Atlanta gets its second major snowstorm in two weeks and Date Night is stuck in the middle of it. We have jobs that we must be present for, and for this storm we “rough it” in the Omni Hotel at CNN Center for three nights. Adventurers that we are, we take the opportunity to go out to dinner three times and chronicle the meals for our faithful readers.
The Smoke Ring
Tuesday night before the big snowfall hits, we walk about a half-mile to Castleberry Hill, which has a few restaurants including The Smoke Ring.
We may be some of the last bloggers to visit here. Many have come before us, and the buzz has been positive. It’s located in one of those retail/residential complexes next to the railroad tracks. Smoke Ring is located on the back of the building, and unless you know it’s there, it’s hard to find. We figure it out and are greeted by some very friendly staff inside.
There’s all sorts of up-cycled wood at the bar and on the tables. We like the decor, and the beer list.
I go for the Old Chub, which is the Oskar Blues version of a Scotch ale. It’s very malty with a slight coffee finish, much like Monday Night’s Scotch Kilt. Eve gets the Ommegang Rare Vos, a Belgian single that they have on draft. It’s one of our favorites from Cooperstown, NY and should be in the beer hall of fame.
We try their version of fried green tomatoes.
These come with goat cheese, chow-chow and pepper jelly. The tomatoes are hot and crunchy. The goat cheese cools down the spiciness of the “southern cole slaw” and the pepper jelly. It’s a good start to our meal.
We are here for the BBQ. Bring it on. Smoke Ring has a platter where you can select two meats, and a side.
We pick the brisket and the ribs. For those of you who don’t know, the “smoke ring” is the ring of color around the outside of BBQ meats. You can see it on our brisket. This brisket is some of the best we have had. It’s moist and slightly smoky. There are four sauces to sample, but they really aren’t needed with either meat. There is enough flavor from the smoker to carry this plate without sauces.
Who would think you could get good BBQ in this part of Atlanta? It’s a good restaurant in a strange location. The Smoke Ring is worth finding and merits a visit.
Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria
By Wednesday night, we are totally snowed in and almost everything in the area is closed. We walk a few icy blocks down Marietta Street to Max’s. There is no traffic, which allows us to walk right down the middle of the cleared road.
Max’s, which is owned by the same people who own Stats on one side and Der Biergarten on the other, has cobbled together enough staff from all three restaurants to keep one open. Our last visit to Max’s was not good. Our to-go pizza was skimpy and was basically some dough with tomato sauce on it. We are hoping that this will be better. There is only one thing we can do…
Check out this huge plate of antipasto, which we get for our appetizer. There’s a lot of stuff here for $12.
It’s beautiful and gets an “A” for presentation. Mozzarella cheese, gouda, parmesan, garlic bread, artichokes, olives, peppers and all sorts of cured Italian meats grace this platter. I take half of it for lunch the next day.
Eve cozies up to the brick oven, which cooks all of the pizza.
She claims she is there to take a picture, but I suspect she’s there because it’s so warm. The pizza chef tells her that there’s coal in the oven for heat and wood for flavor.
A few minutes later, our pizza comes out of the hot oven.
We “make our own” and choose a mushroom and spinach pie. It’s much better than our last pizza here, but the tomato sauce is on top of the pizza, not under the cheese. Did they forget to put it on and add it later? It probably all tastes the same anyway, so who cares? We are just glad they are open and that we had a good meal here.
No Mas Cantina
By Thursday, we could have gone home, but Eve has to be in at 5AM and there are re-freezing fears on the roads. We gut it out one more night and walk down to No Mas, which is also in Castleberry Hill near The Smoke Ring. The walk is slushy, but uneventful.
We come here on a lot of work occasions, mostly going-away parties. Inside, it’s gorgeous, and pretty crowded at this early hour. Maybe these people have cabin fever. We know we do.
We pass on the mostly-Mexican beer menu and dive right into the basket of tortilla chips.
One of our suspicions in life is that there is a secret ingredient in tortilla chips that won’t let you eat just one. One basket, that is. These are warm and salty and don’t last long.
The menu is what you would expect: lots of enchiladas, tacos, and burritos along with some interesting entrees. We both keep it simple.
Eve gets the fish tacos, which are a tad spicy due to the chipotle sauce on top.
I go for the carnitas (pork) burrito grande, which is large in size, but pequeno (small) in taste. It’s dry and has no flavor. Later, looking back over the menu, I notice that it was served without the cilantro lime sauce and queso. That would have helped a lot.
On its website, No Mas bills itself as “the best Mexican restaurant in Atlanta”. It’s not. The service tonight is sketchy. Our chips don’t get refilled and neither do our water glasses. The unfortunate woman at the table next to us gets a large margarita dumped on her by our server. Messy. It’s probably time for us to say “no mas” to No Mas.
Home Sweet Home
Friday night, our normal date night, is Valentine’s Day, and we stay home, celebrating with fine wine, cheese, chips, and dips. Although we can’t rate it on Urbanspoon, it might be our best meal of the week! Happy Valentine’s Day!