Thursday, February 08, 2007

Closed: Kameels: Wierdly good mall food in downtown Atlanta

You know why Atlanta is cool? It's cool because you can get curried goat in the mall food court. I didn't actually get it, but opted instead for the Schwarma from the surprisingly good Kameel's Cafe at Peachtree Center. When I grew up the most exotic food at the mall was the supreme pizza from Sbarro's. I like this lots better.

The original plan was to meet up with an old client and friend at Dailey's. There were 3 of us, then one pulled out (sick), and another (sick kid), and then it was me. I actually went by Dailey's but the thought of sitting down alone to a expertly prepared power lunch at an iconic local business haunt seemed sort of depressing. I'm not sure why, but table service is a bunch more lonely than going through a cafeteria line. Still Dailey's looked good. I may grab a novel and head there for dinner.

So I walked a few blocks further, unable to settle on anything in particular (Ray's Seafood? No. Faux Irish Pub? No. Hooters? Good lord no.), and ended up in the mall. I'd actually seen Kameel's on City Search, so I know it was either decent or had enough money to pay for the user-reviews. Turns out to have been the former. Kameel's is in many ways, just what you'd expect from a middle-eastern themed, homey, local food court vendor, except significantly tastier. The Schawarma is turkey (in itself a little wierd), but it's cooked on big gyro-style rotesseries, and the sandwhich is loaded with lots of fresh cucumber, lettuce, tomato, and a tasty, subtle tahini-based sauce. The pitas are giant and vaguely sweet, and the portion is gigantic. They've got all the standards, baba ganouj, hummus, falafel; and they seem to do them all pretty well. I had a cucumber and tomato salad as a side item. Altogether it was double what I could eat.

The ambience is, well, its a food court. I sat down with my styrofoam food container in a molded plastic chair at one of a long row of tiny tables pushed together and was struck full force with how much this was just like 8th grade. I was braver then. In 8th grade, I'd probably have gone for the goat.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Momo's - You can't possibly imagine the size of this calzone

Momo's makes big pizza. I mean really outlandishly, 3 times the size of any other pizza you've ever seen giant pizzas. An Extra Large momo's pizza is 30 inches across - 700 sq inches of gooey goodness. Calzones? Also big. That's a normal size knife and fork in that pic. So size is the gimmic here, but the real trick is that the pizza is just outstanding.

I said earlier that Tallahassee is not a food town. Momo's illustrates the one clear exception. Pizza here rocks. Even the very-cheap-open-late-greasy places like Hungry Howies are a step above. And places like Momo's and Decent Pizza are as good as I've had anywhere.

The Momo's I ate at this evening was on Market St near Timberlane and Thomasville road. There's another, much seedier and marginally more fun location on Tennessee near campus. My Calzone was Artichoke, Spinach, Ricotta and Mozzarella. Out of some attempt at moderation, I only ate half the thing, though at this very moment, the remaining half beckons, wrapped in foil, sitting on the other side of the desk. The crust is thin with this tiny edge of crispness, and the cheese is perfectly proportioned. There was also a "side salad" (also huge), and a couple of little tubs of marinara. The whole deal is homemade and awesome.

There's a vibe at Momo's. The staff isn't unfriendly exactly, but it's not exactly customer centric either - there's a certain cool-kid confident aloofness to the whole lot of them. They seem to be having a good time with each other - the pretty girls that work the register and the tall scruffy guys that make the pizza. To be honest, its kind of nice - the vibe works, and it all comes together effortlessly. Hanging around all those skinny college kids makes me feel really old, but that's a occupational hazard of eating all but the blandest corporate crap in Tallahassee. Actually that's not true. Skinny college kids work at the bland corporate locales as well. Youth here is inescapable.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

One Fresh Happy People Stir Fry

OneFresh is a complete staple for the team out here. In my mind, it's about the most innovative place in Tallahassee, and maybe the best managed. There are a couple in town - the one we generally frequent is on Monroe at Tharpe, not far from Downtown.

OneFresh does a couple of things well, but the hands down best is their stir fry. The process goes something like this - you start with a laminated menu, and use a dry erase marker to select brown or white rice, a bunch of ingredients (veggies, chicken, tofu, etc), a sauce or two, and a little garlic or scallions or cilantro for on top. Its something like 18,000 choices if I'm doing my math right. Then these guys in back with gigantic woks over huge gas burners go to town and come up with your stir fry. Takes about 5 minutes costs about 6 bucks.

It stays crowded and seems to be doing well. As an added perk, there's a mailing list which puts you in line for some of the most bizarre, entertaining stream-of-conciousness emails I've seen from the owner of the place, Bill Poole, and occasionally gets you a free drink or some extra veggies.

So the stir fry rocks, but the trick of OneFresh is its people. They're really happy and really friendly and extremely competent. They're also there a while - the same people are working there as when I first went, a year ago. My hotel has switched staffs twice in that time, and they've got it a heck of a lot is easier. Its as if the OneFresh guys really like being there. Despite being the place being tasty and trendy and well decorated, these are folks who are slogging through the lunch rush, cooking stirfry over gazillion degree burners in a noisy kitchen and making change. My hunch: they're happy because they like each other. I don't know who sets that tone - if its just a matter of hiring, if its the line managers, or the owner. I don't know what you do to a business to make it lovable, what you do for a team to get it to stick, But somehow that's what someone did here. Lovable place creates lovable people creates lovable food. Which is something Bill might say in his weekly ramble.

Despite tornado watches and drenching downpour, Continental claims my flight is on time. So off to the airport to watch the delays stack up there.


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