The Westside Urban Market is a bustling enclave of design stores, sandwich joints and upscale restaurants just west of Peachtree Street and Northside Drive in downtown Atlanta. Nestled in among the warehouses, furniture boutiques, 18-wheelers, lighting stores and flower shops is JCT Kitchen and Bar where, according to their menu, there’s “No Need to Dress Up.”
The holiday drink menu was rife with cute names for interesting concoctions (Poinsettia, Christmas Cactus, Shandy Claus, etc., etc.). We started with a Figgy Pudding (Jim Beam infused with figs, brown sugar, and a dash of aromatic bitters (not Angostura, however–they used the slightly sweeter Fee Brothers brand). A tasty mix, but quite sweet, since bourbon pretty much starts out that way. We also had a Heat Miser (Don Q Anejo Rum, Macadamia Nut Liqueur and Serrano-Lime syrup). The tiny bit of heat from the pepper blend played very well with the nutty taste of the Macadamia liqueur. Obviously, this menu is anything if not evanescent, so things might be different when you go.
JCT has latched onto the “Sunday Supper” concept. This is nothing new to residents and visitors to Rehoboth Beach. We beach dwellers have been enjoying Matt Haley’s prix fixe Sunday Suppers for quite a while. Chef Ford Fry has dubbed it “A Fancy Meat and Three” (click for a look at the Sunday menu). We were there on a Sunday (the regular menu is not available on Sundays) so we started with the Deviled Eggs (a smooth puree of egg, country ham and EVOO generously piped into a cool egg white), wonderfully flaky country biscuits with apple butter and what appeared to be a honey/butter mix, and the monumentally delicious (it really was) Farm Stand Salad–very much like a Caesar with cold, crispy romaine and shredded cheese–but with one of the best champagne vinaigrettes I have ever had.
Our “Fancy Meat” was Fried Chicken (drizzled with honey). Frankly, I expected crispy, and it wasn’t. I also couldn’t taste the honey. However, the star of the show was the Smoked Brisket Pot Roast drizzled with a dark, savory reduction with horseradish on the side. It was perfectly cooked and, for lack of a better adjective, “really good.” The ample sides are served for sharing sur la table. We had what we had to call the “festival of carbohydrates”: A cheesy Polenta (unfortunately it cooled and dried to a concrete-like firmness rather quickly), a creamy Mac & Cheese (simply delicious) and a delightfully al dente sweet corn mixture. Both sported crispy bits of cured pork belly, aka bacon [pictured,below left]. The prix fixe Supper was topped off with a single dessert for splitting. We had an apple cake that had the moist consistency of carrot cake (complete with an airy cream cheese/butter icing) but with the tartness of apple cider. Sprinkled with powdered sugar, it topped things off very nicely.
UPDATE: Well, we had to try the regular menu, so we went back to JCT Kitchen for lunch. I have to tell you it was one of the best meals I have had so far in Atlanta. We started with the Pimento Cheese Fry Bread [pictured, right]. Yeasty wafers are fried to an impossibly light crispness in what appeared to be tempura batter. They were not greasy and had a very happy mouth feel. Those cloudlike morsels were accompanied by a portion of sharp cheddar pimento and cheese mixture layered with thin-as-air slices of tart, pickled Sunchoke (not an artichoke, but the root of a sunflower-like plant. It is often used as a root vegetable). The Foodie has eaten in many, many (many…) restaurants and this is one of the best starters I have ever had. My main was the “Grown Up” Grilled Cheese. It was featured on Cooking Channel’s “Unique Eats”, so I figured, “why not?” The semolina toast was buttery and warmly crunchy as an assortment of warm and creamy cheeses oozed out. A roasted tomato was the surprise inside. Another surprise was the crispy dark pools of cheese that gravity coaxed down to the grill surface to be fried to a cheddary goodness. The tomato soup was drizzled with a cheeky olive oil and was simply delicious, It wasn’t long before the pieces of cheese sandwich were being dunked into the soup. I have to say, “WOW.”
The other entree was the Fried Egg Burger, featuring a wood-grilled beef patty topped with a perfectly fried egg (still soft in the center), smoked bacon and a sharp, white cheddar. The soft and steamy roll expertly sandwiched the beef, bacon and cheese. Salty shoestrings fried in peanut oil cuddled up happily beside the sandwich. In short, go there for lunch! Take a look at the lunch menu. It changes from time to time, but nothing in life is permanent. Carpe that diem!
The Foodie is a frequent visitor to Atlanta, and the next visit will be to check out the dinner menu. Look at it now by clicking here. JCT Kitchen and Bar is located at 1198 Howell Mill Road. You’ll see a sign, but after you pull into the lot you’ll have to drive around back. The JCT emblazoned on a big corrugated metal silo gives it away. Give ’em a call if you get lost (404) 355-2252. (L. (Mon. thru Sat.), D., Bar) Price range: Moderate +.