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There’s much to love in charming, casual ‘burb

Dining in Decatur

Cakes & Ale is an example of a restaurant’s maturation into something brilliant. I remember the little fledgling store on Ponce and now they are on the forefront of the Decatur dining scene.

Cakes & Ale is the perfect date/communal gathering place because of its gourmet casual approach, with minimal clean design replete with romantic votive candles on the table. You can wear a cute cocktail dress or just some nice jeans because the vibe is like Decatur – casual and not pretentious. Need to eat alone or get out of the house from an annoying roommate? Stop at the Cakes bar and you are sure to meet someone.

The ever-changing seasonal menu, driven by Chef Billy Allin, is a fresh New South approach that’s very inventive and artisanal. I’ve always loved “southern popcorn” or fried okra and Cakes makes a nostalgic version that’s crispy on the outside with a vibrant green interior.

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Gay city slickers turned farmers offer comfort food with a twist

The Fabulous Beekman Boys

What happens when two urban gay men decide to become gentleman farmers? Planet Green chronicles the highlights and pitfalls in “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” the reality series featuring life and business partners Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell.

“We’re two city guys who bought a farm. We’ve got a herd of goats. A llama. And a whole lotta drama. Farming ain’t easy. But we make farming fabulous,” the boys explain on their website, “Or at least that’s what our TV theme song says.”

The cable series is frequently described as a gay take on the “Green Acres” motif. Since it debuted in 2010, the boys have bickered and made up through two seasons of struggle as they work to grow the Beekman farm and their Beekman 1802 brand to a level of success that will allow Kilmer-Purcell to quit his job in the city and move to the farm fulltime.

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Pride: Dining options abound near Piedmont Park

Joe's on Juniper

At Pride you’ll have as many food choices as the ex partners you might see. There will be all the festival food that you crave, like funnel cakes, gyros, and my favorite — jalapeno corn dogs that they batter dip in front of you. Get your fare, find a grassy knoll and have a people-watching picnic.

If you want to sit down in a restaurant instead, or you need to entertain guests in town for Pride weekend, options are plentiful surrounding Piedmont Park.

Near the park with great patios

Willy’s Mexicana Grill: You can’t get closer to Pride than this. Located in the front of Piedmont Park facing Piedmont Avenue, Willy’s won best burrito by the AJC and has a large patio. Choose either chicken, tofu, or grilled steak. I like lots of their chunky guacamole and visit the salsa bar. The burritos are big enough to split which would give you a healthy huge fresh meal for under $8. Good place to bring the kids and dogs.

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Sandwiches, salads and a recipe for romance

The Pie Shop

Try this recipe for hot liaisons before summer ends: Start at Alon’s Bakery & Market with an Asian BBQ salmon sandwich or roasted portobello on rosemary focaccia, with sauteed spinach, swiss cheese and basil pesto. Next add curried couscous salad or chickpea and feta salad and indulge with a big soft chocolate chunk pecan cookie.

Then grab a big quilt, some chilled pinot grigio, and citronella candles and head to Emory’s Lullwater Park with your date or partner to have a splendid twilight meal by the lake. But be careful: The impressive food, rising summer moon, chirping crickets, sparkling fire flies and candlelight might cause feelings of love to blossom. My best friend Alison did this and she and Ellie were together for two years.

Another 90-degree day, another burger joint opens. Last month saw the opening of 5 Napkin Burger at 10th and Piedmont. In July, Smashburger opened on Piedmont Road, and while a filling burger isn’t always crave worthy in the heat, Smash also has some very tasty salads.

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Perfect 10s for Double Zero

Sadly homophobia still exists even in the liberal service industry. We recently approached a notable restaurant about hosting our LGBT professional networking group and they refused.

We then anonymously asked if they would host a “straight” retirement party — same date, size and price point — and they accepted.  Why would you not want to host a group of professional LGBTs who are bar friendly?

But luckily, that wasn’t the case at Double Zero Napoletana on Roswell Road. Their response to hosting the Atlanta Executive Network and Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce last month was not chilly and elusive but extremely excited.

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Best of Atlanta: Eats

Chef Ria Pell of Ria's Bluebird and Sauced

After two months of online balloting and thousands of votes cast, we present the best of the best — our second annual GA Voice Best of Atlanta winners.

The selection process began in May, when we asked you, our readers, to nominate your favorites for dozens of awards in the categories of Community, People, Places, Eats, Shopping, Arts & Entertainment and Nightlife.

The top three finalists in each category made it through to the next round of voting. For the month of June, a multiple-choice ballot asked you to pick among the finalists for who really represents the finest in LGBT Georgia.

Thanks to everyone who voted, and congratulations to all of the worthy winners and runners up.

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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.