When talking about food, ‘medium rare’ refers to cooking meat so the outside is browned with just a hint of red in the middle, striving to provide the perfect combination of tenderness and flavor. This column, much like its namesake, aims to provide the perfect combination of Epicurean insight and Atlanta-area atmosphere.
Tucked away in the shadow of Ponce City Market midway between Emory and Midtown Atlanta lies Eats, the quirkiest, homiest place you’ll ever eat (outside your own quirky home, of course).
Billing itself as an “authentic Atlanta mainstay serving up an eclectic variety of healthy foods guaranteed to satisfy even the pickiest eater,” Eats is exactly what you would picture the setting of “Friends” to be, if “Friends” were set in a modern Southern diner.
Its unassuming exterior (replete with the “All That”-esque neon sign out front) gives way to comforting wooden booths and walls adorned in license plates with hand-chalked menus offering pastas, chicken and sides in endless combinations.
After taking in the décor and feeling at home, order anything and everything off the menu. From lemon pepper chicken to jerk tilapia (only on Fridays), Eats truly does cater to any taste imaginable. My personal favorite is the lemon pepper chicken paired with the extra-cheesy mac and cheese and the green beans. There’s a Southern phrase we like to use to describe food like this: “So good it makes you want to smack your mama.”
While my mother may not appreciate this method of expression, she will appreciate the hot and fresh cornbread that many restaurants try to perfect, although few succeed. Additionally, there are countless vegetarian meal options that still leave you walking away feeling full.
The real treat at Eats, however, does not lie in the décor or even the food, but instead the price point. Voted Creative Loafing’s “Best Cheap Eats” 10 times in the past 20-odd years, enjoyment of the food at Eats is not relegated to a coterie of the financially exclusive foodies of Atlanta.
What surprised me the most was the speed and friendliness of the service. The one downfall of many soul/comfort food restaurants is that the people are nice and the service is slow or the quick preparation is served with less than a smile (here’s looking at you, The Varsity).
As I was putting my wallet back into my pocket, my food was already hot and fresh and ready to eat, and everyone from the cashier to the cook in the back was welcoming and sociable as my friends and I ate.
Overall, I’ve never gone somewhere so budget-, health- and smile-conscious in Atlanta, or anywhere else for that matter. The food is a taste of home with a taste of adventure and the atmosphere belies the proximity to the hustle and bustle surrounding it. Eats is distinctly Atlanta, distinctly Southern and distinctly delicious — and a place I strongly recommend.