Atlanta is quite possibly the Black Brunch capital of the nation thanks to locals and explants who dress up and spend time and money at popular spots all over the city. I visited a popular spot a year ago based on a recommendation from a local and had an underwhelming experience.
The Covid pandemic has created a new dynamic for so many restaurants, especially smaller establishments, so when I returned, I was prepared for any pandemic related hiccups, as any diner should be. However, what we are about to share isn’t pandemic related, but simply an establishment that takes its diners for granted and relies on its incredible popularity.
With a 4.3-star rating and over one thousand google reviews, Gocha’s Breakfast Bar at 3695 Cascase Rd, Atlanta, 30331 should provide a rewarding culinary experience. Sadly, that was not that case. We arrived at 9:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning and instead of a warm, welcoming greeting, without making eye contact, the young lady yapped, “Name?” After providing my name and the number of people in our party, she responded, “We will text you when your table is ready.”
Although the text came two hours later, the same timeframe as a drive from Atlanta to Clemson, South Carolina, I was not aggravated because I realize pandemic staffing shortages are impacting just about everyone. Plus, I waited patiently in the car listening to my mix of Anita Baker and Lil Dirk.
Thankfully, our booth was smack in the middle of the restaurant facing the bar, great for people watching, however, the processional to get there was uncomfortable due to the packed dining room. The space is incredibly tight, which also made it challenging for heavier brothers and sisters to maneuver between the tables and chairs. Maintaining any safe social distancing was out of the question.
Our server was a complete sweetheart who offered her favorites as well as her not so favorite items. Service was great. The food came out quick once we were seated. We ordered according to the reviews. Due to my previous experience, I wanted to order several dishes to get a better idea of what the restaurant had to offer.
First up was the best thing on the table, the Shrimp Grit Cake, deep fried with jalapeños, white cheddar cheese, and sautéed shrimp atop with a cream sauce. Flavor was great and the grit cake had a beautiful crunch to it.
Unfortunately, things got interesting from here. French toast at outstanding Black owned brunch staples like Breakfast at Barney’s, Rock Steady, and my favorite, The Real Milk and Honey, are examples of chef inspired entrees prepared with respect to homestyle southern cooking.
Gocha’s French toast might have been halfway edible without the unintended veggie flavor that seemed to be the result of it being prepared in the same area as other dishes. I tasted jalapeños or bell peppers, small specs of which you can see in this photo.
Their signature biscuits had a good crisp and crackling exterior, but they were drenched in a dreadful, rushed honey sauce. The biscuits were poorly executed with a distracting texture of slightly undercooked dough while also plagued by inconsistent salt levels that left the bread’s bland and doughy body with a baking soda/metallic aftertaste. One of the biscuits had a weird green blotch baked in it, that I had to remove before eating.
I had high hopes for the beautiful, but incredibly thin pancakes. The pancakes looked amazing with crispy edges. I like to sample the actual bread to determine syrup levels before pouring. Well, syrup wasn’t necessary because instead of the American buttermilk pancake flavor, they more resembled the mouth feel of Indonesian Serabi I had in Los Angeles, combined with the flavor of an off-brand, just-add-water pancake mix I bought from Dollar Tree.
Following the pancakes, we had the breakfast pizza, the second most edible thing on the table, but it looked more like a weekend grandparent and grandkids culinary project that somehow made its way to an actual restaurant menu. The culinary assembly was incredibly humdrum in that the components did not jell, but was falling off with the scrambled egg being the most invasive, and yet the most important at the same time.
The final entrée and the treatment we received when we requested assistance were the most disturbing. A completely burned salmon atop a fried egg and grits. I don’t send food back or request the manager unless it is absolutely necessary. This was one of those times.
Our waitress saw that the salmon could easily be a weapon thrown at the right speed, sitting on the plate blaring its burn marks for everyone to see. It even resisted when I tried to cut it open.
The manager came to the table more like a member of the Gestapo, rather than a crew leader genuinely concerned with a potential problem. Before I could explain my concerns, she slid a little stand on the table with a tattered laminated messaging board that read NO REFUNDS! ALL SALES FINAL! I was confused. After dismissing anything I was about to say with her electric slide move, she asked “Is everything ok?”
I told her it wasn’t, explained that the salmon was horribly burned and requested that it be removed from the bill. She explained that she could re-do the dish but could not offer any refunds. I requested something different because I didn’t have faith in the salmon being cooked properly, but she refused to allow substitutions. She then asked me if I informed the waitress of my desired temperature of the salmon, literally insinuating that their burned salmon was my fault. This final insult was enough. This felt nothing like their motto to provide “a modern, friendly atmosphere, exceptional service, and carefully prepared meals that taste great and feel good.” Despite being disappointed, I tipped well, paid my bill and left.
I thought a second visit might be different, but it wasn’t. Gocha’s popularity gives it little to no incentive to improve its service or menu delivery. And while this review will neither add nor take away from that, our goal is to hold them accountable for underwhelming managerial performance and culinary reception to tourists that are visiting the amazing City of Atlanta.
Black diners deserve much better than to have rude rules printed on a table and enforced by unfriendly management. Because I believe in and live to promote Black-owned establishments, I will give this place yet another chance within the coming months with the hope that they improve, and I can update this review.
For now, far better options for a weekend brunch destination are The Real Milk and Honey, The Breakfast Boys and Bunch, and Breakfast at Barney’s. You can reach Gocha’s Breakfast Bar at (678) 927-9166.
The Hungry Black Man Media Black Atlanta Foodie Tour was in full swing beginning October 12 and we will be dropping our reviews on this remarkable foodie destination. Make sure you follow us on social @thehungryblackman and subscribe to this blog by inputting your email for Black owned deliciousness around the country! Contact us at [email protected].