Just to set the scene: In this article you’ll encounter pandas, whale sharks and entirely too much high-fructose corn syrup. But take heart: What you won’t encounter is the question “Are we there yet?”
Adventures in Atlanta
Maybe your family doesn’t share your Gone With the Wind fetish. Maybe your kids are a bit jaded, or a bit too politically correct, to do the “tomahawk chop” at Braves games. Don’t worry — there’s still hope for family bonding in Atlanta.
Hit the water
A Round Up of Delicious Bites in Atlanta, Georgia
Best place to impress clients: the chef's table at Park 75, in the Four Seasons Hotel
Chef Robert Gerstenecker offers the only true chef's table in town, located in the heart of the Four Seasons kitchen. Think of it as Kitchen Stadium with a tony European focus -- the buzz and clash will loosen up your fellow diners, and the nine-course, continental-inspired meal only sweetens the deal. You'll have to reserve the space ahead of time, but sometimes a last-minute opening will let up to ten guests belly up to the table with gusto. 75 14th St., in Midtown; 404.253.3840
Best cheap date: Taqueria del Sol, Midtown/Westside/Decatur
There's a reason why the line ranges far out the door of all three locations of "The Taq": the food takes a simple idea (the taco) and twists it for a pop of regional flavor. Try fish tacos with jalapeno mayonnaise, the "Memphis" taco with barbecued brisket and a topping of coleslaw, or a blue plate enchilada special. Vegetarians will have to be content with a sole spicy bean concoction, but the guacamole is the best in town, and the margaritas and premium tequilas will help them get over the slight. Hint: snagging an empty seat at the bar lets you bypass the regular ordering line, and the service is so fast that if your current date turns sour you'll still have time to grab a friend for a late-night rendezvous. www.taqueriadelsol.com for area locations and hours
Best last-minute date: the communal table at Shaun's Restaurant
Local wunderkind Shaun Doty -- the former executive chef of Mumbo Jumbo, Table 1280, Midcity Cuisine, and now of Shaun's, in Inman Park -- has a devoted following keeping his restaurants hopping. But if you miss out on making reservations, try for a place at the communal table in the middle of Shaun's. The table seats a dozen or more, so you'll be rubbing elbows with all and sundry, but you'll be so focused on the Francophile bistro favorites, you won't complain. 1027-29 Edgewood Ave, NE, Inman Park, 404.577.4358
Best romantic table: table #4 at Aria's
Table #4 is a 4-person leather booth located in the basement wine cellar of Aria, in the heart of Buckhead. The Edgar-Allen-Poe-ish surroundings are tempered by romantic lighting: over a hundred candles cast their light on tender couples who want to get away from it all. Chef Gerry Klaskala showcases seasonal ingredients in a European-inspired menu and will put together a tasting menu on request. But get in line (i.e., plan ahead): tables are reserved three months in advance. 490 East Paces Ferry Rd., Buckhead, 404.233.7673
Best place to drown your sorrows: Brick Store Pub
This pub on the Decatur Square offers the best of both worlds: an extensive beer list from around the world and a solid menu of hearty favorites. Try the Brick burger or the fish and chips basket, the city's best -- or just nosh on soft pretzels and mustard or a hummus plate. A few substantial (and surprisingly tasty) salads round out the menu. If you're looking for rustic privacy, the booths upstairs, along with the cozy Belgian bar, feel like your own pirate hideaway. 125 E. Court Square, Decatur, 404.687.0990
Best place for a mother-daughter lunch: Swan Coach House
A trip to the Swan Coach House in Buckhead will find mothers, daughters and granddaughters all dressed in their best, so leave the men at home and ditch your flip flops. The sedate surroundings belie an explosion of chintz inside, and the menu is full of retro favorites like chicken salad cups, frozen fruit salad (with side of mayonnaise) and the restaurant's signature dessert: a chocolate mousse formed in the shape of a swan. Make reservations so you don't get crowded out by the many bridal and baby showers. 3130 Slaton Drive, NW, 404.261.0636
Best place to take a crowd: Al Dar
The Lebanese food at this Oak Grove lounge is top-notch (it shares the kitchen with Mezza, next door), but Friday and Saturday night patrons get both dinner and a show when belly dancers take the floor for spectacular shimmying. A succession of little plates offering deceptively simple vegetarian dishes, as well as juicy skewered meats, lets you savor your meal as you take it all in, and there's a bubble pipe for those willing to add a little buzz to the night. 2751 Lavista Road, Decatur 404.633.8833
I've reprinted my "Coming Clean" article (about kids and germs and the hype surrounding products like shopping cart covers and antibacterial stuff) several times this year, but this month it's out in Kids Pages Colorado and the Baton-Rouge-based Southern Families Magazine.
Upcoming: Reprints of CC in Charlotte Parent, Valley Parent in Columbus, GA, and San Diego Family Magazine.