Cafe Circa… It’ll do!

Written by  //  March 18, 2013  //  FAMILY & LEISURE  // 


by Keith Aikens
January 2012

“Hey, 86 the coconut shrimp until Chris comes back with tomatoes for the sauce.” I heard this on my first visit to Café Circa on Edgewood Avenue in the Old 4th Ward. It’s not what I would have expected to hear but the manager thought this was news worth sharing with his staff on the floor, within earshot of every guest. Judging from the look of some of the staff, they were a bit surprised at his decision. Plus, it was just past 6:00 pm, little more than one hour into Happy Hour service… the place opens at 5:00.

That gave me some reservations about this urban hot spot. But it’s my job to give it a chance; and I’m glad I did. Despite some uneven service, I ended up enjoying the evening. Other solid visits helped balance out that initial negative impression.

Dark browns and earth tones dominate the decor. There are no trendy community tables. The dining room is dominated by tables and high tops to seat four, conducive to close, intimate encounters. I’ll say it’s a step below being a place to “see and be seen” but it definitely is a draw for the stylish, young professional set. With a healthy mix of men and women, this is a nice pick up spot on the weekend and at the same time good for date night. But don’t expect to find a hidden, dark corner away from prying eyes.

The Reserve, a smallish but comfortable rooftop area with bar, caters to cigar enthusiasts. There’s a healthy smoke menu to keep the mid‐sized humidor full. The house music on the rooftop adds to the laid back atmosphere. Don’t expect much of a view though; it’s only a two‐story building. Unless you’re leaning over the railing, there is no view of the Atlanta skyline. Spend time gazing into the eyes of your date or catching the eye of a future date. Large industrial fans help to keep the air flowing, not only for those who aren’t keen on cigar smoke, but also to keep it relatively cool. Nice touch.

The menu, a mix of small plates and entrees, is Caribbean influenced. The kitchen does a decent job of capturing the flavors of the islands, but sometimes the inventiveness goes awry.

For example, consider the mussels. A heap of PEI mussels in a delicious broth is all you need. Here, the tasty mollusks are served in a lime, coconut and ginger broth (good), with a bed of rice and sweet kernel corn (not so good). The rice and corn are just weird. This dish does everything to hide the taste and texture of the mussels. And no bread! The broth is quite good, but there is no bread to sop it up.

On the other end of the spectrum are the seared scallops. Accented by caramelized apples and a spicy cashew crumble. I only wish I had ordered the entrée size

Other highlights about the place:

Happy Hour ‐ $5 for select small plates and drinks. That’s a deal.

Helpful and friendly staff.

Comfortable stools at the bar! No need for a spinal adjustment afterwards.

Low lights:

Parking. There is a free lot which fills up in two minutes. Street side parking is metered until 7pm.
Sometimes noisy bar. There isn’t much separation from the dining area to shield you from a party atmosphere at the bar.

No port wines. How can this place offer a good list of cigars and not carry a single selection of port? Not one. Nada.

Overall, I like Café Circa. For its few shortcomings, it’s a place for a fun group outing, a relaxing drink at the bar after work, or a pleasant dinner date that won’t break the bank. The kitchen sometimes slips, but the food is decent. Café Circa is a nice find in a neighborhood which is still transforming. Give it a try.

-Your Neighborhood Chow Hound

Keith_Aikens-new_1Keith Aikens
I’m just a guy sharing food and drink experiences. I’m not a food critic. It’s all about eating, drinking and sharing.Follow me on Twitter – @jkaikens for more of my food adventures.


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