THE AFTER DINNER BLUES IN ATLANTA
by Sandra Lewis    Mon, Nov 20, 2006, 11:32 AM
My evening out in Atlanta this past Thursday night began a month ago when I shared an exit row with a Delta pilot on an American Airlines flight to New York City.

It seemed odd that a Delta pilot would fly American, but Jay, who lives in Dallas and is based in NYC said he snags a seat on whatever airline will get him to the city on time for his next flight out. After we landed at NYC’s LaGuardia airport Jay planned to cab it over to JFK where he would board the plane that he would pilot to Istanbul, Turkey, that afternoon.

Now that’s a commute.

We chatted for a while into the flight then both of us pulled out our reading material. Jay ran though his newspaper and then lamented that with at least an hour and a half left in the air he had nothing else to read.

I jokingly offered the Bon Appetit magazine I had in my backpack thinking he would have no interest.

“I love to cook!” he said taking me up on my offer.

I handed him the magazine and we talked for a few more minutes about the kitchen of our dreams and favorite meals we enjoyed cooking. Then Jay asked, “Do you ever travel to Atlanta?” Occasionally, I said, with tentative plans to be there some time in November.

Next time you're in town check out my cousin’s restaurant, Repast, he said. And then he shared that it had earned a mention in the November issue of Esquire magazine.

I made a note and told him I would.

In an airport terminal somewhere, sometime in the next two weeks I passed a newsstand, picked up a copy of Esquire, and thumbed through it. No way was I going to buy it with that Marilyn-Monroe-looking picture of Scarlett Johansson on the front cover. I hoped no one even noticed that I picked it up, but mission accomplished – Esquire named Repast one of the best new restaurants for 2006.



So a month after my conversation with Jay I’m seated at a table for two in Repast with a colleague, Mike, who lives in Atlanta. It’s a hip, trendy place with a buzz of energy; the food, fresh and delectable.

The real treat of our evening meal, however, did not come from the obvious ambience or satisfying, wonderful food.

It was the unexpected pleasure of conversation with our fellow diners. Since the tables were so close that we could almost bump elbows with those seated next to us, Mike and I struck up conversations with them.

On my left was a couple, regulars at Repast, who lived close enough to walk; on my right, two Atlanta bankers, Dan and Drew, also first-timers at Repast.

As I enjoyed a bowl of French onion soup, dates wrapped in bacon and stuffed with almonds, scallops, and wild rice with cranberries and pecans, we chatted about the food, Atlanta, the comeback that this part of the city was making, and a bit about business and our personal lives.

Towards the end of the meal, Joe, Jay’s cousin and Repast owner, stopped by the table at my request. I introduced him to Mike, Drew, and Dan (the married couple had departed by then), and told him to thank Jay for the recommendation.

And I felt like my journey was complete.

But the evening wasn’t over.

The bankers invited Mike and I to join them at one of Atlanta’s hotspots - the Compound. Without solid directions we had a hard time finding the place partly because it is located in a questionable section of Atlanta, but mostly because it is closed on Thursday nights.

So we pulled into a parking spot at the Northside Tavern instead. If it hadn’t been the closest bar after our several dead-end-streets-and-u-turn attempts to find the Compound we wouldn’t have ended up there.

Northside Tavern is the kind of place you wouldn’t give a second look at and you would think twice before stopping in. It's the lack of streetlights, and well, the building is old; the kind of old that says when someone gave birth to this place they never envisioned a bar.

But someone did and lucky us. In addition to serving up liquor they were dishing out Blues on stage.

After relishing the delightful flavors and smells of Repast, my ears were now in for an after-dinner treat at this out-of-the-way-musical-oasis served up by a band called the Breeze Kings.



Lead singer, Carlos Capote’s voice, strong and soulful, made me wish I could sing the Blues. When he wasn’t singing, he was breathing life into his harmonica. And his fellow band members were just as talented on guitar, bass, and drums.

Having never before been a follower of the genre, on this night I was transformed into a Blues fan or at the very least a Breeze Kings fan.

There was no place I would have rather been after dinner that night than the Northside Tavern. It was the perfect ending to a pleasurable evening just like dessert, or a cup of coffee, or an after-dinner drink that follows a great meal; just when you think this is as good as it gets, it gets better.

Thanks to Jay for the kick-start to the evening a month before.

On future flights I may offer up my food magazines to reading-material-deprived fellow travelers even before they ask.
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