local eats

Local Eats: Stir, Chattanooga

For our 5th wedding anniversary, my husband and I took a short weekend getaway to Chattanooga. Our first night there we had the privilege of eating at an amazing restaurant called Stir. Located on Market Street, Stir offers modern American eats, craft cocktails and a full Oyster bar. They use farm fresh, local ingredients and make everything from scratch in-house.

Stir is known for their artesianal ice and they demonstrate the process right at your table. The ice melts at a slower pace so your drinks stay colder and stronger for longer. The spherical ice ball maker is so fun to watch in action and if you have kids in your group, they will love it. All of the bartenders are so knowledgable about what they’re serving and really put in the time to make sure each drink is quality. Stir could easily survive as a craft-cocktail establishment. I started off with the Whiskey Bramble (bourbon, cherry amarascata, lemon juice, orange blossom water and sugar can syrup). I could have enjoyed them all night because those flavors together were impressive. My husband stuck with the George Dickel Barrel select and water. The drink menu at Stir is astounding. With over 300+ liquors, wine, and beer to choose from, there is something for everyone.

Our appetizers were the Fried Oysters Casino (bacon, parmesan, green onions, garlic, shallot and butter atop fried oysters) and the Crab Bisque (crab, sherry, basil oil, crostini, celery leaves and micro greens). Even people who don’t like oysters and crab will love these small plates. The bisque was rich, creamy and filling: perfect as a starter and for sharing. And anything with bacon, parmesan, and garlic is a win in my book.
If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you know that I cannot say no to anything with scallops. Naturally, I chose the Scallop & Shrimp Mac and Cheese (cavatappi pasta, asparagus, and white truffle oil) and was blown away by all the rich flavors. The pasta dish has a generous amount of seafood and the noodles and cheese combination was out of this world. This is one of those recipes where all the ingredients truly mesh well together. I cut up the shrimp and scallops so that each bite had a little bit of everything. If I lived closer to Chattanooga I would have to get this dish once a week. My husband chose the Seared Tuna with kale, bacon, red onion, farro, basil, and sriracha potato crumbles in a citrus soy sauce. Like all their other seafood, the Tuna was fresh and seared nicely. The kale salad was phenomenal and my husband and I are not even huge kale fans. We loved the unique pairings of that dish more than anything else we tried.
If you are local to the Chattanooga area or plan on taking a trip there, do yourself a favor and indulge in Stir for a meal you won’t forget.
*Our meal & drinks were provided by Stir. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

Local Eats: Saltwood, Atlanta

This past Sunday, my husband and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary (!!) We were lucky enough to have a night out alone and had a mini staycation at the Loews Hotel in Atlanta. Tucked inside Loews is Saltwood, a wonderful charcuterie and bar. They serve the best selections of fresh cheese and meats which can only by topped by the beautiful presentation of each platter. They are carefully put together and almost look too pretty to eat. All of their cheeses and meat are locally sourced, which makes this farm to table style of dining work so well. A few of the local artisan cheese companies that Saltwood works with is Sweet Grass Dairy, Woodsman & Wife Cheese, and Calyroad Creamery. We had one of their beautiful cheese boards for an appetizer in our room before heading down to the lobby for dinner. The decor and style of Saltwood is modern, cozy, and sleek. There are plenty of tables in four separate dining areas, including the patio.
We arrived just before 7:30 and were welcomed by a lovely host who was more than accommodating throughout the entire evening. The staff have a warm, approachable attitude and make sure you’re taken care of without being obtrusive. We ordered some delicious cocktails and two appetizers: fresh burrata and the Gulf Coast seafood. The burrata was nothing short of amazing but the standout of the two was hands down the Gulf Coast seafood. Fried oyster, shrimp, snapper, okra with an escabeche aioli set the stage for only amazing dishes to come. My favorite cocktails of the night were the Contingency Plan {Tito’s Vodka, Fresh Lemon and Lavender} and the Summer Break {Peach Ciroc, Fresh Lemon & Lime}.
It’s not uncommon for the chef to come out and greet you while your dine, ask if you have questions about the menu and offer his suggestions. We loved getting to know Jeremy and hearing about how much love and dedication goes into making each meal at Saltwood. He also informed us of some exciting menu additions coming in the next few months which we will definitely be checking back in to try. My husband decided on the Spice Crusted Pork Tenderloin with potato purée, roasted mushrooms, date, and cilantro chimichurri. The infusion of all these ingredients was excellent and the pork was cooked to perfection. Pork is not something I tend to lean towards when ordering dinner, however, I would definitely order this for myself next time. After speaking with the chef, I was set on ordering the Southern Paella. This seafood wonderland included pan seared red snapper, scallops, mussels, and andouille sausage which sat upon a bed of amazing Carolina gold rice. Paella is a dish that originated in Spain but has evolved throughout the years and I love seeing the southern spin on this old classic.
Our dinner at Saltwood was one of the highlights of our anniversary. We cannot wait to come back and try out the amazing brunch menu. Breakfast tacos, chicken & waffles, shrimp & grits, cold pressed juices … the list of plates I want to try is endless. If you work around the Midtown area, are in town for the night, or just want to try a new place, I can not recommend Saltwood enough. You will not be disappointed with your visit and it will quickly top your list of favorite places to dine at!
*Our meal & drinks were provided by Saltwood. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

Local Eats: Mama’s Boy, Athens

My family loves breakfast. It’s our favorite meal of the day and on weekends we always have a least one big, hearty breakfast together. When planning vacations, food and restaurants are the number one thing I start researching (after accommodations). One of my favorite ways to find out about local eateries is through Instagram. Most restaurants follow their cities Instagram account and vice versa. I had followed the My Athens account for a few months prior to our trip and food pictures from Mama’s Boy frequented their feed. I could not wait to visit here during our Athens trip. 

I need an iced coffee first thing in the morning before anything else. Sometimes I think I am addicted because I literally crave it when I wake up. My husband prefers his warm but I drink mine iced year round. It could be -30 degrees outside and you would still see me sipping on iced coffee. Mama’s Boy coffee is delicious and they offer free refills when you order it iced. For our starter, we decided to share the banana bread with honey poppy seed butter.  This butter was definitely the start of the show and if I worked at Mama’s Boy, I would be hiding in the back on my break eating this with a spoon. 

My husband usually orders the heartiest thing on the menu and chose the Mill Town Breakfast Plate. I’m a huge fan of a restaurant’s specials and on this Saturday one of their specials were the Shrimp & Grits with poached eggs, creole sauce, and cheddar cheese. It was without a doubt phenomenal and had a kick to it which added a ton a flavor. If you follow my food posts, you know I am egg obsessed and add eggs to just about everything. I can’t make poached eggs to save my life so when I see them on the menu, I can’t resist. The kids shared the Cinnamon French Toast sticks and biscuits. Ahhh, the biscuits. Paired with the homemade raspberry jam, they are melt in your mouth deliciousness and will have you dreaming about them for weeks on end. 

When visiting Mama’s Boy on the weekends, I suggest coming early or be prepared to wait for a bit. This place is so popular with the locals and for good reason. The restaurant is cozy, service is fast and the food is outstanding and budget friendly. Thank you, Mama’s Boy for hosting us! 

*This review was in partnership with Mama’s Boy. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

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Local Eats: South Main Kitchen, Alpharetta

In the past few years there has been a wave of remodeling of historic neighborhoods in the North Atlanta suburbs. Downtown Alpharetta is one of those amazing spots. They have a wonderful farmers market on the weekend, food trucks every Thursday, a brand new city hall with a huge green lawn, new sidewalks and plenty of shops and restaurants. One eatery that is sure to catch your eye is South Main Kitchen, located on South Main Street directly across from the new City Hall. They focus on the social aspect of dining with their farm to table atmosphere.

I love all the outdoor space that South Main Kitchen has. It really is the best place for a summer date or girls night out. There is an upper and lower deck, side patio and a few tables in front. Upon entering the original building that has been completely restored, you are welcomed with friendly faces and a laid back attitude. The members of the staff could easily become your friends by the end of the night.

My husband and I sat on the upper deck since the weather was beautiful. For starters we went with Flo’s Sweet Fries with blue cheese dressing and the Meatballs with beef gravy, blueberry jam and watercress. Neither disappointed. Other small plates which stood out were the Brisket Tacos, Lamb Poppers and Kale Chips. Guests also swear by the Brussels Sprouts so I am going back there as soon as I can to order.
After sampling a few cocktails and sadly finishing our starters, we ordered our main courses. Whenever there are scallops on the menu, I cannot pass them up. This particular plate had sea scallops served in a tarragon and miso broth with red potatoes, snap peas, pickled mushrooms, watercress and basil oil. I am a huge vinegar fan but if you are not keen on that taste, this dish isn’t for you, being that the mushrooms are pickled. My husband chose the Filet Mignon which was served over a parsnip puree, quinoa, grilled asparagus, pickled mushrooms and a blueberry & peppercorn balsamic reduction. The plating of the entree was so beautiful and my husband said it was cooked to perfection. He isn’t a huge quinoa fan but he loved how this was mixed with all the other flavors.
Usually I never save room for dessert but as soon as I saw the Strawberry Shortcake I had to indulge. Served on a house made oat biscuit with strawberry balsamic jam and chamomile whipped cream, this Strawberry Shortcake was without a doubt the best I’ve ever tasted. My husband and I made room in our bellies for after dinner cocktails before calling it an evening. If you’re visiting this summer, you must try the strawberry & basil cocktail. Simply delicious!
A huge thank you to South Main Kitchen for having us. I cannot wait to return!
*This review was in partnership with South Main Kitchen. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

Local Eats: Cinquecento, Boston

My entire family and I were lucky enough to all be together in Boston this past weekend to see my brother graduate from Boston University. It was such a special moment for all of us and I was so excited to have my husband with me so we could experience Boston together for the first time. We arrived late Thursday afternoon and had been up since the early morning hours preparing for our trip. Our dinner plans were taking us to Cinquecento in the South End and we had been looking forward to it all day.
The restaurant was very easy to get to. We walked from our hotel in the theater district and it only took about 20 minutes. The weather was beautiful and we loved sightseeing a little on foot. As a blogger and photographer I am always on the lookout for unique walls and backdrops. The brick walls leading into Cinquecento were so beautifully painted and definitely set the tone for what was about to come. The restaurant has a spacious outdoor patio and bar which was very busy, but not overwhelmingly crowded. It looked like a great place to meet friends for a drink or come let of some steam after work. It was also nicely shaded in between tall buildings which made for a more enjoyable experience. The decor and architecture inside Cinquecento stays true to their Italian namesake. Gorgeous industrial fixtures and glass pendants hung from the high ceilings and the rustic wooden tables provided wonderful ambiance and character.
Our table in Cinquecento was in a prime location: a corner booth in the bar area. The tall windows let the natural light pour in beautifully, making it the perfect spot for photographing food. blogger problems. The entire staff could not have been friendlier and went above and beyond to make everyone feel welcomed and taken care of. Our waiter was well versed in every aspect of the menu and knew his wines like nobody’s business. I am not a big wine drinker but he was able to pick out a few wines for me to sample throughout the night and I found a new white that I absolutely love: La Scola Gavi dei Gavi Bianco Secco. Definitely ordering a case of this as soon as possible. I also tried the Minuetto Cocktail which consisted of Prosecco, Vodka, Elderflower, Grapefruit and Lemon. It was also delicious with just the right balance of all ingredients.
For starters we had the Steamed Mussels with Red Onion, Basil and Spicy Broth. The broth was more delicious than the mussels, which were exceptionally prepared. Thank goodness for the bread they kept bringing because we soaked up every last bit of that broth. Being the carb lovers that we are, we also ordered the Ricotta Fresca: warm ricotta, olive oil and grilled bread. I’ve never had warmed ricotta but was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was. At most restaurants I visit there are usually only a few appetizers which look appealing to me but at Cinquecento they all looked good. Bruschetta, Grilled Octopus, Oysters, Charred Beef Carpaccio … the options are endless and there is something for everyone.
My husband had the Bolognese (veal, pork, pancetta, beef and parmigiano) and our waiter warned him when he ordered that it could possibly be the best he’s ever had, and he wasn’t kidding. It was that good. My husband’s standards are set pretty high when it comes to meat sauce, yet he raved about this for the rest of our trip. I chose the Fettuccini Al Funghi E Tartufi: foraged mushrooms, truffle butter and basil. I’m a sucker for truffle anything and this didn’t disappoint. If you’re a fan of mushrooms, you have to try this dish. The noodles were so fresh and I could have drank the truffle butter sauce with a straw. The Brussels Sprouts were prepared to crispy perfection with just the right amount of parmesan cheese and pepper sprinkled throughout. Asparagus with cured egg yolk and parmigiano was so fresh as if it had been locally picked that day. We ended the evening with the Bittersweet Chocolate Budino (molten chocolate cake) with fresh whipped cream and Grand Marnier. Cinquecento really raised the bar for the trip and we kept comparing everything we ate to our first dinner in Boston.
If you are a current Bostonian or visiting this wonderful city, Cinquecento is a must. The food was out of this world delicious and the staff, dare I say it, was even better. Nothing makes me happier than having an all around wonderful experience. Thank you, Cinquecento for making our first night in Boston a memorable one!
*Our meal & drinks were provided by Cinquecento. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

Local Eats: Bar Taco, Atlanta

Whenever we’re in Buckhead visiting my mom we always try and stop at Bar Taco for lunch or dinner. It’s so convenient to her house and the atmosphere is light, airy and laid back. We’ve eaten there numerous times and I’ve never had a bad experience or meal. The waitstaff are friendly and attentive, the drinks are strong and the tacos are on point. There is also free valet parking if you happen to go during a busy time. If I could dream up my idea outdoor patio, I would model it after the Bar Taco patio. String lights, a stone fireplace, low benches and tables, shade coverage from the large trees, horseshoe … all the things to make you feel like you’re right at home, which is one of the reasons we keep coming back.

The restaurant is very kid friendly and the outside patio is the ideal place to sit, regardless if there are kids in tow. They even have a fun kids food & drink menu and various fresh squeezed juices. We always start off with their guacamole, salsa verde, tostada shells and their house margaritas on the rocks. The guac is a good combination of lime and spice without being too hot, plus they add cilantro which makes anything better in my opinion.

The falafel taco is hands down my favorite while my husband prefers the pork pastor. Their menu has options for everyones taste buds and preference: spicy, mild, vegetarian, and lots of meat. The tacos are small (each on a 4 inch tortilla) which allows you to try multiple variations and flavors. After sharing the shells and guacamole I always get four tacos and a bowl and find that I am never left feeling hungry. The roasted cauliflower rice bowl with romesco sauce has easily become one of my favorites and there are eight others to choose from including pork belly, sesame ribeye and portobello mushroom.
I don’t usually save room for dessert but on rare occasions I get a hankering for gelato which is strange because I’m not a huge fan of it. On this particular day they had mint chocolate chip on the menu so it was a no brainer. The scoop was huge and comes in a full sized waffle cone on a stand. It was delicious and I think they may have converted me after trying it.
Bar Taco has 3 locations in Atlanta: Chastain Park, Inman Park and West Midtown. There are also restaurants on the East Coast and in Florida. Did I mention that you can order online too? This place seriously has it all. If you are looking for a fun night out with friends, family or a date night I strongly suggest checking out Bar Taco. Happy eating!

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