hearsay is not something I like to depend on, so I had to visit these locales personally and form my own opinion. Yet another great perk.
I started in Johns Creek at Hen Mother Cookhouse which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. The menu offers healthy, as well as traditional, breakfast and lunch options. Soraya Khoury, the chef and owner, referred to the restaurant as “in between green juice and a greasy spoon.” Joe had referred to Soraya as a “cool and great chef.” Well Joe, you are correct, as usual. She’s not only cool and great, but she is also extremely knowledgeable about food. I met her on the restaurant’s lovely patio to discuss the inspiration behind the food and see for myself why Joe would suggest the Harvest Winter Salad. Really? The winter salad in July? And vegetarian too? I figured my carnivore friend was teasing, but it only took one bite to realize his suggestion was a great one—lacinato kale, green cabbage, toasted farro, house-made raisins, toasted sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds with goddess dressing, topped with pecorino cheese.
You may be wondering, as I did, what is goddess dressing? It’s aioli-based with egg, basil, tarragon, chives, and chervil (a delicate herb related to parsley). Soraya mentioned if a customer orders the salad with “the dressing on the side,” she will come out of the kitchen and explain to them that the dressing needs to be in the salad. For the salad to retain the right consistency, the kale must be massaged with the dressing. Fruits and veggies are added and change seasonally. Currently, roasted Georgia corn, Pearson Farm peaches, carrots, and pickled beets complete the salad to make it burst with flavor. The perfect choice for a summertime lunch dish.
Dominique, my delightful server, had a great suggestion: add chicken. Dominique travels from Stone Mountain to Johns Creek for work. Why would he drive so far to work in a restaurant? He explained to me that the work environment at Hen Mother Cookhouse makes him feel like he’s part of the family, and he appreciates how well he is treated there. Having worked in the restaurant environment for quite some time, I know the importance of happy employees—who in turn make customers happy. When you visit, I suggest sitting in the quaint outdoor area which is modified to the weather by an optional enclosure. It’s quite lovely. Please note the Harvest Winter Salad is available in summer, but just Tuesday – Friday.
At bite BISTRO & BAR in Alpharetta, Joe suggested I try the Lobster Roll, which he referred to as “definitely awesome for sure.” I was obligated, “twist my arm,” to form my own opinion. Wow! This girl loves lobster, and this isn’t just any lobster roll. Nestled in a Holeman & Finch (H&F) roll, the lime aioli, tarragon, parsley, and pickled onions enhance the lobster’s flavor and leave your mouth tingling with excitement. The house chips are the perfect sidekick. I enjoyed a nice, cold draft beer to make this meal a perfect and memorable experience, not only for the food but also the atmosphere. Once you enter the doors of bite BISTRO & BAR, you realize there’s nothing ordinary about it. The décor is exceptionally unique. So well-thought-out. And there are a variety of intimate settings to choose from inside this playful, yet sexy establishment.
The next summertime dish, in my opinion, is a winner all year long. I can’t think of anything more refreshing on a hot, summer day than an ice-cold, craft beer on tap. Barleygarden in Avalon has one of the best beer menus around. Fantastic, in fact. Nothing goes better with beer than a brat, specifically The Trotter Sausages & Kraut which is knock-braut and kielbasa with seasoned, roasted new potatoes, savory sauerkraut, beer mustard, and a fried egg. I also sampled the Beer-Steamed Mussels—PEI (Prince Edward Island) mussels swimming in a succulent pool of saison-garlic butter accompanied by crisp baguettes. A heavenly combination in a very cool environment. Barleygarden has one of the best patios and rooftops to enjoy your summertime treats.
Peach & The Porkchop in Roswell is one of my favorite places to congregate with my friends. It has the perfect-sized bar to keep it interesting, but not overwhelming, and is intimate enough to get to know everyone sitting around you. Alyssa and Chuck Staley, owners and operators, combine Chuck’s Pittsburgh heritage with Alyssa’s truly southern heritage to form a menu which reflects the best of both. Kudos to the combination! The north meets the south on friendly and flavorful terms this time around. I’ve tried many different menu items and loved them all, but Joe suggested I try The Club sandwich. It sounded like a great idea, so I grabbed one of my girlfriends, Kara, and we headed (as we often do) to the bar to share The Club.
Loaded with uncured honey ham, turkey, crispy uncured bacon, garden fresh lettuce from Circle A Farms in Cumming, tomatoes from Gazaway Farms also in Cumming, savory Tillamook cheddar cheese, and mayo—served on traditional, full-flavored sourdough bread from H&F Bread Co. in Atlanta, with Amy’s House Chips on the side accompanied by a crunchy pickle places this classic sandwich at the top of my list of summertime sandwiches. It was plenty to satisfy Kara and I, who had left poolside with ravenous thoughts. Chuck told me Amy’s House Chips are made from 250 – 350 pounds, per week, of hand-cut potatoes. Jokingly, I asked about the number of pounds of potatoes cut for French fries, and it’s 800 pounds per week! That’s a lot of work, but that’s why they are so delicious. Chuck commented, “everything is made with lots of love.” I must mention our favorite bartenders Josh and Ali who are vigilant to keep your glass full and appetite satisfied.
I love a nice, juicy burger at the end of a lake- or pool-day, and the best burger in town for me is at Lucky’s Burger & Brew. I’ll belly up to the bar, sip on an ice-cold brew, and sink my teeth into a Bluetick Hound, a super thick and juicy beef patty, topped with applewood-smoked bacon, and blue cheese crumbles. I like to add pickles and ketchup with a side of sweet potato fries and blue cheese sauce for dipping. Absolutely delicious! I am always careful of what I wear, inevitably I will spill something on my shirt and enjoy every bite of the burger as I’m doing it. Now I prefer to drink a local beer on draft, but some of my comrades love that Lucky’s serves PBR on tap. That’s something you don’t see every day.
No need to fly to Peru for Peruvian comfort food, just follow Joe’s suggestion and visit The Freakin Incan for a unique and flavorful experience. I met Joe there, and he introduced me to his favorite dinner item Causa de Camaron. The presentation of this dish is exquisite. It was almost too perfect to cut into. It’s comprised of flavored mashed potatoes, shrimp, avocado, red peppers, and green aji. It was delicious and what made it even better was the Variant Moon Cloud beer I ordered from the impressive list of draft beers.
Chef and owner, Mikiel Arnold was born in Peru. He moved to the U.S. as a child, and then did his culinary externship in Peru. He now has two locations of The Freakin Incan, one in Roswell and the other in Tucker.
His father, Ed, enjoys tending the bar from time to time—sharing his thoughts on the cuisine while pouring the perfect draft. After we enjoyed our dinner, we couldn’t resist ordering dessert from Julianna’s Crepes, served in-house. The Almighty (an appropriate name for a crepe filled with melted Nutella, fresh organic bananas and strawberries, and topped with a dollop of whipped cream) was devoured within seconds.
All in all, I love my job. Who wouldn’t? Jumping on the coattails of the infallible restaurant whisperer and relishing every morsel of his suggestions—certainly my kind of assignment. ❍
When not writing, Roswell resident Tara Gary is busy making industrial furniture, charcuterie boards, and local art. Most nights she can be found with her friends at local breweries and pubs drinking craft beer.