Stir It Up and add Bone Gar­den to your list of restau­rant faves

GA Voice - - The Wedding Issue -

I’ve been din­ing out with a group of friends for more than four years. Typ­i­cally, we try to find some­thing new each week, but there are a few restau­rants that we have vis­ited re­peat­edly. Here are two.

This restau­rant be­came my fa­vorite place for cheap eats when it opened in Lit­tle Five Points in 2011. Af­ter two years of battling with their land­lord, owner-chef Christo­pher Wil­liams and his wife Vi­vian moved their Ja­maican restau­rant to a larger space on 12th Street in Mid­town. Prices are up, but most en­trees cost un­der $15.

There is much to love about Stir It Up. Start with the name, which is the ti­tle of a Bob Mar­ley tune about cook­ing. Well, ac­tu­ally “stir it up” is a metaphor for hav­ing sex. And be­lieve me, a few tastes of most food here is bet­ter than the sex you had with your ex. The dé­cor is like­wise sen­sual. The din­ing room, fronted by a lengthy bar, is ul­tra comfy thanks to some up­hol­stered chairs. Per­haps best of all, the ser­vice is usu­ally stel­lar. Kind of like the food, our server last week was a bit spicy and a bit sweet.

Stir It Up’s food is widely re­garded as the best Ja­maican in At­lanta and has re­ceived na­tional at­ten­tion. An­other func­tion of its name is to sug­gest the mul­ti­ple in­flu­ences on Ja­maican cook­ing–In­dian, African, and Asian, among oth­ers. An ex­am­ple is the curry, a tra­di­tional dish based on the In­dian clas­sic with Ja­maican spices stirred in. As with many dishes here, you can se­lect your pro­tein–chicken, shrimp, tilapia, or goat.

My go-to dish at the old lo­ca­tion was the brown stew. The sauce re­minds me of a Mex­i­can mole, com­plexly sea­soned with a faintly sweet taste. I al­ways get it with the hunks of hacked chicken still on the bone. I ad­mit, though, that I was dis­ap­pointed dur­ing my last visit to find that there was barely a hint of the heat pep­pers sub­tly added to the dish in the past. It’s none­the­less de­li­cious and begs for the rice and peas for stir­ring into the sauce. Sweet, caramelized plan­tains come with most dishes.

For years, my other fa­vorite dish has been the salt­fish and cab­bage. It fea­tures diced,

Stir It Up:

salted cod in a warm slaw, served with fried dumplings. I know it sounds kind of icky to a lot of peo­ple, but it is un­be­liev­ably good. The jerk chicken is clas­si­cally hot and spicy, glazed and glossy, ad­dic­tive.

I could go on, but you get the point. Go. (84 12th St., 404-600-5871, stir­i­tu­patl.com.)

Bone Gar­den: I’ve mainly loved this restau­rant since it opened in 2008. The name is an al­lu­sion to the Mex­i­can Day of the Dead. Clas­sic images like smil­ing skele­tons dec­o­rate the walls. But the real at­trac­tion here is the food’s au­then­tic­ity. This is not Tex-Mex food filled with nasty chili pow­der. If you want an ex­am­ple, try a ta­male. Un­like the av­er­age around town, Bone Gar­den’s are not steamed to death and set aside to turn into taste­less crap, barely punc­tu­ated with fill­ings. My fa­vorite here is the ra­jas–strips of poblano pep­pers with creamy cheese, and salsa en­cased in fluffy corn meal, and steamed in a corn husk.

But you can’t go wrong with any­thing on the menu.

(1425 Ellsworth In­dus­trial Blvd., 404-418-9072, bone­gar­den­cantina.com.)

Cliff Bo­s­tock, PhD, is a long­time At­lanta food critic and for­mer psy­chother­a­pist who now prac­tices life coach­ing for cre­ative types; 404-518-4415.

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