Sometimes it’s fun to be tourists in your own city. With all of the traffic these days in Atlanta, you could say that driving inside the perimeter is a road trip for us. Tonight, we stroll thru the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and eat at nearby Madre & Mason on a fun night out.
A few years ago, Dale Chihuly had a well-received show in the Botanical Gardens.
He’s back, and has brought his glass sculptures with him.
The one-eyed artist from the left coast really knows how to integrate his work into the surrounding landscapes.
You have until October to go see these fragile works of art.
This is a food blog, not an art blog, so after you stroll through the gardens, you will probably need lunch or dinner. Around the corner from the glass art sits Madre & Mason, where you can get either.
It’s in an old warehouse district that’s right next to the gardens, and more importantly, spitting distance from the fashionable Atlanta Beltline. I have lived in Atlanta for over 40 years and have never been in this area, which also houses One Midtown Kitchen and Orpheus Brewery.
The restaurant is not in an old warehouse, but in one of those new “mixed use retail” units that are reproducing in the city like bunnies. Someone make it stop! At one time of its life, this was Cous Cous, a middle eastern restaurant.
There’s a long bar when you walk in, which is followed by the dining room.
You can also eat outside. We arrive right after they open, which is why everything is so empty. We are joined tonight by our married-for-one-year friends Christian and Shawn, who let us use their guest passes to get into the gardens. Thanks, fellas for the freebies!
As we are figuring out what to order, a celebrity appears at our table. It’s Madre & Mason Executive Chef Calavino Donati. What’s a nice Italian girl from Wisconsin doing in Georgia? Running her own restaurant. She must know that award-winning food bloggers are in the house. Actually, she does not. She comes out to welcome us and to ask us what kind of food we like and don’t like. Shawn is a picky eater, and Chef is going to tailor a dish to his tastes and helps Chris decide what he wants. When was the last time you were in a restaurant and the chef came out to rewrite the menu to your specifications? Never! Chef Donati is spied doing this at other tables. She just likes to cook and make people happy.
The menu is self-described as “Latin-Southern”. That’s a combination you don’t often see. You can get tacos, sandwiches, small plates and large plates. The large plates are big enough to share. Ready to see what Chef special-made for our friends?
Shawn tries to avoid almost anything that’s green. The Chef brings him a plate of comfort food.
Two huge slabs of turkey poblano meatloaf are accompanied by a large mound of spicy risotto. Shawn is lucky enough to take some of this home for lunch the next day.
Eve hits the tacos as well, ordering two different styles.
These definitely cover both ends of the taco spectrum. The Brussels sprouts and fig (on the right) is for vegetarians and the brisket is for beef lovers. She likes the crunchy slaw and enjoys both folded tortillas.
My meal is “out there” and does not photograph that well. It tastes better than it looks.
This has to be the only place in Atlanta where you can get duck and waffles. And those are sweet potato waffles under the two duck quarters. One leg is a bit dry and overcooked, but the other is nice and juicy. The pecan/fig/maple reduction used as syrup soaks into the waffles. Eventually, the plate is a sloppy mess of waffle, duck, and collards. It’s a lot of food, and somehow I eat it all. There will be no leftovers for me tonight.
We are stuffed, and although there is a dessert menu, we pass. We will have to eat less next time so we can order dessert.
The bottom line on Madre & Mason: Location, location, location. It’s right off the Beltline, which should be a plus in the warm-weather months. However, this spot has hosted a lot of failed restaurants, so we can only hope that Madre & Mason hangs around for awhile. Go see Chef Donati if you are in the neighborhood. She likes to cook, and chances are, she’ll make you just about anything you want.