So, this past week, I was invited to check out one of the newest spots to hit the Atlanta food and drink scene, GRAIN Spirits + Food in Midtown. Well, suffice it to say, this place gives new meaning to the phrase “where everybody knows your name”. Like, I actually witnessed co-owner and master barman Kevin Bragg greet an apparently regular customer by name. Which is very refreshing to see in the food world. But it’s not exactly Cheers, either…which I actually pulled up on Netflix as I wrote this. Some of y’all may be “too young”, but you’re never too young to know the TV Classics.
But I digress. The notion behind GRAIN was to take the model of the neighborhood bar and grill and turn up the volume several notches. The goal is to offer visitors a nice and easy, laid back experience in an setting that also happens to be urban-upscale. And GRAIN succeeds here. First off, the atmosphere is decidedly chic and modern, which is quite befitting of “The New Atlanta” that’s been growing like a weed along Peachtree, West Peachtree, and Spring Streets. One key juxtaposition here, however, is that the dishes are served on several different varieties of vintage dinnerware that the owners scooped up at the Scott Antique Market. The delicate, intricately-patterned old china plays well against the concrete and wooden clean lines of the smallish restaurant. And, decoratively speaking, I’ve always enjoyed mixing vintage with contemporary. Speaking of mixing, I started with one of their signature cocktails. Since I went there on a fairly nippy night (by Atlanta standards, anyway), I decided to give the Winter Bolwer a try. It was a fairly simple combination of rye, cloves, honey, and grapefruit. Now, given that I’m not the biggest grapefruit fan, I have to say that this was quite tasty and satisfying. It was refreshing enough to be, well, refreshing, but the addition of cloves really adds a sweet spiciness that helps make the drink more appropriate for a winter’s night, not to mention balancing out the bitterness of the grapefruit when combined with the honey. In all honesty, I’d love to see this combination or something similar served hot for the wintertime.
Next up was something I’d consider one of my “culinary aha moments”. I discovered the Edible Cocktail, which I really hope becomes a more common thing on menus in restaurants. It really offers you a way to enjoy a “drink” in a unique way. Well, Kevin and company were trying to really liquor me up with this next course (not that I’m complaining) of these Apple Manhattans. That is, they take raw apple slices and vacuum-infuse them with their Manhattan cocktail. Texturally, the apple slices retain a decent amount of crispness that tastes fresh and refreshing. And the sweetness of the apple balances out the potency of the cocktail it’s infused with, and boy, is it potent.
After my drunken apples came GRAIN’s charcuterie board, which included fresh bread, three types of handcrafted salamis, butcher’s pâté, a whole-grain mustard made with SweetWater 420 beer, and pickled brussels sprouts. Now, one of my favorite things to snack on is salami with cheese and crackers. Well, GRAIN is a restaurant after my own heart with their versions of that snack. This is definitely more “fancy” than the Boar’s Head and Triscuits I get from the grocery store. But it was all delicious, especially the Carolina Reaper salami, which was satisfyingly spicy, and the pâté, which I was actually nervous about, since I’m no liver lover, but it was quite tasty. However, to me, the real treat was when I cleansed my palate with the bread-and-butter-pickled brussels sprouts. I love brussels sprouts (when they’re cooked the right way) and I love bread and butter pickles. I would’ve never even thought of combining the two, but they are delicious and sounds like something I need to recreate for myself. 😉
After I finished the charcuterie, I was served the crispy pork belly, which was served with a Fig-Mustard jam and pickled Korean radishes. Now, if y’all have been following my blog regularly, you know that I love a combination of sweet and savory, and this dish doesn’t disappoint in satisfying that craving. The meat has a flavor and texture that mixes crisp bacon (which comes from pork belly, of course) with pulled pork, which creates a “best of both worlds” scenario. Combine that with the sauce, and you’ve got a match made in heaven.
At this point in my visit, I was feeling quite stuffed, but Kevin brought out one final dish for me to to try: fennel sausage with fingerling potatoes, cerignola olives and Calabrian chili rouille. In all honesty, I would say that it was a little too much rouille for my liking, but I’ve always been more of a “lightly sauced” fan. Outside of that minor blip, the sausage was delicious, the potatoes were perfect, and the olives added a nice little bite. I would say that this was a pleasant end to a great evening checking out a new place.
GRAIN was a real treat, overall. I really enjoyed getting to know Kevin and learning about how this place came to be. If you’re in Midtown, you should definitely check it out!
AT A GLANCE:
- Prices: Cocktails and small plates dance around $10 apiece.
- Perfect For: Date night or meeting with a few friends for a drink. Great for before an event at the Fox/High/Woodruff, etc.
- What They Have: Unique craft drinks, appetizers, and small plates.
- Should You Go?: Yes, definitely! If you’re wanting to go out some place that’s much more intimate and “grown up” than the typical crowded bars around town, check this place out!
DISCLOSURE NOTE: This meal was complimentary for my review.