Food & Drink

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Summer is the perfect time for a culinary road trip

Indigo Coastal Shanty in Brunswick, Georgia

What happened to spring? With temperatures soaring, we just had to get out of town, and the Atlantic coast is the perfect destination. If you’re single, on a budget and with friends, head to Savannah. But if you’re married, head to Saint Simons Island or Jacksonville, Fla. They aren’t that far, not that expensive and you can drive.

My parents live on Saint Simons Island so that’s where we vacationed. I am very lucky that my mother accepts and embraces my sexual orientation and my partner. If you want something gayer and more expensive, head further south to Fort Lauderdale or my favorite, Key West.

Longtime Atlanta residents might remember Indigo Coastal Grill and Partners, restaurants created by Alix Kenagy. Chef Kate Buchanan, Kenagy’s daughter, now has the most amazing, unique restaurant in downtown Brunswick, Ga. — Indigo Coastal Shanty.

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Celebrate summer’s return with great outdoor dining

Scallops at Anis

I can’t believe I’m talking about patios again. Where did the year go? If you’ve had a long hard week then I suggest you reconnect with your partner or good friend at Anis Café & Bistro in Buckhead.

Anis has a long history and is a true Atlanta gem. It also has one of those rare patios in Atlanta that’s not on a busy street or parking lot and has no traffic noise. Sorry, I lived in Florida and Southern California and am an admitted patio snob.

The serene patio at Anis will transport you to the South of France. You’ll be surrounded by plants, greenery, and warm ambient lighting with French music to sound the scene. The good news is it’s not that expensive to have a transformative French experience and you’ll be at the Moulin Rouge doing the can can dance of flavor.

The servers are not very Parisian meaning there is no attitude. They are warm and congenial — so much so that when we told ours that we were celebrating our three-and-a-half year anniversary, she sent out two glasses of champagne and said we looked cute together.

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From simple to exotic, Latin fare perfect for summer relaxing

Latin fare perfect for summer

I could eat Tex-Mex / Latin / Spanish food every day. There are so many derivatives and fusions of this type of cuisine so I don’t pretend to be an expert. All I know is that my years in San Diego showed me what authentic (and very bad) Latin fare can be.

I grew up in Atlanta with chain Tex-Mex (anybody remember Chi Chi’s?) and then in college spent years on the El Azteca patio on Ponce drinking those cheap pitchers of frozen margaritas that would make everyone hallucinate if you drank too much. Much older and wiser, my tastes have evolved.

With summer nearing, I can’t think of anything I want at the end of a long work week more than a big bowl of fresh chunky guacamole with cilantro and some warm salty corn chips; pair that with a good margarita made with white tequila, a breezy patio, chunky ruby-red salsa and you have a therapeutic experience.

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How to eat like a queen on a peasant’s budget

Fierce Dishes explores cheap eats

There is one efficient way to save money and still eat at nice places. Take advantage of the specials during the week.

The Here to Serve Restaurant Group, known for its restaurants’ architecture, has some of the best during-the-week deals. For example, on Monday at Noche you can get really good $2 tacos which normally run $4-5.

We went to the Vinings location, which has a charming, darkly lit, cantina vibe. We ordered all the tacos, which consisted of shrimp with black beans and roasted corn; crispy fish with spicy slaw; grilled veggie with charred tomato salsa; and the grilled chicken with chunky house-made guacamole. My favorites were the pulled pork with fire roasted chilies and jack cheese, and the marinated steak with pepper-jack cheese.

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Delicious Italian options

I kept reading about Noni’s Deli on all the Best Of lists but had never been. “Noni” is a derivative from “Nonna,” which means grandmother in Italian, and many of the recipes were originated by the owner’s Sicilian grandmother.

We went late after our Atlanta Executive Network meeting and were starving. I’m not in college anymore and I can’t do late night Taco Bell. Noni’s is an excellent alternative to the typical greasy after-hours gut bombs you get on Ponce. The place was full of urban hipsters, GSU and Agnes Scott students, and maybe gay couples – you can’t always tell these days. If you live in Midtown, it’s worth the drive.

The place used to be an old school grocery store but has transformed into a very relevant downtown destination that stimulates your eyes with architectural nuisances. This is an excellent first date place. You know that awkward first 20 minutes where you want to ask “what’s wrong with you?” but instead you make small talk? Say, “ I love the shiny jagged slate floor and I’m a sucker for red exposed brick,” and you’ll impress your date or long time partner. It’s always a good idea to have subjects rehearsed when the conversation lags.

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Popular eatery fails health inspection, makes amends

Joe's on JuniperAfter failing a Food Service Inspection last month, gay-popular Midtown restaurant Joe's on Juniper is now making the grade.

The inspection was conducted by the Department of Community Health, Division of Public Health on March 16, 2011. Joe's scored a 63 out of a possible 100, earning the restaurant a “U” grade.

Click here for the full report.

Joe's has since held a re-inspection and received a 100 on March 28 according to managing partner Alice Masker.

Among the violations cited in the failed inspection were workers handling food items with bare hands when a glove or utensil was required, not having a handwash sink accessible for employee use and mold in the ice machine.

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The beer is great, but you don’t have to drink to enjoy these neighborhood hubs

Brick Store Pub in Decatur

You don’t have to drink to enjoy a good neighborhood bar experience. It’s like in Olde England where the pub was the heartbeat of the community. It’s nice to have a grassroots communal experience. These two taverns aren’t about raucous screaming drunks, but rather the convivial, connective atmosphere a good pub can deliver.

Open for over a decade, the Brick Store Pub is a vital, nostalgic stop in Decatur. Many Atlantans think of Manual’s Tavern first when looking for a quintessential pub experience, but that place is hyper straight. Brick Store’s owners know they are surrounded by Decatur’s culinary gems, so they had to up their game and not serve tired stock bar food.

The scene is mainly straight, but Decatur is the Berkley of the South, so no one cares what you are. It’s the kind of straight folks that like gays because they know we move in and increase property value. The décor is classic red exposed brick.

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Neighborhood favorite provides good food for good prices

Athens Pizza

My first partner lived around the Emory – Toco Hills area so we frequented the restaurants near us. Sadly, Mexico City Gourmet closed as did Anarkli, which was the place I first tasted Indian food, which soon became an obsession. Is there anything better than chicken tiki masala on fragrant basmanti rice? We’ll save that for another column.

I was recently in the neighborhood and passed by Athens Pizza. This place is a true anchor of the area as it’s been open since 1977, owned by John and Aseimoula Papadopoulos. You’ll see the authentic urban melting pot from the elderly patrons who have been going there for decades to young Emory students. We chatted with a lovely lesbian couple while their cute adopted Asian daughter laughed with my partner’s kids. How’s that for modern family.

The non-corporate restaurant is very Greek kitschy with Mediterranean murals and is staffed with congenial employees who’ve been there for years and actually seem to care if you have a great experience. Yes, food snobs, this is not the best Greek restaurant in Atlanta — it’s not Buckhead Life’s Kyma — but the point is you can have an affordable, relevant culinary experience.

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Sweet, sweet Auburn

Bell Street Burritos

We have a historic gem in our city called Sweet Auburn, and I’m sure somewhere in the South there’s a drag queen with the same name and she’s fierce.

The Sweet Auburn Curb Market is a huge farmers market located in Downtown Atlanta on Edgewood Avenue that features restaurants and specialty culinary shops.

Whatever craving you have can be found here.

Like any good Southern drag queen, Sweet Auburn has character and charm. You get a sense of historic Atlanta while the convivial merchants are only too happy to guide your palate into simple satiation or splendid nirvana like the Sweet Auburn Bakery, with transcendental strawberry cheese Danish, or Miss D’s New Orleans Pralines.

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Sex & Dating: Date night dinners

One Midtown Kitchen

The restaurant can make or break the mood for a perfect memorable encounter. We’re lucky in Atlanta to have thousands of choices for date-night dining. Here are some of my favorites.

A noteworthy first date, second date or anniversary restaurant is One Midtown Kitchen. It’s more gay during the week and very busy with straight suburbanites on weekends. The décor is stunning with lots of ambient cylinder lights and a big-budget corporate architectural scheme. I’ll admit like most gays, I’m a sucker glamorous décor. It’s a good conversation piece on dates.

One Midtown Kitchen isn’t cheap so it’s a perfect special occasion place. The handsome chef Drew VanLeuvan’s open stainless steel kitchen turns out artisanal American comforts like crispy braised pork shoulder with collards, as well as elegant dishes like curried pan-seared Nantucket sea scallops. I love sword fish and had it grilled with foraged mushrooms and root vegetable confit. It was succulent, white and meaty and, no, I won’t make the gratuitous gay joke.