Babu Ji

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Now that Winter has actually kicked in, in NYC, you probably crave comfort food. And, if you’re like me, you want comfort food that’s hot and spicy too, because, extra warmth. I love Indian food, which pretty much checks these marks for me, so, I was off to Babu Ji in Alphabet City.

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A mix of modern elegance meets local deli kind of sums up the aesthetic of this contemporary Indian restaurant. You’ll find striking, large print photographs framed on the wall, along with a projecting Indian movie, and, a stuffed peacock on top of a self-serve beverage refrigerator. But once your food starts coming out, you won’t even be paying attention to what’s around you, and only what’s in front of you. Not only are the dishes all visually captivating, they’re insanely delicious. And, the entire staff here was so amazing, attentive, courteous, and, if you’re a crazy food-picture-taker like myself, you’re in luck, because one of our servers asked a few times if I’d like him to provide some additional light from his phone. What a gem! Ok, food, let’s get into it. Get some Naan. It’s warm, soft and pillowy, but still has a nice chew to it. The flavors are delicate, but give the dough a little pizzaz.

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All of the appetizers sounded amazing, so, I started with a couple to share. First was Papadi Chaat (chickpea, cucumber, pomegranate, tamarind, mint and yogurt chutney). They describe it as the motherland’s version of nachos and salsa, a must try. And, they’re 100% right, this dish was unbelievable. First off, it’s stunning to look at, but each ingredient is so fresh and dynamic, and you can really taste all of the flavors individually, while going so wonderfully all together. Texture wise, you really have everything here, you’ve got crunch from the slaw and the chips, creaminess from the chutney, and all of the other elements in between. It was really fantastic, and you must order it.

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Ok, so, before I even start about the second appetizer, I need to take a breath. Ok, breath taken. This was possibly one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while, and definitely my favorite thing from my meal here. I had their Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower (Indo-Chinese style cauliflower in a tomato chili sauce, sesame and onion seed, chives). So, they killed it in the immitation department, replicating General Tso’s Chicken from the outside. But, take a bite and this vegan dish made out of cauliflower tastes crazily similar. Everything about this dish was pure perfection, from the sweet, tangy, and spicy sauce, to the airy and crisp breading around the tender and flavorful cauliflower. I wish I could go on forever about this, but, my fingers will get too tired from typing. So, let’s meet up for a plate of Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower and I’ll talk your ear off about it.

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For my main, I ordered Baingan Bartha (Spiced and fire roasted eggplant curry with green peas). Again, presentation on point. And flavor wise, excellent. The eggplant is pureed into a consistency in between a spread and a paste, making it very substantial. There’s a really nice kick of heat, and the freshness of the peas and shaved veggies on top help to cool your mouth a little bit and add a nice textural component.

The Shorts:
Name: Babu Ji
Location: 175 Avenue B, NYC
The Shorts: Would I go back? Let me think about it…YES! Did you not read my obsessive fan-girl review of that cauliflower?
Would I recommend it? 100%. In fact, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t go. I can’t even think of one complaint. The staff is incredible, the food is outstanding, what else could you ask for?

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Home grown

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Atlanta dining continues, and off to another brunch spot. Actually only open for breakfast, brunch and lunch, Home grown has quite a lot of popularity, so, I wanted to check out what all the buzz what about.

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The super quaint, and pretty unassuming restaurant is a lot more dynamic on the inside than it appears on the outside (see, kids? The age old “don’t judge a restaurant’s menu and interior by its outside”…I think that’s the quote?). Now, you’ll definitely have a bit of a wait for brunch, we were given 45 minutes, and that was accurate. But, once you’re in, you’re led past a little dinner-like counter with bar seating, to a spacious dining room, with walls full of different artist’s paintings, all for sale. There are two parts to the dining room, so, if you’re in the front room, where I was, you’re 100% going to want to at least take a walk to the back, where you’ll find a whole country-store vibe, full of shirts, art, and some other chachkies for sale. Along with the most glorious element ever, a small, elderly man playing the hell out of a keyboard and marimba. A marimba! Magical. Tip him.

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The menu is filled with lots of comfort food, and typical southern style dishes, made with local, fresh, seasonal ingredients, and all very affordably priced. I ordered the Lynne Stack (2 salmon patties, 2 fried green tomatoes, sautéed spinach, tomatoes, with melted pimento cheese). Alright. So, let’s get the awkwardness out of the way, the flood of pimento cheese. Like, I mean, when this was delivered to me, I thought, no…I don’t think this could be for me, I didn’t order the bucket of cheese sauce. But, alas, this was the dish, you know, 20 feet below cheese level. I will say, the flavor of the pimento cheese was awesome, it was super delicious, but, they might want to offer a free heart screening if people are actually eating all of that. A generous dollop, a-la hollandaise on an Eggs Benedict would completely have sufficed here. Let’s move on to the good stuff.

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Once you uncover the actual food, it’s amazing and delicious. The flavors are really great here, so, it’s almost a shame that there’s so much cheese covering it all. The salmon patties are soft, but have a slight crispness on the outside, and extremely savory and flavorful with lovely spices. The fried green tomatoes were pretty good, but the batter was a little thick for me, so I worked around some of the fried batter, taking a bit of the pimento cheese and mixing it with the tomato for a really nice combination. Interestingly enough, the sautéed spinach and tomatoes were kind of everything in this dish. Like, some of the most delicious spinach and tomatoes I’ve had. I wish there were more because they were perfection. 

The Shorts:
Name: Home grown
Location: 968 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta, GA
The Long and Short: Would I go back? Yes, but possibly for a weekday breakfast or lunch, to avoid the wait. The art there was actually really fantastic too, so, even if you grab a quick bite, you can shop for a little collection.
Would I recommend it? Yes, but beware the pimento. I would definitely order this dish again, sans cheese. However, the rest of the menu sounded great, so I might mix it up on a future visit.