Photo Credit: Savannah Cole
EAT PERUVIAN: If there’s anything that can make you forget the loss of a truly beloved restaurant, it is its replacement by something just as good and soon to be just as beloved. Mifflin House (2467 Jefferson Road, 706-850-6806) started out as a not-very underground Peruvian house restaurant but opened a couple of months ago in what was previously Big Family Cafe in the Homewood Hills shopping center. It may not have a sign yet, but it preserves the warm feeling of its predecessor, as though you’re being generously hosted by a large extended family who just want to feed you and make sure you’re comfortable. Its waitstaff wear shirts encouraging you to kiss French, party Caribbean and eat Peruvian—advice that is good.
Athens has been blessed over the past 20 years with a surprising abundance of Peruvian restaurants, and the seafood-heavy, acid-inflected cuisine is reliably delicious. Mifflin House’s is no different. The prices at dinner may strike you as a little high, but there’s nothing wrong with an “authentic” restaurant charging appropriate amounts for its food, especially when it’s good. Pay up. Should you be less willing or able to do so, the lunch specials are a ridiculous deal, priced between $7.99–$9.99 and encompassing a reasonably sized entree, two sides, a salad or a large and wonderful bowl of soup. There’s also a bowl of complimentary cancha (essentially corn nuts—kernels of corn soaked then fried and salted) and thin-sliced tostones (fried green plantains) on the table. The soup on offer changes, but it might be chicken (with angel-hair pasta and veggies) or parihuela (mixed seafood in a fish stock), both delicately flavored and homey.
You’ll find lots of Peruvian standards on the menu, some of which you may know from Cali N Tito’s: lomo saltado (quick-sautéed thin-sliced steak, served over french fries and rice with tomato and red onion), the chicken version of the same (you can also get it with a fried egg or the house version that adds shrimp and mushrooms), aji de gallina (chicken in a mildly spicy yellow sauce with sliced hard-boiled egg and olives), wonderful roasted chicken, chargrilled pork tenderloin topped with copious amounts of chimichurri sauce and more. Sides include white rice, pinto beans, lentils (which are intensely lentily, tasting of earth and iron), french fries, sweet plantains and mashed potatoes, or for a dollar more you can upgrade to a pasta (alfredo, pesto or huancaina, the latter being a cheese sauce spiked with yellow aji peppers).
The menu is large and rewards repeat visits. It would be easy to miss the causitas, for example, a trio of terrines featuring mashed potato top and bottom sandwiching tuna salad, chicken salad and shrimp/crab salad. That doesn’t sound very sophisticated, but the presentation is lovely, and the combination of zingy cold salad and smooth mashed potatoes seasoned with lime, onion and chiles and topped or studded with slices of avocado is a perfect meal for hot weather. The staff will encourage you to try the ceviche, and there’s a whole page devoted to different varieties on the menu: fish, blood clam, shrimp, mussels and mixed, as well as in the classic lime and chile sauce, in a milder yellow pepper sauce and in a red pepper sauce that’s somewhere in between.
There’s much more to explore than these choices: beef liver with onions, tacu tacu de mariscos, fried fish with yucca fries, lots of other seafood platters, various tallarines (spaghettis), more potato-based dishes. There are even kids meals. Mifflin House is open 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and noon–9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It does not have a liquor license, but you can BYOB, including from the liquor store in the same shopping center.
ICE ICE: Too hot to eat? It’s not a very nutritious option, but you could always have a snoball for lunch or dinner. Pelican’s Snoballs (510 Baxter St.) can help you with that. The atmosphere isn’t as charming as Hokulia’s, the shave-ice trucks that move around town, but it’s air-conditioned. The base is similar: ice shaved into a giant fluffy mound that melts quickly. There are something in the neighborhood of a million flavors of syrup, including pickle and toothpaste for people who want to play Truth or Dare, and cantaloupe, sea breeze, root beer and pink grapefruit for those who don’t. There are also suggested combinations, if the menu is overwhelming. You can add cream, marshmallow (a more sugary version of the cream), chocolate syrup, Nerds, gummies, sour spray or fairy dust (sprinkles, basically).
The result is pretty good, although it depends to some extent on your ability to pick flavors that work together—you get two standard, and if you pick carrot cake and blue raspberry, that’s on you. There’s giant Connect Four in the side room and picnic tables outside. Sizes range from a pup cup (for your dog, only $1) to a giant one that might require a crew to tackle before it melts. Prices are reasonable. Pelican’s is open noon–9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1–9 p.m. Sunday.