USA

The Best Restaurant in Midtown You’ve Never Noticed – The Consulate (Atlanta, GA)

Written by Mark McElroy

Hidden behind the Federal Reserve Bank on Peachtree Street, tucked away behind the MARTA station on 10th Street, obscured by trees and bypassed by hundreds of commuters daily, The Consulate is a lush, hip, swanky eatery offering great service and excellent food at good prices. So why haven’t you heard about it? And why haven’t you been there?

Once upon a time, the restaurant space The Consulate occupies was a dreadful place called the New York Deli. (Think QuickTrip deli food crossed with all the ambience of a McDonald’s.) I made the mistake of eating at the New York Deli once and never went back, despite the fact the joint was two blocks from my house and next door to where I work.

I heard months ago that a new restaurant, The Consulate, was moving into the same spot. At the time, Clyde and I both speculated that we should check it out. And yet — we never did. Why? I’m not sure. Looking back, I had a kind of lingering distrust of that location, rooted in the mediocre experience I’d had at the New York Deli. But — when I’m being entirely honest — I admit I just dismissed The Consulate without giving it a chance.

The exterior is a sterile glass and brick facade that is, frankly, about as inviting as a government office. (The American flag over the front door supports this misconception.) The logo is beautifully conceived, but rendered in a dark metal that you will never notice unless you are seeking it out. A peek into the tinted windows revealed nothing but a series of expensive-looking plates affixed to a room divider, leaving me with a vague impression that the place would be too expensive, but showing me absolutely  nothing that encouraged me to step inside. (There’s not even a menu posted outside, for goodness sake.)

So: if you’re one of the hundreds of people who walk right past The Consulate every day, you can be forgiven for never having noticed it. And that’s a shame, because once you step inside The Consulate, it’s going to blow your mind.

Inspired by James Bond films and cool jazz, the interior of The Consulate is unlike anything else in Midtown — sleek steel, bulbous lamps, polished wood, organic shapes, booths upholstered in purple velvet:

img_0046

The full bar is thoughtfully stocked, and you can drink your cocktails there, or step into a space taken right out of a spy movie bachelor pad:

img_0043

When it’s time to eat, you can sink into a booth, snag a table by the window, or, if you’re feeling like a Bond villain negotiating a creative way to end the world, you can retreat into the polished sanctuary of the private dining room:

img_0054

When friends J&J (of Peachtree Food Tours), Clyde, and I walked in last Monday night, we were astounded by the atmosphere … and immediately suspicious. Why we were the only diners there?

You know where my mind went, don’t you? Lush interior. No other diners. No menu on display. “This is going to be really bad food,” I said to myself. “Really expensive, really bad food.”

I’ve never been more wrong.

The wide-ranging, rotating menu (each month, featured dishes are inspired by a different country– this month, Brazil; next month, Denmark) had extremely reasonable choices for lunch and dinner. The diplomat burger features a double-stack of prime ground chuck layered with sautéed onions, mushrooms, and smoked gouda cheese. I snagged one of these for just eight bucks:

img_0052

For my side item, I ordered the little plate of dry sautéed Thai okra for seven bucks. I expected it to be drenched in that syrupy-sweet chili sauce everyone’s slathering on bad food these days. Instead, my plate was graced with subtly spiced, perfectly cooked green okra pods that tasted as good as they looked:

img_0050

But the prize-winning dish at our table? Clyde’s exquisite $13.00 plate of red snapper. I didn’t get a single bite (grrrrrr), but I could have looked at it all night:

img_0053

Listen: this was one of those meals where every single person at the table loved every bite. At the end of it, we sat there marveling. Why haven’t we heard of this? How have we bypassed it every day, all this time? And why isn’t anyone else here?

I love The Consulate so much, I invited the entire team at work to join me there for lunch two days later. Almost nobody wanted to go. “The Consulate? What’s that? Where is it? Oh, that’s the old New York Deli — it was terrible!” And even as we approached the building, colleagues were saying, “Are they open? Is this really a dentist’s office? Are you sure this isn’t just a government building?”

And, once again, once inside: everyone was amazed at the place. “This would be the perfect place to come for drinks and sandwiches after work! I could hold a party here! Hey, I know the artist who did that painting on the wall in the entryway! And — wait — why are we the only people here?”

Once again — previously at dinner on a Monday, and now at high noon on a Wednesday — we had the entire place to ourselves. I mean, the joint was absolutely, totally deserted.

Hiram, Midtown’s friendliest waiter, greeted us at the door and let us use that swanky private dining room. And, while the folks with me were being polite, I could tell the same things were running through their minds that had run through mine. Nobody’s here. This is going to be bad. And this is going to be expensive.

And then, when the menus came, they realized that, for about two dollars more than we’d pay to eat in the company cafeteria, we could have some amazing dishes. And then, once the food arrived, everyone was smacking away. “This is the best sandwich I’ve ever had! This burger’s perfectly cooked! The bar has that rare bourbon I’ve been looking to try! Why haven’t we heard of this?”

Another meal. Another great experience.

I gotta say: I’m just perplexed. And scared. Because The Consulate is a place I love, a place I want to keep going to, a place I’d go any night of the week, with anyone, and be absolutely confident we’ll have a meal that’s memorable for all the right reasons. But I’m also seeing that drab exterior … those empty seats during what should be high-traffic times … and the little items already starting to drop off the menu (“Ah, we’re out of that cake. I’m sorry, we don’t have the kebabs today. Oh, sorry — the oyster shots are 86’ed tonight.”), and I’m afraid the deck is stacked against this overlooked jewel of a place.

So, I’m doing what I can. I’m spreading the word. I’m inviting you (perhaps even telling you, begging you, imploring you) to go. I’m hoping the owners will take a hint, light up the exterior, post a menu on the sidewalk, play some music over outdoor speakers, stick Hiram out there at lunch time with a platter of samples, or do something, anything, to keep this kind of spot in Midtown.

When you go, look for me and Clyde. We’re probably in the private dining room, eating exquisite burgers, fried coxinhas (with chicken and cheese), yucca fries, and brown butter gelato … all by ourselves.

About the author

Mark McElroy

Leave a Comment