Six Feet Under the sea
You bring your kids, I'll bring my cats
Ever since Grant Park got turned into Virginia-Highland, those of us living here have been squalling for more restaurants. They've been slow coming, but it's now possible to have a good, usually cafe-style meal in the neighborhood. We continue to wait for more upscale venues like the Southwestern Agave, but we're happy dining out doesn't have to mean a drive to another neighborhood these days.
The latest to open is Six Feet Under, immediately next to Ria's Bluebird at 415 Memorial Drive (404-523-6664). No, the restaurant doesn't take its name from the popular television series. It's a comical allusion to the restaurant's location opposite Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta's historic Victorian burial ground. A project of Todd Semrau, owner of The Heaping Bowl and Brew in East Atlanta, the new restaurant is described as both a pub and fish house.
Semrau has done a good job with the location. My first question to myself on entering the place, formerly a dingy market that sold spoiled milk and lottery tickets, was how he eliminated the smell of cat (or was it rodent?) pee that used to require holding your nose while shopping there. I'm speaking literally but I mean mainly to indicate that Semrau's gift is taking really rundown spots, playing with their funkiness, and turning them into amusing restaurants. His Heaping Bowl and Brew headed the gentrification movement in East Atlanta and continues to thrive, though he's had less success with two subsequent ventures.
I like Six Feet Under and hope it prospers. The paneled Southern seafood shack decor — wooden booths, long tables, a horseshoe bar — works. There's a small deck on the roof that offers a great view of Oakland's weeping angels and weathered crosses. The ambience of the restaurant is very family-oriented (and maybe some kids' plates should be added). At dinner one night, there was a huge party of mothers and fathers with their pre-school kids, some of whom wandered to our table now and then to wave a shrimp tail at us and make Teletubby sounds. We agreed the kids were adorable. It made us miss our cats. It's unfair people can take their children to restaurants while our cats have to stay home.
I've not encountered anything I disliked in three meals at the restaurant, although a friend — a frequent diner at Atlanta Fish Market — complained about the restaurant's cornmeal breading on his fried shrimp. I thought the spicy breading was good, mercifully light, and worked as well on the oysters and catfish. Any can be bought in a generous serving for $7.95 with homemade crispy potato chips and hot fluffy hushpuppies.
I've tried a couple of appetizers. The crab cakes served over wilted spinach with mustard sauce ($7.95) are well-made — better than many I've had — and a couple of starters imported from the Heaping Bowl, the fried green tomatoes ($5.95) and fried calamari ($7.95) are reliable. There are also alligator bites, wings and some weird oyster dishes.
An alternative to a dish from the starter menu is a plate of oysters on the half-shell ($7.95 a dozen) or a half-pound of peel-and-eat shrimp ($9.95). There are also snow crab legs. I've yet to try one of the buckets of steamed little neck clams or mussels ($13.95). You can also order a bucket of snow crab legs ($13.95) or shrimp ($19.95) steamed with andouille sausage, corn on the cob and new potatoes.
I've tried two platters. The catfish is heavenly, hot and sweet, served with hushpuppies, coleslaw and corn on the cob ($9.95). The corn is the only thing I give a thumbs-down. It's been water-logged all three times I've eaten it. A dish of shrimp and scallops steamed in parchment ($13.95) is a huge serving with good flavor from a broth of basil, black pepper and lemon, as well as a jalapeno-spiked tartar sauce on the side. However, the parchment needs to be drained before it's brought to the table. There was an unpleasant quantity of liquid on my plate.
Sandwiches — like the oyster and shrimp po'boys ($7.95) — are good lunchtime choices, though you may want to ask for an extra hit of remoulade. The gumbo ($3.95 a cup) is decent but needs work.
All in all, Six Feet Under fills the gap of the disappearing inexpensive seafood shack. Picture the old Rio Vista catfish joints ratcheted up a bit but prices kept quite affordable.
br>?Here and there
It had been quite a while since I dined at Anis in Buckhead (2974 Grandview Ave., 404-233-9889) when I visited last Saturday with my friend Van. The restaurant's patio remains one of the most pleasant in the city, even on hot summer nights, and we didn't have a single unpleasant dish. A charcuterie plate included an especially good pate; Van's steamed mussels were so good he whined when two out of the huge serving wouldn't open.
The kitchen maintains good skill with fish and Van ordered a sea bass special. I bit my tongue, since many restaurants have stopped serving the fish, which is nearing extinction because of over-fishing. Indeed, our waiter Bruce told us at the meal's end that the fish would be coming off Anis' menu soon too. I maintained political correctness by avoiding the fish and ordering a completely unhealthy steak.
We were witness to a fascinating scene at the restaurant. Bruce, herewith declared Waitron of the Week, knocked over a glass of water on an adjoining table. The water flooded a woman's lap and Bruce made a great fuss over her while maintaining a strange smile. The restaurant took $25 off her bill but she demanded that her entire meal be free. Imagine if it had been wine! Poor Bruce would have been hung upside down and bled dry.
I paid a visit to our city's best hamburger joint, Ann's Snack Bar (1615 Memorial Drive) last week. Miss Ann hit her 30th year in business last May and her eight-stool restaurant continues to prosper. My favorite here remains a double cheeseburger with mayo only; it's under $5 and would fill a Great Dane. The masochistic order the Ghetto Burger, a plate-filling sandwich topped with chili, cheese, onions and bacon. Whatever you order, don't plan to move around much the rest of the day.
I tried to get back to Willy's at Piedmont Park last week with my friends Trace and Rich. On a Sunday evening, no parking was permitted in the rear of the restaurant and there were no spaces to be found nearby. Indeed, one of Atlanta's finest gave me a ticket after I looked out my window and pointed to make a turn in front of him. He didn't move, I made the turn and he lit his blue light. We ended at the always reliable and dirt-cheap King and I, where I was, as you can imagine, great company.
Mail, from Tony Dorman: "Your article on Cajun restaurants left out an excellent, though woefully underappreciated Creole restaurant located in Norcross, Some Like It Hot. From Ted Hull: "I've found myself craving squid all summer. Really enjoyed the grilled version at Noodle in Midtown (yeah, yeah, not authentic Asian noodles, yawn, yawn) and the salt and pepper squid at New Paradise on Buford Highway. ... Picked up some Green Hill cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy over the weekend at both a shop in Brookhaven and Whole Foods. First had it at Five and Ten in Athens back in the spring and loved it. When I saw the one at Whole Foods, I realized that the other I'd picked up earlier in the day was past its prime. The cheese should be moist inside the wrapper and fairly soft."
Leave Cliff Bostock a voice mail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1504, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.