Food & DrinkGrub Notes

Grub Notes

The Franchise Life: Sometimes I wonder what people in other cities think of our own homegrown franchised concepts, like Barberitos and Your Pie, both of which have opened far-flung locations around the Southeast. Do they grumble when one opens and they find the nicely organized, multimedia-heavy corporate website? Do they complain that the food is too standardized and the concept too packaged? I’m sure most of them don’t, but that doesn’t preclude me from doing so when franchises from elsewhere arrive in our town.

One of the disappointments of the new downtown deck, which really is a nice example of a mixed-use building and dramatically cuts one’s time looking for a space in that area of town, is the blandness of its tenants, every one part of a family rather than an original. The Waffle House provides something useful (although its grill cooks aren’t stacking up to those with more experience at other locations even within Athens, cutting the onions too thick, undercooking the eggs, etc.), and Yoforia is part of a bubble. What do we make, then, of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, based out of Fort Worth, TX, and occupying prime real estate on the ground floor of the deck? Well, with its long communal tables, fast service, unwreckable environment and loud atmosphere, plus ample highchairs, it is a good place to take your kids. You can even get a drink from the large bar down a couple of steps at the back and topped with a giant fish. It’s the sort of basic, order-at-the-counter set-up, only without the emphasis on customization that leads to long lines and bad snap decisions.

As the name suggests, the tacos are probably your best bet, although I didn’t get around to trying a burrito. Billed as Baja-style, they’re more California than Mexico, with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, cilantro and a feta-and-garlic sauce nestled alongside your choice of protein, and can be ordered regular or habanero and soft or crispy. OK, maybe that’s too many choices. The fried fish, grilled shrimp and shredded pork were all pretty decent, especially at around $2 each, even if they weren’t the kind of carefully crafted creations that Taqueria del Sol puts out. With the emphasis on vegetables, they taste fresh, and they’re ready in a hurry. The fajita plate, on the other hand, is disappointing. Trying to pinpoint a difficulty leads one to the conclusion that all the flavor of each component somehow resides on its surface, meaning a quick blast of taste and then an absence of it for the remainder of the chewing time. The refried beans, the rice, the fried potatoes, the beef, the guacamole—they all have the same problem. The sandwiches, highly recommended by the staff, almost seem to have been dipped in an egg wash, and while they’re OK, they pale in comparison to some of the real tortas you can get in this town. When they say the salsa is “hot,” they mean its actual temperature, not Scoville scale, and the result is, as a friend of mine put it: “a cup of hot marinara sauce.†Fuzzy’s offers breakfast options (huevos rancheros, migas, breakfast tacos) but not breakfast hours, operating for lunch and dinner every day. It is, however, open until 2 a.m. most nights.

Singularity: Just because a restaurant is technically not a franchise doesn’t mean it offers something hugely original, but Mama’s Place (645 Danielsville Rd.) isn’t really going for uniqueness. The newest restaurant to occupy the tiny space next to the Marathon gas station just before Team Biscuits & Burgers that most recently held El Coquito, it’s pretty basic soul food served in a spartan environment by very nice people. The menu is more a suggestion than a definite list of what’s on hand, and on a recent visit, the veggie sides were limited to two (corn and peas), both of which seemed to have come out of a can then additionally salted. The meats, though, were good: a tender and savory fried pork chop and two pieces of well-fried chicken. If you are watching your sodium intake, it’s not the place for you, but if you happen to be in the area and need some grub, you could do worse. Mama’s Place does, handily, take credit cards, and, at least theoretically, serves dessert.

What Up?: Mar. 14 is no longer just a celebratory occasion for nerds, who appreciate its 3.14-ness. For the past few years, local franchise Your Pie has gotten in on the act, offering its pizzas for a mere $3.14 all day. This Pie Day, its added more to the formula, with a chance to win $314 or one of 10 $31.40 gift certificates to the restaurant. Just visit to submit your custom pie or to vote on ones others have created (through Mar. 20).

We encouraged you to vote for Peter Dale in the Food & Wine People’s Best New Chef contest, but it turns out he didn’t need the help. Dale didn’t win the overall competition, but he crushed his fellow entrants in the Southeast region. Woo-hoo!

If you haven’t been on the Internet lately, you probably don’t know that former Flagpole music editor Chris Hassiotis, along with pals Everett and Allison Steele, is working on a real cookbook for the fake restaurant Bon Rappetite. Created as a website of hip-hop/food puns for their own amusement (Wu-Tang Clams, Talib Quail-i, Turkey Minaj), Bon Rappetite blew up big over the past few months, once places like the Huffington Post and CNN started giggling at its jokes. That led to the cookbook project, which is seeking donations on Kickstarter and has its own Facebook page with more info. Contribute $25 by Mar. 15, and you will get a free copy of the printed book plus a download of its associated mixtape.