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Enter The Vortex

by Meghann on March 19, 2012

Happy Anniversary to Derek’s parents!

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They were married exactly 34 years ago today! Can you believe it? They don’t even look a day over 34 themselves! ;)

Derek and I had a long day celebrating with them – starting with a lunch date with Derek’s Papi at Steak ‘n’ Shake.

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It was a little bit of a drive into town, so I had a handful of trail mix to hold me over until lunch.

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I tried to keep it light at lunch (I figured dinner would be on the heavier side) and ordered a side garden salad with a cup of chili. It was all kind of blah – it definitely wasn’t the best Steak ‘n Shake I’ve ever been to.

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And this is why technology rocks – we were able to Skype with Derek’s uncle in the Cayman Islands while having lunch with his Papi in Atlanta thanks to the tablet. We just sat the tablet to the side and his uncle chatted and interacted with us while we ate. Pretty cool, right?

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Lunch went way too fast, but luckily we get to visit with Papi more tomorrow. :)

I had a blueberry chocolate chip muffin when we made it back to the car.

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As we were heading to our hotel after lunch, I spotted a Trader Joe’s in a random shopping mall and may or may not have freaked Derek’s parents out with my excitement over it. I literally started jumping up and down in the car and Derek’s Dad was kind enough to pull into the parking lot to figure out what the heck I was squealing about.

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Yes, I know they’re building one in Sarasota (about an hour and a half from us in Tampa) and they have (or are still building?) one in Naples (about 4 hours from Tampa), but we still don’t have one within Tampa city limits. Until we do get one, I think I’m going to continue to squeal whenever I run into a random one – especially ones that carry the almond butter with salt or pumpkin butter (I just ran out!). ;)

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Thankfully, after a quick tour of the store, Derek’s parents realize why I was freaking out – they fell in love with the store too. I think they even walked out with more new items than I did to try! ;)

Derek and I have sort of developed a little Man v Food tradition whenever we travel. Basically, where Adam goes – we go too.   

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When we were trying to decide where to eat for dinner tonight, Derek pulled out his phone and we all gathered around to watch the Atlanta episode of Man v Food via Netflix (again, don’t you love technology?!).

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Adam visited three very unique restaurants in Atlanta: a chicken and waffle place, a pizza place, and a burger place. The burger place was the one that caught our attention. They were famous for the creative burgers, funky decor, and take-no-bs attitude.

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The Vortex definitely has a reputation in Atlanta. All the reviews on Yelp were hit or miss, but we were willing to take a chance. I think the thing that threw me off was their ’18 and up only’ policy. This maybe the first restaurant I’ve ever been to where they carded everyone (including Derek’s parents!) before they even put our name on the wait list.

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The restaurant is 18 and up so they can allow smoking inside. Apparently if an establishment in Georgia (not sure about other states) is 18 and up, they can permit smoking inside. From what I’ve read online, The Vortex can get VERY smoking from people lighting up during dinner (gag!) in the main dining area, BUT if you get there early enough it’s not bad. We were seated for dinner around 6:30 and didn’t have an issue – if it had been bad, I’m not sure I would have been able to stay or enjoy my food.

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The Vortex is known for having a bit of an attitude and the ‘rules’ on the front of the menu pretty much covers it. They’re definitely not a ‘customer is alway right’ kind of place.

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Moving past the rules, the restaurant really wasn’t that bad. Our server was really sweet (no attitude to be found) and the food would be worth coming back for (yum!).

I started with a local brown ale that was on tap (and came highly recommended by our sever).

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For my dinner I chose the ‘Holy Guacamole’ burger, only I switched out the beef patty for a black bean based veggie one.

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Whoa. I think the jack cheese and guacamole really made this burger. Derek’s mom ordered the same thing and we both couldn’t stop raving about it. It was so good! And i loved how the black bean patty had a chargrill taste and feel to it. This was definitely one of the best restaurant veggie burgers I’ve ever had.

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The sweet potato crinkle fries were pretty amazing as well. Not too sweet and perfect with a good amount of ketchup. ;)

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Of course, my dinner was nothing compared to Derek’s, who had to order the exact same thing as Adam.

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Basically, a heart attack on a plate.

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I had a bite and it wasn’t bad, but there was just too much going on. Too many flavors for one burger to handle!

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Check that out!

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Derek loved it! He easily killed the whole thing.

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Derek’s Dad ordered ‘The Elvis’ – a 1/2 lb burger with peanut butter, fried bananas, and bacon.

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He loved it too! Such a crazy combination, but it apparently works.

After dinner we headed to the highly recommended Cafe Intermezzo for dessert.

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I started with a cappuccino.

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Derek and I split the hazelnut tart

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And we stole a couple of bites of Derek’s parents’ desserts as well.

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We’re a family of sharers.

It got late fast. We have more day of exploring Atlanta tomorrow before heading back home. If you have any other restaurant suggestions for the Atlanta area – let us know!

Good Night!

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 meghan March 19, 2012 at 12:32 am

I went to college in Atlanta, so I love love that city. If you want a quick lunch tomorrow and are near one, go to Willy’s. It’s like the Atlanta only Chipotle, but so much better I think. Mary Mac’s Tea Room on Ponce is a very southern restaurant, and it’s yummy. For dinner, two urban licks or one midtown kitchen are both good ones. I think I would take one midtown kitchen first. If you tell me what area you’re in I can give you other recommendations. There are so so many great restaurants in Atlanta. They’re endless, really. It’s one of the many things I miss about that city that I find Tampa doesn’t as much have to offer.

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2 April B March 19, 2012 at 10:43 am

Agree about Willys! I lived in ATL for about 6 years and still can’t get into Chipotle.

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3 maria @ so she ran March 19, 2012 at 12:43 am

Oh my gosh–Derek’s burger is insane… I’d never be able to eat 1/4 of that.

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4 Sana March 19, 2012 at 12:56 am

Hahah your future in-laws need to know about Tj’s!

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5 Chuck March 19, 2012 at 1:36 am

I’ve been there and its so fun! Those guys got all the things I wanted but couldn’t bring myself to order lol

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6 Khushboo Thadani March 19, 2012 at 2:15 am

“Tip or Die”–> hahaha I wouldn’t wanna mess with that restaurant!

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7 Kristen @ notsodomesticated March 19, 2012 at 6:38 am

The Vortex is on my list of restaurants I gotta visit now that we’re in Atlanta. I have a friend who said it’s the best burger he’s ever had. And now you just confirmed that I gotta check it out. Thanks! ;)

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8 Liz March 19, 2012 at 6:54 am

Typo of the restaurant name in the title of your post. Sigh.

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9 Hillary March 19, 2012 at 7:14 am

My boyfriend went to Atlanta for work last year, and he LOVED The Vortex. He also still raves about the Gladys Knight Chicken and Waffles place!

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10 chelsey @ clean eating chelsey March 19, 2012 at 7:28 am

That is one INSANE burger!!!

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11 Hope @ With A Side Of Hope March 19, 2012 at 7:30 am

That restaurant looks so cool! The fries look so yummy! :) That burger is crazy! It’s huge!!

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12 Kathy March 19, 2012 at 7:38 am

Wow…another job you should have…a restaurant critic…look out Adam he has competition!

The food and desserts look wonderful….how fun! Do you ever have a down day? Bad day? Boring day? hahahha!

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13 Laura March 19, 2012 at 7:58 am

I love The Vortex and their rules! I’ve always had stellar service at each location – no attitude. The owners of The Vortex own another great restaurant – Bone Garden Cantina, which has a Day of the Dead theme throughout and great sangria and margaritas.

We have a lot of amazing restaurants in Atlanta. It sort of depends on the area you’re looking in and the type of food…. I do second the Two Urban Licks suggestion though. Fellini’s is great for a quick lunch – slices of pizza and cold beer and several locations throughout the city.

If you want dessert, try to find King of Pops. They’re a local popsicle company with carts around the city. I’ve been craving them so much since it’s gotten hot! And for cupcakes, CamiCakes is the best.

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14 Lee March 19, 2012 at 8:12 am

The Vortex is awesome. They also have a lot of vegetarian items, which is nice. We ran right past there during the half-marathon actually.

One of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta is Wisteria. It’s pretty close to the Vortex, so it might be a bit of a drive from where you are staying.

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15 Paula @ Eat: Watch: Run March 19, 2012 at 8:12 am

I just gained 10 lbs LOOKING at Derek’s burger. I can’t believe he ate that whole thing. Boys are bottomless pits sometimes. (And he probably lost weight from eating that too) ;-)

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16 megan March 19, 2012 at 8:18 am

The Trader Joe’s in Naples is done! I had friends who just went and said it was awesome. I can’t wait for the one to be done here in SRQ.

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17 Lindsay @ Running the Windy City March 19, 2012 at 8:19 am

I remember that episode of Man vs. Food, the elvis burger?? Insane!

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18 Jessie March 19, 2012 at 8:32 am

I live about an hour and a half away from Atlanta, but go there often. We always try to eat at The Flying Biscuit. There are several of them around the city and while they are famous for having the longest brunch line … their food throughout the day is always delicious. I love the vegan bbq burrito.
I also have to second the Willy’s vote. We have one here, and I eat there once a week.

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19 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats March 19, 2012 at 8:37 am

I never understood the whole Elvis food combo, but I guess if people like it I should give it a shot one day! Glad you all had a fun day celebrating and that you found Trader Joe’s! I’m so lucky to have one within walking distance!

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20 Erin March 19, 2012 at 8:56 am

Try Two Urban Licks. It’s got fabulous food and a great atmosphere!

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21 Jessica March 19, 2012 at 8:58 am

Six Feet Under!

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22 Alayna @ Thyme Bombe March 19, 2012 at 9:01 am

Awesome! I live in Atlanta and I actually worked at Cafe Intermezzo for a few years. You’ve just reminded me that I need to hit up the Vortex again soon. If you find yourself in the Decatur neighborhood, hit up The Brick Store for one of the largest beer selections in the country and really good Irish pub food.

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23 Cait's Plate March 19, 2012 at 9:51 am

Those burgers look SO good. As does that blueberry chocolate chip muffin! I would never have thought to do that flavor combo – but I really want to try it now!

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24 Laura S March 19, 2012 at 9:53 am

I love the Vortex! I would recommend you check out Fritti in the Highlands area of ATL. The have phenomenal pizza!!!

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25 Casey @ Insatiably Healthy March 19, 2012 at 10:05 am

The one in Naples opened about a month ago and I hear its been majorly packed ever since! My parents live around there and I’m excited to bring back home some goodies too :)

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26 Shannon March 19, 2012 at 10:23 am

Fritti in Virginia Highlands or Iberian Pig or Brickstore Pub in Decatur. Oakhurst has an amazing restaurant called Mezcalitos. Antico Pizza near Ga Tech is amazing!

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27 Rachel March 19, 2012 at 10:36 am

Houston is supposedly getting a Trader Joes! The nearest one is Dallas! You’ll know when it’s open when you hear my squeals all te way in FL!

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28 Janessa March 19, 2012 at 10:44 am

Nice review! I’m love the suggestions too. I am traveling to Atlanta for the first time (other than driving through) this weekend so I’m making notes!

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29 April B March 19, 2012 at 10:45 am

If you’re looking for a great fine dining restaurant in Atlanta, check out Canoe. It’s on the banks of the Chattahoochee and the atmosphere and food are amazing.
My favorite lunch spot is Souper Jenny – all homemade soups, sandwiches and salads. It’s located in Buckhead, and it’s small, so go early and enjoy!

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30 Kate March 19, 2012 at 11:14 am

Naples is only two hours from Tampa, not four!

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31 Meghann March 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Just did a MapQuest test and the Trader Joes in Naples is 3 hrs and 15 mins from my place in Tampa. With traffic, I’m sure it feels closer to 4 :)

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32 melissa March 19, 2012 at 11:42 am

For mexican: La Fonda Del Sol–so good–and affordable.

Flip Burger is a really cool top chef spot.

For a drink with a view, the bar at the top of the Westin (round tall black building) is really fun!

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33 Danielle @ Long May You Run March 19, 2012 at 11:45 am

I love my Trader Joe’s! The next time you go to TJ, try the roasted red pepper soup. It’s ah-MAZING! They also have some great masala sauces, and if you’re a wine drinker, their Charles Shaw (aka- Two Buck Chuck) is fantastic!

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34 Emily March 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Sweet potato KRINKLE FRIES!?! That sounds about as good as it gets!

I LOVE TJs almond butter with sea salt. It tastes the best in my opinion and it much less expensive than a lot of the other brands!

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35 Lara March 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I second Two Urban Licks! Also, I loved Eclipse de Luna… there’s a locaiton in Dunwoody and another near Lindbergh MARTA station. Or at least there was when I lived there. Great tapas! So jealous… I love Atlanta!

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36 Sarah A. March 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I live in Alabama and drive to Atlanta specifically to shop at Trader Joe’s! It’s very sad because I am from CA where there is a TJ’s on every corner. Anyway, on one of my many trips to Atlanta, I found this restaurant by accident. It’s crazy amazing. Try it if you’re in the area.

http://www.baraondaatlanta.com/

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37 Running Girl March 19, 2012 at 4:17 pm

The dessert place looks amazing!

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38 Amanda March 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm

He finished that burger????? Where did he put it?

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39 Meghan March 19, 2012 at 10:27 pm

I just moved from Atlanta so am very familiar with the food scene. You definitely need to go to downtown Decatur…the Brick Store Pub, No. 246 (kinda expensive but my FAVORITE restaurant I’ve ever been to!), Leon’s Full Service, Raging Burrito, and the Iberian Pig are all so good, you can’t go wrong with any of them! I second the King of Pops recommendation…I miss those pops (especially chocolate sea salt). In Buckhead there’s Souper Jenny (lunch spot), and lots of hit-or-miss places. Others around town include Ria’s Bluebird (for bruch), JCT Kitchen (2nd favorite restaurant), Antico Napoletana Pizza (best pizza I have EVER had…ever!), and FLIP Burger. Hope this helps! Can you tell I desperately miss the Atlanta restaurant scene!?

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40 Jess-ThatJessGal March 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I did a Fellowship with the CDC the summer 2007 (which just saying that makes me feel old-seems like it was just last year!) and our group frequented Cafe Innermezzo often. So good! Red wine and chocolate are the best. And of course we went to Vortex, so I too crack up every time I see that edition of MvF.

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