Brandon's Beef

An unsolicited opinion on food, music, travel and other stuff

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Here’s The Beef


There’s a constant debate as to who has the best steak in Atlanta.  It wasn’t intentional, but in a week’s time, I managed to hit five of the big ones – Hal’s,McKendrick’sRuth’s ChrisPampas and Rathbun Steak.

I’ve eaten at all of them at one time or another and it seems you do get a different experience each time.  Many of you know I had to ban McKendrick’s for a while because they started treating me like shit.  But, they fired the a-hole GM and it seems to be back as it was.

McKendrick’s has always been my favorite for a few reasons – waiters Mike & Taco, atmosphere, location, wine appreciation and pretty damn good steaks.  Oh, and let’s not forget the four cheese, truffle mac ‘n cheese.  It’s never on the menu, but they always have it.  So, banning them was hard, but you really do have to vote with your feet.  They got the message and I’m glad to be going back.


Aside from Ruth’s Chris, which was average at best, the other four steakhouses are all standouts for their own reasons.  This week, Rathbun Steak put the best in front of me.  Then, I’d say a tie for Pampas and McKendrick’s, followed by Hal’s.


Hal’s – it’s old school, piano/cigar bar atmosphere.  The NY Strip special was the best of the cuts we had. $25 corkage which is on the high side.  If you want a really in depth full review on Hal’s there is a great blog article in the AJC by John Kessler.


Rathbun Steak – the hip, in town, loud, be seen place to be.  Mostly dry aged.  All was really good on this visit. 


Pampas – neighborhood gem; Argentinean style.  The Wagyu chop was awesome.  $20 corkage, but the waiter was kind enough to waive it for us.


McKendrick’s – let’s call it “Dunwoody chic.”  Food quality is consistent.  Loud, but friendly.  Generally very attentive wait staff and they get to know you.  $20 corkage and also waived.


To finish out the steakhouse trek, I’ll be hitting Craftsteak in Vegas on Saturday.  Have had some great meals at this place in the past and expectations are high!

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Just an average night out in Chicago…

You’re probably thinking about nothing but food since Thanksgiving, so here’s a preview of a recent dinner at Alinea in Chicago.

The pictures are in no particular order because I can’t figure out how to work tumblr.  But let me just tell you, this goes in my top 5 meals of all time - an easy 5 Kewl Kows.  If you have a brave palette and three hours to kill, you must check this place out.  Reservations required WAY in advance.

You arrive at an address.  No sign on the door.  Walk in and have the dining experience of a lifetime!

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Let the skyfall

I took in the new Bond flick, Skyfall, last weekend and it was certainly one of the better ones of the past decade.  Other than being easily 30 minutes too long, it was a typical Bond movie - plenty of action, sly humor, a casino scene.

But, you know what really struck me?  The theme song.  A week later and I still can’t get it out of my head.  Not that it’s a phenomenal song.  It’s decent.  But, it so was in the spirit of a true Bond theme song.  And, man, there have been some great ones.  Half the time the theme song has been more memorable than the movie.

Adele co-wrote and recorded the song and she just nailed it.  Honestly, I was beginning to think Adele was just hype.  She had a great album.  She had throat problems and cancelled her tour - twice.  She had a big comeback performance on one of the award shows and…well, not much after that.  Haven’t heard from her.  Kind of forgot about her.

I’m a fan again.  The lyrics and tone went perfectly with the movie and she sang it great.  If the movie wasn’t too damn long, I might go see it again just to see the opening and closing credits.

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Vino in Roswell

We had the chance to taste a few of the wines that Vin25 pours at the recent opening of the new Vinings Gallery location in Historic Roswell.  Seemed like a perfect time for a “Guest Beef” from our friend Josh in Roswell who had the full Vin25 experience.

We arrived slightly after 7:30 and the place was filled, but there was still room to sit down in front of the live music outside.  By the time our friends arrived our table was ready.  The service was great from the get go.  The hostess on the weekend is the owners wife and she remembered me from a prior visit.  We sat and started to look at the wine list.  Our waiter told us that the owner (a master sommelier) could give us some suggestions.  He asked us what we liked and began to explain some of the options and helped us make a solid selection.  

The menu is pretty simple - one page - and it changes seasonally.  But most importantly - they make their own BACON! So naturally one of the “snacks” is called The Bacon is a Vegetable “Salad” and it did not disappoint! We also ordered Fried Risotto Balls and the Citrus Cured Hamachi - both very tasty.  If I could give any negative at at this point it was that the “snacks” were just that - they still left you hungry for more.

We ordered the Braised Short Rib with fingerling potatoes, Shrimp and Grits, a Pepper encrusted filet chop w/ chimichurri, and black bass w/ various pork products (did I mention they make their own bacon??).

The food came out and it tasted as good as it looked!

For dessert, we tried the Pumpkin Spice Bacon Doughnuts rolled in cinnamon and sugar with vanilla bean ice cream and the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup w/ Sea salt - both were awesome.

Bottom line - if you are just looking for a place to hang out and have a couple of snacks and few drinks with friends it’s a must and I highly recommend the full experience especially on the weekend for the live music.

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To Flush or Not to Flush? That is the Question…

The Butcher is off in Australia, so what a great time to feature our first “Guest Beef.”  This Beef was submitted to from Mike in Atlanta.

Go to bathroom to piss and all urinals are occupied so I have to use a stall. As I am pissing someone calls me and instead of just waiting till I was done like a normal person, I fumble through my pockets for my cell…and drop my car keys right into the toilet bowl.

I stood there for a good ten seconds contemplating what I had done. Not only was my piss in the bowl, the water was yellow when I got there…and there were marks on the side of the bowl.


I momentarily contemplated just ditching them and buying a new car. Seriously, I am not putting my hand in there. There are some battles you just don’t want to win, let alone fight. Unfortunately, even though I am doing okay financially, I’m not doing THAT well. So what do I do now? Then it popped into my head.

I went out front to where I had seen a bunch of foreign people hanging out and walked up to a group of them:

“Any of you want to make ten dollars? All you have to do is get my keys out of the toilet.”

They kind of stood there staring at me for a minute, and then one of them agreed and followed me to the bathroom. When he saw the toilet, he paused and asked me if I had the money. I produced the cash and without missing a beat he reached into the yellowish brown water and fished them out like a trout from a mountain spring. Then he crossed the line. He tried to hand them to me.

I told him to put them in the sink. He placed them under the faucet, I gave him the money and he left, WITHOUT WASHING HIS HANDS. Then I let the water run over them for five minutes, took some of the liquid soap out of the container and let it drain into the sink where the keys were now soaking in water. After awhile, I got the courage to remove them while holding onto a paper towel and dried them the best I could. I realize that they will never be the same and that I will have to have all of them replaced as soon as I can. In the meantime, I will thoroughly wash my hands after handling them.

It was literally the only time in my life I have ever been happy that foreigners exist.

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The Perfect Storm

Thanksgiving is the best holiday ever.  Period.  There’s nothing out there that can trump it or even come close.

For starters, it’s a four-day weekend.  And, it’s ALWAYS a four-day weekend.  You can count on it falling on that fourth Thursday of November every year.  Unlike Christmas or Independence Day which can hop around and fall on some random Tuesday or Wednesday.

And the next reason Thanksgiving is super awesome:  No responsibilities.  No wedding, no funeral.  No church or synagogue.  No gifts. 

Your only requirement is to be a true American (i.e. a lazy ass.)  Eat and drink in excess.  Watch football.  If the weather is nice, light the fire pit out back.

Seriously, what could be better?  Plus you get pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes.  Sandy was an impressive storm, but Thanksgiving is the Perfect Storm and we get to enjoy it every year.

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An Insta-Beef

Dear Restaurant People:

It is seriously not necessary to call me to “confirm” my reservation.  I understand why you do it - because 99% of the people won’t show.

But, I’m the 1% that does show up.  I know you can see my OpenTable history.

So, seriously, leave me the frick alone.

Instead of harassing me, how about focusing on having my table actually ready when I arrive?

Perhaps I should start calling you 15 minutes before my reservation to confirm that you will be ready when I get there!

That is all-

The Bull

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I Knew I Could Use A Bloody Mary


In my opinion, brunch is the best meal by far.  You get all the goodies that come with breakfast with some of the savory side of lunch thrown in for good measure.  Problem is, it’s really difficult to find a quality brunch any day but Sunday.  I get there’s not a big demand during the week, but how about Saturday at least? 
We were faced with this dilemma this past Saturday.  Timing was such that we wanted to grab brunch before heading to a mid afternoon event.  But, where to go??  I searched through OpenTable hoping to find some suggestions.  As expected, they were few and far between. 
What did come up was Einstein’s on Juniper in Midtown.  Menu looked good and given we had no other real options, we decided to give it a shot.
Parking was limited which is always a problem for me.  I will often eliminate restaurants solely based on the parking.  However, being a Saturday morning in Midtown, it wasn’t an issue.
Upon arrival, we were greeted and sat right away.  It’s Midtown, so it was an eclectic mix of people.  Apparently they have a policy where they will not hire anyone who is straight.  It almost felt like reverse discrimination.
Our waiter was a little spacey, but gracious and accommodating.  Of course, each of us modified what we ordered from the menu and surprisingly he said, “No problem” and more surprisingly everything came out as ordered.
They give you “brunch breads” from Metrotainment Bakery which is one of their sister restaurants.  Super fresh banana and pumpkin bread were provided.  Both awesome.  Everyone’s meals were super good and reasonably priced.
The waiter was even kind enough to pack up a loaf of the pumpkin bread for us to take along since he saw how much we all enjoyed it.  So, Kewl Kow points for quality and service.  Will definitely be back.

4 Kewl Kows 

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Depending On The Kindness Of Strangers

I met some friends in front of The Capital Grille at Perimeter to consolidate cars before heading WAY ass down to Fayetteville.  We were going to see Zac Brown Band perform at their new Southern Ground Amphitheatre to raise money for Camp Southern Ground which is under construction.

The show was shorter than we expected, but was a lot of fun. The amphitheatre holds only 1,500 people so it was a treat to see Zac play in that small of a venue.  They played some great stuff that we don’t usually get to hear.  It was an afternoon show so we stopped by Vinings Gallery on the way back to see Gary and drop off some pictures to get framed.

A bottle of Jacquelynn later, we headed to Fine Wine Connection to make a pickup.  A  bottle of Jacquelynn later, we decided to hit my fav, Local Three, for dinner.  It was perfectly awesome as always.

A bottle of Robert Foley later, we headed home.  Needless to say, the friends we met at Perimeter were not driving home, so we lit up the fire pit at the house and watched the Alabama/LSU game.

Next morning we drove back to Perimeter to pick up the car.  I was startled when a guy in a beat up Explorer asked me if I could give him a jump.  I’m all about helping people out, but I prefer to do it via donation rather than a face to face meeting.  So, I was figuring they would likely shoot me, steal the $5 in my wallet and that would be the end of it.  This would have been a bummer because there were a few bottles of Shafer Relentless I had just picked up and was looking forward to drinking.

Fortunately, the car started and I didn’t get shot!  So, Brandon’s Beef lives to see another day!  And while I felt good helping someone out, and I always will if I can, it is amazing how we live in a society where you do have to worry about getting shot while doing it.

Filed under Perimeter The Capital Grille ZBB SGMF Southern Ground Camp Southern Ground Zac Brown Vinings Gallery Smyrna art music food wine Fine Wine Connection Local Three

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A Not So Grand Opening


Every now and then, the Butcher has to get out from behind the counter.  Here’s what she has to say about her recent visit to the new Athleta store that opened at Atlantic Station.

It was a long wait.  Years of catalog shopping - buying, returning.   So I was thrilled to learn an Athleta store was finally opening in Atlanta.

I will be the first to tell you, I like sales.  I will always look at the sale section first.  So when I got the “invite” to come peruse the grand opening of the Athleta store, it was a no brainer.  “Grand Opening” equals sales, giveaways and raffles!  Sure I’ll sit in traffic for that.

Surprisingly, we hit no traffic on the way.  Score!  We knew it was a sign that we were in for something good.  This was an “RSVP” event so we felt privileged.  Yet when we arrived and checked in, we quickly realized we weren’t so special as they looked through their list of 700 RSVPs.  Seeing that, our entire attitude changed.  700 hundred other people were going to attend OUR grand opening?

Now, I have been to several of these openings, most recently Road Runner Sports.  And I love Road Runner, just as I love Athleta.  They are similar stores in product.  At the RRS grand opening, they had music playing, different vendors showcasing their specialty, lots of informational booths on sports and races.  And best of all - raffles and giveaways with some sales in-between!

Not so much at the Athleta grand opening.  This “intimate” affair was catered and; therefore, servers were walking around with wine, sparkling water and hors d’oeuvres; so that was nice.

But, I just wanted to know what was on sale.  I asked if there was anything special for the grand opening and the polite worker said, “Yes, that we are open!” 

Now, I think it’s great they are open, but to trek to Atlantic Station on a Tuesday in rush hour for “we’re open” is a big disappointment.  I would have just waited and gone the next day.  Where was the “Grand Opening” sales and giveaways?? Needless to say, there were NO sales, specials, raffles or giveaways.  What was going to be $89 at the “grand opening” was going to be $89 every other day without the long line for the dressing room. 

So I looked at my friend and said, “Screw this.  Rosa Mexicano?”