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Joy Cafe

IN MIDTOWN ATLANTA

Article by Liz Attaway

Photography by Liz + John Attaway

We heard a rumor that Joy Café in Midtown serves up the best brunch in the city, but what we know for absolute certainty is that they have a delectable dinner menu and specialty cocktails! The second you walk in; you’re greeted with a larger-than-life Christmas tree in the center of the dining room. With babbles and ornaments, tons of colorful lights, packages, and a train running around the bottom, what stands out is the word Joy. Not only is Joy Café have it in its name, but it’s also a testament to the love and you know we’re going to say it, joy, that goes into every dish and cocktail that they make. Like the tree, larger-than-life flavors and textures are in every bite, like the best southern fried chicken we’ve found in Atlanta, the healthy salmon, savory pork belly ribs, “Southerned-up” ahi tuna ceviche, amazing cocktails, and unforgettable homemade hot sauce. Who’s ready to eat?

During the holidays, Joy Café turns their bar into a holiday pop-up with fresh, unique cocktails that meld simple, yet diverse flavors. The three from the holiday cocktail menu included Cuddly as a Cactus, Stocking Stuffer, and The Milk and Cookies Santa Really Wants. Our favorite of the three was the Grinch-inspired Cuddly as a Cactus (charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch). You ended up singing that last bit, didn’t you? From the black coupe to the green hue, it packs a ton of flavors like chartreuse, citrus, but very little smoke of the mezcal. It comes off very balanced between the bold chartreuse flavors and the citrus. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Stocking Stuffer that’s coated in candy cane flecks and sugar, this one starts off sweet and milky of the eggnog then comes around and hits you with bold peppermint. It’s a Christmas treat, to say the least. We can’t agree more with The Milk and Cookies Santa Really Wants. Boozy Kahlua shot inside a fresh homemade cookie glass you can eat after? Yes, please. Plus, the cookie is so good you may want to get TWO, just for the cookie! Now, that’s definitely what Santa would approve.

Starting off with a couple of appetizers, we opted for the Pork Belly Ribs and the Ahi Tuna Ceviche. One of the favorite bites of the night, had to be the ceviche with creamy guacamole, perfectly tender and marinated in bloody mary mix tuna then topped with fried onions. We think it is genius that they added a hint of southern with the fried onions. They’re delightfully and really gives this dish a uniqueness! It comes off with all the flavors, creamy, meaty, crunchy, and tart. As for the Pork Belly Ribs, you’re in for a hearty, rich treat with so many bold and dynamic flavors. From the tender and perfectly cooked belly to the chunky and rich grits to a phenomenal hot sauce, you end up with a meaty, earthy, creamy, and spicy bite all in one. Speaking of the homemade hot sauce, you must try it. It has peppers in it, perfectly seasoned, creamy, and very spicy and puts those boring one-note hot sauces to shame. It’s on the pork belly and comes with the fried chicken, but we bet you could put it on just about anything.

We cannot stop thinking about this dish. It’s perfect. The crunchy, crispy, and oh, so naughty skin peels back to reveal a tender and juicy bird. The skin is so good with rich buttermilk, the right amount of spices, and that unforgettable crunch. But don’t forget to eat with the meat because it’s so tender it just falls right off the bone. This dish comes with not-your-mommas mac and cheese that’s so rich and cheesy. On the other side, we also opted for a healthier option, the salmon. Just because we said it was healthier, we didn’t mean a lack of flavor. The succulent salmon is topped with a light creamy, lemony sauce atop a bead of mixed lentils, chickpeas, celery, carrots, and more. The accouterments are a lot like a cassoulet but just on the light side without too much fuss. It’s nicely seasoned and the crunch goes so well with the tenderness of the salmon and the lightness of the sauce.

Save room for dessert, because here comes the Milk and Cookies Pie that we’ve heard they’re famous for! It looks more like a cake, but definitely eats like a pie. Light and airy filling paired with cookie crust, you can imagine you’re eating literal milk and cookies. Now that you’ve had a few things on the menu, what do you want to try? For us, next time, meatloaf! We also must get out and try this brunch too. We have to confirm that rumor.

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