Straight­for­ward com­fort food shines at Poor Hen­drix

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Poor Hen­drix (2371 Hosea Wil­liams Dr., 404-549-8756, poorhen­ re­cently opened in the new Hosea + 2 de­vel­op­ment near the East Lake Golf Club. The de­vel­op­ers are Clay Harper and Mike Nel­son, who also op­er­ate Fellini’s Pizza and La Fonda Latina. The Poor Hen­drix co-owner/ chef is Aaron Rus­sell, who has an im­pres­sive ré­sumé as pas­try chef in some of the city’s best restau­rants. His wife Jamie co-owns the restau­rant. It’s a great team and the restau­rant works very well.

Named af­ter the Rus­sells’ res­cue dog, Poor Hen­drix is di­vided into two sec­tions. There’s a siz­able bar area and a small din­ing room. Each has a sep­a­rate menu and you can­not or­der bar food in the din­ing room and vice versa. There’s also a good-sized pa­tio. Dé­cor is min­i­mal­ist – lots of wood. The din­ing room seat­ing looks mainly like a long com­mu­nity ta­ble where peo­ple eat vir­tu­ally knee-to-knee, re­mind­ing me of a Paris bistro. There are three round ta­bles up front, across from a large wine rack. We were able to push two of them to­gether for eight of us.

The place is lov­able and if a Fri­day night visit is typ­i­cal, the place can get very crowded, es­pe­cially with res­i­dents of the neigh­bor­hood. Still, it’s cer­tainly good enough to be called a des­ti­na­tion restau­rant from any­where in the city. It’s in­ex­pen­sive and the food in the bar and the restau­rant is mainly straight­for­ward, com­fort food.

There’s one dis­ap­point­ment. Some of the restau­rant’s dishes are poorly plated, even for com­fort food. For ex­am­ple, a starter of “warm, un­cured salami with cor­ni­chons” was hap­haz­ardly plated, but the slightly crispy sausage had great taste. An­other – three rec­tan­gles of bread topped with ri­cotta cheese and tape­nade – was de­li­ciously messy enough to bring out your in­ner French-Ital­ian child.

Two dishes stood out – half a roasted Springer Moun­tain chicken, and a steak. The chicken was to­tally juicy thanks in part to pan drip­pings. It was topped with so-called “bit­ter greens,” a small mix of mus­tard greens and col­lards. The per­fectly grilled steak was sliced and served with root veg­eta­bles over po­lenta.

The only un­pleas­ant en­trée was mus­sels with French fries. They were tiny and chewy. The broth in which they were steamed, on the other hand, was a ter­rific ba­con-bour­bon-chili broth. Get a spoon if you de­cide to or­der this.

Desserts were pre­dictably fan­tas­tic. We tried the cof­fee crème brulee and a log of car­rot cake topped with an­gos­tura cream. My fa­vorite, though, was a milk-chocolate mousse dot­ted with roasted peanuts and drib­bled with bour­bon caramel.

I re­turned a few days later to try four small plates at the bar. The best in my opin­ion was the trio of sweet-potato bis­cuits topped with coun­try ham with a side of ut­terly fan­tas­tic sorghum but­ter. My mouth still yearns for more. Ground lamb on skew­ers was highly sea­soned and re­ceived un­usual zip from a dip of pa­prika vinai­grette. I was least pleased with the soy-mar­i­nated boiled eggs rolled in sesame seeds. Their fla­vor was fine but they were mo­not­o­nous com­pared to the other dishes.

Ser­vice at Poor Hen­drix was ter­rific, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the large, re­lent­less line of wait­ing din­ers. I am sure Rus­sell will bring the ap­pear­ance of small plates and en­trées up to par with their fla­vor. Don’t de­lay. Go now.

Cliff Bo­s­tock is a for­mer psy­chother­a­pist now spe­cial­iz­ing in life coach­ing. Con­tact him at 404-518-4415 or cliff­bo­

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