Food & Drink

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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.