Food Review: Folk Art presents artwork on a plate

Considering that I’ve reviewed restaurants in Atlanta for 30 years, I have no explanation for why I’ve never visited Folk Art (465 N. Highland Ave., 404-537-4493), a popular diner of sorts that has been open about three years in Inman Park.

The place is picturesque. The interior more resembles a barbecue joint than a diner. Brick walls are layered with colorful irreverent signs and tchotchkes. Upon entering, you see what looks like a maze of tables and booths, none of which seem to provide seating for more than four. Tables are bolted to the floor, so you can’t move them together. Our party of five had to pull up a folding chair that virtually blocked the aisle. I have no idea how you would accommodate more than five diners. The good news is that we scored a booth up front, beside a large window whose garage style door had been thrown up to give us a breath of cool air and a view of passersby.

Most of them were on their way to Wisteria, a few doors down. Its chef/owner, Jason Hill, also owns Folk Art, and both restaurants feature Southern flavors. Folk Art is open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. My impression is that brunch is the most popular meal. Friends have often raved about the fried chicken here, and you can order it in various forms—for brunch on a waffle with whiskey-peach compote, for example. While I didn’t try the chicken at Folk Art, I can vouch for Hill’s skillet-fried version at Wisteria.

We visited on Friday night, when the lunch-dinner menu offers sandwiches, burgers, salads, entrees, and an abbreviated selection of all-day breakfast faves. We stuck to sandwiches and entrees. By far the best on the table was a special of chicken pot pie—a deeply flavored, creamy broth full of chicken, carrots, and peas, topped with two flaky, flat biscuits. Next best was a huge po’boy heaped with fried shrimp over romaine drizzled with house-made tartar sauce.

Two of us ordered the muffuletta, the New Orleans classic I can never resist when I find it on a menu. I give Folk Art’s version a B. Its layers of mortadella, Genoa salami, ham, provolone, mozzarella and olive salad were piled on a classic, somewhat thick round bun cut into quarters. The problem? I like my muffuletta bread to soak up some of the olive salad’s oil and I like the bread to have a bit of crispness. These are small complaints.

My least-favorite dish on the table was the blackened flounder. I’m reluctant to say so, because it’s mainly reflective of my personal dislike of flounder—a fish I was forcefed throughout childhood. Happily, this was not my mother’s overcooked flounder amandine, but a blackened version. But there again, I was never very impressed by Paul Prudhomme’s blackening technique. Putting all that aside, the fish itself was cooked just right and the friend who ordered it liked it.

Sides were less impressive than other dishes on the table. By far the best was mac and cheese. It was the real deal. Service was great, prices are lowish, and, in case you’re worried, parking is easy.

Cliff Bostock, PhD, is a longtime Atlanta food critic and former psychotherapist who
now specializes in collaborative life coaching (404-518-4415),