Sunday, March 30, 2014

Side Trip: Blue Moon Pizza, R Rice and Souper Jenny Review (Atlanta, GA)

Although I'm mainly Orlando-based, every so often, I get to travel around. Being a high school senior who has a complex medical condition, most of my recent travel has surrounded college visits or medical appointments out of town. Such is the case that brought me to Atlanta recently. This visit was of medical nature, which involved appointments and procedures- not fun. However, what softens the deal for me is finding unique restaurants which allow me to have a little bit of fun. Atlanta, as it turned out, proved to be rich with gluten-free opportunities, and I left wishing I had more time to explore the city's culinary landscape. 


Blue Moon Pizza

I stayed in the northern outskirts of the city, outside of the hustle and bustle of downtown. Considered to be the Perimeter area of the city, the area was a hub of corporate and medical activity that was home to a rich and varied retail and restaurant scene. You name, they had it in terms of chain restaurants. However, wanting to go off the beaten path, I decided upon Blue Moon Pizza in nearby Sandy Springs, GA. 

Blue Moon's offerings definitely live up to their motto: "life should be less ordinary." Featuring fun and unique flavor combinations such as jerk chicken and Greek, Blue Moon offers a gluten-free menu that extends beyond just pizza, which holds many gluten-free pizza chains back. They offer appetizers such as bruschetta and cheesy bread as well as entree salads that are served atop gluten-free bread. 
However, being a big pizza fan, I opted for their signature offering which is served atop a Smart Flour crust (the same crust Mellow Mushroom uses). Due to the stress and hassle of air travel, I was pretty tired and opted for an all veggie pizza. The pizza was tomato sauce-based with spinach, tomatoes, red onions and bell peppers. Being both gluten and dairy adverse, I double checked with my server and the chef that the sauce was free from both of my nemeses, and it was cleared. When the pizza arrived at my table, I was pleasantly surprised by the colorful array of fresh veggies on the pizza. I was so entranced by the colors that I failed to notice that the tomato sauce was left off entirely. It turned out to be a simple mix-up, but the chef generously offered to make my pizza all over again. I decided to stick with the pizza but got a side of tomato sauce to complement the pizza, and honestly, I'm glad I did. The veggies really shone through and their fresh flavor was accentuated by the lack of sauce. Blue Moon puts sea salt on their crust and accentuated the toppings with black pepper which helped take the pizza to a whole new level. The salt really accentuated the whole grain taste of the crust and really made the pizza stand out. 

The service was great and prompt, and I got to swap "Orlando" stories with our waiter which was fun. It's always interesting to hear other people's experiences in and perceptions of O-town. I ended up ordering them later in the week for pick up and once again, they delivered a killer pizza. 


R Rice

I found R Rice while scouting out nearby restaurants and found that they recently moved to a new location that was really close to my hotel. After emailing the owner, I was assured that I could dine there safely. One really great option R Rice has is a local delivery service, which was good to note because it can be hard to tell how doctor's appointments or procedures can affect my stamina and strength. However, I was strong enough to dine in for dinner. Once at the restaurant, I met the owner and he was able to outline which options were available for me. The main dishes he suggested were the Fried Rice (regular and Thai), Sizzling House Stir Fry, Kung Pao, and Mongolian. Each dish could be served with chicken, veggies, beef, shrimp or tofu. Though torn between the last two options, I opted for the Kung Pao chicken, choosing spicy over the sweetness of the Mongolian dish. 

Because the salad is served with a dressing that contains conventional soy sauce, I was served the miso soup. The warm and comforting soup was comforting and flavorful.  Though admittedly not a tofu person, the small pieces of tofu kind of surprised me at first, but they were so soft and smooth, I couldn't taste them as I ate it. The onions atop the soup really accentuated and completed the simple, but satisfying soup. 

The Kung Pao chicken followed shortly thereafter and was pretty impressive in both size and flavor. Being the first truly "Chinese" style dish I've eaten at a restaurant since going gluten-free, I was floored by the flavor and texture of the chicken. It was better than I had remembered. The bell peppers, mushrooms, napa cabbage, and red pepper that complimented the chicken were extremely fresh and perfectly seasoned. The dish was spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. Although it was served with rice, I opted to forgo it to eat the whole serving of the chicken and vegetables. It was a smart move because I was happily stuffed after eating the whole dish. All in all, the restaurant delivered a home run in the gluten and dairy free area. The staff was very helpful and attentive and ensured that we were satisfied with our meal. I would definitely go back, but would find it hard to choose anything over the Kung Pao chicken which was a definite highlight of the trip. 


Souper Jenny

The last restaurant I was able to try before heading to the airport was Souper Jenny in the Buckhead district. Although travelling in a new city can be pretty confusing, my mom and I found locating the restaurant an exercise in patience and back-tracking. However once we arrived, there was a line out the door assembled at the small cafe, which seemed to be a great omen of a beloved local favorite. 

Souper Jenny is unique in its focus towards fresh and healthy cooking. True to their name, six soups, two sandwiches, and two to four salads are served fresh every day on a rotating bases with a new menu every day. Most of the soups are gluten-free and there are definitely a few dairy free options as well depending on the selection. On their daily menu, they note each soup's dairy, gluten, or soy ingredients as well as if its vegetarian or vegan. They also have gluten-free cakes when available.

On the day I visited, I was torn between the Caribbean black bean soup and the curry lentil. Opting for the black bean soup, I eagerly sat down at the table to devour the delicious-looking concoction. Unfortunately, the soup's flavor featured a overwhelming sweetness that really was a put-off. I couldn't place where the flavor was coming from, but it was unlike any black bean soup I have tried before. 

Going for a re-do, I decided to get a cup of the curry lentil to try to see if it was just the one soup that missed the mark. This soup was more along the lines of what I expected, and the curry flavor was more mild than spicy. The lentils were perfectly cooked alongside assorted vegetables, but to be honest, the soup was just average. Maybe I was still disappointed from my first try, but I really wanted to love Souper Jenny. Their fun and funky atmosphere really felt intimate and cozy and reminded me of the community-fueled atmosphere of Dandelion Cafe in the Mills 50 district in Orlando. Although I probably won't be back at Souper Jenny any time soon, I do support their mission of fresh, healthy, food. 

The Basics (Blue Moon)

Address: 5610 Glenridge Drive Suite 110, Sandy Springs, GA 30342 (There are three other Georgia locations and one coming soon to Fort Meyers, FL)
Cuisine: Pizza, Appetizers, Salads, Sandwiches
Ideal For: Lunch, Dinner
Price: $10-$20 per person
Accessibility: Sandy Springs location very accessible. All tables standard level. 
Special Features: They deliver within a 3 mile radius
Blue Moon Pizza on Urbanspoon

The Basics (R Rice)

Address: 1140 Hammond Dr Suite K120, Sandy Springs, GA 30328
Website: r-rice.com
Cuisine: Asian fusion with featuring wok-style and grilled items as well as sushi
Ideal For: Lunch, Dinner
Price: $15 and under per person
Accessibility: Very accessible. Tables standard level. Ramp leading up to elevated entrance way.
Special Features: Delivery service through Eat 24
R Rice on Urbanspoon

The Basics (Souper Jenny)

Address: 56 E Andrews Drive, Atlanta, GA 30305 (Additional location in Decatur)
Cusine: Soup, salad, sandwiches
Ideal For: Lunch, Dinner (The last hour they are open is entirely devoted to take-out orders only)
Price: Less than $10 per person
Accessibility: I found it very difficult to enter the restaurant because the wheelchair ramps were at an awkward angle and were blocked by signage. Once inside, the quarters are tight, but accessible. 
Souper Jenny on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: Restaurant reviews are based upon the information I have at the time of the review and do not reflect changes in supplier or availability of items. Please contact the restaurant directly for up-to-date information and feel free to to contact me with any questions or comments. I was not compensated for this review and it is a reflection of my personal opinion.

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