“Holy crap!” I announced, “I just spent nearly $30 in a food court.”
“Yeah, well, I just spent $21,” my friend Frank said, pointing at his sandwich and fries.
It was Friday night. We were taking our seats with two other friends in the Krog Street Market (99 Krog St.), the 30,000-square-foot behemoth of trendy dining in Inman Park. Four full-service restaurants like Cockentrice and Craft Izakaya anchor the renovated mill, but the cavernous center space houses bars and food stalls. You fetch your food and seek a table in a gloomy seating area.
Since I last wrote about KSM, a new stall, Gu’s Dumplings, has opened. Please read my lips: Do not bother. The stall is the successor to the fabulous Gu’s Bistro, where some of the city’s best Szechuan cuisine was served until its closing in early March. Everyone presumed an abbreviated menu of the same spicy food would be featured at KSM.
Not. I visited once, a couple of weeks after its opening, and was shocked by the mainly flavorless dumplings, the overcooked chicken, and the mediocre noodles. And it was all ridiculously overpriced. I’ve had no reports that it’s improved, so last Friday I demanded that my friends not go near the place.
Instead we went to Fred’s Meat and Bread and Yalla! I was especially anxious to try the latter, since I’d eaten at Fred’s once before. Yalla, like Fred’s, is owned by the folks who operate General Muir, including renowned chef Todd Ginsberg.
While the menu has been simplified, the dizzying number of condiments can still be pretty confusing. The main deal here is sandwiches made with either pita pockets or their larger flatbread cousin, laffa. Think Israeli tacos and burritos. I mistakenly thought the pita versions would be smallish, so I ordered two—one with falafel and the other with kabobs of ground lamb. Overkill. The falafel was wonderfully crispy—at first. However, it was overwhelmed by condiments of hummus, labne (a thick yogurt spread with the whey removed), tahini, Israeli salad (cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, mint) and zhug (a delicious hot sauce of roasted jalapenos and spices). If I were you, I’d order an extra shot of the zhug. It provides a much needed contrast to all the creamy contents. An alternative would be to order the small plate of falafel without the bread and ask for restraint with the sauces.
The same problem arose with my lamb pita—actually more so, since the kabobs were, not unexpectedly, oily. It was spread with baba ganoush, the Israeli salad, a slice of super-thin roasted eggplant, the labne, and the zhug. Halfway through, I tore away the bread and picked at both sandwiches with my fork. Speaking of which, all these sandwiches are available in bowls, meaning the contents are layered without the bread. There is also a daily plate of seasonal vegetables on the menu.
Yes, I was stuffed, but there’s more! Fred’s had a special of a Vietnamese-style sandwich (banh mi) filled with roasted cauliflower, eggplant, and the usual assortment of pickled and fresh veggies. It was made on a crunchy baguette, just as it should be, and was fabulous. I took most of it home. My friends mainly made less adventurous choices at Fred’s—the burger that Ginsberg has made famous in Atlanta and his equally beloved Philly cheesesteak.
Is it absurd that even with a barely eaten sandwich in my hand, I wanted ice cream? Unfortunately, Jenni’s is closed temporarily at KSM, so I begged that we go to Zesto in Little Five Points. As I’ve raved for years, I love the Toffee Coffee Arctic Swirl here and have felt terribly deprived since the convenient Zesto on Ponce closed. I inhaled the extra-large version in a flash. And, despite all this food, I awoke at 3 a.m. in an Ambien buzz and devoured the rest of the banh mi I could not eat five hours earlier. I fasted Saturday, and two days later, at my doctor’s office, I learned I’d dropped 7 pounds. So there.
Cliff Bostock, PhD, is a longtime Atlanta food critic and former psychotherapist who now offers collaborative life coaching, specializing in creativity and issues related to age transition (404-518-4415).