I am a Christian man of faith, not so much European Christianity, but a combo of Ethiopian Orthodox with a dash of A.M.E. While listening to a sermon recently, the minister referenced a verse that reminded me of catfish and gumbo. Stay with me. I had to think it through, too. Luke 3:5 says, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth,” which made me think of Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours.
The spot inclusive name lets every twisted soul know they’re welcome to come get straightened by one of Atlanta’s most delicious Black-owned restaurant of 2021. It was a hard toss-up between Twisted and Rock Steady with Chef Luckie, as to my absolute favorite, but the sheer brilliance and flavor of the cocktails pushed Twisted toward the top spot, but the jury is still deliberating.
The creator and owner of this quaint eatery located at 1133 Huff Road Northwest D, Atlanta, GA 30318 is culinary giant Chef Deborah Vantrece. Her cookbook is the $hit, a purchase you will not regret! (It also makes for an excellent holiday gift for foodies.) I’m making my way through it and everything I’ve prepared has been fire!
When we visited, unfortunately we didn’t get to dine with the chef. We did, however, get to meet the next generation of Twisted’s leaders, her gorgeous daughter, general manager and badass mixologist Ms. Kursten Berry, as well as one of my favorite Atlanta chefs, Robert Butts.
(Butts and Rock Steady’s Chef Luckie will share their culinary mastery at the Juneteenth Food and Wine Festival in Miami, FL in 2022!)
Chef Butts is a different breed as evidenced by our first dish, the Hoisin Oxtails served with vegetable fried rice, and a ginger-shallot roasted bok choy. Most foodies know Hoisin sauce as a condiment for traditional Cantonese entrees like Peking duck or even in beef stir fry, but you probably haven’t had it with oxtails, and you should. Chef Butts creatively used Hoisin the way it’s often used, as a glaze, but his use of it with those tenderly braised oxtails had more than a simple glaze going on. The flavor was pronounced yet subtle, making your palate curious to understand as it savors the new and exciting rendition of this comfort classic. This outstanding dish will have you ordering a take-out to enjoy later.
Kursten paired this outstanding dish with an amazing drink, her Channel Orange, comprised of Johnnie Walker Black, pumpkin spice shrub, dry curacao, lemon, and black walnut bitters. LISTEN TO ME! THIS COCKTAIL WAS OFF THE CHAIN and it was cool to watch this queen set fire to the cinnamon stick in one of the best drinks we had on our tour. I fell in love with several because each one was a skillful compendium of spirits, bitters, liqueurs, and fresh ingredients. You know we know good cocktails in Miami and Kursten’s pass with flying colors.
Bruh, Chef Butts is at it again! The Dirty South Fried Chicken Omelet with Springer Mountain fried chicken, peppers, onions, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, honey picante sauce, collard greens and herb potato hash was familiar and intelligent, and left my palate in a complete state of bliss. Butts is clearly a genius when it comes to whipping up masterpieces that are awesome interpretations of grandma’s ancestral cooking with a modern twist.
He exudes a rare but rewarding unpretentious wisdom expressed in this entrée having all the cornerstones of an authentic southern fried chicken, taken to higher levels with the honey picante sauce, which served as a connector for all things delicious within this dish. Kursten complimented it with the Down in Eve’s Bayou cocktail. Constructed with Ketel One peach vodka, blossom, caramelized fig syrup, Lillete Rouge, and citrus, it’s easy to down several of these refreshing and subtle cocktails. The sad, but honest truth, is just writing about it has my mouth watering like an addict.
Following the delectable fried chicken, we devoured the smoked Lamb Belly served with spiced sweet potato grits, sautéed Swiss chard, with Tippleman’s Barrel Maple Glaze. Some of my best lamb belly experiences were from Middle Eastern spots that cook with sumac and lemon. Chef Butts has you covered. The flavor was bold and very much lamb. If you like a nice smoked brisket, then this would be a go to for you.
For the next entrée, it seemed like chef loaded us up for a culinary trip to the Delta region. His Mississippi Fried Catfish, Black Pepper Basmati Risotto, Sauce Piquante was my favorite. The battered fried fish was out of this world delicious, and the sauce was reminiscent of slow-cooked New Orleans and Baton Rouge homestyle roux. Too full bodied to have been rushed, it’s similar to the flavor in gumbo or even an okra stew. This dish would have been perfect to devour peacefully in my hotel room while catching up on Blacklist because it’s one you need to go all in on without being judged.
The paired cocktail, Beast of the Southern, has wild terramana reposado, Villon, VSOP Cognac liqueur, spiced pecan and tiki bitters. To understand this drink, consider that it’s an old fashioned that went to heaven for instructions on how to live and came back to earth new and improved. I kind of chugged this one.
The only ubiquitous thing on the menu were the shrimp croquettes appetizer, a very tasty version of a salmon croquette.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST were the West Midtown Wings, my favorite in Atlanta. These smokier homemade buffalo wings were so good they had me eating them to the bone when I usually leave a little meat behind. You have to get the wings. If you don’t get anything else on this menu, GET THE OUTSTANDING WINGS! There is no photo because we ate them before the photographer could snap. Sorry guys.
Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours wins the number one spot for The Hungry Black Man’s Atlanta Brunch War. This no-frills outfit combines a genuinely smart and sophisticated menu with a superior bar program that will have you making repeat visits for their amazing food and drinks.
I can’t wait to return before 2021 is over. You can reach them at (404) 350-5500.