Food & Drink

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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.

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Health & Fitness: Food for body and soul

Spice Market's vegetarian bento box

If you made a resolution to eat healthier food and have a positive outlook on life, then World Peace Café is the perfect place to start your year. Luckily we made it there before the snow-pocalypse. It’s a vegan/vegetarian café built on donations and run by volunteers. The café is owned and operated by Kadampa Buddhist Center, so the restaurant will reward you with peaceful karma and healthy cuisine.

The café has a modern Buddhist temple feel with high ceilings and hanging Asian lanterns. They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday-Thursday from 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

I’ve only tried lunch and dinner but their breakfast menu looks unique with “Corned Peace Hash and Eggs” and Vegan Cranberry-Orange Pancakes. For lunch I had a hot and spicy vegan burger made with roasted veggies, topped with a zippy buffalo sauce and melted bleu cheese. The flavor of this healthy burger was explosive.

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Little Bangkok provides comfort food for all

It’s a chilly night, you’re broke because of the holidays and you want a fabulous flavorful meal. Head to Little Bangkok on Cheshire Bridge Road, voted best Asian by Creative Loafing. This is one of Atlanta’s original Thai restaurants and is a perfect little dive on the eclectic “Bridge.”

Little Bangkok has been open for 17 years. It’s another circumstance of gays leading the food trends in Atlanta. Now Thai is on every street corner. If you had a gourmet grandmother who was Thai this would be her place. It’s decorated in kitschy far eastern décor with laser fast precision service. There is usually a wait and no waiting area but the line moves fast.

Little Bangkok has excellent specials like the soft shell crab or whole fried fish, but I’m a creature of habit and tend to gravitate toward my comfort favorites. Start with the classic basil rolls with thin rice paper, shrimp, and glass noodles dipped in the Asian BBQ-like hoisin sauce.

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Varasano’s earns reputation among America’s best pizzerias

Vanasano's Pizza offers great pies

My partner and I recently went to the Atlanta Executive Network meeting at Varasano’s on Peachtree Street. AEN is the oldest local LGBT business networking group.

Varasano’s is consistently rated as one of Atlanta’s top pizza places. In fact Rachael Ray named Varasano’s one of the elite eight pizzerias in America.

The buzz was huge before owner Jeff Varasano’s restaurant even opened. I sat and talked with him for a while. He started as a software engineer with an obsession for superlative pizza. He wrote blogs and had weekly pizza parties that gained a cult following. Finally he took the plunge and opened Varasano’s.

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Take a break from leftovers with hearty steaks, warm soups

Parker's on Ponce offers tasty steaks and more...

We were in Decatur, already tired of thinking about turkey, and wanted a nice hearty steak with a spicy glass of pinot noir, but we didn’t feel like paying high Buckhead prices. Plus we wanted something “neighborhoody.” Parker’s on Ponce was the perfect choice.

Open since 2008, Parker’s offers style and class without being pretentious. It’s the perfect setting for good friends or a holiday gathering. The romantic interior is warm with dark woods and soothing ambient stone fireplaces, causing Parker’s to immediately release your stress. When we were there the scene was a Decatur mélange of gay, lesbian and straight. Service was convivial and inviting. They are open for brunch and there’s a big bar. The large scenic patio will be nice in the spring.

The cuisine is decadent without being too over the top.  Sometimes it’s nice to revisit classic steakhouse fare like fried calamari, and Parker’s take was fresh and crispy with a drizzle of garlic and onion aioli. We decided to continue the splurge and split the lamb lollipops, little savory chops with mint balsamic reduction. Our friend got the Irish beer cheese soup with a white cheddar crouton.   It was a butch French Onion.