Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Illegal Food (Atlanta, GA)

1044 Greenwood Ave, Atlanta, GA 30306, USA

Illegal Food is rapidly becoming an ATL (and even national) institution. It originated inside a gaming hall and only recently started as its own restaurant, in the popular Virginia Heights area. Its opening was one of the most anticipated in ATL restaurant history, as its signature dish, The Hank, was being elected best burger in Atlanta and even made national lists. Consequently, Illegal Food is often busy with a wait, as it only has fairly limited space inside. We come for late Saturday lunch and fortunately find a spot.

We start out with the Okonomiyaki Style Fries ($10), a behemoth of a starter. It is a big heap of homemade fries with Japanese mayo, OK sauce, fermented chili sauce, bonito flakes, shredded nori, green onion, sesame seeds, and beni shoga. They taste like Sushi Fries, bit too fishy on top, but addictive at the bottom.

I then get The Hank ($12): a thick burger patty with iceberg, sweet Vidalia onion, house made dill pickle, and a special sauce. Although it sounds somewhat disrespectful, but it tastes like how the perfect Big Mac would taste. However, unlike most burgers with several toppings, The Hank is dominated by the taste of some of the best burger meat I have ever had and is accentuated, rather than dominated, by the lettuce, sauce, and pickles. M. has the Pimento Burger ($13): the pimento cheese brings a smoky flavor to the burger but isn't that dominant.

VERDICT: 95/100
It’s almost always true that you shouldn’t believe the hype, but not with Illegal Food. It truly is as good as people say!

Niedlov’s Breadworks (Chattanooga, TN)

215 E. Main Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408, USA

Niedlov’s is a fancy bakery and lunch spot in a gentrified part of Chattanooga. They offer coffee and pastries for breakfast and sandwiches and salads for lunch. They also sell excellent, but very expensive loafs of bread. This Saturday morning there are several young women working, who are all quite sweet, but also incredibly incompetent.

We get two coffees, three pastries, and a breakfast sandwich for $19. The breakfast sandwich is egg and crispy bacon on wheat toast, which is buttered and crispy. It’s nice, even though I asked for it to be on a bagel. The almond croissant is big and filled with big pasty pieces of almond, the regular croissant is just that, regular. The cinnamon roll is a perfect combination of dough and cinnamon. Delicious.

VERDICT: 91/100
Excellent quality but incompetence and prices are bit annoying.

Urban Stack (Chatanooga, TN)

12 W 13th Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402, USA

Urban Stack is the type of restaurant I love: making pig out food with high quality products and a special twist. It opened a couple of years ago in a beautifully renovated building and has a nice patio. Its specialty is burgers, which come in many different varieties and several different patties (beef, Kobe beef, turkey, lamb, veggie).

We start with the Freebird Wings ($9.99) and get them "Smokin' Hot Style." They are six big grilled chicken wings, which are incredibly juicy and come with a nice tangy sauce (not very spicy and not very much sauce).

For burgers I choose the Herkules ($11.99), predictably the Greek burger, which is very fresh but tastes almost more like a high quality gyros than a Greek burger. As a side I get the homemade chips ($3): big freshly fried chips with BBQ seasoning. Tasty. M. gets a Southwestern Veggie ($8.25) and asks for it without a bun (I know). In essence, it is vegetarian burger in a salad. Still, the patty is crunchy and spicy, one of best I ever tasted. She gets it with a side of Fried Chickpeas ($3) - why didn't anyone else thinking of this? - little balls of heaven, a kind of falafel.

VERDICT: 95/100
Perfect place to go out for a nice dinner and still have burgers and cool atmosphere.

Clumpies Ice Cream Co. (Chattanooga, TN)

26 Frazier Ave, Chattanooga, TN 37405, USA

Clumpies is an artisan ice cream maker, which opened in the hip part of Chattanooga in 1999, and has three locations today. They have about twenty different flavors, from the very mundane (e.g. chocolate, vanilla) to the truly exotic (e.g. pralines and cream or firecracker).

We get one small scoop and a medium sized with three flavors ($9.02 together). M gets small scoop of Mayan Spiced Chocolate, which has a deep chocolate flavor and a serious spicy kick. I get the Pineapple Sorbet, which has an ices consistency and tastes like fresh frozen pineapple. The Banana Cream is creamy and smooth, yet also has a really fresh Banana taste. Delicious! The Coconut Almond Chunk, finally, has a creamy coconut taste with big chunks of chocolate covered almonds.

VERDICT: 92/100
One of the best US artisan ice cream places I visited.

Atlanta Highway Seafood Market (Gainesville, GA)

227 Atlanta Highway, Suite 900, Gainesville, GA 30501, USA

Atlanta Highway Seafood Market is a seafood market ad restaurant in a dirty-a-dozen strip mall in Gainesville. When we visit for Friday lunch, it is bumping. Fortunately, they work quite fast. There is a large menu of fresh fish and seafood, coming in platters and sandwiches.

I am going for the classic, a Catfish Po-Boy ($6.99), and get it blackened and with spicy rather than regular mayo. The fish is really fresh and tasty, not over seasoned, the spicy mayo has nice tangy favor, while the bread is ok. The sides of M's platter are OK – slaw a bit bland.

VERDICT: 86/100
You come here for the fish, which is fresh and well prepared. Everything else is ok but unremarkable.

Rush’s (Columbia, SC)

283 Harbison Blvd, Columbia, SC 29212, USA

Rush’s is a local fast food chain in Columbia, SC, and its surroundings. In addition to the usual fast food it serves bbq and fried chicken. The company slogan is “You’ll love the TASTE we’re made off”. It looks pretty shabby inside and even the pictures don’t look very encouraging.

I get a Slaw Dog ($2.51), a very basic hot dog covered with mayo-y cole slaw that overpowers everything else. The Chili Burger ($3.80) is a sad little burger with unremarkable chili. Finally, the Banana Shake ($2.59) is way too sweet.

VERDICT: 61/100
Affordable but pretty poor old-school fast food.

Scooby Do Gelato Shop (Columbia, SC)

725 Saluda Ave, Columbia, SC, USA

Scooby Do Gelato Shop is a new and very modern shop in a street full of quaint stores in the cute Five Points area of Columbia, South Carolina. Its gelatos and sorbets are homemade with local ingredients. They have about 10 different flavors, classics like chocolate and vanilla as well as originals, such as lemon ginger hibiscus.

I get a small portion, which is two decent scoops – the price depends on the weight (mine $4.23). The pistachio is creamy and has a good flavor, the rosemary & pineapple is fresh with a bit sour aftertaste (ginger).

VERDICT: 85/100
Good gelato for US standards.