From the archives (12.08.08)
So I promised the gang that I would give them their 15-minutes and include them in a review. So here you go guys and gals – this one is for you.
I was lucky enough to get an invite to the most exclusive of birthday celebrations! It was so tough to score that even Mandi was S.O.L.!!!! That’s saying something – she’s famous enough that she only needs one name!
Needless to say, I joined the lovely Elizabeth H (HAPPY B-DAY!!!!), magnanimous Ben O, inquisitive Chris & Leslie R (who I expect to read this entire review), and sexified Laura F, for brunch at Carroll Street Café this past Sunday. Now with that stuff out of the way, I will get on with the recapitulation.
Carroll Street Café is a mid-sized joint packed in with a handful of other businesses that are oddly situated on the edge of Cabbagetown. The restaurant is split into two rooms – one part coffee shop – one part dining tavern. Though the floor plans and furniture are distinct in each room – the décor, menu, and service are ubiquitous throughout.
I have eaten here a number of times – though it’s never a place I’m dying to go to, given the price point and the overall atmosphere, it is certainly passable. I found the meal this past week to be like most other meals I have had here.
The menu is muddled to say the least. Speaking specifically to the brunch items – you will find the choices rambling between those of a contemporary American meal and traditional American breakfast. They also take a liking to dishes from our friends north of the border, as well as those to our south. If the quality of the food, the presentation, or the execution was better, than I might be inclined to say that the diversity was appealing. Instead, it just reminds you how remarkably unremarkable everything here is.
Carroll Street does not use fresh product, nothing is made in house, and the spices and cooking techniques are straight out of some very basic cookbook. Though I think the words demi-glace appears somewhere on the menu, I seem to remember it being misspelled. I think the food buyer probably goes shopping in the frozen foods section of some nearby Kroger. While this may sound a little harsh, I think it is a fair assessment. Most of the items tend to come out as you would expect. They are neither bad, nor good. It is generally edible, but never spectacular.
A handful of the dishes I find to be particularly notable (for one reason or another). The lox plate is a true disappointment if you are expecting anything reminiscent of Zabar’s. The lox are most certainly packaged and never the same. Sometimes you get lox, sometimes you get smoked salmon. The most aggravating thing about the entire restaurant is their cream cheese. I would be fine with them delivering Philadelphia cream cheese in a plastic cup, or in a large block. Unfortunately, they give you a friend of the single-serving variety.
The red beans with poached eggs are non-eventful; though I tend to order them more than I order anything else. The beans are canned, the poached eggs are never consistent, and the guac and the pico are packaged (sound familiar?). At this last meal, one of my poached eggs was over cooked, the other was under cooked. The taste is fine, though it’s not particularly great, it’s certainly agreeable. The best thing on the menu is the Shrimp and Grits. The grits are identified as coming from the queso/jalapeño genus, but the flavor is pretty mild. These are not up to snuff with some of the other places in town – but again – it will get you suffice.
The service is usually between ample and attentive; I’ve found many of the employees to be really personable (and not in that annoying/won’t leave you alone sort of way). It has that slacker meets beatnik meets hippie vibe and a décor that is prominent throughout C-Town. The place is fairly clean, though I have found a spot on my dish or my utensil once in a blue moon.
Bottom line, given the price point – it’s alright. For the six of us, it came out to just about $15/head. Keep in mind that’s sans tip and alcohol, but also included an order of shrimp and grits that was split by the table. As far as breakfast/brunch goes, this place doesn’t come anyway close to Atmosphere, Thumbs Up, or El Gato Bizco, but it will do when you are looking for different place to grab a bite at. However, I am not motivated to eat dinner here again. Much like the other Apres Diem restaurants, Carroll Street Cafe is a neat late night spot if you are looking for some groovy tunes and a change of pace. As such, it scores highly as a coffee bar.
Address: 208 Carroll St SE Atlanta, GA 30312 // P: 404.577.2700