Photo Credit: Austin Steele
EXPLORE: The Eastside Peking operated for nearly 20 years in the Green Acres Shopping Center, hiding a surprisingly ornate interior behind a nondescript exterior, and although it seemed like a pretty standard American Chinese restaurant, the special orange menu similarly hid unexpected delights, with northern Chinese dishes, Szechuan specialties, wonderful tofu and a whole bunch of organ meats.
Last year, it closed, to be replaced by a place called New Red Bowl Asian Bistro (1935 Barnett Shoals Road, 706-549-0274, newredbowl.com), under new ownership and with no relation to any other restaurant by a similar name. Any place that describes itself as offering “Chinese, Sushi, Thai, Vietnamese, Hibachi” is going to be met with skepticism from yours truly, and the first impression New Red Bowl makes is that of a sort of blandly pan-Asian eatery that sells a whole lot of sesame chicken bento boxes.
In some ways, it is exactly that. The interior remodel is slick, with a big full bar topped by flat-screen TVs tuned to sports and news, a separate sushi bar (which offers rolls named things like Sexy Jalapeno), a bunch of large booths and an extra dining room. The booths tend to be occupied by Eastsiders enjoying fairly basic stir-fries and combinations of well-executed but not particularly exciting generically Asian food. Said bento boxes combine an entree, a sushi roll, a side (spring or egg roll, squid or seaweed salad) and a rice, and are a decent value for the unadventurous.
If you are willing to read the rest of the menu, however, you will discover that it also makes a decent range of actual Chinese food, mostly but not entirely Szechuan: ginger sour string beans, ma la sliced pig’s tripe, conch in chili oil, dan dan noodles, pork belly with preserved vegetables, shredded pork with pressed tofu, whole fish in bean paste and much more. The entree section lets you pick your preparation and your protein, including intestine, lamb and crab as well as beef, chicken, pork, fish, shrimp, spare ribs, kidney and tofu.
Photo Credit: Austin Steele
I did not have nearly enough time to explore all of it, but I can report that the “Cumin Style” is a different but still very tasty version of the zi ran preparation Peking did so well with lamb, laced with serious amounts of dried and sliced red chilis. The beef chow fun, a milder Cantonese dish, is a little greasy, but the flat, wide noodles that make up its base are soft and good. A soup that combines ground pork with pickled greens is hearty and sour. And even the Thai curries are not bad, prepared with too many watery vegetables, like zucchini, but not too sugary.
Is my dream of the Eastside becoming our own Buford Highway coming true? Not quite yet, but it’s getting closer. Prices vary, but the portions are big, and the food worth your money. You can order take-out online from the restaurant’s own website, giving you time to browse, and it does lunch and dinner every day.
SWEET: Once located in downtown Jefferson, now on the outskirts of Statham in a strip mall and about to move into the former Michael’s Pizza in downtown Statham, Savvy Cakes (2085 Atlanta Hwy. for now, 706-367-2233) greets you with the smell of actual butter. Its cupcakes are not the fanciest looking, but damn if they aren’t good, with cake and icing both missing the unmistakable back-of-the-throat tang of vegetable oil. Its refrigerated case also holds cookies, many different kinds of well-executed gooey bars (in flavors like birthday cake, red velvet and chocolate peanut butter), mini cheesecakes that use its owner’s cake as a base instead of graham cracker crumbs, fried pies (probably better when first made, but not bad) and more.
Also also: It makes sandwiches in house, making it more of a proper eatery. The cheesesteak may not pass muster with Philadelphians, but it tastes good, with a decent roll and good peppers and onions. The pimento cheese is a little unusual and its bread is too thick, but the club sandwich with a whole grilled cheese sandwich in the middle is fairly successful. All sandwiches come with chips and a nice kosher pickle spear. Ingredients are good throughout.
Savvy Cakes also does special orders, scoops Greenwood’s ice cream ordered straight from the creamery and has a wide selection of board games and toys to amuse your children, including an adorable play kitchen. It’s open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m.–7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.–1 p.m.