Here are my 15 Top Tastes of Atlanta Metro Food + Drink from November 20 – 24, 2012. Four establishments fall well outside the I-285 perimeter, but no problem. You’re resourceful, and the stops on the fringes are worth the extra effort.
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1. 5 & 10: Hugh Acheson, who vaulted to national prominence as a “Top Chef” judge, opened his first restaurant a short drive from the University of Georgia campus. He relocated around his Athens corner this summer, but that doesn’t shake our memory of the Mississippi Pecan Smoked Catfish ($27). The flaky, pan-seared fish graced celery grits, with small cuts of seared okra that avoided the vegetable’s potentially slimy pitfalls. A topping of pickled green tomatoes packed punch, and mustard brown butter elevated the dish’s savory quotient.
2. The Beer Growler: Universal growler fills are still a pipe dream in California, but in the Atlanta Metro area, plenty of shops are popping up that will gladly pour more than three dozen beers into a shop-branded growler. The Beer Growler chain recently opened an Alpharetta branch in a strip mall, not far from my brother Eric and his wife Jamie. We picked up a large growler of Red Brick Hoplanta Alpharetta for only $9.99. This 6.7% IPA, brewed in the city, paired well with my family’s Thanksgiving turkey. At The Beer Growler, they invite customers to “Tap into Taste. Again and again!” Good plan.
3. Brick Store Pub: Lee Dickson’s neighborhood pub opened in 1997 right near the main square (and MARTA station) in Decatur. The two-story establishment features a horseshoe shaped bar with tables made from barrels, a wrought iron chandelier and gnome flying a red airplane. Brick Store’s leather bound menu encompasses 25 taps, three casks, and a cellar list with over 700 bottles. I enjoyed my glass of Highland Cold Mountain, a malty 5.8% winter ale from Asheville ($5.50) that kind of tasted like birch beer. There’s a good chance this won’t be on tap when you go, but you’re guaranteed to find plenty of other good beers.