By Art Huckabee
I’m intrigued by restaurant names and what they say about a restaurant. Some are self-explanatory like The Atlanta Fish Market or Fox Brother’s Bar-B-Q. Some are iconic like Bone’s or Bacchanalia. Some allude to history or literature like Ink and Elm and King + Duke. Some are just whimsical like Sun In My Belly.
Located in a former hardware store in Kirkwood, Sun In My Belly is a neighborhood café that serves brunch, lunch and dinner. If you don’t live in the area it’s a little hard to find the first time as there’s minimal signage and, in typical Atlanta neighborhood fashion, there’s minimal parking.
There’s a patio for those warm weather Sunday brunches and just inside the door there’s a pastry/coffee counter if you just happen to want a quick bite. As is this the case with many old buildings that are converted into restaurants, the seating is that European banquet style with rows of tables only separated by the slimmest of margins that turn everyone into involuntary eavesdroppers. The piercing “High C” screams of a nearby baby further reaffirm that this isn’t necessarily your date night destination.
The menu is extensive. From soups to salads, to “Lite Bites” to “Big Bites,” to even a Kid’s menu in the evening, chances are there’s something for everyone. There’s a 4-course “Supper Club” menu that’s available from Thursday through Sunday for $35. There’s a decent wine selection and they offer craft beers as well.
As an appetizer, we tried the fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese. The unripe tomatoes were lightly battered and fried to an al dente doneness with just the right dab of pimento cheese. We could have eaten another serving.
We sampled a variety of salads. They were freshly assembled with good ingredients. The Wedge was very good with crunchy romaine, grape tomatoes, bleu cheese, house honey-glazed bacon, roasted walnuts and a house-made Green Goddess dressing. The Lucy was crunchy, tart and refreshing with kale, red apple, Spanish onion, avocado, toasted pumpkin seeds in a lemon vinaigrette. Even the Caesar, oft an afterthought at many places, was very good with garlic croutons, shaved Parmesan and an authentic dressing.
For entrees, we ordered the fried chicken, the meatloaf and the Fez burger. The chicken was hot and crispy; the meat moist and tender. The accompanying mac ‘n cheese had a smoky Gouda taste and the mojo collard greens were spicy but a bit too vinegary. The meatloaf with tomato jam had good flavor but was dry as if it had lingered under a heat lamp. The accompanying Parmesan mashed potatoes affirmed my hunch as they had the consistency of spackling compound.
The Fez burger was undercooked. To its credit, the kitchen re-fired a new one rather than attempting to remedy the mistake in a microwave. The second iteration was properly done… hot and juicy on an onion Challah roll. It needed just a little more mint aioli to balance the lamb.
There were lots of sweet offerings. The pumpkin crème brûlée was the perfect holiday sweet and the S’mores parfait was a good riff on the traditional nighttime campfire treat.
As to the service, our experience, and those of many diners around us, suffered from long pauses in-between courses, miscommunications between the kitchen and the front of the house and a general flurry of activity that came across as flailing. There’s a team effort at play here but the players don’t know their individual roles. It’s a bit like watching a bunch of little kids first learning to play baseball. When the ball is hit, they all chase it into the outfield.
On a positive note, the hostess did inquire about our experience at the end of the meal and seemed genuinely interested in our feedback.
Sun In My Belly is located at 2161 College Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA, 30317. For more information, call (404) 370-1088 or visit suninmybelly.com.
Art Huckabee is one of Yelp’s Elite Reviewers, as well as a pilot and food lover. Send feedback to TastingIntown@AtlantaINtownPaper.com.