The Roaming Foodie

Archive for June 2010

Apologies for the Seinfeld reference in the title…I couldn’t help myself 😛

A few nights ago, in the midst of a random thunderstorm in Atlanta, Andrew and I went out to dinner at La Fonda on Ponce de Leon Avenue. We picked La Fonda randomly, due to our collective indecisiveness and attempts to get the other one to be decisive (it makes picking dinner oh so fun). I was glad La Fonda ended up being where we went, just because it’s close and I didn’t have to drive in what looked like impending doom from the skies.

La Fonda is a Latin restaurant that’s owned by the same people that own Fellini’s Pizza. It has everything from Spanish dishes, Mexican dishes, and Cuban sandwiches. They have what looks like a nice upstairs patio, and one downstairs (I’m a sucker for eating on patios) but due to the darkening skies, we sat inside. Inside was pretty nondescript. There were tables. A cashier. And the kitchen. Pretty standard. We were also the only ones sitting inside, until it started to rain, then there was an influx of people from the upstairs patio.

Like most Hispanic restaurants that I’ve been to, La Fonda gives you free chips and salsa with your meal (also known as my diet’s archnemesis). The salsa tasted fresh made, kind of like my mom makes in the summer. It had big chunks of tomatoes throughout, none of that jarred pureed salsa like you get at the grocery store. I love salsa that’s made like this, so this started the meal off on a good note.

Andrew ordered for us (thank God…I never took Spanish, and was starting to fret, thinking I’d have to order an item on the menu that had the least amount of Spanish in it so I wouldn’t mess it up and offend anyone). He ordered the Paella del Mar (???? it was the paella with all the seafood…so sue me for taking French and German and Chinese and NOT Spanish) for two. We also ordered Maduros, or fried plantains.

I thought the Paella was delicious. It was garlicky rice with green peppers, onions, and pimentos that was studded throughout with calamari, salmon, shrimp, scallops, and mussels. This was my first time trying paella, so there’s no way for me to judge it compared to other paellas. But I thought it was very tasty, and definitely a good, warm, comforting dish for such a gloomy evening. All the seafood was cooked well and seasoned well. The Maduros were just simple fried plantains. They were good, but nothing out of the ordinary for fried plantains. The service was also good, but nothing out of the ordinary (I’d rather have normal service than bad service though).

In general, La Fonda is a good restaurant that provides a tasty meal with a nice patio (if the weather is nice), even if it’s nothing to write home about. Definitely somewhere I would return to (their Cuban sandwiches looked killer), but also nothing rave-worthy.

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Thursday night, I found myself craving a meaty, juicy, perfectly simple beef burger (it’s a rare occasion that I willingly seek out beef, but it happens). I didn’t want Flip. As good as it is, I wanted something simple and classic, and I wasn’t in the right mood for the atmosphere either. I rounded up Andrew, as he is male and also a carnivore. He called his sister, since the only places he could think of for burgers were Five Guys (never been, and sounds way too greasy from what he’s said) and The Vortex (I like it, but I couldn’t bring myself to NOT order their veggie burger). She suggested a place in Virginia Highlands called Highland Tap. Andrew and I pushed that to the side, as neither of us seemed to be greatly familiar with that area of Atlanta. So I called my Atlanta food guru (aka, my brother). He suggested Highland Tap, saying that it had one of his favorite burgers in Atlanta. Alright…so if both of our siblings recommended this place, we had to go. (Thanks guys!)

My brother asked, “You’re familiar with the Highlands, right?” to which I replied “Of course” even though I totally wasn’t. He told me that Highland Tap was next to Noche (I had passed by it before and remembered the sign) and Murphy’s (again, had passed by it and remembered where it was). So after passing by both Noche and Murphy’s a few times a) looking for Highland Tap and b) trying to find somewhere to park, Andrew finally spotted a sign that said steaks and burgers, and then noticed the window that said Highland Tap (go Andrew. I never would’ve seen that, but in my defense I was watching the road). It’s tucked in there and hard to find, and when you do find it and enter the front door, you head down a set of stairs into a dark, basement-y (not a real adjective, but get over it) bar. To the right of the bar area is the restaurant. The whole restaurant is also dark, all the furniture done in mahogany, a dark red fleur de lis wallpaper on the walls that weren’t exposed stone, with the only light coming from the kitchen and little low lit lamps situated on the tables. Though I generally prefer restaurants with a lighter ambiance, the food more than made up for the lack of lighting. Also, I shouldn’t complain too much…it labeled itself as a “steak cellar” so I should’ve been a bit more prepared for the cellar vibe.

But, let’s get to the real point. The food. I was going for the burger, and searched and searched the menu, until I found it in it’s own little box (clearly, my observation skills were lacking for the evening). It was a 10 oz steak burger. As in, burger made from steak. Not a steak sandwich. Um…yum! But, even in my carnivorous state, 10 oz was a lot of beef. I kept reading down, and found what was called a “Mini Tap Burger”. It was the steak burger, but only 5 oz. This was apparently my lucky night. One could also choose from a variety of different condiments for the burger (it came with onions, lettuce and tomato), such as different cheeses, mushrooms, etc. I went with avocado on mine, and a side of onion rings. Andrew got the 10 oz with avocado and Swiss cheese, and a side of fries. He also ordered more onion rings. The onion rings came out first, and to me, they were pretty much perfect. Nothing fancy; just a perfect ratio of breading to onion. The onion was thick cut, not over cooked or overbreaded and well seasoned. Definitely get the onion rings, if you’re into that.

Our burgers came out shortly after the onion rings. The Mini Tap Burger was about the same size as a Flip burger, and it was the perfect amount to satisfy my hunger for meat without going overboard on eating. The avocado was a nice, cool contrast to the rich juicy beef.Highland Tap definitely scored points with me by having avocado as a topping for the burger…I love love love avocado.  I’m not sure what else to say about this burger…it was just a classic burger done perfectly. Nothing pretentious. It was cooked exactly how I ordered it (medium rare…I hate when you order a certain doneness and it comes out overdone. That’s happened many times to me, and so Highland Tap scored more points by doing mine medium rare like I asked).  Andrew’s 10 oz burger was HUGE, and he managed to devour the whole thing. That’s his way of saying he really enjoyed it as well. I tried a french fry from his plate, and it was good. Well seasoned, well cooked.

Our service was also great. Everything came out quickly (there were only a few other diners. Most everyone was at the bar) and she was attentive without being overly so.

After our wonderful meal at Highland Tap (my new go-to burger place, when I’m not in the mood for Flip), Andrew and I took a nice walk down the street to Ben and Jerry’s. Virginia Highlands is a really pretty neighborhood. We passed lots of nice, upkept gardens in front of nice houses, and the smell of various flowers blooming made the evening lovely. We got to Ben and Jerry’s, got some ice cream (he got Peanut Brittle, and I got Half-Baked Frozen Yogurt). Getting it fresh scooped from the store was about a million times better than getting a pint of it from the grocery store. Although there are times when a pint from the grocery store is necessary, but when you aren’t in dire need of destroying a whole pint, then getting a cup from the store is far superior. (Believe me…I know the merits of a whole pint of ice cream when things just aren’t going as they should, or when you’ve had a bad day, etc.)

I will definitely be returning to Virginia Highlands to try out other restaurants (I’ve heard Murphy’s is good) and other places (there’s a gelato store we’re going to next time, because I love gelato. The end.) Thanks for a nice evening, Highlands!

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