In case nobody has ever told you – or has forgotten to tell you – the brain begins to melt into something like a taxidermied blob as it ages. For example, I recently dined for the first time at the Peruvian Las Brasas in Decatur (614 Church St). For the most part, I liked the food and wondered why I’d never visited before.
Two days later, I remembered that I had indeed visited several times earlier – years ago, but when the restaurant was in a different location. The dish that jarred my memory was potatoes huancaina. It’s sliced, chilled Yukon potatoes covered with a creamy, subtly spiced cheese sauce, topped with a quail egg and some black olives.
Its textures and flavors make it my favorite dish here, but the restaurant is best known for its rotisserie chicken, marinated in mysterious Peruvian spices and served with an equally mysterious green sauce. I have to admit, I wasn’t so impressed. But the potato dish rules.
I thought this week I might mention a few other inexpensive, mainly mainstream edibles that do remain ongoing memorable obsessions.
Triple Ginger Snaps: These are an antidote to the under-flavored typical ginger snaps in most stores and bakeries. They are made with ginger puree, pieces of crystallized ginger, ginger powder, and, apparently, crack cocaine. They are strongly spicy and sweet and they are a signature item at Trader Joe’s. Do not put an entire container in front of your TV. (Various locations)
Medio Dia: This extraordinary Cuban sandwich on a pineapple sub roll is the creation of Hector Santiago at El Super Pan. It is stuffed with adobo-roasted ham, chayote pickles, Swiss cheese, habanero mustard, and clove salt. The thing that elevates it to heavenly is the occasional, explosively flavorful crunch of the ham’s crispy skin (chicharrones). Super Pan makes the screwed-up parking at Ponce City Market worth the effort. (Ponce City Market)
Toffee Coffee Arctic Swirl: Go ahead, stick to your pricey restaurant riffs on soft-serve ice cream swirled with a variety of ingredients. Or swallow your gay pride and go to Zesto and pay half the price for my longtime fave pig-out dessert in the city. You can get an Arctic Swirl made with other ingredients but my 20-year-old fave is this one with bits of something like Heath Bars in vanilla ice cream swirled with coffee syrup. (Various locations)
Spicy Fried Chicken: Yeah, I love Popeye’s, Hop’s, and Watershed, but the chicken at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken fully deserves its name. The problem is the location downtown in the rear of Peachtree Center, but it’s worth the effort. You get chicken, strictly fried upon order, with a thin crust, redder than a drag queen’s lipstick, miraculously spicy, served on a slice of plain old white bread. This chicken was “invented” in the 1950s in Memphis and will never, ever go out of style. (231 Peachtree St.)
Tofu Skin Roll with Bean Sprouts: Every time I order this dish at Green Sprout Vegetarian Cuisine, across from Ansley Mall, I can’t imagine eating the entire thing, but always do. It’s a huge mound of rolls made of crispy-fried tofu skin wrapped around bean sprouts, carrots, and snow peas, served with a deliciously flavored, soy-based sauce. As God is my meat-eating witness, you will not miss the consumption of flesh while munching on this. Other dishes? Mainly not as good. (1529 Piedmont Ave.)