At Thumbs Up Diner, plush red stools underline curved, formica countertops, and chefs flip omelets in cast-iron skillets. Flourishes such as these imbue Thumbs Up Diner with the aura of a classic ‘50s diner. Though it’s an apt comparison in regards to ambiance, chefs strive to surpass the no-frills cuisine of their ‘50s forbearers. The kitchen team smokes turkey and chicken in house, and squeezes orange juice fresh to order. To wit: pancakes, waffles, and name tags that just won't stay put can be drizzled with pure New England maple syrup, and from-scratch jams can be spread across multigrain biscuits. And though meat, egg, and cheese dishes may sizzle in cast-iron skillets, the cooks also dole out vegan entrees.
There is always a lively spirit of creativity at The Sound Table, but it changes throughout the night. The upstairs dining room boasts a menu that "zigzags through global influences: Belgian-style frites, Oaxacan hanger steak with salsa verde, Chinese grilled ribs redolent of soy and chile," says Atlanta magazine, which placed restaurant on its list of the area's 50 Best Restaurants. However, the menu's capricious nature doesn't stop at the recipes, it also affects the availability. The selection changes frequently as the chefs incorporate new, seasonal ingredients. On the downstairs level, the bar is a bit more consistent, although still inventive. In addition to the international assortment of wine and beer, the bartenders mix drinks that Creative Loafing Atlanta hailed as "some of the best cocktails in the city." These shaken and stirred concoctions are separated into categories that range from bright & dry to strong, rich & strange, and they occasionally feature nontraditional ingredients such as pine liqueur or garam masala. Although the food and drinks help keep spirits high, it's the live music that transforms the two stories of exposed brickwork, booths made of wooden slats, and soft industrial lighting into a lively neighborhood dwelling. Typically starting around 11 p.m., an ever-rotating lineup of DJs and bands performs throughout the week, energizing the crowds with anything from the raw, percussive fusion of African and Latin jazz-funk to globally-influenced psychedelic.
The aroma of brewing organic, fair-trade coffee from Brazil wafts through the air at 50th Street Cafe during breakfast and lunch. Behind the breakfast counter, cooks work to reinvent classic breakfast dishes. They flip pancakes made with cookie dough and drizzle them with chocolate or add fresh mozzarella and basil-pesto hollandaise to unorthodox omelets. Farm-fresh eggs and housemade hash browns, early-morning staples, arrive alongside less traditional panko-battered walleye fillets. The griddle sizzles like a knight in shining armor left in a hot car, laden with half-pound patties of Cattleman’s Selection ground beef, which end up on thick-cut sourdough toast with Old Smokehouse bacon and melted swiss cheese. That heat is also reflected in the bright hues of yellow tile and orange accents as well as whimsical calico-patterned carpets. The staff at 50th Street Cafe works to reduce its collective carbon footprint by using recyclable materials.
B. Beattys chefs follow the time-honored family recipes that were handed down from their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They begin each morning with breakfast, rolling up their sleeves and firing up grills before whipping up fluffy omelets and crispy chicken and waffles. Come lunchtime, they turn their attention to customized sandwiches, layering toasted rolls and sourdough bread with slow-roasted pork, fried turkey, and bacon. When dinner rolls around, they load plates with hearty servings of catfish, rib-eye steaks, and pork chops. The accommodating chefs invite guests to personalize many menu items, encouraging diners to choose seasonings for their meats and take a moment to come up with a nickname and backstory for each one of their french fries.
Servers flit about the casual dining room, where sunlight streams in through towering windows. Diners sit at booths and tabletops, sipping on smoothies and shakes.