From Canada’s favorite comfort dish to salads studded with curious croutons, here’s some of what chefs around town are dishing up right now.
Burned, blistered and turned into liquid
Burn it. Blister it. Get it black. That’s the prep method of the moment. Yet, charring is hardly reserved these days for Spanish octopus or seasonal produce that spans from apples to sweet potatoes. Even sauce is game for scorching. Head to Nikolai’s Roof in the Hilton Hotel (255 Courtland St. N.E., Atlanta. 404-572-6548, nikolaisroof.com) for white miso that’s burnt to utter blackness. The dark as night, umami-laden sauce is landing on dishes like beef carpaccio and seared diver scallops with savory cheesecake. And don’t miss the pork carnitas taco at Sean Brock’s new Minero at Ponce City Market (675 Ponce De Leon Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-532-1580, minerorestaurant.com) for a taste of chimole, a spicy vinegar made from a puree of blackened chiles and onions. This trend might just be the home cook’s saving grace: “Honey, I burned it on purpose. All the chefs are doing it.”
Snails are everywhere and being served up every which way. At Little Bacch (1198 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-365-0410, starprovisions.com/little-bacch), escargots get classic Bourguignonne treatment in garlic-herb butter, while on the other side of the train tracks at Marcel (1170 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-665-4555, marcelatl.com), the mollusks come in-shell, a rustic presentation more accidental than planned because the oh-so-proper snail serving plates didn’t arrive in time for the restaurant’s opening (although we’re down with the dish as is). These westside newbies join escargot mainstays like the baked version at Kevin Rathbun Steak (154 Krog St. N.E., Atlanta. 404-524-5600, kevinrathbunsteak.com) and the ones tucked inside puff pastry at Bistro Niko (3344 Peachtree Road, Atlanta. 404-261-6456, buckheadrestaurants.com/bistro-niko).
Popcorn is having a blockbuster season
The movie theater snack of choice is seeing a resurgence. Salt and vinegar popcorn has been a fine bar bite at Porter Beer Bar (1156 Euclid Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-223-0393, theporterbeerbar.com) and now Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall (684 John Wesley Dobbs Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-458-6838, ladybirdatlanta.com) is offering its salty, briny version for free during the restaurant’s newly launched weekday happy hour. At Grain (856 W. Peachtree St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-881-5377, grain-bar.com) they make a tricked-out frozen salted caramel popcorn that tastes like chilled Fiddle Faddle jacked up with peanut butter and Cap’n Crunch. It becomes dinner-and-a-show at this bar when they pull out the liquid nitrogen to break up the frozen, sweet chunks amid a haze of smoke. But corn kernels aren’t just clap-worthy snacks. Sriracha popcorn is a component in the hipster bento box at Huge Cafe (1375 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 404-512-4325, hugecafe.com). At the Cockentrice (99 Krog St. N.E., Atlanta. 470-428-2733, thecockentrice.com), sumac-scented caramel corn takes up space on a plate of crunchy suckling pig grattons, apples and paw paws. And over at Staplehouse (541 Edgewood Ave. S.E., Atlanta. 404-524-5005, staplehouse.com), Ryan Smith and his culinary team are playfully pairing popcorn with its best friend, butter. Anson Mills popcorn gets ground into a powder, whipped with salted butter and dabbed atop oysters. The only thing you really need to know: Order the restaurant’s grilled oysters. It’s a dish that’s quickly becoming a staple at the fledgling Staplehouse.
Chefs are throwing out the crouton rulebook and thinking beyond day-old bread. At the Pig and the Pearl (1380 Atlantic Drive N.W., Atlanta. 404-541-0930, thepigandthepearl.com), pork belly gets crouton treatment before landing in salads like a wedge and Cobb. At Hola Taqueria & Bar (688 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell. 470- 242-5661, holaroswell.com), they make tamale croutons out of masa harina for a south-of-the-border Caesar Tijuana salad tossed with anchovy-chipotle dressing. Chefs have long given the green light to flavoring the cubes with cheese or herbs, but at Restaurant 356 in the Porsche Experience Center (1 Porsche Drive, Atlanta. 770-290-4356, restaurant356.com), they’re test-driving smoked paprika croutons in a shrimp Caesar salad. Here’s to putting croutons in overdrive.
Canada’s hot mess lands in ATL
Poutine, French for “hot mess,” is a plate of fries smothered in gravy and topped with cheese curds. It’s Canada’s beloved comfort food and it has taken up residence in the South. Perhaps you’ve already scarfed it down at the Vortex (multiple locations, thevortexatl.com), the General Muir (Emory Point, 1540 Avenue Place, Atlanta. 678-927-9131, thegeneralmuir.com) or Bantam + Biddy (multiple locations, bantamandbiddy.com). Add to the list Oak Steakhouse (950 Third St., Alpharetta. 678-722-8333, oaksteakhouseatlanta.com) and brunch at Mason Tavern (1371 Clairmont Road, Decatur. 404-963-2322, masontavernatl.com). When fries, gravy and cheese aren’t enough cholesterol for you, head to Flip Burger Boutique (multiple locations, flipburgerboutique.com) for a version that sees two — count ’em, two — fried eggs on top. Oh, Canada! We welcome thee to the Heart of Dixie.
Eating around the clock in Atlanta: