My father used to scream at me to “turn down that goddamn country music!” whenever I played Bob Dylan’s “House of the Rising Sun.” I’d scream back, “It’s not country music! It’s about a whorehouse!” This memory came back as I dined at Rising Son, a three-year-old restaurant in Avondale Estates last week. I assumed the name pays punning homage to the song. The restaurant’s web page, in fact, parodies a few lines of Dylan’s folky hit but insists the restaurant name refers to sons of farmers rising with the sun to tend the fields and cook totally awesome meals. Country stuff. My father would feel vindicated.
Chef Hudson Rouse and wife Kathryn Fitzgerald Rouse opened Rising Son three years ago. Hudson had run the kitchen at Home Grown, the city’s best meat-and-three diner, for a few years and was also whipped into shape by the late Angus Brown of 8arm fame. Kathyrn had become known for her house-made sodas, like “lavender mountain mint lemon.” Rising Son served only breakfast and lunch and gained rave reviews from the start. Ultimately it began serving “supper” on Friday and Saturday nights.
I finally made it there last Friday night with two friends. Supper is served 5-9pm and we arrived at 8:30, so the restaurant was virtually empty. It’s a predictably homey place with wood walls, a wood floor, and a wood bar. What’s not wood is white. There’s also a taxidermied coyote with a sign that discourages petting. Having run weekly newspapers in rural Georgia for five years, I grew very tired of such emblems of animal cruelty. Perhaps a taxidermied hunter could be added to the homey cubby hole where a few diners can await their tables.
Spring has only just arrived, so we did not find a hearty spread of local produce. We ordered two starters. First up was pork and ginger dumplings in chili oil with chopped peanuts, not very artfully submerged in a big bowl under cilantro leaves. Appearance aside, the dumplings were delicious. The ginger barely stung and added a faintly sweet note to the sourced Riverview pork. We also ordered a messy dish of two huge pork-and-beef meatballs in a ragu sauce, under burrata (my fave cheese), served on toast. I say it was messy because two such dressed-up meatballs for three diners require fancy knife work. Demand a super-sharp knife if you order the dish.
The go-to place on the menu is the “meat & three.” You get your choice of fried chicken, livers, trout, or a pork chop. Somehow, despite growing up with a Southern mother, I have never eaten a batter-fried pork chop, so I had to have it. It was sublimely crunchy and porky to the core, topped with browned onions. The three sides were not impressive. The black-eyed peas were unseasoned and virtually tasteless. The collards were also bland but perked up with a shot of hot vinegar. That, in turn, provided a nice contrast to the (very) sweet potatoes. The cornbread, alas, was tepid and didn’t welcome the frozen butter pats the server handed me. I did love the serving style. Everything was on one of those portioned trays used in school cafeterias and prisons.
My friend Ryan ordered the jerk shrimp. I thought it was the best dish on the table. The shrimp actually tasted like shrimp, which is unusual these days. Their flavor was clear enough, in fact, to stand up to the fiery seasonings of habanero and serrano chilies. A cooling cabbage salad and rice with scallions were the sides. Our friend Frank loved his cheeseburger made with grass-fed beef, accompanied by fries. The portion was so large that Frank didn’t eat everything on his plate for the first time in over five years of dining together. We skipped dessert. Actually, only one – a “chocolate chip cake sammy” — was available. I refuse to eat sandwiches called “sammies” — anywhere, anytime ever. Stop it.
124 N. Avondale Road, Avondale Estates