When we read that Atlanta's Canoe Restaurant is celebrating 27 years this August, we decided it would be a great spot to celebrate our own August wedding anniversary. But since Covid, we've been avoiding crowds in tight spaces.
So instead of heading to Canoe for dinner, we planned an afternoon lunch-and-a-movie celebration day. That way, we could enjoy the restaurant's fabulous culinary creations, miss the crowds, and get a great date-day bargain in the process.
For those not familiar with this Atlanta dining institution, Canoe is located just off Paces Ferry Road in historic Vinings, with a scenic spot directly on the Chattahoochee River. The restaurant features a display kitchen, elegant dining room, an outdoor patio, and -- during limited periods -- an outdoor bar on the river bank. Atlanta restaurant pioneers Gerry Klaskala, George McKerrow and Ron San Martin opened Canoe in 1995, and it's been a high-end favorite just inside the Northeast perimeter ever since.
Even without reservations, we were seated right away for lunch on a weekday afternoon. However, reservations here always are recommended for evening dining, and also are useful at lunchtime for larger groups or special seating requests.
The lunch menu is a condensed version of the more extensive upscale New American options available in the evening. Still, with appetizer, salad, sandwich, main course and dessert options, we had plenty of choices with a wide range of tempting items and creative preparations. Plus, the fabulous baking team also delivers up fresh bread for the table, including on our visit a crispy, chili-rubbed flatbread that was a perfect accompaniment for salads.
Since we were celebrating, we ordered adult beverages from the extensive drink menu to start. When I ordered an extra spicy bloody Mary with Tito's vodka, the bartender sent back a wonderful recommendation for a spiced vodka instead. Who was I to argue with an expert? His recommendation was spot-on, adding an additional kick to a wonderfully-seasoned tomato juice base, and all topped by olives and a pepper.
We started with shrimp spring rolls, which included a cilantro seasoning and the Asian citrus, yuzu. The lightly-fried exterior perfectly encased with a crisp bite the soft, flavorful interior. It was served on a bed of greens and accompanied with a creamy yuzu dressing.
For lunch, we selected a crab cake entrée and a panko-breaded cod served over whipped potatoes and sautéed spinach. The large crab cake featured lots of sweet lump crab inside a slightly-crispy exterior. This was served over a small salad of Napa cabbage with pickled onion and a Creole – honey aioli, which added a simultaneously cool and spicy bite hinting at a New Orleans remoulade.
The delicate, moist cod flaked easily to the touch of a fork, while the panko bread crumbs added just the right amount of texture. A brown caper butter served over the dish delivered a slight salty earthiness, an excellent accompaniment to the light white fish. I couldn't help myself, and scooped up tasty bites that included the potatoes, spinach and that caper butter, all in one.
By this time, we didn't need more food, but we certainly wanted more once we checked out the dessert menu. And since this was an anniversary celebration, we gave in to one of the house favorites -- Canoe's famous popcorn ice cream sundae. At first, the idea of popcorn and ice cream weren't an appealing combination. But once our waiter described Canoe’s Peanut Cracker Jack and home made ice cream, resistance was futile. We shared a single sundae, and didn't leave even a spoonful of it in the dish.
While we were eating, we watched the Chattahoochee flow gently by. We even saw a lone fishermen, floating down the slow-moving river while fly casting from his -- well, it was a boat, though describing it as a canoe would have been a perfect fit for the story. Afterwards, we took a short walk to the riverbank before departing.
Beyond enjoying the outstanding lunch, we appreciated the lunch pricing as compared to a comparable evening outing. Two of us had cocktails, appetizers, entrees and a shared dessert, all for under $100 before gratuity. After gratuities for the waiter and the valet, we still had a hefty amount from our anniversary budget for some local retail therapy before finally heading to the nearby AMC Theatre for a late afternoon movie. Before the movie started, we reflected on our prior-year's $300 anniversary dinner at a high-end chain steakhouse, then toasted our choice of Canoe with an over-priced adult beverage and soft drink from the theater's bar.
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