Monday, April 1, 2019

What to order at the reimagined Tin Drum Asian Kitchen


Get ready for a brand new Tin Drum Asian Kitchen! You may already be familiar with the fast-casual restaurant, which is known for its bold takes on classic dishes from across Asia. But some Atlanta locations of the established franchise are getting an update, both in terms of décor and food options.
The street food-inspired modern decor of Tin Drum Decatur (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Below are some tips on how to navigate the redesigned store and menu. Both are well-thought out and inspired by Asian street food. We’re talking noodle bowls, bahn mi sandwiches, and lots of fruit (as an ingredient in dishes and as a snack/dessert).

IN A BOWL:
Check out the spicy basil mango stir fry,  which you can get on a bed of rice or spinach, and with your choice of chicken, steak, shrimp, cauliflower or tofu as your protein.
Spicy mango basil stir fry with crispy chicken, on a bed of spinach (c) Anna Lanfreschi 

I got mine with crispy chicken and on a bed of spinach. I love that you can make healthy choices at a restaurant that would otherwise be fairly carb-heavy.

HANDHELD:
The Koreano slider is a must! The chicken is the most perfectly seasoned fried chicken I’ve ever had, and it’s served with the delicious Gochujang red pepper sauce.
The Koreano slider with  perfectly seasoned chicken (c) Anna Lanfreschi

SALADS:
The sumo soba salad is easily my favorite. Served chilled with spinach, cucumber, and sesame seaweed, it is refreshing and delicious. It’s hard to find soba noodles in Atlanta, and this is an excellent presentation of them.
The soba sumo salad (c) Anna Lanfreschi

SNACKS:
The chili mango is incredible! Fresh mango peeled and sliced and seasoned with salt and chili powder. Just spicy enough, but still sweet enough to round out your meal, this little dish can make for a great snack or dessert.
Chili mango (c) Anna Lanfreschi 

In addition to food that’s prepared to order, you can also pick up tasty snacks from the pantry at the entrance to the café. You’ll find items like Thai pepper Doritos, the aforementioned chili mango, and packs of noodles you can cook at home.
Asian food market inside Tin Drum Decatur (c) Anna Lanfreschi

The newly opened Decatur location is the first example of the reimagined Tin Drum AsianKitchen, but other Atlanta locations are following suit. Keep checking the brand’s website and Instagram for updates.

So tell me, what would you order at the new Tin Drum?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

New Taste Tuesday: Nacho Daddy


Nacho Daddy is a modern Mexican restaurant that recently opened downtown Duluth. It is the first Georgia location for this Las Vegas eatery, and it draws patrons in with its famous scorpion tequila shots and flaming (literally) plates of delicious food.

So if you’re asking whether this OTP spot is worth the drive from Atlanta, the answer is yes. Read on to see why you should check this new restaurant out, what to expect, and what to order when you go. 

WHY GO:
Because you’re tired of your ol' go-to Mexican joint and want to try something different. 

THE VIBE:
Vegas-like! Think fun, rowdy, and loud, both the atmosphere and the crowd.
The ambiance at Nacho Daddy (c) Anna Lanfreschi

DRINK THIS:
Daddy’s margarita is a solid choice if you’re looking for a classic beverage. If you want to take it up a notch though, try the Cadillac margarita – it’s made with anjeo tequila and topped with Grand Marnier.
Daddy's margarita (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Nacho Daddy has an impressive selection of tequilas, so getting a tasting flight or a shot is a great way to try something new. If you’re feeling extra daring, try the scorpion shot: Cenote tequila, salt rim, lime wedge, and a scorpion!

Yep, a real scorpion. It’s not a live scorpion. But it is edible. And from what I understand, it’s crunchy; although I do not have personal experience with this, ha!
The scorpion shot! (c) Anna Lanfreschi

EAT THIS:
All the nachos, duh!

But seriously, there are so many nacho options. I tried the filet mignon (pictured in the first photo in this post) and the Thai chicken nachos (pictured below), both of which were filling and delicious. Each order can easily be a full entrée or an appetizer for a group.
Thai chicken nachos (c) Nacho Daddy

My recommendation is to split one order of nachos and try a few other menu items, such as the flaming shrimp and the mix-and-match fajitas.
Mix and match flaming fajitas (yep, these were lit on fire table-side as well) (c) Anna Lanfreschi

The flaming shrimp are set on fire table-side before being served to you, and the fajitas come with a generous helping of fajita peppers and onions, pico de gallo, guacamole, rice, and refried beans. You can order a single or a double portion, if you’d like to share.
The flaming shrimp, on fire and afterwards (c) Anna Lanfreschi

PRO TIP
If you live nearby, do take advantage of Nacho Daddy’s happy hour specials, such as $5 food specials 3 – 6 pm, 2-for-1 tequila shots on Tuesdays, and BOGO wine Wednesday.

LOGISTICS:
Nacho Daddy is located in Duluth, at 3095 Main Street. The Parson’s Alley complex has some free parking for the restaurant, but if those spots fill up, you might also have luck with street parking nearby.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

New Taste Tuesday: Fudo Sushi in Chamblee

Fudo is a new sushi restaurant that opened in Chamblee in January. It is quickly becoming known for its high quality of ingredients and the chefs’ creativity when it comes to food presentation and combination of flavors.

I had the pleasure of experiencing all of the above on a recent double date at Fudo with my friend Maryashley of Simply Maryashley. We grabbed our husbands (both named Michael!) and asked the chefs and bartenders to surprise us with their favorite dishes, which was an unforgettable experience!

Read on to see what we ended up noshing on (including some secret menu items) and for some tips to help you plan your visit to Fudo.

WHY GO:
Because you appreciate sushi that is both fresh and imaginative. Fudo does both very well.

VIBE:
Modern and cool, both in vibe and color scheme. Think dark wooden tables, concrete and metal details, a wrap-around sushi bar and a separate cocktail bar.
The main dining room of Fudo (c) Anna Lanfreschi

DRINK THIS:
Speaking of cocktails, do start your meal with a hand-crafted libation by one of Fudo’s bartenders. The Zen, the Toki-Yo, and the Mandarin Oriental cocktails are all great options to choose from. Or could simply ask the bartender to make you something yummy with your preferred liquor.
Left: The Zen cocktail, made with gin, tequila and green chartreuse; right: hot sake (c) Anna Lanfreschi

EAT THIS:
Fudo has an extensive selection of sushi rolls, nigiri and sashimi options, as well as small plates, soups, salads, tempura, and rice bowls (donburi). Fudo’s menu is so impressive, it may seem overwhelming at first. Here are a few tips to help you narrow down your choices.

Small plates:
Try the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and dynamite shrimp. The veggie dishes are served warm and are very flavorful, and you can never go wrong with some sweet and spicy shrimp, right?
Clockwise from upper left: Cauliflower, pickled veggies, Brussels sprouts (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Donburi:
If you’re extra hungry, share the oyako-don with your group. This teriyaki chicken bowl is served with bok choy and lotus root chips over steamed rice.
Oyako-don: Teriyaki chicken with bok choy, lotus root chips, over steamed rice (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Sushi rolls:
The Audi, Hunger Games, A Star Is Born, and Fantasy rolls are all excellent! If you’ve never had a hand roll before, do try one of the eight on the menu (pick the one with your favorite fish). They’re similar to regular sushi rolls ingredients-wise, but they usually have the seaweed on the outside and you eat them with your hands (no chopsticks required!).
The Fantasy roll: Shrimp tempura, crab salad, avocado, mango, topped with masago and scallions (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Sashimi:
You won’t find a lot of sashimi/nigiri options on the regular menu at Fudo – they are mostly on the specials menu, as these options heavily depend on the kinds of fish the restaurant gets that day. These dishes tend to be incredibly creative and change often.

If the following are available during your trip to Fudo, I highly recommend trying them:

-bluefin otoro bites with uni and ikura: fatty tuna topped with sea urchin and salmon roe 
-madai nigiri: lightly charred Japanese snapper atop rice 
-salmon ceviche: light and fresh, served mixed with julienned fresh veggies 
-sashimi dessert: snapper topped with fresh peaches (see first photo in this blog post)

Bluefin tuna bites (c) Anna Lanfreschi 

Charred snapper nigiri (c) Anna Lanfreschi
Salmon ceviche -- isn't the presentation gorgeous? (c) Anna Lanfreschi
PRO TIP:
Leaving the decision-making in the hands of talented chefs is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the best of what a restaurant has to offer. During this dining experience at Fudo, I did exactly that.

I asked the chefs to bring out their favorite dishes of the evening, and they surpassed all expectations, including in terms of ingenuity, presentation, quality of ingredients, and service. If you’re feeling adventurous, I highly recommend this style of dining. And you can trust that your experience will be exceptional at this restaurant (Maryashley agrees).

LOGISTICS:
Fudo is located at 5070 Peachtree Boulevard in Chamblee’s Parkview on Peachtree. It is in the same area as Poke Bar and The Alden, and is catty-corner to Whole Foods. It is open daily for lunch and dinner and has plenty of free self-parking.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Where to eat healthy in Atlanta during the holidays


So you overdid on all the holiday treats these last couple of weeks (I’m looking at you, office pastries!). That’s OK – no use in feeling guilty about it. Instead, opt for a healthy meal to help you get back on track.

One of my favorite places in to get an actually healthy, balanced meal is gusto! Wood Fire Grill. This Atlanta restaurant describes itself as an intersection of quality and speed, meaning you get a fresh meal quickly and for a great price.

Gusto! operates on a make-your-own-bowl concept:
  1. Pick your base: Mixed greens, brown rice, a combination of both, or a flatbread wrap 
  2. Choose your protein: Grilled chicken, spicy chicken, grilled shrimp, or grilled portabella
  3. Add your gusto (or topping): Chile sesame BBQ, chipotle mango avocado, tahini cucumber feta, sweet soy sriracha, ginger lime peanut, or tzatziki lemon artichoke

I usually tend to go for the mixed greens as my base, with either grilled chicken or shrimp as my protein. And I pick my gusto based on what I’m craving that day.
This bowl is topped with the ginger lime peanut gusto, aka the Thai flavor (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Each “gusto” is a combination of global-inspired ingredients that gives your meal its delicious flavor. Craving Thai? Go for the ginger lime peanut gusto. In the mood for Mediterranean? Try either the tahini cucumber feta or the tzatziki lemon artichoke gusto.

I absolutely love this concept, because it lets me indulge in some of my favorite international flavors without loading up on carbs that often come with them (pasta, rice, noodles, etc.).
The half and half bowl with the tzatziki lemon artichoke gusto (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Don’t get me wrong – from time to time, I absolutely enjoy the carbs that typically accompany these dishes, but as an occasional splurge instead of on a regular basis. With the gusto! bowls, I can devour the flavors of my favorite international meals while still eating healthy.


Two more things I love about gusto!: Their sweet potato chips and their 2-for-1 deals (aka, #FlannelFridays). The sweet potato chips are absolutely divine: They are super thin, crispy, just salty enough, and are perfectly portioned! Again, zero guilt in indulging!
The most delicious sweet potato chips, which are handmade daily (c) Anna Lanfreschi
And you can get the 2-for-1 deal every Friday at the Ponce location if you wear flannel! So bring your favorite person to gusto!, take advantage of the cooler temps and show off your favorite checkered shirt to get the second entrée for free. You can claim it any time on Friday, between 11 am – 10 pm, only at the Ponce location.

Gusto! has three locations in Atlanta – on Ponce de Leon Avenue near Ponce City Market, on Peachtree Street near Piedmont Hospital, and on N. Decatur Road near Emory Hospital. And they’re opening their newest location in West Midtown, at Northside and 17th.

What do you think: Will you be visiting gusto! to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Celebrate the holidays at Babalu Tapas & Tacos

Yes, the words “holidays” and “tacos” do belong in the same sentence! First of all, tacos are always a good idea. And secondly, what says holiday cheer better than friends getting together and sharing food and drink?
The Baba-Breeze drink: Bombay Sapphire gin, fresh cucumber, ginger, mint, fresh lime juice, soda water

Babalu Tapas & Tacos puts a Latin flair on your holiday gathering to help you make it more memorable. Think chorizo tacos with house-made tortillas, simultaneously winter-and-beach-inspired drinks, and tableside guacamole.

Read more about how the guacamole is prepared
This guac is made in front of you, with the ingredients you want. Served with tortilla chips or fresh veggies for dipping
Churrasco steak with chimichurri sauce, served over the most delicious roasted potatoes ever!
Pan-seared crab cakes (left) and blackened salmon over queso grits (right) 

In addition to tacos, Babalu's menu also boasts incredibly delicious small plates. You can't go wrong with any of the seafood options, and if your dish doesn't come served over roasted potatoes, do yourself a favor and order a side of them. They are perfectly crispy and gooey and the same time! 

The midtown eatery has a casual yet festive atmosphere and daily deals

Mondays -- $5 Luna Ritas all day
Tuesdays -- $2 tacos all day (because #tacotuesday)
Wednesdays -- half-priced bottles of wine and $5 glasses of house wine
Thursdays -- $4 sangria by the glass 
Daily, 3 – 6 pm -- specially priced menu of drinks and appetizers
Babalu's signature cinnamon bread pudding, served with Patron chantilly cream, Kahlua caramel, and fresh strawberries 

So pick a day of the week, grab your friends, and host your holiday gift exchange at Babalu Tapas & Tacos this year. The restaurant will also be open until 3 pm on Christmas Eve, so running out of time is not an excuse.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

New Taste Tuesday: Bell Street Burritos



Bell Street Burritos now serves breakfast! Every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the beloved Atlanta eatery is offering a new breakfast menu with four delectable items. Think fluffy scrambled eggs and cheese wrapped in the most delicious tortilla of your preferred configuration (burrito, quesadilla, etc.) with your choice of meat, salsa fresca, and all the dipping sauces your heart desires.

Check out more details about the new breakfast menu below and let me know which menu item you want to try the most.
Don't these look delicious?

WHY GO: Because there’s no better way to start your Saturday morning than with a tasty breakfast burrito!

VIBE: Chill, simple, clean. There is plenty of seating – indoors and out – if you’d like to eat at the restaurant, or you can grab your breakfast burrito to go.

DRINK THIS: Pick your choice of canned or bottled beverage, alcoholic or not (think beer and sodas).

EAT THIS: You have several options to choose from on the new breakfast menu: The burrito, quesadilla, shrimp & grits, or the breakfast bowl. 

The burrito is, obviously, amazing. It’s what Bell Street Burritos is known for, and you can customize it to have just scrambled eggs and cheese, or add sausage or bacon.
The tortilla on this breakfast burrito is one of the best I've ever had in Atlanta

The quesadilla is also tasty, and the shrimp and grits has a nice little kick to it.  
The quesadilla topped with salsa verde 
The shrimp and grits 

But my favorite item from this new menu is the breakfast bowl: It’s the healthiest option and comes loaded with scrambled eggs, spinach, and salsa fresca. As with the burrito and quesadilla, you can add your choice of meat (sausage or bacon), and you can also add a side of guacamole, which I highly recommend doing.
The meatless breakfast bowl -- that guacamole is so delicious!

Of course after 2 p.m., you can choose from a full menu of tacos, quesadillas, salads, and – of course – burritos.

LOGISTICS: Two of Bell Street Burritos’ three locations now feature the new breakfast menu: Midtown/Buckhead and Inman Park (on the Beltline, near Krog Street Market). The hours and parking availability are different for each location, so check out the restaurant’s website for details.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

New Taste Tuesday: Gypsy Kitchen


Gypsy Kitchen is now serving brunch! The Spanish tapas restaurant in the heart of Buckhead is known for its dinner service and late-night cocktails, but they’ve added a new daytime menu, and it is fantastic! It puts a Spanish-inspired twist on all your brunch favorites, which is the absolute best hangover cure you didn’t know you needed.  

WHY GO: Because you love tapas and brunch, and on Sundays, Gypsy Kitchen has both.

THE VIBE: Exotic and inviting. There’s something about this Moroccan-inspired décor that immediately makes you excited to be there and to nosh on all of Gypsy Kitchen’s delicious offerings.

The restaurant’s expansive patio is also worth mentioning, and a perfect place to grab brunch.
The patio of Gypsy Kitchen (c) Adam Davilla
DRINK THIS: Definitely try the Bloody Mary bar. It. Is. Impressive! There are two types of mix – spicy and regular – and seemingly countless options for hot sauces, spices, and toppings. The latter include pickled shrimp, prosciutto-wrapped dates, blue cheese-stuffed olives, and a wide assortment of fresh and pickled vegetables.
The giant Bloody Mary bar -- look at all those options! (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Choose your spice level on the Bloody Mary mix, before adding all the extras (c) Anna Lanfreschi
EAT THIS: Start with gypsy-style poutine. This dish is a bit of a surprise from the brunch menu, because it’s not necessarily a classic Spanish tapa, and it’s not quite authentic Canadian poutine – it’s a mix of the two. And it is so good! Perfectly cooked potatoes, topped with a cheesy sauce, bacon chunks, and a poached egg.
Poutine by way of a gypsy -- the official name of this delicious plate (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Other tasty brunch options to consider: Steak and eggs, Gypsy Kitchen migas, and the candied spicy chorizo Belgian waffle. Yep, it’s a fluffy waffle topped with candied chorizo and served with dulce de leche syrup. Y’all, it is ridiculously delicious! Again, sounds a little out there, but all the flavors go so well together, it’s magical.
Candied spicy chorizo Belgian waffle (c) Collin Rooney

Gypsy Kitchen migas -- chicken sausage, country bread, piquillo charon sauce, sunny side egg (c) Anna Lanfreschi
Pro tip: All plates are tapas-sized, so they’re smaller than typical brunch servings. The server recommended 2-4 dishes per person, and that worked out great. I would highly recommend getting at least 2 orders of the waffles!
Non-brunch tapas are also available, like this whipped goat cheese with mushrooms & cashews (c) Anna Lanfreschi  

One more pro tip: Chef Gary Finzer is working on perfecting the brunch version of his famous paella, and once it’s ready, it will be served family-style on the patio during Sunday brunch hours. Be sure not to miss that once it launches.
The brunch paella -- it is so good! (c) Collin Rooney

LOGISTICS: Gypsy Kitchen is located at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta. Self-parking is available in the garage, and the restaurant validates it.

P.S.: The first photo in this blog post (along with a couple of others throughout the post) is by photographer, videographer and editor Collin Rooney. Thanks, Collin!