Biscuits, osso bucco and bearnaise

Plus Carroll Street Cafe gets liquored up

It's been almost a year since Ellijay's historic Elderberry Inn burned to the ground. The small 100-year-old inn, operated by David Corley and James Crocker, was an eccentrically decorated bed and breakfast with one room devoted to Scarlett O'Hara and a restaurant done up in campy retro. It wasn't the kind of place you expected to see in a town where the Klan still openly demonstrates now and then.

Corley and Crocker re-opened the inn's restaurant, Good News Cafe, on River Street in Ellijay and a few months ago opened a second by the same name in East Atlanta (1271 Glenwood Ave., 404-635-1611). The cafe, like so many where I dined during my five years running newspapers in rural Georgia, is only open for breakfast and lunch. It occupies the spot formerly occupied by Twang and Kiva. My complaint about this restaurant space has always been its gloomy ambience. Corley and Crocker have lightened it considerably, but it will never be maximally pleasant until someone finds a way to install more windows.

Still, the room is a cozy yellow with lots of brick and an avalanche of the retro advertising kitsch that made the original restaurant such fun. My lunch companion, Rose D'Agostino, noticed that John Kennedy's image leers across the room at Marilyn Monroe's. Such touches, intentional or not, are what amused me so much about the Elderberry's decor.

The restaurant is doing a good business. It doesn't hurt that the menu, built rather arbitrarily around a newspaper theme, is dirt-cheap, befitting a neighborhood that is a multicultural mix of the poor, the recently poor and the gentrification-minded. I've only sampled a bit of the menu. A blue-plate special of country-fried steak with mashed potatoes and collards (selected from a menu of sides) is a tasty bargain at $5.50 — with one significant problem: dreadful faux-tasting gravy on the potatoes. I scraped the stuff off and was happy.

Rose's Caesar salad started cheap at $3.75 but bore an extra $2.50 charge for adding grilled chicken. I'm sorry to say the Caesar salad isn't a Caesar at all. It's just Romaine lettuce with some dry, grated parmesan and a vinaigrette on the side, and enough teeth-shattering croutons to substitute for sugar cubes if you're in the mind to build a little igloo.

Breakfast is good, by and large. I've only sampled plain scrambled eggs with a decent biscuit and gravy, and bacon and grits on the side. It's only $5.50. To my amazement, there is no scrambled tofu or soy sausage on the menu. Boo hoo!

I returned with my friend Will Bonner to the Red Chair along Amsterdam on a recent Saturday night. In my earlier review, I didn't give the restaurant-video bar much deserved credit for banning smoking from all but its patio. A smoke-free restaurant is relatively rare in Atlanta, but I can't think of another smokeless bar at all.

The restaurant, whose owners also operate The Big Red Tomato, has improved some of the food since my last visit. In any case, my special of tournedos with grilled shrimp and a bearnaise sauce was very good ($22.95), even if our server did, oddly, ask me when I ordered if we'd be splitting it. I sucked in my stomach and assured her I could handle it all by my lonesome. Friends at a nearby table later told me they were asked the same thing about their entrees. Maybe it was anorexia night.

Will did eat more lightly. He ordered a "Thai shrimp soup" special that simply did not work. "They should call it salt soup," he said. The Caesar salad with a pointed anchovy vinaigrette ($5.95) was good.

I'm very sorry to report that Andaluz, the city's only attempt at an authentic Andalusian tapas bar, has closed. Owner Gladys Parada has opened Red in its place, on Peachtree at 8th. The new venue is a Latin-inspired cocktail lounge with only a brief menu of the more mainstream grazing fare from the original menu.

The Cuban-born Parada says she plans to continue the flamenco shows and to have guest DJs in to spin Latin house music. I hope she will get her hands on some of the incredible mixes from Ibiza — some of my fave music when I'm torturing myself on the StairMaster.

So, this creates an opportunity for someone else to undertake an authentic tapas bar. Perhaps, the proudly exhibitionistic Paul Luna, who pioneered the form at Eclipse di Luna and Loca Luna, could open an Andalusian tapas bar and feature himself in a nude flamenco revue. In the meantime, Luna, who has closed his suburban restaurant, is hiring himself out as a private chef and frequently lunching at Sundown, where rumors are that he will be doing table dances for tacos.

Speaking of sin, Carroll Street Cafe is expanding its space and will begin pouring hard liquor very soon — right smack dab in the middle of Bible-believing Cabbagetown! The restaurant-bakery continues to serve some incredible bargain entrees at night. ... Ria's in Cabbagetown is now serving dinner. ... I'm hearing very mixed reports about Orange and Scarlett's, the latest project of Lucero Martinez-Obregon of Zocalo fame. Mainly I'm hearing grousing about the prices.

My recent review of Commune provoked a flurry of calls and e-mails, most of them reporting very inconsistent experiences at the restaurant. Two people reported ordering the osso bucco and being served what they described as "boiled veal." Mine was well browned and properly cut, so I have no explanation. Others complained that the place is too self-consciously hip. Whatever! This is Atlanta!

The grapevine reports that Tom Catherall is opening yet another restaurant in Buckhead. ... Go to the patisserie at Joel. It's phenomenal. Go now! u

Leave Cliff Bostock a voice mail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1504.??

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