Eater Atlanta’s editor and contributors spend every week dining out at multiple restaurants and pop-ups in search of the next great bite or cocktail. Some meals and drinks are definitely better than others and deserve a shoutout. Below are the best dishes Eater’s editor ate in February.
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Medianoche and yuca fries at Lazaro’s Cuban Cuisine
I pass by this small Cuban restaurant on Woodstock Road every time I visit my mother in Roswell, but have never stopped in for a meal. That changed on a recent Saturday afternoon while helping my mother move some furniture. We started off with a basket of plantain chips and tangy garlic lime sauce. I had my eye on a plate of the lechon asado (slow-roasted Boston butt) with black beans and rice for lunch, but knew a big family dinner was planned later that evening. Instead, we split a medianoche and yuca fries. (I prefer yuca fries over sweet potato fries, as they’re only slightly sweet, and when the starchy root vegetable is fried, it’s fluffy inside and super crispy on the outside.) Comprised of tender roast pork, Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and zesty yellow mustard, unlike its cousin the Cuban, the medianoche (or midnight sandwich because it’s served after hours at bars in Cuba) comes on a sweeter, softer bread, rather than the traditional crusty roll. Lazaro’s version was generous in its meaty contents and was especially delicious dipped in the house mojo sauce.
Persimmon and endive salad at Spring
“We just let the ingredients we get be themselves and shine on the plate,” chef and co-owner Brian So once said of the food at his award-wining restaurant Spring in Marietta. And while these simple ingredients sing on the plates at Spring, So is the maestro coaxing flavors out of every single ingredient composing each dish. I make it a point to get up to Spring at least two or three times a year, mostly during the height of certain growing seasons to see what magic So and his small kitchen team have created for the restaurant’s tight menu. We’re starting to see the last of the winter vegetables and fruits on menus, including late-season persimmons and local endive. After consuming a thick, fluffy slice of Spring’s polenta bread with green garlic butter, the persimmon and endive salad hit the table. Colors just popped off the plate. This refreshing winter salad is a symphony of textures and flavors. Tossed with pecans, coins of pickled carrots, and Asher Blue cheese in a light vinaigrette, soft, sweet persimmon fruit melts into crunchy bitter notes of endive. It was the perfect salad to prep the palate before a delicate filet of pan-seared Atlantic fluke with a beurre blanc. This salad encapsulates the ethos behind Spring.
Kale salad, jalapeno cornbread, jambalaya at MetroFresh
Midtown Promenade is undergoing a pretty significant renovation and restaurant makeover right now. Anchored by Trader Joe’s, the complex sadly lost some restaurant gems in the process (RIP Frogs Cantina, Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen, and the Highlander). Thankfully, one of my favorite spots is still around and doing brisk business, even during dinner when it competes with Mellow Mushroom and Pat Pascarella’s Alici Oyster Bar next door. Regulars to MetroFresh swing by daily to partake in a rotating menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches of the day and a handful of heartier entrees in the evenings. Like Spring, the menu changes often and with the seasons. But for owner and chef Mitchell Anderson, his restaurant is as much about offering an unpretentious spot to relax and enjoy a good meal in Midtown as it is about his commitment to fresh seasonality and homestyle recipes. A recent dinner enjoyed on the covered patio at MetroFresh on an unusually warm February evening included a square of jalapeno bread from the Cornbread Sisters (this cornbread is mighty good,) a delightful citrusy kale salad, and a bowl of jambalaya bursting with vegetables and shrimp paired with a glass of pinot noir. Lunch is always busy (and served all day,) but the move at MetroFresh is dinner, when people linger a little longer and no one seems to mind.
Cassoulet and spaetzle at Cafe Alsace
This little French restaurant in the heart of downtown Decatur is darling, and a gem I am glad to see survived the worst months of the pandemic. For longtime patrons like myself, Cafe Alsace is doing more to promote the food and hospitality of this unique region of France from an unassuming space on East Ponce than most French restaurants in Atlanta. And owner and Alsatian native Benedicte Ulsas Cooper is the region’s greatest ambassador, who often works the tiny dining room of the nearly three-decade-old restaurant, greeting regulars like they’re family. Cafe Alsace must and should be cherished. Located in northeastern France bordering Germany and Switzerland along the Rhine River, the region of Alsace blends the cultures, languages, and foods of the three countries together. (Think cassoulets, boeuf bourguignon, creamy egg noodle-laden spaetzle, tarte flambee, and coq au Riesling.) A rich stew of beans, pork sausages, and duck, the cassoulet is a particular winter favorite of mine at Cafe Alsace, which can easily be shared between two or three people, especially when ordering multiple dishes. If you’ve never tried spaetzle, order it at Cafe Alsace. Cooper serves spaetzle two ways: noodles baked with mushrooms, spinach, cream, and cheese or baked with chunks of ham, onions, cream, and cheese. She learned to make the traditional Alsatian dish from her grandmother, which Cooper now serves at Cafe Alsace surrounded by family photos and mementos of Alsace hanging on the walls. Lunch is also served throughout the week, and is equally as popular as dinner, so be prepared to wait. The restaurant only seats around 25 people.