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April/May 2007

Café Intermezzo
Bits, Bites and Bistros
The Food is Only Half the Fun
by Katie K. Bell

Let’s face it—a dining destination is not always about the food. Granted, the food is a vital ingredient, but sometimes the vibe, the atmosphere, the very experience of a place is worth the trip alone. We rounded up a list of places rich in taste and atmosphere, the kind of cafés or bistros long on drink menus but short on crowds. These cafes and bistros welcome you to revel in the experience, eat as much or as little as you desire, and just while away the afternoon or evening. So grab a date, a friend…or a good book, and enjoy.

When you combine a wine store, book store and tasting room, what’s not to like? That was the thought behind Vino Libro Bookstore and Wine Bar (404-624-3644, 933 Garrett St.), which opened in East Atlanta’s Glenwood Park at the end of 2006. The concept behind the bar is one of admirable, even enviable, simplicity. According to owner Melanie Wilson, “I built this place to mimic my living room. Hence, going to ‘work’ is really an opportunity to chill out and share my passions for wine and books.”

Numerous local authors are featured, along with a monthly book club, weekly wine tasting and regular book signings. A full bar and tapas menu (you won’t be able to resist the lump blue crab cakes or the baked artichoke and tomini cheese) complete the experience. Cheers!

Get some chopping done and enjoy a latte while you wait for your highlights to set at Buckhead’s Maria Heckscher Salon Café (404-261-8036, 3210 Paces Ferry Place). Whether your needs extend to your luscious locks or your craving for caffeine, the new café features hot chocolate, espresso, chai latte and other specialty drinks. Snacks such as fruit and granola are also offered, and no one here is in a hurry, so sit back with your pile of magazines, browse the salon boutique’s exotic jewelry and handmade soap, chat with fellow salon-goers and settle into the casual European setting of the salon. After an afternoon here, you’ll leave feeling and looking relaxed and refreshed. Really, this café is just “fabulous, dahling!”

Intermezzo means intermission, but you’ll want more than a brief 15 minutes to savor the dazzling array of comestibles at Café Intermezzo (404-355-0411, 1845 Peachtree Rd. and 770-396-1344, 4505 Ashford-Dunwoody Rd.), a legendary Atlanta dessert/after-dinner destination. The “Dessert Concierge,” as I’ve deemed the helpful staff manning the café’s counter, will help you with descriptions as you ponder the packed cases of cakes and pies. Listen closely, but fret not, it’s all good and the scene is even better. Grab a table by the window and hold hands with your sweetie long into the night.

Aqua Bistro
Sushi and pan-Asian food never had it so good. The sleek, hip sushi scene at  Aqua Bistro (404-816-7332, 264 Pharr Rd.) is perfect for a pre-party gathering before a night on the town. Floor to ceiling sheer curtains and a groovy bar make this one of Atlanta’s hippest sushi bars, and it is just a few blocks from the busy Buckhead social scene. Indulge in the Miami Vice roll with salmon asparagus and avocado or an eel dancing roll of smoked eel, crab and avocado. Regulars (and there are many) also rave about the pork, vegetable and chicken dumplings.

The smell of freshly brewed Pano’s Reserve Blend coffee wafting from the gourmet coffee bar greets you as you enter the stylish doors of the Corner Café and Buckhead Bread Company (404-240-1978, 3070 Piedmont Rd.). As one of the Buckhead Life restaurants, rest assured the café offers with impeccable service while you dine on the most delectable of baked on-site pastries, bread, cookies and specialty desserts—a menu of salads, soups and sandwiches is also available. The café is known for its sophistication and touch of European splendor—it is the perfect spot for breakfast, lunch or a mid-afternoon pastry. Many consider the café a hot-spot for power meals, and others head there to relax—as a WiFi Hotspot, it’s equally ready for powerpoint presentations or an afternoon of idle surfing.

Corner Café
Steeped in Old World style, the atmosphere at Kevin Rathbun’s Krog Bar, (404-524-1618, 112 Krog St.) is perfumed with a narcotic mixture of leather, wood and spice. “I wanted to offer artisan ingredients, mainly cold plates, served in a communal style. In Spain people often stand around and talk while eating tapas and a baguette; there are no seats at the bar,” explains Chef Rathbun. Indeed Krog’s communal tables encourage conversation and make an ideal setting for folks to enjoy plates of Serrano ham, smoked idiazabal cheese with a sliver of quince paste or lamb meatballs in a spicy, tomato sauce.

Learn a bit about wine while enjoying the rustic Italian atmosphere at Portofino (404-231-1136, 3199 Paces Ferry Place). This casual restaurant is Buckhead’s best kept secret, featuring a lovely landscaped patio on a quiet side street. Passionate about wine, owners Michael Anderson and George Tice encourage guests to experiment. Order a flight of wine (a series of wines served in small tastes) and relax on what feels like your own secluded patio—you’ll feel as if you’ve been whisked away to Tuscany.

Midtown café Apres Diem (404-872-3333, 931 Monroe Dr.) offers an intimate and cozy atmosphere where the vibe is mellow and relaxed. Many consider this an excellent place to go on a first date; the café boasts lots of candlelight, casual dinner fare and no pressure to vacate the table. Others may just prefer to settle into one of the comfy couches with a latte and soak up the refreshing and original artwork hung all over the walls. From late morning until, well, early morning, this European-style café is ideal for spending a relaxing hour, or three pondering the finer things in life.


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