Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 22: International Southern Hospitality

spring rolls!

Pork and shrimp spring rolls primped up a bit at Hsu’s in downtown Atlanta.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

Those of you who’ve been following this miniseries from the beginning may be a tad disgruntled by the complete lack of food pics from our vacation. We covered a few mealtimes, but we’ve been setting aside much of the culinary side…until now.

Some dishes were simpler than others. All were served with utmost congeniality. Only one took a little longer than we would’ve preferred. But the most important trait of all is not a single one of them barred us from entering due to dress codes. It’s cool being accommodated rather than shunned.

Our Atlanta meal schedule from arrival through the end of Day Four:

SUNDAY THE 25TH – DINNER: Southern cooking at PIttypat’s Porch, where we returned Friday night for an encore. Only one minor hitch: things were so laid back that evening, they failed to confirm to OpenTable that we’d kept the reservations I’d made online. The app and I had a bit of a tiff, but it was eventually settled. Consequently we didn’t bother making reservations Friday but were seated without a wait anyway.

MONDAY THE 26TH – BREAKFAST: Leftover Pittypat’s accompanied by our hotel’s standard morning buffet. Scrambled eggs and reheated crab cake was perhaps an unconventional breakfast, but I did my best to make it work. (I found a better combination on the morning after our Friday night return to Pittypat’s. Since we both ordered fried chicken on that visit, it made sense Saturday morning to pair their chicken with Belgian waffles in perfect harmony.)

MONDAY THE 26TH – LUNCH: Poor service at the burger chain inside the CNN Center‘s food court. We were unimpressed at waiting ten minutes on elementary burgers and fries while every last customer behind us got their food first.

BurgerFi.

CNN: Facts First, Food Court Last.

MONDAY THE 26TH – DINNER: A pair of three-ton Italian wood-burning ovens are the core of Amalfi Pizza, opened in 2016 after its co-owners served apprenticeships at Napoli pizzerias elsewhere. This slow evening would be the last time on our trip that we practically had an entire Atlanta restaurant to ourselves.

Amalfi Pizza sign!

Despite the protruding sign, it took us a few extra minutes to realize where the entrance was, even though it was right there on Andrew Young International Boulevard. At this point we were still learning downtown Atlanta’s general layout, not to mention worn out from our first full day of touring the town.

Amalfi Pizza exit!

Through the doors, a rustic hallway leads to their second-floor dining room. This was the view on our way out.

Roasted Beet Salad!

Appetizer: a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts.

Colazione Pizza!

Our pie of choice: the Colazione Pizza with mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, bacon jam, extra virgin olive oil and a sunny-side-up egg in the middle. The egg was admittedly odd.

TUESDAY THE 27TH – BREAKFAST: Highland Bakery began to take its current form when Stacey Eames transitioned from the world of coffee carts to buying an old bakery from two dudes in 2004. What began as a quest to improve on the basic Starbucks formula has blossomed into thirteen locations around Atlanta (and one in nearby Decatur), one of which happened to be on the campus of Georgia State University and a couple blocks south of our hotel. Homegrown success-story chains are more enticing to us than national and international conglomerates.

Highland Bakery!

Their home inside 25 Park Place.

fruit tart and peanut butter cookie!

Anne went with a pretty fruit tart and peanut butter cookie.

chocolate eclair and sweet potato biscuit!

My nicely coated chocolate eclair and a sweet potato biscuit.

TUESDAY THE 27TH – LUNCH: Due to a quick but daunting thunderstorm we settled for Taco Tuesday in a museum basement, where the procedures and limitations were not openly intuitive for newcomers. We had hoped to compensate with perhaps a finer Mexican dinner later in the week, but the one nearest our hotel flaunted its hoity-toity dress code at my online reservation attempt.

TUESDAY THE 27TH – DINNER: Their website declares themselves Hsu’s Gourmet Asian Cuisine, now celebrating thirty years of business. Their website also says T-shirts and shorts on women are prohibited. Maybe they make exceptions for Dragon Con week, but we weren’t turned away at the door. The menu contained many familiar dishes, but they aim a bit higher than the average mom-and-pop takeout joint in terms of presentation, as seen in our lead photo above.

chicken curry!

My amply meaty bowl of chicken curry.

beef satay!

Sometimes Anne will order an appetizer as her dinner because she’s an adult and no one can stop her. Hence: beef satay.

lychee nuts!

For me, dessert was lychee nuts on ice. I’d never touched lychee before, but I’ve seen Chopped chefs struggle to shell them. 11/10 would definitely order again regardless of the chef’s tension level.

raspberry sherbet + cookie!

For Anne, raspberry sherbet topped with an almond “surprise” cookie.

dipped fortune cookies!

Second dessert! Chocolate dipped fortune cookies. Mine said, “Soon, a visitor shall delight you.”

WEDNESDAY THE 28TH – BREAKFAST: We’ll come back to this one in a future entry. For now, let’s just say it was a hefty sugar fix.

WEDNESDAY THE 28TH – LUNCH: After descending Stone Mountain we headed out on the highway for a few miles, stopped, turned around, and headed the correct direction toward its namesake town. There we found a place founded by German immigrants in 1974 called the Village Corner German Restaurant, Bakery & Tavern. We came for one, ordered wondrous snacks to-go from the other, and ignored the third.

Village Corner!

Themed architecture that reminds me of the Oktoberfest-ish restaurant they used to have inside Kings Island.

Village Corner!

Their dining room wasn’t too packed upon our somewhat late arrival.

Burgermeister Meisterburger!

For the fans of Rankin-Bass’ Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (major thanks to Anne for reminding me), behold the Burgermeister Meisterburger: a burger topped with a grilled bratwurst (!!), bacon, onions and beer cheese. Served with German potato salad as an obvious side and a welcome change of pace from fries.

Not pictured: Anne got a Reuben. They’re her thing. Somehow we also failed to photograph the baked goods, but we sure didn’t fail to love them later.

WEDNESDAY THE 28TH – DINNER: By this time, other geeks were trickling into town and crowding up downtown eateries. OpenTable managed to snag us a reservation anyway at Truva Turkish Kitchen. As fans of Mediterranean cuisine we would’ve eaten there sooner in the week, but we noticed one drawback in their general descriptions: a threat of live belly-dancing. Our experiences thus far with belly-dancing displays have not been rewarding ones, and I’ve made a survival tactic of steering us away from any businesses that expect me to spend my time ogling women who aren’t my wife, regardless of whether or not she’s right there with me.

But by Wednesday our fancy-dinner options within walking distance were growing a little wan, and we really do like Mediterranean that much, so with Anne’s blessing we gave it a whirl anyway. The gamble paid off: either the belly-dancers were off that day, possibly saving their energy for the big Dragon Con weekend, or else we finished and left before they clocked in. I’m sure they’re nice ladies, but I’ve no regrets on missing out. And the meal was awesome — herbs and spices and proteins commingled to do my kind of happy dance together on my plates.

Truva!

Truva downtown. They opened a second Atlanta location earlier this year.

Sigara Borek!

No, not spring rolls again, but Sigara Borek — feta cheese and herbs rolled up in phyllo dough like cigars.

beef flatbread!

I have it in my notes as “beef flatbread”, though I’m reminded of Ben Wyatt’s calzones. In a good way!

Lamb shish kebab!

Lamb shish kebab served with salad and rice. Sometimes simple elegance is absolutely fine.

Not pictured: a side of haydari (read: Turkish yogurt dip) for dippin’. I took a photo, but posting a photo of a plate of sauce seems…well, like something I’d do regardless, but this seems like plenty for now. Maybe in the eventual outtakes?

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

[ENTRY UPDATED 11/16/2019, 2:30 p.m. EST: Special thanks to Anne for realizing I’d mixed up our two visits to Pittypat’s and inadvertently created a plot hole. Thankfully nobody caught it because everyone just looks at the pretty pictures and scrolls past all these pesky, overlong words. Lucky me!]

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