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Culinary cogitation

Sandwich shops, chef sightings and musings from the mailbag

This week's column is devoted to random observations and your feedback. Please feel free to write or call anytime with your recommendations, criticisms and obscenities.

Jason writes this: "I am a sandwich freak who just moved to Virginia-Highland from New York, where you can get any kind of sandwich you want. Where should I go in Atlanta?"

You've already noticed, I'm sure, the profound shortage of good delis in town. If I'm craving chopped liver, or any other traditional deli sandwich, I go to the Bagel Palace (2869 N. Druid Hills Road, 404-315-9016). If I want to go as far as Buckhead, I go to the New Yorker Marketplace and Delicatessen (322 Pharr Road, 404-240-0260). I'll have the fried baloney sandwich.

You may have also noticed how hard it is to find a decent Philly-style Italian hoagie in town. Those you can find are typically made with soft bread and mediocre, American-style cured meats. The best I've found — crusty bread, Italian meats — is at the Bread Garden (549 Amsterdam Ave., 404-875-1166).

My favorite "designer" sandwich is the garlic-roasted lamb at Alon's Bakery (1394 N. Highland Ave., 404-872-6000). Everyone's favorite Cuban sandwich is at Kool Korner Grocery (349 14th St., 404-892-4424). My favorite Mexican sandwiches, "tortas," are at El Molino (2000 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-636-8714). Daily, the al pastor is my favorite, but on weekends I switch to carnitas.

Sandwich heaven is Pangaea (1082 Huff Road, 404-350-8787), where the menu is multinational, ranging from Italian panini to Vietnamese bahn mi. ...

"I went to Lush and enjoyed it," Julie writes. "But I can't spend that much money every time I want vegetarian food. Where else do you recommend? And by the way, I'm not into Indian food."

Whoops. You just eliminated the best vegetarian restaurants in town. The place I go repeatedly for cheap vegetarian is Sevananda in Little Five Points. Most of the food served from the steam counter there is fresh and well seasoned. (A recent exception was wacky barbecued ribs made out of some kind of plant material impersonating meat.) Some of the dishes at Green Sprout across from Ansley Mall are very good, too. Avoid the stuff that pretends to be shrimp. ...

Speaking of Indian, this is from Laura: "Am curious if you had heard anything about what happened to Indian Delights on Church St. in Decatur. It apparently has changed owners and the new name is Chopaati. Similar fare (including masala dosas), a bit different spicing. Gone is the dusty mural, but the place does look lighter now. I'd been eating at ID for years (it might have been the original 'chat' place in Atlanta) and am going to miss those folks and the occasional serving of undhiyu."

I am not sure exactly what caused the change of hands, but Indian Delights, indeed the original Indian vegetarian cafe in town, was certainly looking dowdy in its final years. My own picture, on the wall there for an embarrassing number of years, didn't help the decor. It was actually closed last time I tried to visit, so the reopening, even under new owners, is good news. ...

Liz writes: "I seem to recall that you mentioned Da Vinci's, a tiny Italian spot on Myrtle awhile back. I had lunch a couple of weeks ago, had an excellent meatball sandwich — fresh, delicious bread, good sauce, good meatballs. I hope you'll mention them again." Done.

Voicemail of the Week: "I've been eating in your footsteps for years, Cliff. How do you do it? How do you eat so much? My wife says I'm fat. I say it's your fault. I just wanted to call and say thanks."

Voicemail Most Indicative of My Professionalism: "Hello, Cliff. You ate at our restaurant this evening and you dropped your notes on the way out. Please feel free to call." Sigh.

Shocking Sight of the Week: A well-known chef of a very well-reviewed intown restaurant sauntering out of Publix with a bag full of bread from the grocery's bakery.

"I'm telling the world!" I joked.

"We ran out of bread! I can't help it," he said, holding the stuff to his chest. ...

Annoyance of the Week: Arriving at Fritti asking for a table for two and being told, "I only have tables inside but if you want to wait about 10 minutes, I can give you something outside." We opted for inside seating at a table so small I had to sit at an angle to keep my left shoulder from being abraded by the concrete wall. Then we noticed four empty tables outside. Why do people do that? Anyway, the prosciutto and arugula pizza remains my favorite here. ...

Out-of-town Recommendation of the Week: Gerald Drose, back from a trip to Athens, gave me the menu of Salsa Rock Cafe (211 Tallassee Road, 706-613-2744), which he raved about. The pan-Latino menu includes Peruvian fajitas (lomo saltado), a Cuban dish featuring steak and sliced hot dogs with ham and eggs, a burger with salsa verde and jalapeños and deep-fried chicken tacos. ...

West Egg Cafe has hired Patrick Bell away from The Flying Biscuit, which is good news. The new chef should radically improve the restaurant's cuisine, which has not been nearly as good as the ambiance deserves. Bell, who has a fondness for Latin food and speaks Spanish, is working without line cooks at this writing. Can you cook? Need a job? ...

Charitable work seems to be the latest gimmick for selling food. Now Midtown's exotic Nam has jumped on the benevolent bandwagon: "Nam is proud to present a series of dinners, 'Nam Nourishes the Soul of Our Community,' to support the important work being done by 12 diverse nonprofit organizations in the community. The first dinner will be held on Mon., Sept. 13, and will benefit the Piedmont Park Conservancy in conjunction with the park's 100th birthday celebration. Subsequent dinners will be held on the second Monday of the month and will continue through August 2005." Call 404-541-9997.



Leave Cliff Bostock a voicemail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1010, or e-mail him at cliff.bostock@creativeloafing.com.



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