An opportunity to gorge myself on the best food in town at a decent price? Sounds like a plan. This past weekend Atlantans were able to get a taste of the wide variety of cuisines found throughout their city. Held in Tech Square, the Taste of Atlanta food festival featured dishes of all stripes and varieties, giving everyone an opportunity to try their favorites and experiment with the unknown.
The festival itself was reminiscent of a market bazaar bustling with activity. People, Atlantans and Tech students alike, were all trudging about from one food/alcohol stand to the next, indulging in Epicurean pleasure. Fortunately, I arrived at around 3 p.m. and could enjoy my time in a crowded yet manageable environment.
I could hear music from nearly every part of the festival. The sounds came from all kinds of mediums from acoustic guitar players to sound systems pumping out music to fit the tone of the restaurant.
For the person who needed a nice drink to go with food, there was no shortage of expensive beers and wine tasting. Anyone who wished to indulge in the fine wines found throughout the festival, however, had to shell out more for the VIP tickets.
At about $20 for 15 tickets (most foods cost about 2 tickets), I had to be frugal with choices. My first stop was Il Mulino New York, a typical Italian restaurant but with a New York flavor. The dish I tried here was Porcini Ravioli glazed in a truffle cream sauce. The dish was certainly savory, tasting what one would expect ravioli to taste like. I had never tried truffles before, seeing it as an expensive delicacy that always seemed out of reach. That being said, I found them to be a bit overrated. The taste of ravioli with truffles didn’t seem notably different from ravioli without it, even with the allure of trying “higher class” food. While savory and enjoyable, this dish was not noticeably different from the equivalents I had tried in the past.
Shifting gears, I headed over to Max Lager’s, a vastly different restaurant that specialized in the bar and grill style of American cuisine. It was here that I tried their wood-grilled lamb sliders. The meat was definitely soft, yet succulent and being grilled with wood definitely brings out the taste. The use of lamb over beef made it significantly softer with a slightly sweet, yet savory texture. While most Tech students and Americans in general have had more than enough experience at bar and grill restaurants, this one’s use of lamb instead of steak made it a stand out.
Moving on to something even more different, I headed down the street to Chef Rob’s Caribbean Café. The restaurant placed on emphasis on Jamaican cuisine and I was able to try jerk chicken for the first time. For the spice-lovers out there, the jerk chicken didn’t deliver quite the spicy kick I was expecting. Years of hearing that jerk chicken would burn my tongue had probably raised my expectations too high. However, the food was still good in terms of taste, and the sweet taste of the rice mixed with beans was a good complement for the chicken. The chicken’s taste made up for its disappointingly mild spice.
Fusion cuisine appears to be all the rage in Atlanta. My next stop was at the Sun Dial, a restaurant that appeared to take old favorites and inject them with new twists. The dish I tried here was chili con carne. The twist: the carne was venison and it was mixed with goat cheese grits. As the meat was ground up it was easier to eat than most venison, which is normally tough and chewy. However, the cheese grits almost spoiled the dish. Grits don’t seem to mesh well with chili at all and while I like goat cheese, this dish unfortunately emphasized the grits over the cheese.
My last stop for lunch was Mosaic, a modern restaurant with a Japanese influence. It was here that I tried the Kobe beef sliders. I had heard much about Kobe beef and its alleged superiority to all other types of meat. The slider itself also had the added touch of cheese, most likely Camembert. The soft texture of the cheese mixed with the tender taste of Kobe beef made this an excellent dish. The beef was almost as tender as the lamb sliders I tried earlier and, combined with the cheese, definitely beat Lager’s already good lamb sliders.
For dessert, I went to The Melting Pot to indulge in their chocolate fondue laden brownies and strawberries. The food was rich and sweet, the way chocolate should be.
To complement this chocolate, I ordered a banana cream pie from New York Prime. In this pie I found a flavor that was just the right balance of cream and banana. Topping off my experience was Mediterranean Grill, and its sweet, flaky, honey-glazed baklava.
There are far too many dishes for me to cover here, ranging from Thai and Indian cuisine to slightly more exotic dishes such as alligator. The fact that such dishes exist here though, is a testament to this festival’s culinary diversity. With one’s willing to pay the twenty dollar price tag (much cheaper than many of these restaurants normally are), one has the chance to try a new type of cuisine that couldn’t be experienced under normal circumstances. This festival is a great opportunity for the adventurous Tech student who’s not quite adventurous enough to leave the campus.