Simple, satisfying meal in Kennesaw

My daughter may be out for my job. She’s quite the restaurant critic. It isn’t uncommon to see her tapping notes into her iPod during a meal or feverishly scribbling a detailed review on a scrap of paper in the car afterward.

She’s always eager to compare star ratings in hushed tones, even though we often don’t exactly see eye-to-eye. In fact, some of her top picks round out the bottom of mine. The world is a little bit different through a 9-year old’s eyes and taste buds.

When we do concur, it’s at restaurants that are able to bridge the gap between the desired aesthetic, atmosphere and menu for both adults and kiddos. After a few recent meals at the Rotisserie Shop in Kennesaw, my daughter and I agreed that we’d hit on a place we could both enjoy, even if my rating didn’t quite match her effusive five-star award.

Located in one of the plazas skirting Town Center Mall, the Rotisserie Shop provides an uncommon independent alternative to the usual outcropping of chain restaurants hovering near the busy shopping center. The casual atmosphere paired with an approachable menu built around simple rotisserie chicken and roasted pork gives the restaurant broad appeal. Add a decent children’s menu and a few craft beer options and you have the trappings of a family haunt.

The Rotisserie Shop offers a satisfying meal, humble as its tagline suggests, even though it doesn’t quite showcase the potential of the kitchen talent.

Unlike at the popular chain rotisserie restaurants, here you have two chefs at the helm hand-picking ingredients and products. Wife-husband team Carla Geniso and Chris Malfitano noticed rotisseries trending in other places like Montreal, and decided to bring the concept to Kennesaw, an area lacking in independent eateries.

The restaurant originally was conceived as a takeout spot. But in response to customer demand, Geniso and Malfitano closed up shop briefly to revamp the interior, morphing into a full-service restaurant. They also added a small wine and beer menu with selections that include Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale ($8) and SweetWater 420 ($5).

Those adult beverages certainly go a long way toward making mom and dad happy. A kids menu ($5), with standards including chicken fingers, mac and cheese and grilled cheeses, keeps the little ones content.

“The chicken fingers are really good,” according to my mini critic. “The crunchy crust is yummy, alright. But the inside, I mean it’s good and all, but it could be softer. That way it would be easier to bite into.”

She has a point.

She should have tried the house specialty. It all starts with the 24-hour-brined rotisserie chicken (quarter dark $8, white $11, half $14). Beautifully golden and rubbed with a house mixture that Geniso said contains “a little of everything,” the birds are moist but simple. Most of their flavor comes from your choice of dipping sauce, including options like the dark and sweet brown sugar barbecue, Tupelo honey mustard or the fresh cilantro, lime and tomatillo.

The 12-hour roasted pulled pork ($9 quarter pound, $12 half) also comes from the rotisserie. Now, this is what mom and dad should eat. It’s moist and tender, with a touch of smoke. And as good as it is on its own, I prefer it as an accent to the other dishes.

The rest of the menu is built around the chicken and pork, making good use of the meat.

Try the pork poutine ($11), a get-your-hands-dirty plate of fries slathered in gravy and topped with a melty mess of cheese curds and that pulled pork.

Also consider another of my favorites here: the chicken salad BLT ($8), a good use of leftover white and dark meat. I cotton to this smoky take on the classic salad made with a basil Caesar dressing and topped with crackling slices of crispy Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon.

I was also interested in some of the more composed plates that I hoped would showcase the abilities of chef-owners Geniso and Malfitano, who trained at Culinary Institute of America and the New York Restaurant School, respectively.

The most inspired was the roasted pork and cilantro corn griddle cakes ($15), which I’m sad to report got the ax in the recent switchover to the summer menu. The aromatic Johnny cakes with crisped rims harmonized perfectly with the pork. I’d lobby to have this one return as a semi-permanent special.

I also appreciated the cheffy touch in the shrimp and corn fritters ($11). The dish comes with three seared shrimp poised between sumptuous corn hushpuppies in an artful display over a creamy mound of Vidalia onion aioli and an avocado relish accent.

Of course, we critics have to have dessert, which I’m sure earned the Rotisserie Shop its fifth star from my little judge. For her, it was the “freakin’, stinkin’ yummy” gluten-free brownie ($5) that was ever so fudgey. For me, it was the zippy mango mousse special ($5), so airy and light.

If you have a little one at home, no doubt you’ve got yourself a critic. The next time you’re near Town Center Mall, look for the Rotisserie Shop, where the two of you can agree on a good meal.

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