The holidays have, at last, released us from their suffocating grip. Every year, they pin us down and shove food down our throats for a month. Then we spend the first three weeks of January rolling around in saunas and waiting in line to use cardio equipment in gyms packed with people whose New Year’s resolutions will expire in two days. Life is hard. Here’s three spots where I spread my holiday magic.
Wonderkid: The seemingly largest mixed-use redevelopment on Memorial Drive is still underway at the old Atlanta Dairies in Reynoldstown. For now, the biggest attraction is Wonderkid, a fancy diner from a team of culinary magicians who own the King of Pops, Bon Ton and The Lawrence. The look is definitely not about flashy metal, fluorescent lighting, and a super-fast meal. It’s almost moody at night with shadows and groovy music. There are multiple menus. One offers five breakfast dishes available 8-11 a.m. only. I want the biscuits and country ham. Then there’s a “breakfast all day” menu with heavier dishes like a sirloin steak with eggs and pepper gravy. Yet another menu, the “main” one, offers the slightly kooky stuff you expect from Chef Justin Dixon. Among my favorites are the deviled eggs topped with country ham and a strand of pickled okra. I also like the falafel waffle topped with tabbouleh, roasted eggplant, gem lettuce, and sunflower sprouts. The chicken pot pie is a paean to puff pastry. (777 Memorial Dr., 404-331-0720, wonderkidatl.com.)
Street Bistro: I know you’ve been curious about this venue that has replaced Hong Kong Harbour, the 40-year-old Cantonese favorite on Cheshire Bridge. Well, it is inexplicably strange. It’s been largely, but not entirely, stripped of its earlier Chinese ornamentation and replaced with nothing much more than tables and chairs on a huge concrete floor. There’s a station to order from a quite mixed menu of wings, burgers, sandwiches, seafood, and rice dishes. I’ve only sampled two dishes. The “Korean burger” was a tasty enough bun stuffed with sliced bulgogi. There’s a plant-based burger that was likewise okay. Fries were fine. I’m guessing the idea is that other tenants might move in to create a food hall. (2184 Cheshire Bridge Rd., 404-325-7630, atlstreetbistro.com.)
Public School 404: For reasons that confused the rest of us, a friend wanted to celebrate his birthday with a first-time lunch at this two-year-old chain gastro-pub in West Midtown. He’s an adventurous diner. Unfortunately – ask any critic – that often means you’re going to eat a lot more mediocre than really good food. And so it was. Much of the food’s description seemed promising and was nicely plated, like “fiery calamari” with togarashi (a powdered, hot spice), ginger aioli, and habanero rice wine vinegar. I can forgive them for not providing a matchstick’s worth of fire, but the calamari was way overcooked. A lunch deal featured half a reuben sandwich that featured what looked like half a pound of corn beef with the requisite sauerkraut, gruyere cheese, and thousand island dressing. But when you picked up the thing, you encountered absurdly flimsy bread and when you took a bite, the corned beef’s flavor was rather dull. Okay, I ate every bite. If I’d seen the dessert menu with the Nutella cookie sandwich, I might have left happier. (930 Howell Mill Rd., 404-817-0984, psontap.com)
Cliff Bostock is a longtime Atlanta restaurant critic and former psychotherapist turned life coach; firstname.lastname@example.org.