Two Fridays ago I took a road trip to Atlanta to visit Liz, one of my best friends from college, and meet her six-week old baby Wesley. It was a beautiful spring day with bright, clear skies all the way past the giant peach in Gaffney, South Carolina to the traffic pretzel of Spaghetti Junction in Atlanta. Usually, my husband is at the wheel during road trips down I-85 South to visit family in Duluth, Georgia. He prefers to minimize rest stops and has mastered the art of eating a double cheeseburger while driving. In contrast, I tend to take pit stops at my leisure rather than worrying about arriving at my destination in record time. On this particular trip, I took a twenty-minute detour for lunch at Chik-Fil-A to down some chicken strips and lemonade.
Liz suggested several popular local restaurants for a girls night out on Friday. We decided on Abbatoir, a chophouse drawing excellent reviews in Atlanta Magazine and Conde Nast Traveler. When I checked out the menu online, I was a bit intimidated by the restaurant’s “whole animal dining” concept, i.e. utilizing as much of the animal as possible. But after noting many tempting selections without obscure animal organs, I was excited to check out this unique spot that features a menu section titled “food in a jar”.
After visiting with precious baby Wesley and enjoying the 80 degree weather on Liz’s porch, we headed to Abbatoir on the Westside of Atlanta near downtown. The trendy Westside area is also home to Abbatoir’s sister restaurant Bacchanalia, an upscale spot featuring prix fixe dinners. Once at the restaurant, Liz turned her car over to the valet and we ascended to the second floor of the renovated meat packing plant. We were promptly seated at our table and checked out the restaurant’s modern chic atmosphere.
The menu’s french accents included words that sounded lovely but mysterious to me such as “confit”, “gougeres” and “pot au feu”. Liz immediately noted that we should order the ham and cheese gourgeres, which she explained were a delicious type of pastry. Our server greeted us and after confirming it was our first visit to the restaurant, gave a very comprehensive summary of the menu layout and highlights. He also cleared up my mispronunciation of “offal” (i.e. animal parts) as “o-full” rather than “awful”.
The ham and cheese gourgeres were indeed delectable – warm, fresh pastry infused with cheese and meat. For the salad course, I selected strawberries, arugula, almonds and balsamic vinegar, a bold blend of sweet and savory flavors. After debating the wide range of meat choices from lamb loin chops to stuffed duck leg, Liz & I both ordered the chopped steak. The dish, which the server informed us is a patty made from blended ground beef and pork, is served topped with wild mushroom gravy and over a bed of fries (that he claimed were some of the best in town).
Liz and I reminisced about our trip to Paris during junior year of college while enjoying our taste of French cuisine. She & I studied abroad in Florence and Sevilla respectively, and reunited with a group of college friends also spending the semester around Europe. Amidst the stunning backdrop of the City of Light, we indulged in some of the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted. More than 10 years later, I still remember almost everything I ate that weekend – from nutella crepes made by street vendors to souffles at a fancy restaurant.
Back to fine dining in the South, the fusion of beef and pork in our chopped steak was amazing. The rich flavors of meat blended perfectly with the wild mushroom gravy, and the fries were impressive as promised. For dessert, we ordered the sticky toffee cake and molasses ice cream to split – it was tasty but a bit too sweet to devour the entire dish.
Overall, our Abbatoir experience was excellent and would highly recommend the restaurant to carnivores and culinary adventurers. The restaurant will challenge your idea of which part of the animal might end up on your plate, and based on the restaurant’s success, pleasing your palate.