Review: Cellar 56 - Tapas Dining in Buckhead

A couple of weeks ago, while reading through the endless list of blogs that I follow, I happened upon an article that was of particular interest. Amy on Food, an Atlanta food blogger, had posted an article about a tapas and wine bar in Buckhead...Cellar 56. At the time, I still hadn't decided where we would eat on two of our nights in the ATL, but given Amy's great review and our love of tapas, it seemed the stars had aligned for us to give it a try.

Cellar 56 Atlanta Buckhead

Cellar 56 is located in Buckhead's East Andrews complex, and sits on an interior courtyard within the building. A great fountain is there to greet you as you approach the restaurant, and on the evening of our visit a charity fashion show was taking place inside the courtyard. We arrived a few minutes early for our 7:30 reservation, but had no problem being seated right away, even with the festivities taking place outside the restaurant.
Cellar 56 Atlanta Buckhead

Like most tapas style restaurants, the menu at Cellar 56 is incredibly diverse, and it featured many of my favorite dishes. With such a wide range of plates to choose from, we decided to tackle the menu in stages. Garden, Sea, Land, and Dessert. OK, so I can't take credit for this, because that's how the menu was already set up, but just go with it...

Cellar 56 Atlanta Buckhead
For the Garden portion of our meal, we started with the Hummus and Garlic Flatbread, as well as an appropriate Southern favorite, the Fried Green Tomatoes. The hummus arrived first, and was an awesome start, but the arrival of the fried green tomatoes made me forget the hummus existed. You know that feeling when you taste something that is so good that you're saliva glands nearly burst? Well, that's what happened to me when I bit into these tomatoes....Awesome stuff.
Cellar 56 Atlanta Buckhead
Next up was the Sea portion of our dinner, where the Seared New Bedford Scallop and Georgia Shrimp & Grits were our choices. The scallop was perfectly cooked, and served atop creamed corn with bacon. The dish was excellent, although I would have rather seen two scallops, even if slightly smaller, given the idea of tapas is to share. As for the Shrimp & Grits, well, this dish is pretty much always destined for success with me. The jumbo shrimp were great, but it was the grits which were the true hit. They were clearly made from scratch, and to call them creamy would be an understatement. It's worth noting that both our Garden and Sea courses were enjoyed with the Four Vines Chardonnay, which came at the suggestion of our server.
Cellar 56 Atlanta Buckhead
Oddly enough, all of our selections for the Land portion of our meal, also happened to come from the "House Favorites" listing in the menu. If these were to be the best, I was glad we saved them for last. We had trouble narrowing down our choices, so ordering four dishes for this round seemed the appropriate solution. First was the Grilled Flat Iron Steak, which was served with arugula and a vinaigrette dressing. While flat iron steaks can sometimes be a bit chewy, this one was as tender as filet Mignon, and the pairing with the arugula added a bit of spice as well.
Cellar 56 Atlanta Buckhead

Next up was the Spicy Mac & Cheese, and the Duck Confit Flatbread. We ordered the Mac & Cheese more as a side to the other dishes, but it wound up being one of our favorite plates of the night. The creamy cheddar cheese and the spice of the roasted peppers combined for some amazing flavor. It's possible my wife's beloved "Blue Box" will never be quite the same. While she was being blown away by the Mac & Cheese, I had the opposite reaction to the Duck Confit Flatbread. Pretty much anytime there is anything Duck Confit on a menu, I'm gonna order it as it's one of my favorites. I had high hopes for this plate as a result, and perhaps those hopes were too high. The concept of the dish was great, but the duck was overcooked, and with that being the focus, this one was simply a miss. Sure it was a little disappointing, but when you're having a meal that consists of 11 plates, you're bound to have one that doesn't deliver. Besides, redemption was just one plate away...

Cellar 56 Atlanta Buckhead
Our final dish from the Land was the Guinness Braised Short Rib, and it was without question the best of the evening. I assumed that anything with the word "Guinness" was going to be spectacular, and it certainly delivered. The beef was so incredibly tender, and the au jus sauce gave that same saliva gland explosion I'd experienced earlier in the meal. It was so good, I actually observed a gentleman in the table next to us reorder a second one. Needless to say, it was nice to transition to dessert on a high note.
Cellar 56 Atlanta Buckhead Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding
As usual, there were too many options on the dessert menu that we wanted to try, so we simply ordered them all. Luckily, the Dessert Trio allows guests like us to solve this problem by offering up to three choices in a slightly smaller serving. Our first two choices, the Creme Brulee and Flourless Chocolate Cake, were both excellent, but they were quickly forgotten once I tasted the third.....Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding. I don't even like bread pudding. In fact, I may not have ever had bread pudding before. But you could take pieces of Krispy Kreme donuts and mix with eggplant, and suddenly I would be a fan. It was, in a word, awesome, and the perfect way to end the meal.

Overall, we had an excellent food experience at Cellar 56, with the Duck Confit Flatbread being the only minor exception. The service, on the other hand, was hit and miss. Our server was very friendly, and made two excellent suggestions when it came to wine, but he often went missing for lengths at a time. This wouldn't be a problem in a traditional restaurant where more time is spent on fewer dishes, but in a tapas place the last thing a guest wants are empty plates on the table, and no order in the works for more. I certainly wouldn't go so far as to say the service was poor, just mediocre.

The food was far from mediocre, however, and really that's the only thing I remember when it comes to the meal. Cellar 56 was a great way to begin our dining tour of Atlanta, and was a precursor to several more outstanding meals which followed.

Now, to figure out how to have the bread pudding shipped to Florida....

Enjoy Your Stay

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