“Black as the devil
Hot as Hell.
Pure as an angel,
Sweet as love.”
– Lord Talleyrand on Coffee
Seldomly, I make a trip to Atlanta; and when I do, you better believe I’ll prioritize eating before sleeping. I had planned a pre-birthday treat for myself as I have a bad habit of working through and overlooking my birthdays. As I bid a bitter farewell to my 27th year, I thought a guy’s trip to go see a Passion Pit concert at the Masquerade would be the perfect distraction. I added to this my plans for late-night food at Cafe Intermezzo, and a visit with some family, high school friends, and CIA colleagues to top it all off. Please don’t ask me how I go to do all of this and manage to be back in Savannah in less than 24 hours, but it is possible!
But you’re right that, here, the focus is food… and the people it brings together! Stratton and Mary had always mentioned Cafe Intermezzo – this “just amazing” restaurant in Atlanta. I guess they made a real connection with the capital-city hot-spot when owners Brian and Page Olson sold to Leopold’s those antique marble tables that now line the interior of Savannah’s famed ice cream parlor. As a little added trivia, those table tops where once the facade of some Atlanta building that was demolished!
At the Passion Pit concert, I happen to run into Jon Galvin and his wife Kristin – Atlanta transplants that use to work at Leopold’s. “Small world,” right? They confirmed that Cafe Intermezzo was the way to go. Seven hours later (approaching 1:00 AM), I find me and my empty stomach turning onto the restaurant’s parking lot and it’s $4 fee. I was ready to save four bucks, so I found plenty of street-parking across the street in one of the adjacent neighborhoods.
As I walk up to the cafe, I can’t help but notice that pleasant chatter, the soft warm lighting, and a nice hustle and bustle that characterizes those reknown foodie meccas. Inside, you’re surrounded by a warm personal welcome from the host, and the awesome realization that you’re in a cocoon of warm wood tones and subtle reds; a curved vaulted ceiling over the bar gives the cafe a European coffee-tavern feel. I knew immediately I was in for a great experience. I met up with high school friend Amy Quinn and we darted a few short steps to a “bar” feast for two.
Our bartender. Irvine, welcomed us and explained the Cafe Intermezzo experience. The restaurant celebrates the coffee legacy left by the Hapsburg Empire cities of Prague, Budapest, and Vienna. Hence, there is an extensive drink menu with its array of wine, sparklings, spirits, teas, and more; and nevermind the almost four pages of alcoholic and non-alcoholic coffee selections. Amy ordered a Capuccino Gianduja ($5.30) – espresso with frothed cream in a cup that is coated with Nutella. This was insanely and ridiculously good. I felt like a purist, and opted for a much-needed cup of black coffee ($3.30). Nicely roasted and I’d say the it’s likely a medium roast – so truly no need for cream!
The food menu also offers a huge selection and my face lit up when I read that they offer breakfast… anytime. I’d trade my car, pants, shirts, and shoes for a good french omelette or stack of fluffy pancakes any day. Try me… really. Irvine reassured me that I couldn’t go wrong with the Toffee French Toast ($11). Good french toast is made best with challah bread. Theirs is briefly soaked in a cinnamon rum butter custard and drizzled with a Mezzo Toffee sauce. Tangentially, I happen to catch a glimpse of this awkward mechanical nipple behind the bar that the servers were “milking.” I laugh…and proceeded to ask. Irvine explained that it’s their signature “Schlag” or whipped cream; and so, my innate love for dairy beckoned me to ask for my fair share. Needless to say, I “motorboated” that plate. Amy went the savory route and ordered the Grilled Chicken Panini ($10) with provolone cheese, fresh basil, and roasted red peppers on ciabatta bread and a side of blue cheese cole slaw. Everything had “fresh flavors” and we agree that the blue cheese and the fresh grapes just worked great together in the slaw.
There wasn’t too much room for dessert… especially after French toast, but y’all have to check out their desserts! In front of what Irvine and Zeke (dessert tour guide) claim to be the world’s largest espresso machine, are two cases filled with over thirty different cakes and desserts. They range from Almond Tiramisu to White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake [and Cake] to Ginger Layered Cake with Butterscotch icing. I could keep going. No, really… I could.
The night continues and I rendezvous for an “insomniac’s” night cap with some college buds. As foodies, you should know of these guys: Patrick Dunlea, as featured in Top Chef and currently the face of Whole Foods Atlanta, and the very talented Daniel Rooker, who just begun his endeavours at Canoe under Executive Chef Carvel Grant Gould. Perhaps these will be my next stops in Atlanta. Either way, you’ll be the first to hear of it.
Thanks for reading!
Written by Gustavo Arias
For more information about Café Intermezzo, click here.
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