REVIEW: Venkman’s, Old Fourth Ward, Atlanta
Some things in life are serendipitous. Take for instance hearing a really cool band at Taste of Atlanta’s Bucket List Bash, seeing that band playing the following Sunday night and then discovering the place they’re playing at is a fantastic restaurant in and of itself. As George Peppard would say, “I love it when a plan comes together“.
We first listened to Blair Crimmins and The Hookers Friday night down at the Taste of Atlanta’s Bucket List Bash. Let me tell you, I found it difficult to return to the food. Fortunately, they took a set break and off we went back to the tents. But, we were determined to see more of this band and their mix of ragtime and Dixieland jazz. Saturday we googled them and found they were playing the next evening at Venkman’s in the Old Fourth Ward. I did a little more research on Venkman’s and found they had just opened and this was actually a restaurant and a music venue.
Dear readers, you must understand Miss Melanie’s and mine distaste for bar food. In general, it lacks any sort of appeal at best and, at worst, it has been proven as downright disgusting. It’s with pleasure to tell you though that we were completely open-minded when we made the decision to review Venkman’s and furthermore, Venkman’s dispelled everything we ever thought about bar food. Well, maybe not, but let me assure you this – Venkman’s is no bar food – like their music – they rock!
We were there insanely early, 90 minutes before showtime. I told Melanie I wanted to get a good seat and we had our choice. I thought this was kind of like having a layover at the airport and having some time to kill. Lets get a drink and an appetizer, right? Come to think of it, let’s have two!
We started with the Venkman’s Fries and their housemade pickle sauce. Our server was kind enough to explain their process. They blanch the fries first, then freeze them for a day, then they fry them. It makes them crisp on the outside, warm and mushy on the inside – dang it man, they’re good. Combine that with the sauce? You’ve got something that will have you slapping your dining companion’s hand when they reach for another fry – again.
After a bit, we set our eyes on the Smoked Trout Beignets. The term “beignets” might be not quite accurate, they’re more like hush puppies. The kicker is the Apple Ketchup which is more like a jam and just MAKES the beignets. Score 2 for Venkman’s, Bar food 0.
We’d been there for about 90 minutes when the band came on stage and we were prepared to order now. I chose the Pastrami-wurst and Melanie chose the Shrimp & Grits. The band was getting the party going and it took me just a minute to notice that the place was completely full – standing room only. I felt vindicated we’d arrived early and had our choice of seating.
When the entrées arrived, I was ready to find out if our experience thus far was a flash in the pan or part of a continuing trend. I’ve come to the conclusion that with great food, the devil is in the details – and Venkman’s has got the details down!
Melanie enjoyed her Shrimp and Grits because they had tomatoes, fennel and used a sausage that wasn’t too spicy for her. She did suggest adding some garlic for flavor and perhaps some heavy cream to make the grits creamier. The shrimp was cooked to perfection and were sized just right.
The Pastrami-wurst was really spectacular! Who would have thought to make a bratwurst from pastrami but they were after my own heart. It had such an interesting flavor and a strong taste of pastrami – it was wonderful. It also came with a creole mustard on a pretzel roll bun that was just super tasty. The real kicker though was the “sauerkraut” made from, get this, brussel sprouts! Well, traditional sauerkraut is made from cabbage, so if you think of brussel sprouts like little, mini cabbages I guess this isn’t too big of a stretch but they really pulled it off. It was such a wonderful complement to the Pastrami-wurst and combined with the housemade mustard – really nice work here guys.
There was only one way this evening was going to get better, with a great dessert and the Memphis Mafia from Honeysuckle Gelato was the offer we couldn’t refuse! This sandwich with a hard crust of banana cheesecake flavor that sandwiches a peanut butter cookie gelato that’s been topped with bacon caramel – yes, it’s to die for!
After a stunning come-from-behind Falcons victory, a fantastic band and food that exceeded our expectations, this was a Sunday for the record books. I would also be remiss to add that the service at Venkman’s was second to none. Keep an eye on Venkman’s because we’re sure this place will soon become one of Atlanta’s favorite spots for dinner and a show. Guten appetit!