Friday, December 28, 2007


Jimbo's Grill at the Mill

Jimbo's Grill at the Mill is part of the effort to finally do something with the Porterdale Mill, which had long sat as an abandoned textile mill in search of a purpose. Now it's been turned into a rather impressive set of apartments, and the cotton warehouse next to it is full of shops and restaurants like Jimbo's Grill.

For a place that's only been open a few months, the Grill at the Mill shows some potential. It's very clean, for one thing, and they made an effort to use some good, fresh ingredients for the burger's garnishes. Jimbo seems to be mostly about grilling burgers and hot dogs (although the hot dogs are actually broiled). The burgers themselves are OK, but not exactly distinguished. If you like hot dogs, the ones they have are good.

The ambience could use a bit of fine tuning. A place like the Cotton Warehouse has had decades to accumulate so much character it positively oozes out of the brick walls. And the balcony in the upper level dining area has a nice view. However, the decour could use a bit more of a theme. There's a variety of reproduction vintage posters and faux-retro decorations on the wall, but they cover quite about five decades and several different topics - gambling, movies, vintage vermouth ads, 1950s diners, and more.

A review of Jimbo's wouldn't be complete without mentioning the dessert menu. It's not what you would expect here at all. Jimbo uses his relationship with the management at the wedding cake bakery next door to put some top notch sweets in here. You can order nintey-nine cent petit fours that are just plain astounding. They're served with a level of ornate presentation that is about as unexpected as Jeff Foxworthy giving a serious lecture on theology. But Jeff Foxworthy can talk about issues facing the church if he puts his mind to it, and Jimbo can serve up desserts that you shouldn't miss.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Thai Palace

While Hollywood may have once considered Covington representative enough of the Deep South to film the Dukes of Hazard here, Newton and Rockdale Counties are cosmopolitain enough to have a large variety of ethnic restaurants. In fact, Conyers has not one, but two Thai places. I've only been to one of them so far, the Thai Palace.

The Palace is located in Old Town Conyers, which is the oldest part of town. Unlike Covington Square, which has kept much of its traditional look, Old Town Conyers has gone for a more bohemian look, painting the buildings in wild colors. The buildings look almost like a section of Atlanta's Little Five Points, although Old Town Conyers hasn't attracted quite the same crowd.

Thai cuisine is notorious for using very spicy food. Most of the spiced dishes here can be ordered at a mild level. Venture above "mild" at your own risk.

Many of the entrees are heavy on vegetables and seasoning, with the meat almost added as a condiment rather than letting it take center stage. Since the meat does not heavily influence the flavor of such dishes, you can order many items on the menu with your choice of beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, or tofu. There are a few items, though, that are mostly meat in curry sauce. Most of their traditonal items are served alongside a large, ornate aluminum bowl of rice (which is trying unsuccessfully to look like it is actually a silver bowl of rice). Entrees typically cost around $7-8 each.

I don't normally order apetizers, but they have one that is too good to miss. Their chicken satay is excellent. If you're not familiar with satay, it is thin strips of meat served with peanut sauce and a cucumber relish. However, I'm not sure that description does the Thai Palace's chicken satay justice. It's like saying fillet mignon is just dead cow.

One touch that I especially like is the effort they put into garnishes. It's not uncommon to find a carrot transformed into a butterfly or a vegetable flower sitting on your plate.

If there is one downside, this is not a place to eat if you are in a hurry. They take the time in bringing the food out. But unless you have something very urgent on your agenda, it's worth the wait.

Thai Palace
914 Commercial St.
Conyers, GA

Saturday, March 11, 2006


A different sort of drive through

My wife and I were at Thomas's Country Buffet yesterday, and we noticed one of the back doors was open. As I said in my review, Thomas's used to be a train station. I could see a yellow Union Pacific locomotive waiting on the tracks outside. I made a comment about that to the waitress, and she said, "Oh, the engineer just stopped here to pick up dinner." That's definitely not a sight you see every day. I just assumed railroad crews brought bag lunches with them.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Mad Dog's BBQ

Some people say that it's impossible to make a good barbeque that will pass a county health inspection. Those people haven't been to Mad Dog's, where they proudly display a health inspection certificate with a big red 100 on the wall. And they manage to make top-notch barbeque anyway. The pork has a good and smokey taste, and the generous amount of butter that they use on their bread makes this my wife's favorite spot for a barbeque sandwich.

The sauce they use is an authentic Georgia BBQ sauce, the kind with a fair amount of vinegar and red pepper as well as tomatoes. The mild sauce already has some detectable hot pepper, and the hot one is hotter without being overpowering. It definitely doesn't resemble the thick commercial pseudo-Texas glop that you find in stores.

Mad Dog himself is a pretty friendly guy. If there isn't a line at the counter, he'll come out and talk with the customers about how their relatives are doing or the time one of his regular customers challenged a DJ from 96 Rock to a race after he had claimed that drag racing took no skill. There's a little cork board on the wall about that episode too, to commemorate one of the Regular Guys getting smoked by a teenage girl at Atlanta Dragway.

It's hard to believe that a restaurant could have the feel and taste of an authentic small town BBQ joint when it's located in a strip mall and has a perfect score from the county health department. But Mad Dog's pulled it off.

4489 Highway 20 South
Conyers, GA

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Tokyo Hibachi Express

Many foreign language books start with easy-to-learn phrases that may be useful in the land where the language is spoken. One that you learn relatively soon in Japanese for Dummies is how to say, "Is that an octopus?" If you are looking at a sushi bar, you'll find that this phrase is, indeed, a useful one to know.

Admittedly, I'm not a very big seafood fan. It's hard to find fresh seafood, so I tend not to be any more adventurous than shrimp unless I am very certain that the place where I am eating gets some very fresh seafood. Tokyo, a Japanese restaurant in Conyers, does not have the freshest of seafood.

What they do have, however, is hibachi dining at a bargain price. You can even order fillet mignion for $11. You'll find a few signs of cost cutting; you have to pay extra for hibachi vegetables, and they stretch the fillet by mixing it with diced mushrooms. They don't skimp on the total amount of food, though - they'll serve enough fried rice to cover half the plate to a depth of an inch, and fill the other half up with your entree, along with the expected soup and salad. Overall, it's a pretty good place to find inexpensive hibachi food, which can be something of a rarity here. Most Japanese restaurants in the area will set you back a few more dollars per plate.

Decour is about what you might expect, with bamboo in the front and Japanese artwork on the walls. It doesn't look like they spent quite as much on the decorations as the competition, another reason why their prices are lower. Still, they keep the place pretty clean. Looks like they spend their money where it counts the most.

3020 Edwards Drive
Conyers, GA


I can't say I'm too surprised...

It looks as though Cosmo Joe's has gone out of business.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


El Charro

Good baked custards are getting very scarce. In fact, it's hard to write about them without having to fight back the temptation to make a dreadful pun about the infamous American cavalry officer who got killed trying to fight too many Indians. It's hard to find the creamy, sugary richness of a real custard anymore. Unfortunately, a generation of diet crazes and lazy cooks have driven real custard out of our kitchens and restaurants. Instead, custards have been largely replaced by ice cream, which can be good, and Jello Instant Pudding, which is a decidedly poor substitute for the real thing.

So, what does a lament for custard have to do with a Mexican restaurant? Well, El Charro is one of the few places where you can get a real, freshly baked custard, as the Mexicans have been keeping this tradition alive in the form of the flan. And El Charro has what may very well be the finest flan in all of Newton County. The flan here is amazingly rich, with a hint of cheese. It's definitely a perfect ending to a dinner.

Well, I probably should say something about the rest of the food here too, since you probably won't just order a flan. It's the standard Tex-Mex fare, done reasonably well. It's hard to point to any one particular specialty, but they have the usual assortment of burritos and fajitas and other normal entrees. Curiously, the fajitas here come with a squeeze bottle of Parkay, which I don't normally use.

They also have a very affordable lunch menu. If you stick to water for your beverage, lunch here can be just as cheap as at a fast-food joint, but with the quality you expect from a sit-down restaurant.

El Charro has two locations in Covington now. The main difference is the one out by Wal-Mart is larger and newer, but the food and menus are identical. Decor is the expected Mexican theme; both have paintings of guitar players, since El Charro is Spanish for a type of musician.

Check it out, and support your local custard.

3165 Elm St.
Covington, GA

9148 Covington Bypass
Covington, GA

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Mamie's Kitchen

If the events that brought my wife and me together were a Truman Capote novel, it would be called Breakfast at Mamie's. We have probably had more Saturday morning breakfasts together here than anywhere else. While Mamie's does serve lunch too (but no dinner), it's their breakfast that is their biggest draw. Most of the foods are typical Southern greasy spoon fare - grits, pancakes, fresh-made biscuits, eggs, and sweet tea. As one of the signs at their Brown Bridge location says, "It ain't healthy, but it sure tastes good!"

Perhaps one of the most amazing items on the menu is their chicken biscuit. They take a huge piece of chicken breast - no processed and ground stuff here - and fry it in a light, fluffy breading. The chicken slice dwarfs the biscuit that they serve it on. There's so much meat, grease, and goodness here that if you eat it all for breakfast, you might not need lunch. Seriously.

11245 Brown Bridge Rd.
Covington, GA 30016

1295 N. Main St.
Conyers, GA 30012

2821 Evans Mill Rd.
Lithonia, GA 30058

7121 Highway 278
Covington, GA 30014

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