This week has been a pretty successful week for me (as far as food goes). I had a little chili in Ellijay, a return trip to Holeman & Finch, an introductory trip to Patak Meats, and two trips to Via Elisa. Subconsciously, this must have been a self-imposed reward after last weeks excursions. I’ve already mentioned my trip to the Shed; now it’s time to talk about Dogwood.
This is a quick hit, so I will not elaborate on Dogwood as much as I would if this was a full on review. I’ve now eaten here more than a few times, and I am sufficiently convinced that this restaurant is the poster child for everything wrong with dining in Atlanta. While the Shed is an outright disaster, Dogwood is more of a frustration.
This is due, perhaps, to the abundance of love doled out by everyone else; perhaps to the hospitality and warmth of the staff [From the top all the way to the bottom, they are FANTASTIC in that respect]; and perhaps, to the notion that if ATL wants great restaurants … we’ve got to walk before we run.
While I excuse myself from the need to espouse the supplementary details, I’ll hit you with a few food thoughts. If hard pressed, I would say the food at Dogwood is satisfactory. Nearly every dish I have tasted, with the exception of the “Grits Bar” [a joke of a concept I’ll touch on in a minute], has had a flaw in execution. While some are minor offenses, a number have been fairly obtrusive.
Take for example the mussels. Chef Shane Tuohy serves the mussels over a white wine broth that is infused with smoked tomatoes. The restaurant is so confident in this dish that they offer up all you can eat mussels every Tues-Fri. For $20, you may eat until your are plump while you enjoy an included glass of Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc [bar only btw].
As Dogwood purports to be a Southern American culinary treat, it is imperative that the freshness of ingredients be of primordial importance. Note to Tuohy: mussels are in season from September to April. This being prime time, I expect an excellent mussel. A deal or not, this dish does not deliver in that department. Further to the point, the smoked base is initially intriguing. However, after a handful of bites, the smoked tomatoes take over the dish. The broth begins to argue with itself as the garlic and wine are slowly beaten into submission by our little red friends.
Other issues compound the problem. Dogwood’s operators need to do a better job with the menu in both form and function. At the top of the menu, patrons see what is described as a grits bar. In every aspect, this is the best it gets at Dogwood. The grits are almost always plump and the accompanying protein seems to always fit nicely into the fold.
The word bar is a total misnomer. Even in the most abstract sense, I do not understand the reference in the trio of offerings. When you consider the price point … I’m just damn befuddled. The portion of each sampling is too large to be serve as an amuse-bouche (wiki); meanwhile, it is too small to serve as a small plate. Simply put, it would be truly schaweeet to see this come to my table as a “Hi, nice to see you.” Even better, dispense with the ridiculous cost and offer all three as a single sampler platter.
I will most certainly return because Dogwood is extremely convenient to me and it is not bad enough to throw away entirely. Atlantans’ have come to really enjoy the food at Dogwood … C’est la vie. However, I long for the days when a spot like this is at the gateway to our culinary world and not at its epicenter. WAAAY overpriced at $25.00 and up for a main course, I am hard pressed to find a reason to recommend Dogwood as a destination for any dinner.
I should have a full review ready after another trip or two … after that point, I’ll wax poetic.