Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Porter

Maybe the best way to sum up The Porter is a line I used to describe a dish later in this post: "I would never have expected to find something this good and this exciting in a bar in Little Five Points."

Food in America has changed. We have gone from a not so distant past where the majority of neighborhood bars served Budweiser, Coors, Miller, french fries, hamburgers, and nachos, to today where you can find a bar serving beef hearts, mussels, deconstructed caesar salads, and creme brulee. Are we in the midst of a food fad, a food bubble? I'm not really sure, but I sure hope not. I find this to be a happy or tasty state of affairs.

The Porter is the new breed of bars. It has a beer list that goes on for pages. You will not find any Bud, Miller, or Coors products on it. You will find Belgian Trappist beers, German weizens, barleywines, IPAs and every other variety of beer you can imagine. More heady adventures than any one man could possibly hope to sample. I had one of my absolute favorite beers, a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. I also had a Smuttynose IPA because it was the suggested beer pairing for my mussels and a Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale for dessert. The wheat wine ale was a combination of a wheat beer and a barleywine. All were good, although I am still a little unsure about barleywines.

For food we sampled a number of items thanks to our friends, a couple who invited us out and suggested The Porter. A hat tip is owed to R and E. We started off with the goat cheese fritters.
There were five to start. This picture was taken after two were consumed.

We had a small debate at the table about these. They were decent and could have been a little warmer, but should they really be called fritters? We concurred that "logs" or "sticks" would have been more accurate. I understand that a fritter is any food coated in batter and fried, but it just didn't seem to accurately describe the dish. Maybe that is a trend at The Porter. See the description of my wife's salad below. The fritters were battered and fried logs of goat cheese covered with a honey sauce. Anything with goat cheese or fried will be good, and you can't fail with the combination of the two.

We also tried the salt and vinegar popcorn. This was a very interesting dish and a great idea for bar food.

I often find popcorn to be a little bland and boring. The vinegar gave it a welcome kick. It almost tasted like salt and vinegar chips. One bite had such a strong vinegar kick that I felt it in my nose, but other than that the popcorn was delicious, and I love the idea.

For my appetizer I ordered the beef hearts. Of course I ordered the beef hearts, it was the weirdest thing on the menu. The beef hearts were shaved with red wine blueberries, pickled scallions, and radishes.

The beef hearts were excellent. The meat was super tender and had a taste I can't describe. Everyone at the table agreed that it was good but also was unable to describe the taste. The taste is a little bit organy but not in a strong, overpowering way. The blueberries, pickled scallions, and radishes added some sweetness, tang, and crunch that paired well with the deep, rich taste of the meat. Overall, this was a tasty, bold, and inventive dish that worked well. I would never have expected to find something this good and this exciting in a bar in Little Five Points.

My wife had the macaroni and cheese as an appetizer.

It is hard to have bad macaroni and cheese, and this was good, but far from the best macaroni and cheese we have ever had. The dish consisted of shells with white cheddar cheese. It was super cheesy and very creamy, to the point of being a little soupy.

As an entree, I had the mussels appetizer.

The mussels were cooked in a broth with carrots, onions, some other vegetables, and sriracha. I am a huge fan of sriracha, and liked the idea, but I wish the sriracha was a little stronger in the broth. Overall, the mussels were good, but not amazing.

My wife ordered a caesar salad as her entree. The menu stated caesar salad and then something like "parmesan, anchovies, egg, . . . "  But nowhere did it give a clear indication that the salad was a deconstructed caesar salad.

The lack of clear description on the menu was more than a little annoying for several reasons. First, the dish brought to the table was not what was expected. Second, it required significant work to get the salad to be anything close to a caesar salad. My wife had to spend several minutes mashing up the egg and anchovies and slicing the romaine and cheese. This would not have been a problem if it was expected. It is not that we are lazy diners, but one would like to know that the diner will be doing all of the work. Finally, it was a little annoying because the dish didn't totally work. Caesar dressing requires a thorough mixing of the ingredients. The resulting salad was not gross and had some interesting taste, but it wasn't really a caesar salad. This one dish was a bit of a failure in my judgment. I would award and A+ for inventiveness and thinking outside the box but a B- for execution and taste.

Finally, I had one other complaint. We were seated at a table in a small passageway between the front bar and the back room. Our table was directly across from the bathroom. I could almost reach out and touch the bathroom door. While I would find this to be a problem in almost any establishment, in an establishment that is just as much a bar as a restaurant this is a real problem. There were frequently lines of people waiting to use the restroom. For a while there was a long piece of toilet paper on the floor outside one of the bathrooms, and at one point a waiting patron thought it would be perfectly acceptable to rest his drink on our table without asking. I understand that The Porter is a small place and tables have to be placed where there is available space. But no one should be seated across from the bathroom. Give up one table and take the small hit in your ability to turn a table. Don't try so hard in terms of beers and food and then squander it all away by seating someone next to a bar bathroom.

Other than the bar bathroom table and the deconstructed caesar salad, I was rather impressed with The Porter. I would definitely go back. However, I would make clear that I would gladly wait any additional time necessary to not be seated next to the bathroom.

The Porter
1156 Euclid Ave. NE
Atlanta, GA 30307

The Porter on Urbanspoon

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