Dec 8, 2013

Tactical (Restaurant) Review: No. 246

With Ford Fry adventures popping up in the Atlanta area seemingly everywhere one turns, I was eager to complete my list like Santa on Christmas Eve and check to see if they’ve been naughty or nice. He and his creative team on are on a streak that cannot be denied, and with his new restaurant, St. Cecilia set to open up in December, 2013, I wanted to get more of a feel for what has inspired him in the past. Enter No. 246 in Decatur, a tag team effort with Chef Drew Belline (formerly of Floataway Café), featuring local and seasonal fare cooked simply over a wood fire through an Italian inspired lens. Though it’s been open for more then a few years now, the buzz around town that this is still a premiere location for pasta, so off to investigate.

Open space galore
The family style kitchen
A preliminary 360° drive around the restaurant confirmed that the busy Ponce de Leon location is prone to high levels of traffic and a guaranteed walk from the paid parking lot (wherever you can find one). All that being said, the energetic spot and street traffic will keep you entertained while you walk to the restaurant. Upon arrival, one is greeted with a street side advertisement and a beautiful brick façade laden front that belies the sleek interior.

Once inside the establishment, one is met with an obvious reality, that an open theme was stressed during design. And what a welcome design it is as light colors, floor-to-ceiling windows, and even a skylight emphasize the space. This theme continues to the kitchen, which true to form, allows all the patrons to watch the culinary team construct their meal. For those in the know, I’m a huge fan of this feature. Note that I reviewed the restaurant during the winter, and thus didn’t get an opportunity to experience the patio area, something I mean to remedy on my next visit.

Apple Ginger Punch

Having been sat in front of the family style kitchen, I immediately headed to the expansive bar and ordered a mock tail (it was lunch after all) from the bartender. My only request to her, make me what you want. She did not disappoint. What she delivered was what she aptly labeled Apple Ginger Punch, a fizzy, spiced concoction that delivered a perfect taste of autumn in a glass, well done. And in a classy move, they didn’t even have me pay for it, major points scored there.

With the A-frame sign footed near the front door drawing my attention to a daily special of Apple Fritters having caught my eye upon entry, we decided on adding some to our order. Lo and behold, they arrived BEFORE our entrees did leaving us perplexed and confused. What to do? Leave them on the table whilst they mock our desire not to inhale them or bend to our salivating eyes and like a naughty child on Christmas Eve with an unopened present, eat them now? Yeah, like you would’ve, we opened the present. 

Apple Fritters
Well cooked with a powdered, crispy exterior that protected an apple infused, doughy interior, these were delicious with a dollop of table side honey (take my advise and sprinkle some salt in the honey, it's good). Note that to the non-baker, some would confuse the consistency of the inside of these to be undercooked, but they were perfect and a hard mix to achieve, my compliments.

Winter Squash Agnolotti
The hyper focused lunch menu highlighted pasta, salads, sandwiches, and pizzas. I already had the seasonal agnolotti recommended to me by some fellow foodies, the only other decision was what else to get. My wife and I decided on death by carbs and ordered the tagliatelle. First to arrive was the agnolotti with winter squash and crispy sage. First and foremost, the house made pasta is to be commended. Served al dente and perfectly encapsulating the tender squash, we happily popped them in our mouths. The crispy slab bacon and fried sage were a great contrast to the steamed squash that all pleasantly relaxed in a shallow pool of browned butter. All that was needed was some fresh bread to soak some of the remnants, which, upon seeing our plates, the closest server happily obliged with out being prompted. A home run.

Tagliatelle Carbonara
The tagliatelle carbonara was simply topped with a deep fried egg, more slab bacon, chives, and grated Parmesan. This dish again brought your attention to the well-seasoned and expertly cooked pasta. This cannot go unsaid, they know what they are doing here people. But unfortunately, when it comes the egg, it’s tricky to properly fry it while keeping the integrity of a runny yoke and such was the case today. The runny yoke was missed here as the dish cried out for more sauce on the plate. Overall though, still a solid effort.

The service was understated and casual with a cadre of roaming, plain clothed personnel that seemingly were everywhere. Both happy to engage a quizzical patron or to respect the privacy of an active conversation, they floated in and out of the dining room effortlessly. Note that there was an extensive wine list that I’ll have to devout more time and effort upon my return.

Some like to quickly discredit a successful, creative restaurateur as trendy and focused on only building upon their name and brand while the actual product, the food, is left as an after thought. I’d argue that this sentiment doesn’t apply to Mr. Fry. After having tasted a healthy amount of the atmosphere, service and food in his budding empire, I feel that No. 246 perfectly epitomizes his belief that a well balanced attack on all fronts delivers his guests an experience worthy of admission. A strong recommend.

Reviewed: Nov. 2013

3.5 Alarms

No. 246 on Urbanspoon

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