In Creative Loafing, dining editor and restaurant critic Besha Rodell reviews celeb chef Art Smith's new restaurant Southern Art. She prefaces with Smith's story: an expat Southerner who "brings the gospel of Southern food" to the national masses, but fails to bring it back home to the South itself. Rodell calls the revamped Au Pied de Cochon space "odd" and "grim," though notes it's "more joyful during lunch." She enjoys the charcuterie plate (listed as the ham board) and farro salad, but overall is disappointed with Southern Art's approach to Southern food, saying:
"Here's the thing about Southern food: It gets better when the ingredients are better, fresher, more seasonal. It does not get better with fancy ingredients. Brunswick stew is a hunter's stew—it doesn't get better with extravagant bacon added. Chicken fried steak doesn't need filet any more than a filet needs to be fried to achieve its best presentation. The gimmick isn't worth pursuing if neither the dish nor the ingredient benefit."
Rodell notes that "modern Southern" dishes like the pork belly appetizer and shrimp and grits fare better than the "upscale classics," and the fried chicken is passable, though not "Fried chicken of the heavens." In sum, she says that:
"Southern Art is a decent hotel restaurant. I'd go back for that charcuterie plate, for cocktails and nibbles, or for a business lunch. But Atlanta knows Southern food, and we reward authenticity. We are the very center of the modern Southern movement...But I'm happy to say, chicken fried filet ain't gonna cut it."
John Kessler, lead dining critic for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, awards Cakes & Ale four stars and Cakes & Ale Bakery three stars. He notes that he enjoyed the original location "for the neighborhood spot it was," but is far more impressed with the new space, saying:
"With the move, Cakes & Ale has taken a tremendous step forward and now counts among the handful of top Atlanta dining destinations. The restaurant no longer seems a work in progress. More than just about any spot in the metro area, it celebrates local produce...It's a Southern restaurant inasmuch as the menu feels deeply tied to place, but [chef-owner] Allin's seasonings and cooking ideas range broadly."Kessler says that Allin's created "the most interesting early winter menu I've ever seen in Atlanta," highlighting "esoteric" vegetable dishes and "simple pleasures" like a farro and vegetable bowl with baked egg that gives him "an inner peace you'll never get from Xanax." He hasn't "warmed to" the dessert program nor the "stark dining room;" however, calls the new bakery space beautiful and "love[s] coming in here for Sweeney's simple, clean salads, sandwiches and soups." On Brooke Lenderman and Melanie Durant's baked goods, he says the bakery "can't yet decide whether it's rustic or uptown," but he closes with saying:
"I have no doubt it will grow organically and find its calling, much like the restaurant did. I see it improving with each visit. That's the Cakes & Ale way."
Wrapping things up at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gene Lee samples Indian dhokla pastries around town and Bob Townsend takes a First Look at Alma Cocina. Cliff Bostock, of Creative Loafing, also provides a First Look at Alma Cocina and C.L.'s Brad Kaplan visits Octane Grant Park and Little Tart Bakeshop.