I’ve often referred to my neighborhood and the surrounding mile or two as Pubtopia. with all sincerity, I think it may will be the very best pub crawl area outside of Boston. Yes, even above New York, Chicago, and St. Louis. It’s Pizzatopia as well, and is fast becoming Q-topia (barbeque, of course), but those are topics for another blog.
Getting (at last, and in the third paragraph no less) to the subject at hand, this area — the Atlanta neighborhoods between Decatur, Little Five Points, Inman Park, East Atlanta Village, and Druid Hills — is breakfast-topia, too. When you live in a neighborhood with the venerable Flying Biscuit (the oatmeal pancakes are amazing), Java Jive (the ginger waffles with lemon curd are to die for), and two Thumbs Up locations (best pancakes in the city, bar none) and none of them make it to the top of the list of your favorite spots, you know your options are pretty close to terrific.
My two favorites are Pastries A Go Go, just a couple of blocks from the square in downtown Decatur, and Candi’s for Breakfast at the Irwin Street Market in the Old Fourth Ward. I usually order pretty much the same thing at both — a good old fashioned southern breakfast with scrambled eggs, biscuit, sausage, and (naturally) grits. Both offer other alternatives with the southern breakfast, like bacon, toast, and potatoes. Both places are amazing. Despite the somewhat similar menus, neither could be more different from the other.
Pastries A Go Go is a bakery first, and one of the very best. The biscuits are simply amazing — quite possibly the best I’ve had that wasn’t served at a southern relative’s home. They make their own sausage, and they do something (and I have no idea what) that makes their scrambled eggs just absolutely heavenly. My wife says that the Eggs Benedict are delicious.
The place is small, homey, and causal, but with a subtle vibe of Decatur hipness. They say that Decatur is the place where Berkley meets Mayberry. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Pastries A Go Go in either place. The coffee (from local roaster Dancing Goats) is terrific and plentiful. The staff is friendly. Comfort (comfort food in a comfortable space) wraps you like a blanket. Don’t miss it.
Speaking of comfort, you’ll find that feeling in abundance at Candi’s for Breakfast. It feels like an old fashioned diner … and honestly, the food tastes like what you always think (or hope) diner food will deliver. Sadly, diners seldom live up to your expectations. Candi’s exceeds them. The food is cooked in a tiny kitchen right in front of you (assuming you sit at the counter — if you take a table, well, it’s close by, anyway) and is crafted with care.
The biscuits aren’t as subtly sweet at those at Pastries A Go Go; they are breadier for lack of a better word, and absolutely delicious with butter, sausage, or one of the hand-crafted spreads that Candi has to offer. The house specialty is the stuffed biscuit. Baked to order, it’s a biscuit stuffed with your choice of yummy things: sausage, home made turkey sausage, bacon, cheeses, or veggies. I’ve never tried anything like it.
My pal Jay Gagliardo says that the Eggs Benedict (available served on a biscuit, of course) are the best he’s ever had. And in fact, Candi’s has more than a few specialties that I have yet to try. I can’t wait.
Speaking of pubtopia, I’ve mentioned my beloved Marlay House Pub a time or two. It’s one of my three or four favorites here in the Decatur/Little Five Points area (out of more than a dozen or so that I would consider very legitimate contenders). I’ve been for dinner and drinks, the amazing Tuesday night Celtic Jam, and even breakfast. In all that time, I never once tried the Sunday Roast. What was I thinking?
In Ireland, a Sunday roast is traditional at the pubs. Darren Comer, one of the owners, assures me that the Marlay House’s recreation is just like the ones he remembers from home. I’m more than willing to take his word, but in all the times I traveled to those fair Isles, I never once found pub food this good. And I say that as a man who adores pub food.
The roast is a standing ribeye, rubbed with herbs and cooked slowly to to be tender. It’s served with roasted potatoes, a “lashing” of gravy (I had to ask — a lashing means a lot, so think about getting it on the side), fresh veggies (from experience, I can assure you than these can be held), and Yorkshire pudding, which again is much better than any I’ve found abroad.
The Sunday Roast at the Marlay House is comfort food, pure and simple. It’s delicious (it pretty much has to be to survive in Decatur) and, along with a frothy pint from one of the best beer and ale menus in the city, it’s a wonderful way to relax away a Sunday afternoon. Share it with good company, even if that company is a good book. I wish I’d tried it sooner.
Decatur and the surrounding areas provide a wealth of dining, from comfort food to exotic “foodie” paradises. What’s been missing is a truly outstanding steak house. I am happy to report that Parker’s On Ponce fills that gap neatly. I can’t say it’s the best steak I’ve ever had. It is, nonetheless, one of the top ten or so that I’ve had anywhere, and a genuine A+. In a city where people will literally line up for a B- steak, that’s saying a lot.
The steaks are seasoned subtly and well, and cooked perfectly. A medium actually comes out medium. Vegetarian options are more than an afterthought. My wife tried a grilled portabella mushroom, and found the flavor and the presentation delightful. She wasn’t even remotely jealous of my steak, or the Porterhouse for two that my parents praised.
The flavor and quality is absolutely first rate. The sides are generous; some familiar, some imaginative, all (that we tried, anyway) outstanding. The beer and wine list is solid and the deserts are superb.
The ambiance is casual, friendly, and comfortable, and blessedly lacking the “upscale” pretentious attitude in which so many fine steak houses seem to bask. The place is divided into smaller nooks (and a private room for events), making the large space seem more intimate.
Parker’s on Ponce is a welcome addition to one of the very best dining neighborhoods Atlanta has to offer, and I look forward to visiting regularly. In fact, I’m looking forward to trying the brunch this weekend.