About six weeks after my husband Bill and I moved to the Atlanta area, we celebrated our anniversary at a wonderful restaurant called Bacchanalia. That meal was absolutely wonderful and very memorable and the service was impeccable. Bacchanalia is owned by a restaurant group called Star Provisions, an outfit that owns several food related businesses and restaurants in the Atlanta area. As we dined at Bacchanalia that November evening in 2009, we were dimly aware of Bacchanalia’s sister restaurant, the gruesomely named Abattoir, which is located within walking distance.
I read a little about Abattoir and got a bit of a chill down my spine. Abattoir is the French word for slaughterhouse. Despite its gruesome name, Abattoir opened in May 2009 and quickly became a hit. Owned by chefs Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison, along with partner and executive chef Joshua Harrison, and offering a “meat-centric” menu of locally grown proteins at affordable prices, Abattoir is a unique and popular restaurant. Indeed, on our visit on February 12, 2011, the place was packed with satisfied diners enjoying creatively prepared food from a menu that focuses on using every functional piece of butchered meats. If you’re a fan of organ meats and offal, this is definitely the place to be in the Atlanta area.
Bill and I make a habit out of celebrating Valentine’s Day with a dinner out on the town. And we had planned to go out on Valentine’s Day this year, especially since we will be leaving the Atlanta area in about six weeks. Unfortunately, Bill had a business trip on Valentine’s Day. Although it seemed a little “unromantic” to have a Valentine’s dinner at a place named Abattoir, we decided to take the plunge. And it’s a good thing we made up our minds quickly. Abattoir was almost fully booked and we were lucky to get a 5:30 reservation.
Bill and I ended up overshooting Abattoir’s parking area and got a bit turned around. Since we were running a little late for our 5:30 reservation, we went into Abattoir’s sister restaurant, Bacchanalia, and asked one of the hostesses for directions. Instead of just telling us where Abattoir was, the hostess actually escorted us to the restaurant. We were very impressed.
I was immediately pleased by the piped in music, which was 70s and 80s era funk and pop. I can’t help it. I’m a child of the 80s, so I could really get into some Earth, Wind, and Fire. A friendly hostess seated us on a long bench that ran along the perimeter of the dining room, which was starkly decorated and set up to give diners the feeling that they might actually be in a slaughterhouse. A large farmhouse table was situated in the middle of the dining room and wait staff, dressed in jeans, white shirts, and butcher’s aprons buzzed around the area, busily and enthusiastically telling eager diners about the food.
It wasn’t long before the dining room was full of people and the piped in music became impossible to hear. The ambiance is very casual; it’s perfectly okay to dress down for Abattoir, though we did spot a couple of people who were dressed up a bit.
Abattoir’s menu and wine list doubles as a placemat. We scarcely had a chance to glance at it before we met our server, a very capable young man who asked if he could get us a cocktail from the bar. Since we were celebrating Valentine’s Day, I decided I wanted a glass of bubbly. Abattoir was offering Pascual Toso Sparkling Wine from Argentina by the glass for $8. Bill joined me in a glass of bubbly. We also ordered a bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water.
While we enjoyed our sparkling wine and the small warm loaf of excellent French bread and butter, we had a look at the menu. Abattoir’s menu is very simply presented, with brief lists of thematically divided creations. You won’t any appetizers or salads listed on Abattoir’s menu. Instead, you can order “snacks”, “food in a jar”, “salted/cured/offal”, or “local produce”. The main courses fall under a list called “plates/bowls/grill”. Side orders are presented under a section called “vegetables”. And instead of desserts, Abattoir offers “cheese” or “sweet”.
The bar menu is equally quirky. Several specialty cocktails are offered on the menu, as well as a very eclectic beer menu. I don’t remember the last time I dined at a nice restaurant and spotted both Mickey’s Big Mouth malt liquor and Pabst Blue Ribbon Tall Boy on the menu! For those who are more discerning in their beer choices, Abattoir offers an impressive list of microbrews in bottles and on tap. And, of course, there’s a nice selection of wines by the glass and in bottles as well.
First courses and wine
Bill chose an excellent bottle of 2009 Lapostolle Casa Carmenere wine to go with our meat-centric meals. This wine, made from grapes that were originally grown in France but now thrive in Chile, turned out to be a very interesting and compatible choice for our first and main courses. Our server opened the bottle for us and allowed the wine to breathe while we finished our sparkling wine.
I was intrigued by the blackeyed pea hummus and grilled flatbread, which was offered under the “food in a jar” heading on the menu for $9.50. Our server told us that was a very popular choice, but he seemed even more enthusiastic about the pork rillette, toast, and pickled egg that Bill ordered for $9. He encouraged us to enjoy the first courses “family style”.
My blackeyed pea hummus was presented in a small jar along with crisp pieces of flatbread, a small jar of blackeyed pea salad, and a tiny tin of sweet pickled relish. I enjoyed it very much, but was particularly surprised by the pickled relish, which was sweet, but tangy and zingy. It went great with the very satisfying blackeyed pea hummus. I had a little trouble eating the blackeyed pea salad, mainly because it was tricky to get at the peas in the jar. I later figured out that the appetizer went best when all three portions were married together on top of a piece of flatbread.
Bill’s pork rillette came on two small pieces of buttered, grilled, baguette. The toast was topped with coarsely ground pork spread made of shoulder meat, which tasted like it was seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic. The rillette was garnished with two tiny pickled eggs, mustard, and balsamic vinegar.
There were seven options offered under Abattoir’s plates/bowls/grill section on the menu. Six of the choices were meat-centric, while one appeared to be offered for vegetarians. Our server talked up the American Wagyu Flat Iron steak, which was served with celery and bagna cauda for $29. I thought about having the duck breast and duck leg, served with dirty rice and brussels sprouts for $24. I changed my mind when the server described it for me and revealed that the duck was prepared with mushrooms. Unfortunately, I don’t do mushrooms.
I settled on the Riverview Farms grass fed burger, which comes with cheese, bacon, and a huge side of the pommes frites, which can also be ordered as a first course. My entree was very reasonably priced at just $14. Other options included a leg of lamb, a pork chop, tilefish, and root vegetable risotto. It turned out Bill and I ordered the most expensive and the cheapest entrees on the menu.
Impressions of the main courses
Our server brought me mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise on the side. When my burger arrived, I immediately cut it in half; it was cooked to a perfect medium temperature and looked to be about a half pound. The burger delicious. It was made very very fresh beef and garnished with meaty beef bacon.
But as good as my burger was, it sort of paled in comparison to Bill’s flat iron steak. That steak was so tender that it practically melted; in fact, I think Bill could have eaten it with a spoon. He had ordered it medium and it was presented in almost a Pittsburgh style, seared on the outside and very pink on the inside. It was garnished with the bagna cauda, a concoction that Bill described as being like a pork barbecue with a vinegar essence. The steak was definitely the star attraction at our table.
I had our server pack up the half of the burger I didn’t eat, as well as the frites. I wasn’t about to miss dessert.
My first instinct was to order the lemon meringue tart, which came with fennel ice cream. Priced at $8, the tart seemed like a good way to end a fabulous meal. But our server managed to talk me into changing my mind and getting the chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches. The two little sandwiches are made with housemade chocolate chip cookies with chocolate ice cream and warm ganache in the middle. A small glass of warm, malted milk is served with the cookies. I really enjoyed the dessert, though I have to admit the sandwiches were a little messy. It’s best to eat them with utensils because the warm ganache quickly melts the ice cream.
Bill was feeling adventurous, so he went from the maple creme caramel, which came with two brown sugar bacon cookies. Though bacon seems like a strange ingredient for cookies, the small smoky, salty bits actually perfectly complemented the fabulous cookies. The maple creme caramel reminded me of creme brulee without the caramelized sugar on top. It was smooth and satisfying.
The check was presented to us with two tiny cinnamon ginger sandwich cookies. All told, we spent about $140 on a very nice meal at Abattoir. That’s significantly less than what we’ve spent for comparable meals at other restaurants. The service was impeccable and our waiter was a real pro; he knew all about the menu and his table maintenance was outstanding. We rewarded him with a very generous tip. I consider our Valentine’s dinner for 2011 an enormous success and would recommend Abattoir for anyone who likes excellent, creatively prepared, quirky dishes at a reasonable price.
If you go
* Abattoir is a casual restaurant. There’s no need to get really dressed up.
* The ambiance at Abattoir is energetic. It’s not a romantic restaurant and the dining room tends to get noisy.
* While the menu is meat-centric, there are some choices for vegetarians.
* There is no children’s menu. I don’t think it’s a very child friendly restaurant.
* Be sure to ask questions of your server. We found ours to be extremely knowledgeable about the menu and very enthusiastic about the food.
* Parking is free and plentiful.
* You can make reservations quickly and conveniently through OpenTable.com.
Hours and contact information
Tuesday through Saturday, 5pm-11pm
1170 Howell Mill Road
Atlanta, GA 20218