Photo Credit: Bistro Off Broad
I’ve had Bistro Off Broad (16 E. Candler St., in Winder, 678-963-5517) on my list of restaurants for a long time, since it opened in 2016. I was always reluctant to trek out there only to be disappointed. Even though the chef had moved from Atlanta, where he ran the kitchen at P’Cheen, my experience with high-end places in towns that are not generally considered culinary destinations is not full of exceeded expectations.
Welp, I was wrong, and you should go. Bistro Off Broad is not just good for Winder—it puts out a lot of legitimately delicious food that would stand among the best things I have eaten in Athens. Don’t let the Paris theme (chandeliers, fuzzy paintings) put you off. The claims of good ingredients from local farms and housemade components of various dishes are accurate, not just marketing to what customers want to hear.
Brunch is a nice time to go, served both Saturday and Sunday and offering bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys. I’d advise starting with the deviled eggs, which come six to an order, three each of two different varieties, changing regularly, depending on what the kitchen wants to do. Only slightly too cold—the case at basically all restaurants, due to health department rules about refrigeration—mine involved one filling that incorporated charred scallions and a generous sprinkling of a nice gomasio (sesame-seed-based dry condiment) and another that combined cherries and pork. The latter sounds, frankly, nuts, but damn if it didn’t work, with genuine, natural sweetness that didn’t overpower the umami of everything else.
Buttermilk malted waffles, with the maple syrup already on (lightly dressed, under the waffle instead of soaking it from above), are perfect, with an almost popover-like texture (crisp outside, melty inside). Housemade bacon is a flavor peregrination that maintains a true respect for the form. Local ham and egg al forno, listed among the small plates and served in a mini-cast-iron oval dish, is beautifully executed, with charred corn polenta lending some lightness to a protein-heavy dish with an egg cooked just right. The burger, for which the restaurant has rightly received some acclaim, is spot-on, made without too much fuss: caramelized onions, a smear of Boursin, lettuce, tomato. The bun isn’t too squishy, and it’s clearly buttered and toasted to lend it some structural integrity.
Lunch is good, too, repeating some of these dishes, although the more traditional entree-type stuff is less exciting, as is the case at most restaurants. Fish and chips is fine, for example, and well executed, but nothing surprising. The Cuban sandwich, although incorporating housemade ham, overwhelms it with not-very-interesting roasted pork, subs Gruyère for Swiss—meh, in this case—and skimps on the pickle that’s very much needed to add some acid. On the other hand, the char-grilled Thai chili chicken wings are pretty good, if undeniably a mess.
If there’s one great strength running throughout Bistro Off Broad’s offerings, it’s an understanding that restraint is better when it comes to sugar. Nature provides its own, and adding more can often mask essential flavors. That ability to highlight produce is perhaps clearest in a salad of kale, cauliflower, charred baby carrots, a blob of goat cheese, Marcona almonds and a sharp vinaigrette, most things just kissed with a blowtorch to bring out new dimensions of what they taste like.
I’ll be back, 100 percent. Bistro Off Broad is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, brunch weekends and dinner every night but Monday. It does oyster specials and deals on small plates at happy hour, and has a full bar.
Also not in Athens but worth a road trip is La Citadelle (248 E. Crogan St., in Lawrenceville, 678-330-1073), a Haitian bakery and restaurant that I have passed hundreds of times, automatically rejecting it. I was wrong about that, too. It makes big, soft dinner rolls and Caribbean-style baguettes, plus pretty, light, nicely decorated little cakes, but what you really want is its savory stuff.
Plates come with your choice of rice (black or white), salad (plain lettuce), plantains (not so great) and meat (chicken, goat, pork, fish, turkey) or beans. Do not sleep on the sauce that comes with everything and is perhaps the most important element of the cuisine. Sauce pois or pwa, made from black beans, goes over the white rice and is mineral and subtle. Then there’s sós (i.e., “sauce”), a mild, thin tomato-based dressing that incorporates onions and both hot and sweet peppers. Intended to go with most meats, it absolutely does.
The goat is full of bones, as it tends to be, but worth the effort, and the griot (fried pork) is the same. What makes me want to go back more than anything, however, is the “pickle,” a tiny plastic container full of a nose-hair-singeingly hot and vinegary relish based on Scotch bonnet peppers that keeps you going back for another blast. La Citadelle is open every day until at least 7 p.m., opening at 10 a.m. most days (noon on Sunday and Monday), and has a refrigerated case full of Haitian beverages. It also makes patés (patties), but they were not ready yet when I visited.