Atlanta Restaurant Bucket List: King + Duke

A few months ago, I posted about my Atlanta Restaurant Bucket List. I have a good friend in Atlanta who is always down to go on foodie adventures with me, and every few months I try to get back over to Atlanta to check some more restaurants off the list.

This past weekend, I had to go to Atlanta for a friend’s party, so I came in a night before to check a restaurant off the list. Prior to my visit, I had sent my friend the list and told him to just pick one and make reservations. He chose King + Duke, another Ford Fry masterpiece (last time we visited The Optimist), this one focused on open-hearth seasonal cooking.

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We like to go all out on our meals together, so of course we never can pass up drinks or starters. K+D has an incredible craft cocktail menu and I was immediately drawn to the Duke “James and the Giant Peach.” With Buffalo Trace Bourbon, honey roasted peaches, lemon, and mint, it was so refreshing and a cocktail I could drink all summer long.

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With some many great starter options on the menu, we couldn’t choose just one, so we opted for three: Deviled Eggs, Pimiento Cheese Hushpuppies, and Avocado Toast. Had we known we would also be getting Yorkshire pudding as the complimentary bread offering, we probably didn’t need to indulge so much, but we couldn’t resist! And can I just interject here that Ford Fry is a master with his breads? The Yorkshire pudding was so deliciously eggy and warm inside with a crisp outside and just pure perfection. Remember my last Atlanta post where I raved about his dinner rolls at the Optimist?!

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Ok, back to the appetizers. The deviled eggs had an incredibly creamy yolk filling, the pimiento cheese hushpuppies were moist and served over a bed of homemade pimiento cheese and topped with a spicy pepper jelly, and the avocado toast was incredibly fresh with micro greens, salty ricotta salata, and crunchy radish on top of avocado mash smeared on a thick slab of crusty bread. And aren’t they all so beautiful?!

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For my entree, I ordered the Springer Mountain (half) Chicken. It was phenomenal. It had a roasted-on-the-hearth taste that gave it a smoky, earthy flavor. The chicken was moist and the skin was just slightly crisped. It was served over panzanella, but we’d had so much bread in our appetizers, I really just focused on the chicken.

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My friend ordered the Duck “Coq au vin,” and while I can’t speak on it because I don’t like duck, he said the chicken was much better. Although, the roasted summer vegetables it came with were great.

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For our dinner side (as if we needed any more food), we got the Heirloom Tomato salad. Oh my lawd. This was hands-down the best tomato salad I have ever had. We couldn’t get enough of it. It was full of gorgeous, colorful heirloom tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, mixed with cucumbers and topped with shaved pecorino cheese. AND THE DRESSING — literally could not get enough. It was a peppercorn dressing with such a rich, milky flavor that complemented the tomatoes perfectly. After we ate all the tomatoes, we started taking pieces of bread from my panzanella and dipping in it (so much for too much bread). We even took home what remained of the sauce to eat with my leftover chicken.

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And then because how could we come this far and not have dessert?! We ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream. Again, incredible. Did we need it? No. Are we glad we got it? Hell. Yeah.

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Definitely check out King + Duke next time you’re in Atlanta. Request to be seated on the patio if the weather is nice. We sat outside and it is a lovely place for happy hour, drinks, or dinner.

A New Addition

The next morning for breakfast, my friend took me to a place that wasn’t originally on my bucket list, but he informed me it should be. Home Grown has been around in Atlanta for a long time, serving up breakfast and lunch made from local produce, but at an affordable price. It’s your typical no-frills Southern joint, and has become a staple for down home Southern cooking; even the likes of Presidents have visited.

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We went Sunday morning and waited for about 25 minutes for a table, but not to worry, Home Grown puts out coffee for those who just can’t wait for their table. We were eventually seated in a cozy table in the back, across from the consignment thrift store housed in the back of the restaurant! Such a unique atmosphere.

We all ordered the Comfy Chicken Biscuit because it’s one of their specialties and it couldn’t have been a more perfect Southern breakfast. Thin sliced chicken cutlets were fried in a crispy, peppery batter and served over fluffy biscuits, and topped with an incredible sausage gravy. The gravy was just as rich as you’d hope it to be, but wasn’t too heavy or salty. I ate every single bite of my dish. And now I’m craving it again. Why am I writing this while I’m hungry?!

Anyway, I’m so glad my friend introduced me to Home Grown and I highly recommend you all add it to your ATL Bucket Lists!

Stay tuned for more posts in the future as I regularly update my restaurant list!

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Friday Lunch Edition: Melt Avondale

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I have a confession to make. I’m not a huge fan of Melt Food Truck.

When I moved down here and people kept talking about this grilled cheese truck, I was so excited to try it. A gourmet grilled cheese truck?! How could I not love it?

But unfortunately it did not live up to the hype. There are really only one or two sandwiches I could classify as grilled cheeses on the menu; everything else is just a hot sandwich. I’ve given it so many chances to be what it could be, but it’s just not. And it’s not like the sandwiches are bad, but when you’re expecting a buffalo grilled cheese and you get a sandwich with two whole chicken tenders and one slice of cheese on it or an “open-faced” caprese sandwich that is actually a pizza, it’s a little misleading.

So when Melt opened a restaurant in Avondale, I was reluctant to try it. HOWEVER, I have to say, after my first trip today, that Melt functions much better as a restaurant than a food truck. As a brick-and-mortar, I think Melt has evolved into more of a restaurant with specialty sandwiches, salads, and appetizers instead of holding on to the grilled cheese label.

I took my little sister because I knew it was a menu she would like, and we were both impressed. It has a great atmosphere and a nice screened in porch to take advantage of in the warm weather.

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I planned on getting just the regular grilled cheese with a side of tomato basil soup, but when the waiter mentioned the special flatbread they had today, I changed my mind. I thought I would give something else a chance since I hadn’t previously been impressed with the truck’s sandwiches.

The flatbread had mozzarella cheese, grilled chicken, pecans, apples, and a bacon balsamic drizzle. It came with a side salad with heirloom tomatoes and some sort of herb vinaigrette.

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It was really good! The flatbread was crispy, the chicken was real white meat chicken and had a good marinated flavor, and the bacon balsamic drizzle had a really nice herby taste that complemented the chicken, cheese, and pecans. The salad and dressing was also good, and the tomatoes tasted so fresh.

My sister got the Mac Melt, which is mac and cheese in a grilled cheese on Texas Toast. This was the first thing I ever tried from the truck, and was so disappointed. It was just dry mac and cheese sandwiched between bread, but I was happy to see they had improved it for the restaurant.

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The mac and cheese was so creamy, and there was also additional cheese melted on the sandwich, which kept it from being dry like the first sandwich I had. It was really good. Obviously it’s a carb overload, but if you’re looking for a splurge dish, this would be it.

And speaking of splurge dishes…we decided to order dessert to satisfy our sweet cravings. We opted for (there’s always money in) the Banana Stand, which is Nutella and bananas melted between Texas Toast, sprinkled with powdered sugar and drizzled with clover honey. So sinful; so good.

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So if you haven’t been to Melt the restaurant, I would definitely give it a try. It’s a great place to take a lingering lunch or hang out at on the weekends. But if you do go for lunch during the week, expect that you might have to wait a little. We got there around 12:30pm and were told it would be a 35 minute wait. It turned out to only be about 15-20 minutes, but just factor in that that might happen.

Friday Lunch Edition: Ranelli’s Deli

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Ranelli’s Deli is one of those places that if you saw it, you probably wouldn’t give much of a second thought about it. I’d driven by it a million times and noticed there were always a lot of cars in the parking lot, but never thought to go there until I started hearing great things about this little Italian deli.

Ranelli’s has been a landmark in Birmingham’s Southside area for more than 40 years, and when you walk in, you can see that it is still a favorite of locals and those who have been going there for years. The ten or so tables inside consisted of elderly men gathering with their friends, good ol’ boys chowing down on sub sandwiches, and young professionals meeting for lunch.

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The walls are plastered with old photos, jazz concert posters, and article clippings. White boards with the handwritten menu hang from the ceiling. Ranelli’s is famous for their Richman Po’Boy – a loaf of Italian bread stuffed with ham, corned beef, peppered beef, Swiss cheese, pastrami, salami, and Provolone and topped with their housemade olive salad – but I opted for a different menu choice since I despise olives and anything that tastes like them (I’m not a picky eater but olives are an absolute no-can-do for me).

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I ordered the meatball sub because it seemed like an appropriate place to do so, and it was really good. Of course, no meatballs can beat my Italian family’s generational secret recipe, but these were a pretty good option for when I’m in need of a quick meatball fix. I got the small sub (6-inches), and it had 3 huge meatballs covered in sauce and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. The meatballs were very flavorful and the sauce definitely tasted homemade. I liked that there was sauce underneath the meatballs on the bread, as well as on top of them. The bread they used was very fresh and had a great taste. I got the salad and drink combo with it and only paid $7.69.

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If you’re in Southside looking for a good, hearty lunch, Ranelli’s should be your go-to place. It’s quick and affordable, and you definitely won’t leave hungry. They also have daily specials, including all-you-can-eat lasagna day on Thursday. Yeah, you read that right.

Friday Lunch Edition: Red Pearl Restaurant

Woohoo it’s Friday! This week has just seemed to drag on and on and on. But it’s finally the weekend and nothing starts the weekend off right like another delicious Friday lunch. If you work around the Homewood area of Birmingham, you have got to put Red Pearl Restaurant in your regular lunch rotation.

Red Pearl is located inside Super Oriental Market off Valley Avenue and is arguably the best Chinese restaurant in Birmingham. The building doesn’t look like much from the outside, and you walk into what looks like just a small Asian market. There are tanks of fish and bullfrogs along one wall (yes, bullfrog is a specialty on the menu). But turn right to go into the restaurant and you’ll find a beautifully decorated and newly updated dining room.

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When we got there, there was a line to be seated due to the lunch rush, but it moved quickly and even after standing in line, sitting down and ordering, eating, and then walking around the market to purchase items, we were only there a few minutes past an hour. Service was quick but attentive.

At lunchtime during the week, you have the option to order off the lunch menu or the regular menu. Wesley ordered General Tso’s Chicken from the lunch menu and I opted for the Chicken with Garlic Sauce from the regular menu. Each dish came with white rice. We also got an order of Steamed Mini Pork Soup Buns to split. Since the food is meant to be served and shared family style, they bring the dishes out to you as they are ready. It’s nice to know that your food isn’t sitting in the back getting cold.

The Chicken with Garlic Sauce was our waiter’s favorite dish, and he definitely made a good recommendation. It was tossed in a slightly spicy sauce with large pieces of white meat chicken, bamboo shoots, onions, carrots, and peppers. Red Pearl will adjust spiciness to your preference so I had asked for mine to be just a little spicy, and it was the perfect amount. It added a little kick but didn’t overwhelm the other flavors. It was by far some of the best Chinese food I have ever had. I would definitely order this dish again.

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The General Tso’s Chicken was also really good. As you know, General Tso’s is breaded and fried, and tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce. Again, the sauce had the perfect amount of kick to it. The breading was still crispy and you could tell it was freshly made. If this is your go-to Chinese takeout dish, give Red Pearl’s a try. It’s such an upgrade from the soggy kind that comes in a plastic to-go container. You know what I’m talking about.

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The soup dumplings are also worth trying. If you like regular pork dumplings, you will probably like soup dumplings. When you bite into them (and you must eat them whole in one bite), you get a rush of flavorful broth in your mouth. They were also the perfect mini size. I’ve had them at Mr. Chen’s in Hoover (another great Chinese restaurant) but they were a little larger and harder to eat in one bite there.

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After we finished our lunch, we walked around the market to see what kind of interesting products they had. You can find every type of Asian ingredient, sauce, or produce you could ever need there. I was delighted to find that they had some of my favorite Asian candies, as well as mochi ice cream, which I can’t find anywhere else. I picked up some mango ginger chews and red bean mochi ice cream. Commonly called red beans although they are Adzuki beans, these beans are normally eaten sweetened and made into red bean paste for use in traditional Asian desserts. Don’t be weirded out. They taste nothing like the beans you are thinking of, and red bean mochi and red bean mochi ice cream are both delicious.

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I can’t say enough about Red Pearl so you must go try it for yourself. The food is full of flavor, the market is authentic, the servers were all kind and helpful, and did I mention it’s cheap?! The lunch specials range from $5.99-7.99 and the main entrees are only $6.99-8.99 on average, and a little more for seafood ($9.99-11.99). And the portions are huge! I took some of my chicken home for leftovers. So next time you’re looking for a way to spice up your lunch routine (or dinner!), you can know that you’ll always get a good meal at Red Pearl. Now where are those leftovers….I’m ready to eat it all over again!

My Atlanta Restaurant Bucket List

Happy Thursday, and sorry it’s been a little while since posting! I spent this past weekend in Atlanta, visiting a good friend from college. Since Atlanta and Birmingham are only 2 hours apart, we take turns visiting each other in our respective cities. And since he is a foodie like me, the first thing we always plan is what restaurants we’re going to eat at. I would be lying if I said our trips aren’t almost completely based on getting to visit new restaurants…

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Like any good foodie, I have restaurant bucket lists for most cities, and Atlanta is no exception. In fact, I think my list for Atlanta is probably one of the longest. There is so much going on in their food scene now. I need to spend a whole month just eating there! But alas, we only had a weekend, but we packed in as much food as possible!

Here’s what we checked off this time:

The Optimist:
I have been wanting to go to Ford Fry’s seafood restaurant for quite a while now. I had heard amazing things about it, and as a lover of good seafood, I couldn’t pass it up. And it lived up to expectations. I knew from the minute they brought out their homemade rolls, it was going to be a good dinner. The rolls were soft, pillowy, brushed with melted butter, and sprinkled with sea salt. I could have eaten 20 of them. Seriously, I am praising a restaurant’s dinner rolls. For an appetizer, I order the Frothy She-Crab Soup, which was served in an individual soup crock with shrimp toast on the side. It was thinner in consistency than most she-crab soups, but I liked this because it felt less heavy. However, it was a large portion for an appetizer and could have been split with someone.

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For my entree, I ordered the monkfish with tomato fumet, squid, octopus, and clams, on the recommendation of the waiter saying it was the chef’s favorite dish. Monkfish is a firm white fish, often compared to the texture of lobster. It was lightly battered and fried and the fumet provided flavor without overwhelming.

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But the real star of the show was the corn milk hushpuppies served “beignet style” (aka fried and topped with powdered sugar) and served with cane syrup butter. Y’all, these were so.good. I wanted all of them but had to be nice and share with the table. Also, the brussels sprouts with candied bacon and charred jalapeño vinaigrette were so delicious and filled with flavor. We ended dinner with the banana cake, which, while very tasty and enjoyable, wasn’t anything to write home about.

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The General Muir
I added The General Muir, a Jewish delicatessen, to my list the second my friend sent me a picture of their Pastrami Poutine. Yes, Pastrami Poutine. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, too. We decided to do General Muir for brunch on Saturday with another friend of mine. We immediately ordered the poutine and it was everything I knew it would be. It was covered in a rich gravy and topped with crisped pastrami and salty cheese curds. (Side note on cheese curds: people think they are weird and gross, but they just taste like a saltier version of whatever cheese they are made from. I fell in love with them in Wisconsin and now never pass up a chance to get them.)

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For my main dish, I had the Poached Eggs and Grits. The grits were made with gruyere and topped with roasted mushrooms in a madeira sauce. It was a wonderful dish with clean flavors. I could have eaten a whole bowl of just the grits alone. I also tried bites of my friends’ smoked sable on a bagel with cream cheese and Pecan Crusted French Toast (made from challah bread – yum). Everything was done very well and incorporated Jewish flavors into both authentic and Southern-influenced dishes. Another side note: I think this is what I like most about Atlanta’s food scene – that they are able to take these flavors from all over the world and put a Southern spin on things to represent the region and culture.

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Holeman and Finch
You may have heard about Holeman and Finch in regards to their famous burger, but I’m here to tell you there is more to H&F than just the burger (although it is seriously amazing). H&F is a great place to go and get some cocktails while trying a bunch of dishes from the menu. Nothing comes in huge portions and there are plenty of snacks and starters if you just want to do drinks and apps. Since there are so many intriguing options on the menu, my best advice is to share, share, share. Two of us ordered four snacks and two entrees (plates) and split everything. It was the best decision we made.

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The snacks all condensed great flavors and innovation into small bites. We loved the Deviled Eggs Three Ways (pork, hot & spicy, and bread-and-butter pickle) and the Pimiento Cheese with sesame crackers. For our entrees, we got the Carbonara and the Burger. We considered not getting the burger since we had both already had it at Turner Field (they have a burger stand there), but it’s so good we couldn’t resist. We were also really impressed by the carbonara, which was full of garlicky, cheesy flavor and made even creamier by stirring in the farm-fresh egg yolk on top. Also, H&F has an incredible creative cocktail menu, so make sure you order one to sip on. Important to note: Holeman and Finch is a small place, and it fills up fast, so make sure to make a reservation before you go (you can easily do it online here).

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Krog Street Market
This food hall and market opened just recently in the Inman Park area and I had been dying to go. Located in a restored warehouse, the market is full of stalls serving specialty foods and selling crafts and locally-made goods. There are sit-down restaurants flanking the outside of the market and food stalls and community seating inside. I immediately gravitated to Yalla, a Middle Eastern food stall by Todd Ginsberg. I had gotten a couple of good recommendations about it, and I’m never one to pass up Middle Eastern food. I loved the ability to mix and match your dish that Yalla provided. You first choose weather you want a bowl, pita, or laffa (wrap), and then choose meat, falafel, or vegetables, and then all of the sauces, spreads, and dips you want to add. They also have a few special creations. I opted for the Layla’s Falafel in a bowl, which had falafel fritters, zhug (a Middle Eastern hot sauce), hummus, pickled cabbage, fennel, labne, greens, and tahini. I also opted to add baba ganoush because I love it. And I’m so glad I did – the baba was some of the best I’ve had. Everything mixed together in the bowl was such a delicious combo, and the falafel wasn’t dry (it’s my biggest pet peeve when it is). Oh and Yalla has housemade sodas, so I ordered a Strawberry, Lemon, Clove, and Vanilla one. So good!

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My friend got the Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich (also from Todd Ginsberg) at Fred’s Meat & Bread. It was also quite tasty. We really loved the seasoned Southern BBQ fries with Alabama White BBQ Sauce (represent!) to dip them in. For a sweet treat, we got ice cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. They have some of the most unique flavors. I opted for the Buckeye (chocolate and peanut butter) with The Milkiest Chocolate, but I also sampled Goat Cheese & Cherry, Whiskey & Pecan, Dark Chocolate, and Brown Butter Almond Brittle. Jeni’s has several locations around the U.S. but they are always a solid choice for creamy, rich ice cream.

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After all this food indulging, we walked the completed section of the Beltline from Krog to Piedmont Park. It was a beautiful day outside and a great way to end another fun weekend in Atlanta! Can’t wait for my next trip to check even more restaurants off the list.

Want to know what else is on my Atlanta list? Here are some of my must-trys (those with strike-throughs have been visited since the time I first posted this list):

  • Miller Union
  • Empire State South
  • JCT Kitchen
  • Bacchanalia
  • Gun Show
  • King + Duke (read post here)
  • The Ladybird
  • South City Kitchen
  • Lusca
  • Cakes & Ale
  • One Eared Stag
  • BoccaLupo
  • Le Fat
  • St. Cecilia

Friday Lunch Edition: Mr. P’s Deli

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a Friday lunch – last week I was sick and the week before I was traveling – but today the sun was shining, my cold was gone, and I was HUNGRY! We decided to try out Mr. P’s Deli in Vestavia, a deli and butcher shop that’s been around since 1975. They are known for their quality cuts of meat, homemade sauces, and fresh breads. The deli has a local feel, with football jerseys on the wall, black and white framed photos, and no-frills tables and booths.

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Check out the meat case next to the ordering counter.

The sandwich menu is HUGE with almost 40 options to choose from. Being the planner that I am, I reviewed the entire menu in advance, narrowed it down, and finally selected the sandwich I was going to get prior to actually going to Mr. P’s. I opted for the Ashmonkey sandwich – 1/3 lb. of smoked turkey, bacon, mozzarella cheese, and Pilleteri’s Homemade BBQ Sauce on a honey wheat bun. It was so good! You could tell the meat was good quality and not like store-bought cold cuts, the bread was soft and fresh, and there was just the right amount of barbecue sauce on it so it wasn’t messy or soggy.

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The Ashmonkey Sandwich

Wesley got the Goldenburg – 1/2 lb. of Cajun Turkey, bacon, cheddar & pepper jack cheese, and Pilleteri’s White BBQ Sauce on an onion roll – and our friend Neil got Caitlin’s Kickin’ Sandwich – 1/2 lb. of Cajun Turkey and Cajun Roast Beef, pepper cheese, and Pilleteri’s Hot Mustard on an onion roll.

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The Goldenburg Sandwich

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Caitlin’s Kickin’ Sandwich

The sandwiches were loaded with meat and definitely a filling lunch. And the prices are very decent ($7-8) for the amount of food you are getting. I would recommend Mr. P’s to anyone looking for a hot, substantial sandwich for lunch. It’s so much better than any fast sub place you might go where they just slap 3 pieces of turkey on a footlong.

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Seriously, look at all that meat.

You can also pick up items for dinner while you’re there! They have monthly meat specials, Filet Mignon, Ribeye steaks, Ground Sirloin, chicken breasts, sausage, boudin, and even side items.

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Mr. P’s has a local, homey feel.

Fun Fact: Mr. P’s sandwiches are on the list of 100 Foods to Eat in Alabama Before You Die! They don’t mention one specific sandwich, but they do say the sandwiches with BBQ sauce on a wheat roll, which I had. So I can check one more off my list!

Restaurant Review: Basil Pizza

This weekend, I had dinner at Basil Pizza in the Crestline (Mountain Brook) neighborhood. I don’t think a lot of people know about this place since I never hear much about it, but it’s a bit of a hidden gem. We have a lot of great pizza places in Birmingham (I can never pass up Slice or Post Office Pies), but Basil has a unique atmosphere and some funky pizza varieties. I’ve been twice now so I can give reviews of a couple different things on the menu (it’s hard to judge just by one pizza one time).

With almost 20 types of pizza, it’s hard to choose from options such as 5-Cheese, Bloomin’ Shroomin’, Gourmet Grilled Cheese, Buffalo Chicken, and Thai. The first time I went, we settled on the Chicken, Bacon, Ranch Pizza on the recommendation from our waiter (and the fact my friend wanted a pizza with meat on it). The pizza came out hot from the oven and had sizable pieces of chicken and bacon, and was drizzled with ranch. The chicken lacked a little in flavor, but the bacon and ranch made up for it and the crust was nice and crispy with a homemade taste. We ate the whole 12-inch pie between the two of us.

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The second time we went, we expanded our horizons a little and ordered an appetizer of Garlic Cheesy Bread. I was expecting something more like pizza dough strips with cheese (like Domino’s, ha) but it was actually slices of French bread topped with melted cheese and a garlicky parsley mixture, and served with marinara sauce for dipping. They were good (I mean, you can’t really go wrong with cheesy bread) but were a little lukewarm, like they had come out of the oven but waited too long for a waiter to come pick them up (service was slow this night).

For our pizza, we got the BBQ Chicken Pizza because I went with the same friend, and again, he wanted some protein on his pizza. But I do love me some BBQ Chicken Pizza — this is really embarrassing, but I actually love Papa John’s take on it. Anyway, the pizza had chicken, red onions, and a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. Again, the chicken on its own didn’t have much flavor but that’s nothing a little extra parmesan couldn’t fix. (Apologies I forgot to take a picture the night of, so I snapped one of my leftover slice for the next day’s lunch.)

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If you know anything about me, you know I have a major sweet tooth, so when I asked about dessert and the waiter said they had a cookie skillet, I knew I had to try it. It’s called the Pizooki and is a chocolate chip cookie baked hot in a dish and topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel. What’s not to love?!

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Overall, Basil Pizza is a good option if you’re looking to venture out of your cheese pizza comfort zone (they do have regular cheese though). It’s a little more affordable than Slice and the pizzas come in more sizes than they do at Post Office Pies. Plus, they have $5 house wine every day and live music on the weekends! Check it out next time you’re in the Mountain Brook area.