Georgia Theatre Restaurant
Fast Food: Possibly even more of a concern for your average weekday lunch than getting out of a restaurant for as small an amount of cash as possible is speed. To quote Nina Simone as the space dragon in Pete Townshend’s “The Iron Man,” “Fast food/ Feed me fast/ I've been waiting for an aeon/ And I just won't last.” If you have errands to run on your lunch break, but you still need to grab a bite to eat, speed is of the essence, and many places dilly dally or are too slammed to serve it up quick. On the other hand, the industrialization of the food industry that comes with chain restaurants focused on delivering you your meal within 90 seconds is problematic.
My go-to solution is usually the sandwiches in the case at Jittery Joe’s downtown, made on Luna bread and featuring nice surprises like banana peppers and red onion alongside the standard tomato, lettuce and protein. But sometimes they run out, or there’s nothing left but hummus. What can you do when you’re starving but still want something resembling real food in your tummy immediately?
In the 'Hood: If you happen to be in the Boulevard area, you’ll be pleased to know that Heirloom Café and Fresh Market (815 N. Chase St.) is finally living up to the second half of its name. Yes, the refrigerated case is up and running, and if you like your food speedy and local, it’s a great option. The problem with climate-controlled cases and, indeed, with pre-made food in general, is that most stuff ends up chilled all to hell, to the point where flavor is palpable but hardly strong.
Most of what Heirloom has on offer is salads: a farm salad (basically a Cobb salad, with bacon and local eggs), a hefty tub of its chicken salad (priced at $12, which will cause some balking to be sure; it features peaches, just the like the version you get at eat-in lunch), potato salad, egg salad, etc. Ideally, Heirloom would sell sliced bread as well, so that you could pick up the makings of a nonalcoholic picnic in one spot, but you will be perfectly content eating out of the plastic containers minus carbohydrates.
The chicken salad and the potato salad suffer from the refrigeration, or maybe they just need more salt to bring out the flavors, but they are absolutely, recognizably food, with nice chunks of chicken, bits of dill, whole-grain mustard and more. The egg salad is worth the trip. Probably too rich and too salty for some, it hit my tastebuds just right, made with local eggs and homemade mayo and priced at a mere $4, it’s cholesterol-riffic!
Don’t neglect the baked goods. One of the secrets of Heirloom is how good its pastry kitchen is. Most homemade moonpies are just as thick and blah as the commercial variety, but the ones here are excellent: thin, with crisp and flavorful cookies, plus a thin layer of marshmallow, and the whole thing dunked in high-quality dark chocolate. It’s a cookie even for those who turn their noses up at cookies.
On the Rooftop: If, on the other hand, you’re downtown, the Georgia Theatre Restaurant, located on the roof and accessible through the side entrance (take the elevator to the top floor), has expanded its menu considerably and still serves up food faster than almost anyone in town. If your order needs a turn on the grill, as with the tuna steak with slaw, available as a sandwich or a salad, it may take something closer to 10 minutes than five to get your food, but considering you order and pay at the bar, you can control the tempo of your meal.
Said tuna steak sandwich, lightly seared, topped with the slaw that Ken Manring does so well (the man is some kind of genius with cabbage) and nestled in a Luna Kaiser roll, can make you feel virtuous and efficient at the same time, without sacrificing gustatory pleasure. Other items now available include chicken skewers served with White Tiger sauce (described by a staff member as his favorite because they’re “pure protein,” but definitely in need of the white BBQ sauce), a chicken salad that is much smoother than Heirloom’s (more traditional style), Frito chili pie served in the bag (ideal drunk end-of-the-night food but one that could be improved with cheddar), a salami and cheese and pickles plate, hot dogs and grilled sausage with spicy mustard. The tuna steak is the most expensive thing on the menu at $7.
The atmosphere, as ever, makes you feel like you’re at the beach. Breezes are freer up there, and even if the weather is gross and humid, a plethora of fans keep the air moving. You can grab and go, but you might end up lingering out of enjoyment.
What Up?: If you missed it online, Las Conchitas Caliente in Normaltown is closed. In its space, Rustica, a new Peruvian restaurant with new ownership will open soon (yay!). Five, a small chain out of Alabama that focuses on simplicity, is slated for the ex-Casa Mia space in the Cotton Exchange Building downtown. The Sultan is now open on Baxter, and Dirty Birds is coming to the old Wild Wing space downtown.