After saying hello world last night, Bocado, which translates loosely to mouthful or morsel, opened for business earlier today on the Westside of Atlanta. As mentioned previously, B to the C to the ado is the brainchild of Brian Lewis, who comes to Atlanta via the southern comfort of Birmingham, AL. Designed by ai3 and staffed by a people I’ve previously seen working at some successful ATL restaurants, it seems there is a strong foundation in place.
The lunch fare, which is what I had a chance to sample, is almost entirely sandwich-centric. Meanwhile, an inspection of the dinner menu shows that it is an adapted and expanded version of what’s on the lunch plate. A handful of the sandwiches are either replicated or slightly modified into salads, there are a smattering of entrées added in, and a full selection of apps. The website describes the food put out by executive chef Todd Ginsberg as “a contemporary and novel approach to holistic American fare.” Though the words novel and holistic don’t exactly pass the smell test, there does seem to be an appreciation and focus on locally grown produce. However, not everything is from the nearby, and that’s just fine by me. Stretching your sourcing wings allow you to provide a more diverse menu. That they date stamp their online menus leads me to believe that things will move and mix as time goes on, perhaps based on the season and/or based on what seems to work well.
A number of sandwiches on the menu read quite appealing and it took us a few minutes to narrow down our selections. Ultimately we decided on the meatball hero and the braised duroc pork (aka bánh mì in training). While we were informed that the sandwiches were very large, we actually found them very reasonable in size, especially given the price point. For the dainty, a single shot will do you just fine. Those with larger tummies might want to supplement the order with a side. We were just right with two sandwiches and a side of the fries.
The meatball hero was a fairly straight forward and somewhat bland production. The meatball mixture probably needs to be adjusted to incorporate some different cuts and or varietals of meat than what was used. Meanwhile, the provolone and sauce were relatively muted as well. The bread, which we were told was from H&F Bakery, seem desperately bad. Neither of us think that H&Fs fine product showed up on our plate. If we’re wrong on that … I have no idea where the technical blame falls. All I can say is that neither of us cared for the bread on either of the sandwiches. Last but not least, the menu listed garlic toast as an include. If there was garlic on the bread, we couldn’t taste it and we certainly couldn’t find it.
The braised duroc pork came with chilies, cucumbers, and “Vietnamese style garnish.” This was their take on a bánh mì and was reasonably passable. Though it didn’t do anything to excite me, codename Dallas Clark seemed to enjoy it. If you’ve ever run up BuHi, then you’ll probably be somewhat lukewarm to this. Though in all fairness, this isn’t exactly a true bánh mì. Duroc pigs are known for having a higher percentage of intramuscular fat than a number of other breeds. This heavier marbling wasn’t lost on the sandwich we had. The pulled pork included was crispy and full of natural juices. Still, even with properly cooked, high quality meat, the rest of the sandwich didn’t translate as well. Don’t get me wrong, it was a decent shot and many people will probably like it if served the example what we sampled. Still, the sauce and vegetables didn’t seem to blend together as naturally as one would expect and thus, the sandwich fell far short of the potential established by the incorporated protein. At $8.50, it didn’t upset me in the slightest. If you go, it seems a worthy option, but not destination worthy with a handful of sub-$4 bánh mì’s less than 15-minutes away.
Each sandwich came with a side of jarred sweet pickles. They were grosstastic … but then again, I’ve spent a long time chomping on pickles, and I’m particularly picky. DC seemed less frustrated, but still disappointed with them. Last but not least was the side of garlic herbed fries with a side of house made ranch. These were disappointing because of what they should have been … not because of what they were. Once again, the garlic was listed, but nowhere to be found. The herbs also seemed particularly sparse. Whether or not they mixed up the order is a mystery to me. The fries themselves were fine. Somewhat soft in most every case, some of them held a slight crisp while others had none at all. Intentional or not, I can’t say they were bad … only that I would have liked them crispier. The ranch was heavy on the chives and light in texture. More a sauce than a dressing, the chives (or what certainly tasted like chive) was the predominate flavor anytime a fry found its way into the dip.
Speaking to the menu as a whole, the sandwiches focus on the $8 price point. A few go higher and a few lower. It bares mentioning that as of now, the prices might confuse the hell out of you. They have a little gimmick where $6.75 is written as $6.3/4. It’s cool in theory, but ultimately might take you a minute to figure out. It’s further complicated by the sides section where the fries are listed as $2.3/4 and the salads as $5/10 (because the come in two sizes). That has no bearing on the the experience, but is worth a mention in case you decide to visit.
The dinner menu reads like a list of mainstream dishes with a twist of bits ‘n pieces here and there. The potato soup includes crème fraîche, the fritters are of the crab, veal cheek shoes up, as does the oyster stew. The entrées come in at roughly $12-15 while the apps run the gambit from $4.50 up to $14.
Though not swelling at the seems, the restaurant had a nice flow of traffic. The patio was nearly filled and a handful of tables on the inside were occupado. Service was as good and proficient as was necessary. All of the staff members were cleanly dressed and very friendly. We saw a mix-up one other table, but it was certainly acceptable for a restaurant of this ilk and price point, regardless of how long the place had been open. Toward the end of the meal, Ginsberg showed up (he was saying hi to all of the patrons). Based on that brief little chat, I’d say the guy is super friendly and lacks any concept of pretentiousness.
The barkeeps have taken some tips from people like Greg Best of H&F and Eric Simpkins of DrinkShop … so that’s good. With a full bar, this seems like a great spot to go chill and grab libations. Though not as beer-centric as the nearby Five Seasons Brewing, you’re much likely to find me back at Bocado, regardless of the intended focus of the experience.
Before we get out of here, it’s worth noting the space. Closer inspection left some holes (the tables and chairs weren’t up to the build quality of the aesthetic), but ultimately, the simplicity seemed right on. Think very Asian without the true adherence to Feng Shui. The music was all over the place … but seriously … that’s not worth the mention I just gave it. The only other specific notations I can make is that we didn’t see a tap in sight and the servers table in the middle of the room (a la Abattoir) seemed less functional as it could have. Too tall to be a communal spot, and two short to be an extension of the bar, it seems locked in place. With out the spacious interior of Abattoir, it’s entirely operations based.
Overall, the food didn’t blow me away. Most notably, the bread was really disappointing, especially upon hearing that it comes from one of my favorite bakeries in town. There is no way to tell which direction Bocado will head and I still prefer the sandwiches at nearby Tiny Bistro, but there is enough there to warrant a trip. I’ll certainly head back for a dinner and would be okay eating lunch here (even at status quo). A true winner? Maybe not … but how much can we really know after one meal on one trip on day one?