I try my best to visit new Atlanta eateries sometime within the first 48-hours of their opening. I think it’s always fun to try new places and it also helps me establish a baseline for the given restaurant. In addition, watching a restaurant develop and mature is part of the fun of what I do.
In the case of Social Vinings, I had promised The Don that I would go with her as soon as she was available. [In case you are wondering, The Don is the person most responsible for my families ability to function … hence the reference to the Capo de Corleone.] Consequently, I expected my first trip up to the new Paul Albrecht joint to be sometime in the coming weeks.
Yesterday was a hectic and crazy day. Plans were made only to be summarily tossed aside and replaced with new duties and tasks. Despite the chaos, I found myself freed up around lunchtime and sitting with my pops at his pad. We needed lunch and when I mentioned this new “casual bar,” my father’s brow furrowed. 30-minutes later, I found myself on the patio at Social V, iced tea in hand, and in the middle of a lovely Atlanta afternoon.
Initially, I planned to make this into a first impressions review. However, both the paternal unit and I found the sandwich offerings to be very appealing. As such, I quickly decided to turn this into a spontaneous stop on the Sub & Sandwich Tour. Sorry to disappoint, but ya’ll will just have to wait until my return for a fleshed out review of the place (and yes … like El Cid, I will return).
Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about tossing a cub like this into the lions den; however, as this is a Top Chef styled tour (i.e. you are only as good as your last sandwich), I quickly softened to the idea. So with that out of the way … LET’S GET IT ON!!!!
Sandwich One: The Fried Oyster Po Boy
Ingredients: crispy Apalachicola oysters, bacon, shredded lettuce, tomato, and in-house tartar sauce with restaurant baked bread.
Now this was one damn good sandwich. I was so impressed with the oysters on this sucker that this po boy would have been very good with half decent bread and some outsourced tartar sauce. Luckily, Social V did not take a single short cut with the ingredients.
These Apalachicola oysters, a warm-water varietal taken from the Florida panhandle, were as good as I could have asked. In retrospect, they might just be my new favorite kind of oyster. As any seasoned oyster fan will tell you, the choice of this shell buddy will play a critical role in determining the flavor of any dish. Even if Apalachicola oysters are not your favorite, it would be hard to argue with the level of quality of these babies. Pops and I are pretty sure that the oysters were fried in a Panko batter (wiki). They were light, flavorful, juicy, and perfectly crisped.
The bread represented strong! To my delightful surprise, all of the bread is made in house. In the case of this torpedo roll, the interior was perfectly toasted while the outside maintained a soft texture. All the while, the bread maintained evenly distributed heat.
Not to be outdone, the tartar sauce showed up in classic form. While you won’t find any wasabi in Social V’s tartar, you will find a pleasant assortment of traditional ingredients. The condiment was appropriately utilized in the sandwich itself; however, there was a side tin for anyone looking to go the extra mile. Meanwhile, the lettuce and tomato were bright, fresh, and well utilized. Both vegetables helped to accent the juiciness of the oysters without undermining the flavors of the more essential elements (bread and tartar sauce).
We were both a little befuddled by the bacon. This manifested as a head scratcher rather than as a complaint. The two strips of bacon were cooked as properly as everything else on the plate. On its own, the flavor of the cured meat was distinct. However, while the texture of the bacon was evident in a full bite, we both had a difficult time identifying the cured meat as we gobbled the sandwich down. Our thinking is that the bacon was used to supplement the crunch more than anything else.
Mmmmmmmm…… fried oyster po boy … achcchchchchchchc (think Homer Simpson)
Sandwich Two: Shaved Prime Rib Steak Sandwich
Ingredients: Shaved prime rib, sautéed onions and peppers, mozzarella cheese, and in-house steak sauce
I found myself a bit miffed when I placed the order for this sucker. My rules dictate that I include a vegetarian option at each tour stop. In addition, I had already decided to exclude things like the cheesesteak from the tour. After all, a cheesesteak is really a category unto its own.
BUT … rules are made to be broken. As our server Carson mentioned that this was his favorite sandwich on the menu, AND, since I really wanted a solid understanding of Social V’s proficiency with proteins, I “reluctantly” agreed to try the prime rib. Oh twist my arm why don’t you!
To me, the cheesesteak and the steak sandwich (even those with cheese) are two different beasts. The explanation of that statement is a lengthy post in waiting … so for now … let’s just take that statement at face value. Part of my aforementioned apprehension was a fear that I would walk out of Social Vinings having just had a cheesesteak. As my teeth cut through bread, the juice from the sandwich began to saturate my mouth and my fears quickly subsided. A tight delivery of flavor, later enhanced with a touch of salt, and I had all that I needed.
In a perfect world, my shaved prime rib would be medium rare. However, that’s damn hard to pull of with a thinly sliced meat. While it was just a smidge past rare, the steak was soft, flavorful, and cooked appropriately. Executive chef Derek Larsen maintained the juiciness required while not sacrificing the overall quality of the preparation. The amount of shredded cheese was generous but far from excessive. No microwaves here, it was melted just the way I had hoped. The heat was evenly distributed throughout the sandwich so that the cheese melted while still maintaining a hint of its shredded nature.
The steak sauce was an extension of the meat itself: subtle with a hint of sweetness. Ah, but let’s not forget the onions and peppers. Being that the onions used were Vidalia, the combination of a sweet au jus with vegetables sautéed in butter could have left me with a sugary aftertaste. Not this time! I was extremely pleased with the execution here. When the runner asked if we needed anything else, I requested some of the spiced mustard I had sampled with my app. It was a great addition to the sandwich!
Before I forget, they use the same hoagie bread for the steak sandwich as they do for the po boy. As with the po boy’s bread, the execution was spot on.
Conclusions & Notes
This was the most satisfying tour meal to date. I can see some overzealous professional eater scoff at the size of these sandwiches. However, this ain’t Crapway my fellow foodies. No supersized portions necessary as the portions here were ideal. To elaborate, we each enjoyed an appetizer (identified as “Love at First Bite” on the menu) in addition to our sandwiches. We left with our bellies full but our belt size safely in tact.
While it might seem unfair to put such a chef driven restaurant into the field of competitors, I had already elected to include similar spots on this extended expedition. When you consider the fact that both of these sandwiches came in at $10.00 a pop, you begin to understand that a successful sandwich is more about the person in the kitchen than it is about the cost of the ingredients. Make no mistake, crap in = crap out. Just the same, high quality ingredients do not guarantee a successful meal, let alone a successful sandwich.
(Scoring & Rules Explains)