It’s no secret – my husband and I love to eat. That is, we love to eat good food. The very first time we shared a meal was in 1992. Chip prepared a stir-fry and rice – I was vegetarian at the time, so my portion was meat free and his had chicken. He did a pretty good job, and I loved the fact that this guy made me a meal for our first date. Being college kids at the time, we didn’t have a lot of money, so we didn’t dine out very often. I recall hitting a few pizza places, and going out for Indian food, and of course various cafes and bars, but the first really nice meal out was at a French restaurant called Tulips in St. Paul, MN. It is no longer open, and I cannot remember what I ate, but I know it was delicious and the restaurant had a nice romantic atmosphere.
After we were married in 1995, we travelled to the island of Curacao for our honeymoon and it was there that we had all kinds of wonderful dishes at a variety of restaurants. We had our first “fine dining” experience at one of the restaurants at the resort. White linens, waiters with bow ties and crumb scrapers, different courses, and poached pears in white wine for dessert. We were hooked. For over twenty years now, we have explored countless restaurants in locations from San Francisco to New York, trying all kinds of dishes along the way some fancy, some not so much.
We also introduced our children to dining out at very early ages: Madelyn joined us at one of our favorite restaurants in Pepin, WI called the Harbor View Cafe, when she was just 5 days old. She slept through the entire meal. Obviously, we stuck with mostly chain/family friendly restaurants for our weekly Friday night meals, and we encouraged our kids to interact with the servers on their own, ordering their own food. One time at Ruby Tuesdays when our youngest was about 4 years old, she asked for a Miller Light. The server brought her a Sprite. We did introduce them to nice restaurants as well. On a family vacation in Miami one year, we took the girls to Emeril’s in South Beach (now closed). We called ahead, made sure the chef could prepare something for the children, and chose to dine early, at 5:00 to avoid the crowds. While they dined out frequently with us, and knew how to behave, the fact of the matter is they were still children and sometimes children can be brats, so we took the necessary steps to ensure a smooth and peaceful dinner. The meal was fabulous, the waitstaff was wonderful, and the chef prepared pasta (not on the menu) for the girls. One of the servers came back to check on us before our entrees arrived and asked our youngest, “Well, how did we like our bread?” to which she replied in the sweetest voice, “It was quite disgusting, actually.” He brought the bread tray back and allowed her to select a different roll. And we all had a good laugh.
Union Hill Grill, Canton GA
As empty nesters, we dine out more frequently than we used to. I think part of it is the freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want, and part of it is it’s a lot cheaper to go out to eat when there’s only two of us, versus a family of four. This weekend was no different than any other; we joined some friends for dinner at a restaurant here in Canton (just north of Atlanta) called Union Hill Grill. Even though the restaurant has been around for several years, we had never tried it out before. It’s a nondescript little strip, sort of in the middle of nowhere, however just 15 minutes from where we live. The restaurant is nicely decorated and was very busy on a Friday night. We were greeted, led to our friends at the bar, and immediately seated. Their cocktails are very good. I had the the Afterwards, made with buffalo trace bourbon, galliano, thatcher’s elderflower, lemon juice and peel. My husband had the Silver Coast, which was nolet gin, thatcher’s elderflower, atsby amberthorn, lemon twist.
Both were good enough for a second round. The menu features steaks and chops, fish, crab cakes, burgers, and more. We started with the calamari appetizer for the table, and my husband had the pear salad. Both were delicious, and I really loved the peppadew peppers they toss on top of the calamari. For entrees, two of us had the Mahi special, which was topped with a pineapple salsa and served over yellow rice. My husband had the bone-in filet with a side of the most delicious oven roasted sweet potatoes. Everything was delicious (I think we all cleared our plates!). If you are ever in the Cherokee County area, give Union Hill Grill and try. We will definitely be back.
The Lawrence Atlanta GA
Saturday evening had us ITP (Inside The Perimeter for those unfamiliar with Atlanta) tending to some business in Midtown. We decided spontaneously to have dinner while in town, so I tried to get a reservation at Poor Calvins, but was unable to as they were booked for the night. I opened Yelp on my phone and at my husband’s suggestion, searched for “cocktails” instead of “restaurants.” Great idea. We landed on The Lawrence and decided to give it a whirl. There weren’t any tables available, but as luck would have it, several people were leaving the bar as we entered, so we took a couple stools and settled in at the bar.
If I had to sum it up in one sentence: Best cocktails ever. This place doesn’t just do craft cocktails, they do craft cocktails right. Their bartenders are true mixologists and watching them craft their art is part of the entertainment. The bar is lined with fresh herbs, citrus, and bottles of bitters all used in the drinks. I poured over the cocktail menu for quite awhile, and finally decided to try the House Old Fashioned made with Russell’s Reserve 10YR Bourbon, Bitters, Raw Sugar. I know an old fashioned is a basic drink, but everyone has their own spin on it and this one was outstanding and so smooth. I was going to sample something else from the menu for the second round, but instead got another one of these because it was so good, and vowed to try something else next time. My husband tried both the Me So Thorny made with Cocchi Rosa, Cotswold’s Gin, Bruto Americano, Lemon, Grenadine, Egg White, Rose Water, and the Juniper Tree made with St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin, Hayman’s London Dry Gin, Raspberry Brandy, Lemon, Egg White and little juniper berry floating on top.
The food was just as good as the drinks – flavorful and nicely prepared. We decided to be adventurous and started with the Duck Tongue Wontons. They sounded exotically weird, but tasted delicious. For the entrees, I had the scallops which were served on grits with a tomato broth, and my husband had the goat cheese chicken breast served on wild rice with asparagus. As basic as chicken is, you wouldn’t think this dish could knock your socks off, but it did. The chicken was perfectly prepared and flavorful – a “must try” if you go. We capped it all off with a peanut butter mousse dessert encased in a crispy chocolate graham crumb crust. OMG. It was fabulous.
Besides the tasty drinks and food, the one thing that stood out to me was the staff – from the hostess to the folks behind the bar and the people who brought us our food, everyone was so nice. There is absolutely no pretentiousness here. The friendliness of the staff and their knowledge of food and drink really completed a perfect dining experience. But, I do have to say the star of the night was the valet guy. Valet parking is actually kitty-corner from the restaurant. The attendant greeted us immediately as we pulled in, was super friendly, and told us we didn’t need a ticket because he had a photographic memory. We smiled, thanked him, and as we walked across the street we laughed, hoping our car was still going to be there when we returned. A couple hours later as we were leaving, I was joking that the “valet parking” wasn’t really “valet” because it was across the street and our car was parked at the front of the lot so it wasn’t as if the guy had to go retrieve our vehicle, it was right there. As these words escaped my mouth while we crossed the street, we watched the valet guy hop into our vehicle, pull it out of the parking lot and onto the street, directly at the intersection in front of the red light. He opened the door, told us to take a right and to watch out for the potholes. I’ve never had such service from a valet before! He knew precisely the right moment to pull the car out (and he indeed remembered us). So, bravo Valet Dude. That was awesome.
Another fantastic weekend of dining in the ATL. We’ll see what next weekend brings!