Category South

This didn’t deserve its own post: Atlanta, oh nah nah

When I take a trip somewhere, if I don’t do a day-by-day recounting, there’s usually a bunch of tidbits left over that I either couldn’t write more than a few sentences about or don’t have any photos for or would drag out the series far beyond what any human could be expected to tolerate.  All combined, however, they make for something a little more substantial, so here’s yet another one, this time about Atlanta.

We walked Walter in his stroller to Venkman’s to grab a light brunch and make an art deal

R. Land

This feels like a trap. Is it just me?

Hodgepodge Coffee

Other than the joy of slapping my peepers on a real life whale shark, I did not really enjoy my time at the Georgia aquarium. The bloodcurdling screams to lookin’ at stuff ratio was suboptimal, and surprisingly, my dolphin show experience wasn’t enhanced by being kicked in the back constantly. 

Dooley, Spirit of Emory, Lady of Misrule, and officially my favorite college mascot.

Before going to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, we fueled up at Sublime Doughnuts. Clockwise from upper left: Sweet potato cake, salt & vinegar, fresh strawberry & cream, I do not remember this donut at all, chocolate banana fritter. I’m not usually a fan of the cake donut, but the sweet potato cake was the standout of the bunch, moist and spiced with a swirl of cream cheese frosting. It’s full on cake for breakfast but I’m not complaining. 

I have no photos of the most fabulous meal I had in Atlanta, at Atlas in the upscale Buckhead neighborhood. Atlas is located in the St. Regis Hotel, with Christopher Grossman as their Executive Chef. It’s a swanky place, beautifully decorated, with art by masters on the walls, and it’s precisely the sort of place that I feel intimidated pulling out my camera to photograph the interior or my meal, because I guess I feel like I can either maintain the shabby illusion that I am the sort of person who eats in nice restaurants all the time OR I can photograph my meal from three angles but not both. I did the mental math and since I’ve really leaned into Seattle Casual™ the last few years in terms of my ill-fitting regular wardrobe, I landed on “I’m just lucky they let me inside” and left my phone in my purse.

But the food there. THE FOOD. I ate two entrees that evening. Every bite of both. I’m not ashamed. I would be ashamed to leave even a scrap of something that life-alteringly delicious behind. It’s like all of the picky, halfhearted eating I’d done over the few days prior all served to prepare me for this one beautiful meal. I’d never eaten softshell crab before I ate it at Atlas and now if I was to order it somewhere else, Atlas would be the sole point of comparison which isn’t fair to anyone involved, including the crab. My other entree, Atlas’ famous wagyu burger, was breathtaking. It’s a classic American cheeseburger with every component done to its zenith: fresh ground wagyu, cooked medium rare on a brioche bun with house ketchup, American cheese, sliced pickles, and pickled ramp thousand island dressing, with a side of perfectly crispy fries.  It is “treat yo self” expensive (for a burger) but for a meal at a AAA four diamond restaurant, it’s damn reasonable. 

Afterward, we went to a bar in east Atlanta (na na na) at the peak of Havana oversaturation and played it on the jukebox and laughed and laughed.

 

 

And that’s it for Atlanta! All the stuff I didn’t talk about really didn’t deserve its own post. 

Spotted on the Roadside: AutoEater

Autoeater is 16 tons of Italian marble encasing a Fiat Panda and resembles nothing so much as a car being devoured by a giant condom. Or a really emaciated sandworm eating the only Fiat on Arrakis. The minor controversy over what it resembles reminds me of another piece of public art I blogged about in 2014.

Spotted on 10th st NE in Atlanta, GA

Photo post: Cabbagetown in Atlanta, GA

Catlanta

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All the amazing art in Cabbagetown is made possible through an annual summer event, Forward, Warrior!, which brings Atlanta’s community of artists together for a mural painting exhibition. The paint is donated by the community, and the artists donate their time and talent. Everyone’s murals are completed within a 48 hour period. Super cool, right?

Photo post: Krog Tunnel in Atlanta, GA

The Krog tunnel is ever-evolving. Check out The Daily Krog for all their awesome documentation. If you want the full experience, you should turn your speakers on and blast the sound of a bunch of car horns, especially if you can set it up so they reverberate through the room. 

Atlanta: In and Around The King Center

We started our morning off at FolkArt Restaurant, where I had a truly beautiful sweet potato waffle topped with fried chicken and a whiskey peach compote. Between the heat, the time change, and the drinks the night before, I didn’t feel much like eating and I’m afraid they thought I didn’t like my meal because I ate so few bites. I loved it, and I was angry with my body for not wanting it. The waffle was so tender and flavorful, the chicken was perfectly crisp and greasy in the good way, and the peaches were everything you’d hope for from a Georgia peach, wrapped in a blanket of boozy spice. They were stunning together. And my stomach was jumping around in a way that told me that it was a foolish game to try and eat more than three bites. But those three bites…*kisses fingertips*

After breakfast, we went to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and got tickets for the afternoon guided tour of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home. It was a powerful experience that I’ve been finding extraordinarily difficult to write about, having realized that my education with regards to Dr. King has been subpar to say the least and I’m not going to turn around and pretend I’m qualified to educate others. The King Center was established by Mrs. Coretta Scott King after her husband’s assassination in 1968 to be “no dead monument, but a living memorial filled with all the vitality that was his, a center of human endeavor, committed to the causes for which he lived and died.” The King Center in its present structure (completed in 1982) remains alive and vital. Roses clamber upward, showcasing children’s poems about race and peace. The water around the tombs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King flows. A flame burns eternal, dancing and alive. Inside The King Center, displays invite you in close to interact, to think, to reflect, to take action when you see injustice.

MLK Jr World Peace Rose Garden

The birth home of Dr. King

The Victorian childhood home of Dr. King was recently sold to and is now run by the National Parks Service, and they offer free guided tours every thirty minutes, with groups limited to fifteen people in size. If you want to visit,  get there early to get your tickets or prepare to be disappointed. I cannot emphasize enough how relatively few people get to go inside this home every day. If there’s a tour every thirty minutes, eight hours a day, that’s 240 people maximum. By contrast, The King Center receives 650,000 visitors annually. They’re open 361 days a year, which means that on average there are some 1,800 visitors per day and only some thirteen percent of them will get to tour the home. And visiting the home has real gravitas–to stand where this civil rights leader spent his formative years, to see where his family shared their meals and lived the moments that made up their lives together, all with a knowledgeable guide.  

After the tour of Dr. King’s childhood home concluded, we walked south toward Decatur Street and took in some murals. 

Patch Whisky

I was so excited to finally see a Nychos in person!

@caveal

It’s like his eyes follow me around no matter where I move and also I’m going blind.

Caroline Caldwell

Paper Frank

This was all in a few blocks! After walking around, we grabbed lunch at Harold’s Chicken & Ice Bar so I could have my second fried chicken meal of the day and to discuss our plans for the rest of the trip. I was hot and sweaty enough at the time that I half hoped that this would be one of those situations where the bar, your glass, and your chair are all made of ice. Sadly, this was not the case, and it was on the hard, unforgiving plastic chairs of Harold’s that I learned that my sweatiness was not something I was experiencing just for me, but was, in fact, a gift I was sharing with others, as when I stood up, a horrible, steamy ass print remained behind for all to see. Later, I would take to slowly sliding my butt off of whatever seat I had been resting upon so as to sort of…smear the evidence away, but I was so horrified by this first occurrence that I just kind of tossed a napkin on it and fled lest someone see the basket of partially-eaten food and that distinctive shape in the chair and deduce that they were in the presence of a hungry ghost with a hot crotch.  (It’s probably this kind of top quality content that got me flagged by some workplace filters a while back, but am I going to stop talking about butts? No. No I am not.) 

After lunch, we headed over to the Little Five Points neighborhood to get some coffee at Aurora Coffee, do some shopping at Junkman’s Daughter, and check out more art.  Junkman’s Daughter doesn’t allow photos inside so I’ll do my best to describe it in words. Imagine a thrift store vibe but with new stuff–tightly packed racks of clothes, wide selection of merchandise all looming and touching and intermingling with a 50s raver steampunk stoner costumes-are-for-everyday-wear pop culture local art aesthetic. And then add in a second floor just for loud shoes and a smoke shop in the back. Junkman’s Daughter is so much. I love it. I bought way too much stuff there, including a framed art print of an alien with a ridiculously juicy booty playing with cats. I’ve hung it next to my desk. But there I go again, talking about butts.

There’s a mural by Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi between these two on the back of the building, but his work is as dead to me as he is


Atlanta Botanical Garden: Imaginary Worlds

Pachystachys lutea, the golden shrimp plant

Wasabi coleus

Northern Brown Snake, a non-danger noodle

I’m just going to go ahead and assume that there’s a Chihuly present at every major attraction, and it’s my job to find it. Not because I want to document them, merely so I can say “found it!” in a flippant way. 

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Sarracenia Leucophylla ‘Tarnok’, a variety of pitcher plant. This plant was named after its discoverer and propagator, Coleman Tarnok, in Baldwin county, Alabama. He gave a specimen to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, where they have cultivated it ever since. 

Dendrobates tinctorius, a poison dart frog

I don’t know what this plant is called but so help me god if it is not named cobra something or another I am going to give SUCH a head shaking.

Venus Flytrap, stealth murderer

Maneus Magnificus, the most glam rock of all known Pegasii

The Atlanta Botanical Garden is the most delightful garden I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. I was fortunate enough to go during their “Imaginary Worlds” 2018 exhibit, where creatures real and fantastical were rendered in living plants on a giant scale. The scent, the colors, the textures juxtaposed…it was impossibly lush and thrumming with life. I spent hours bugstalking and marveling at the minute details of the plants, so much so that one of the employees in the Fuqua Orchid Center exclaimed she was surprised I was still in there. Lady, I’d set up a camp and spend the night if I didn’t think there was a possibility that I’d trip over a snapping turtle in the dark.

Atlanta: Popsicles, pupsicles, and Sir Walter of Old 4th Ward

In July, I went to Atlanta to visit Carrie. Of course I was most excited to have hang time with her, but I was second most excited to meet and have hang time with Walter, her french bulldog puppy (@sirwalterofold4thward on insta). This little wrinkled sweet potato stole my heart immediately, along with the hearts of everyone we met, everywhere we went. Walter’s first thought is about whether or not he can eat whatever happens to be in front of him, his second thought is about whipping off into the forbidden bushes where dogs rule and humans’ stubby arms lack the power to stop playtime, but his third thought is pure loveback to food, probably. But among his other interests, he’s willing to accept love from anyone. Although he would probably prefer if you give your love in the form of an edible gift. 

We immediately popped Walter in his skulls & roses shirt (because he was due to outgrow it in about five minutes) and walked to Barcelona to get drinks and tapas. I didn’t take any photos at lunch, but the plate of chorizo with sweet & sour figs and balsamic vinegar was outstanding. Each fig was a bomb of rich, sweet, spicy, salty, tangy flavor. This is the sort of small plate that I really love with a crisp cocktail, and Barcelona didn’t disappoint there, either. 

On our walk back, we stopped at King of Pops to make an agonizing choice between their extensive flavor selection, and to buy a ‘lil King of Pups for Walter, made with bananas, yogurt, peanut butter, and honey. From the way he scarfed it, it was clear that he was in no way ambivalent about the flavor: Walter was all in. I got the raspberry rosewater flavor and it was super refreshing in the hot dishwasher air that is Atlanta in July. 

Northern White, by David Landis 2012

Carrie’s place was just a short walk back up the beltline, and I took the opportunity to check out what had been sprayed on and around the pillars nearby. 

One of many tiny doors sprinkled throughout Atlanta.

BBQ Becky strikes again!

Later we met a few of Carrie’s friends at Bantam Pub. The night was still sweltering somehow and the air conditioning in the pub was broken, so most people chose to sprawl out into the extensive cement and grass patio area, drinking beer from cans dripping with condensation, making the vibe very “chill lawn party”.  From there we hired a ride to The Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, which is exactly the level of permadim it takes to order the fried-to-order bbq seasoned pork rork rinds without having to make eye contact with anyone. They are served still crackling from the fryer and they are leagues beyond any grocery store pork rind experience I’d ever had. Plus, they have built-in portion control: after two, your teeth are so full of them that they automatically lock together. 

This didn’t deserve its own post: Texas

When I take a trip somewhere, if I don’t do a day-by-day recounting, there’s usually a bunch of tidbits left over that I either couldn’t write more than a few sentences about or don’t have any photos for or would drag out the series far beyond what any human could be expected to tolerate.  All combined, however, they make for something a little more substantial, so here’s yet another one, this time about Texas.

There’s a donut shop in Round Rock that’ll sell you a donut the size of Texas for just under eight bucks. This behemoth, weighing in at around two pounds, is the equivalent of twelve regular donuts, and it absolutely dwarfs the largest donut I’d had prior, at Universal Studios. I may, in fact, never eat a larger donut in my life…but one can hope. Round Rock Donuts sells ’em glazed, chocolate frosted, and for the indecisive like myself, a split donut. Both sides had their charms, but ultimately I preferred the glazed half as the chocolate frosting can overwhelm the flavor of the donut itself, and it’s a donut worth tasting, tinted yellow from all the golden yolks of the farm-fresh eggs they use in their yeasted raised dough recipe. But y’know, maybe share it with a friend. I was particularly delighted to know that the donut could support its own weight when being picked up to do a size comparison selfie with, say, one’s own head.

I was so excited to go to Chicken Shit Bingo at the Little Longhorn Saloon, which they do every Sunday between 4 and 8pm, in four rounds. There’s a live band, and an array of picnic tables around a central tent, providing shade and protection for a large chicken wire cage, lined with a board with 54 numbered spaces and littered with feed to encourage movement(s). The band announced a table number, and it was from that table that the first round of tickets were sold. Excuse me, “exchanged for a donation”. Tickets are sold exchanged first to kids under 13, then adults over 92 (with ID), and then they’re exchanged with whoever hustled over to the line fast enough, one per person. I saw a man straight vault over a table and determined that the only way for me to win was not to participate. When the chicken finally came out, people crowded around the cage six deep, shouting at the chicken and cheering. Between them and the whole camera crew in there, I could not see anything and I didn’t feel like elbowing a bunch of people to try and see a chicken take a shit, so I left.

I wandered by this place while waiting to get into my movie at the nearby Alamo Drafthouse. Or so I thought. You see, the nearby Alamo Drafthouse, on S Lamar, was busy with SXSW screenings, and the ticket I had purchased was actually for a movie showing at an Alamo Drafthouse in Fort Worth, which is also on S Lamar, just a mere three and a half hour drive away. 

In general, I really really liked Alamo Drafthouse and I’m pretty devastated that there aren’t any locations nearby. The food is delicious, the service is unobtrusive, and they’re serious about ensuring your good experience which includes none of the ubiquitous modern commercial advertising before the start of the movie, choosing instead to take you on a nostalgic tour through tv clips, movie clips, and old timey cartoons and ads for toys and candy, curated from what must be an extensive collection by someone who has love for media. And I cannot confirm this, but I think they may have invented the endless popcorn bowl, because I happily munched on herbed parmesan popcorn all throughout Annihilation and when the movie ended, I still had 70% of it left. Some of the volume left may have had to do with my drive to eat as quietly as possible so as not to disturb the other moviegoers with my excessive crunching. 

The Jackalope was…a bar. With a Jackalope. That I tragically had no one to take my photo riding.

Looking for dinner one night, neither Jason nor I could resist the allure of “Jason’s Deli” for obvious reasons. It was, sad to say, kind of mediocre. My baked potato was almost unfathomably big–it was like they crossed a potato with a loaf of bread and planted it in radioactive soil. But it was bland and the chili was unpleasantly sweet and I was glad I’d paid the extra whatever to have access to the salad bar.

We took a ferry from Galveston to Crystal Beach and regretted it almost immediately. Jason got some freezer burned ice cream, I used the bathroom, we laughed at the “BUY SHRIMP I NEED MONEY” sign, I witnessed a wholly brown wave crash onto the “crystal” trash-littered beach and turned around and headed back to the ferry. 

I wrote one word in my travel notebook for the Houston Space Center: “Yeesh.”  It’s almost like a chaotic evil engineer designed it so that the high pitched shrieks of children reverberate endlessly. 

I like that this building looks like a cockatoo.

Umlach Sculpture Garden

I saw lots of couples taking engagement and wedding photos in Mayfield park. It’s also a lovely place for a stroll or to sit and read a book, punctuated with the haunting, mournful screams of the two dozen peacocks and hens who have the run of the place.

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Colorado River

And that’s it for Texas! Anything I didn’t talk about really didn’t deserve its own post.

Spotted on the Roadside Around Austin, TX

Giant couch potatoes spotted on N Interstate 35 Frontage Road in Austin, TX

World’s Largest Cowboy Boots (check out that ostrich skin, time for some new boot goofin’) spotted on I-410 access road in San Antonio

Giant fork spotted in front of Hyde Park Bar & Grill on Duvall St in Austin (The object being forked changes!)

Light Bulb Shop spotted on Burnet Rd in Austin (now permanently closed)

Nessy spotted on Simond Ave in Austin, TX

 

Of course someone would vandalize a sculpture meant to recognize the magnificence of all humanity. Of course they would.

 

Roadside America had Your Essential Magnificence listed as a “your face here” photo op, and there are indeed small cutouts where one could conceivably put one’s face, but it seems obvious to me that this sculpture is intended to be a throne for your magnificent ass, with roughened steps to ascend and a golden halo around your head instead of a dark hole where you could barely be seen.  Your Essential Magnificence spotted on Bartlett St in Austin, TX 

Gordough’s Big Fat Donuts in Austin, TX

Gordough’s is a public house, a food truck, an experience.  …An experience I had three times in two weeks, because DAMN. The first time, I went solo to the public house and ordered a Popeye’s Roids: spinach salad with grilled chicken, honey balsamic vinaigrette, blue cheese crumbles, red grapes, roasted red peppers,  walnuts, and the star of the dish, the savory garlic donut that acted as the crouton. This glorious torus, this crispy-on-the-bottom still hot perfectly seasoned wonder of a vampire-repelling donut is the only thing about that salad that mattered.  The rest of the salad was mediocre and that’s being kind–the roasted red peppers were cold, slick, and obviously from a jar and they screwed up the entire flavor profile by fighting with every other ingredient. But that garlic donut, man. The bottom was crisp in a way that suggested it had been fried in garlic butter, and it tasted like the best garlic bread in the world. It is divine. I want THAT garlic donut with everything, especially if I can use it to mop up some kind of pasta sauce. That garlic donut is the best donut I’ve ever eaten. And I’ve blogged about donuts a lot (and I’m sure there’d be more results in that link if I was consistent with my spelling of doughnut), and will continue to blog about donuts in the future, because hard-hitting donut journalism is one of my niches, and also I just really fucking like donuts. And THIS donut is the best of the best. I’m so far behind on writing about the stuff I’ve done this year that there are donuts that I’m going to blog about in the near future, and you should know that none of them are as good as this garlic donut. 

That donut is why I went back to the public house after Jason joined me on the trip. He ordered a Dirty South: chicken fried steak, potato pancake, white gravy and a spicy cranberry jam served open face atop a piping hot donut, and for dessert, a Funky Monkey donut with cream cheese icing, grilled bananas, and brown sugar, and he really enjoyed both, despite traditionally not being a fan of the cranberry. I elected to try a donut sandwich this time, going for the Dirty Bird (I guess in addition to donuts, the theme of this visit was ‘dirty’): lemon pepper chicken with spinach, pesto, mozz, and roasted red peppers. For dessert, the Squealing Pig, with cream cheese icing, bacon, strawberry jalapeño jelly and candied jalapeños. My Dirty Bird was decent, but it didn’t really have the magic of that first garlic donut, and having had this one, I don’t think I’m down with the donut-as-a-bun experience in general. In fact, nothing I had at Gordough’s since came anywhere close to rivaling that first, perfect donut. 

It’s probably because with the exception of that salad, everything at Gordough’s is a LOT, seemingly under the guiding principle of “if some is good, more is better”. Like one donut? Have two as the bun for your sandwich! Enjoy the flavor of brown sugar? Have an entire handful on top of a thickly frosted donut! This is especially evident with the dessert donuts, even moreso with the donut hole dish I ordered at the food truck, the cherry bomb. These were served swimming in so much goo that they crossed the line from decadent to disgusting. Nothing else was disgusting–I do want to emphasize that the food at Gordough’s in general is very good, it’s just extremely decadent, even if it was being split among several people. It’s just a shame, because they have a great donut, a REALLY great donut, and in most instances you can’t even tell how great the donut is because of all the crap on top of it. And I’m getting to a point in my life where I don’t want to leave a restaurant feeling bad or throw away 90% of what I ordered because I know that eating any more of it will make me sick. The waste sickens me.

That doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop going to restaurants like Gordough’s entirely–as previously mentioned, I just really fucking like donuts, and I’m coming to find that I also enjoy writing about food in more than a perfunctory “nom or vom” way.  I don’t know how all of this is going to affect where I go and how I eat and how I’ll write about it–who knows, maybe this change has been coming on so gradually all along that I’m the only one to whom it comes as a shock.