Today we are eating at Radial Cafe. Touted as an environmentally friendly restaurant, they try to be as conscious about their carbon footprint as much as they are about the food. I liked the idea behind that, plus my wife was really interested in the fact they served gluten free pancakes. I was wary of the fact that it was rated on TripAdvisor as #592 of 1,374 restaurants in Atlanta (I later found it has two listings, the other calling it just Radial and ranking that one at #334), but I figured it was worth a try as the menu looked intriguing.
The outside of the building is a little confusing. It looks like the restaurant is located next to a Cross Fit gym, with an empty building next to that. The fact is, the Radial Cafe is actually the entire front of the building, and those other signs are for the rooms behind the cafe in the back of the building.
Walking in the main door, you’ll find the entrance to the restaurant on the right, and straight ahead is the entry to a chiropractor’s office and the other listed businesses.
Stepping inside Radial, you first come across the bar area with a few booths as well. My first sight were the two cakes displayed on the counter. On the way out, I noticed the three trash cans separating recyclables, compost, and trash.
A closeup of the two cakes.
On the left, a caramel cake, and the other a three layer chocolate cake. First thing I said to my wife… “I know what’s for dessert.”
Here is the bar with counter seating.
From the bar area, you walk a narrow hallway for additional seating in the back.
On the left are the restrooms, which continue their theme “small carbon footprint, big local flavor (printed on the employee’s shirts). The restrooms have motion sensing lights that turn on when you walk in the door. The toilets have two buttons, one for a half flush and the other for a full flush. Even the soap is Method brand, known to have minimal to no ingredients that are not earth friendly.
I not only liked the theme here, I loved that they were actually living up to it.
Entering the dining area in the back, I noticed yet another garage door.
This is the third restaurant in Atlanta that I’ve been to with this setup. Apparently many restaurants find value in choosing old garages and warehouses to open their businesses. It was unique the first couple times I saw it. At this point it’s becoming a bit more common as I find new places to eat.
Seating along the wall are in booths, with regular four to eight person tables in the middle. One wall contains photographs of nature scenes in unique “made from nature” looking frames.
This was the view from my seat.
To the left is the hallway where we entered the rear of the restaurant. This wall is decorated as if it were someone’s home, with old wood furnishings and cabinets, complete with decorations one might have in their own kitchen or dining room. To the right is the door to the kitchen. The ceiling is open to the roof above with all ducting and electric visible, keeping the warehouse vibe seen from the outside.
The menus are what attracted our attention in the first place. With gluten free and vegan options, cage-free eggs, and organic ingredients available, this really looked promising for a healthier meal.
The back of the menu has the lunch options. Both breakfast and lunch are available all day.
My wife ordered the Gluten-Free Pancakes. She was really looking forward to this rare treat. Gluten-free meals are becoming more common everywhere, but pancakes are still hard to come by. The short stack for $6.29 came with two above average sized pancakes.
They were a huge disappointment. I was told they tasted like cardboard. I took a bite, and while I’ve never actually eaten cardboard before, I’d say this was about the closest guess as to what I’d expect it to taste like.
They were extremely dry and had absolutely no flavor. She doused them in maple syrup to add flavor and moisten them up some, but overall she was not happy with the meal. I was surprised that a restaurant touting themes that including allergen-free food was not able to make a tastier gluten-free pancake. We have tried many gluten-free meals over the last year, some tasted exactly like the non-gluten-free equivalents, while others were lacking in flavor or the texture was off. These were by far the worst we’ve tried so far.
For a side, she ordered the $3.29 Sweet Potato Hash.
She did enjoy this mix of two different potatoes, parsnip, onion, and pepper. It was cooked well and at least met expectations for what she was hoping to get when ordering hash.
She commented that it was seasoned well. I didn’t try any since it’s not something I normally like.
I ordered a Cinnamon Roll from the extras section of the menu for $3.49. Made from scratch, I imagined a unique flavor, and after being served it definitely looked different from the average cinnamon roll I’m used to having.
Unfortunately this did not live up to my expectations either. The roll was slightly dry as it appeared from looking at it.
It was made from a much denser ingredient than most other cinnamon rolls. Rather than having that squishy, very moist base, this one was closer to the texture of a soft dinner roll. If this were the only change I’d be accepting of that, but I found the flavor of sugary cinnamon also lacking in the majority of the roll.
The cream cheese icing was the highlight. It was a flavored cream cheese.
I can’t tell for sure what the flavoring was, but it worked well with what little taste of cinnamon I found in each bite. It also helped greatly in moistening up the entire bun.
Inside the outer edges are where I found the pecans, along with the typical texture that one normally finds throughout an entire cinnamon roll.
This closeup of the pecans above shows the more familiar look of the sugary gel loaded with cinnamon that these buns typically have. Unfortunately it was only located in those very outer edges.
My first meal was Mom’s French Toast for $5.99.
Made with challah instead of the traditional breads used for french toast, I had high expectations for a unique taste this egg-based bread offers.
The toast was cooked well on the outside. Each was perfectly browned, and the egg coating that challah gets during baking really shined through the dusting of powdered sugar.
Served only with a cup of butter and the syrup permanently placed at the table, I coated it with both.
Challah is a very moist bread by itself. After soaking it in batter, it came out extra soft inside, just the way I love my french toast.
The surprise was that once again, the flavor was lacking. I love the taste of challah, but the normally strong egg taste when combined with an additional egg batter was too much. The taste of egg overpowered everything else, from the bread to the vanilla flavoring in the batter. The texture couldn’t have been better, but it just didn’t taste like traditional french toast. A little fault could have been on myself as the added butter didn’t help the feeling that I was eating a wet, very heavily buttered egg. I think what would have helped this dish the most would have been the addition of a stronger flavor to counteract the egg, such as stronger vanilla or the more typical cinnamon. Even adding some fruit would have made a huge difference. Anything to add something contrasting so that a particular flavor would stand out. Egg, as in the batter, should be the base flavor of a french toast plate. Additional flavors are what make it different from the rest in my opinion.
My second order was the Biscuits & Vegetarian Gravy. At $8.49, it comes with two eggs cooked to order and a choice of four sides, plus the two biscuits and gravy.
I had the eggs cooked over easy, and they were served exactly as I asked. As far as eggs go, there isn’t much difference from one place to another. An unseasoned egg cooked at one place won’t taste any different than an unseasoned egg cooked exactly the same way at another place. Therefore, the eggs were great and cooked exactly how I like them.
The applewood smoked bacon was cooked flawlessly. It was crisped to perfection.
I’m guessing they deep fried the bacon. It’s the only way I know how to get bacon that perfect. I could taste a bit of the applewood smoke flavor, but for the most part it tasted of just bacon, which is by no means a complaint.
Rating for bacon and eggs: 5/10
The biscuits were a hit and a miss. I expected the biscuits to be the standard buttermilk biscuits that most places serve for breakfast. These were not the buttery, flaky, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside biscuits that every other (at least Southern) restaurant serves. They were a much denser material, very similar to corn bread.
I believe the ingredients may have included some sort of meal instead of just flour. They weren’t necessarily gritty, but definitely a very dense texture. They tasted decent, but were nothing to rave about. Because of the density, I needed lots of gravy to get them down easier.
That brings me to the best part of the entire breakfast, the Rosemary-Fennel Gravy.
This gravy was bursting with the flavor of two very powerful tasting herbs. The gravy was an excellent consistency. There were no clumps, but it was thick enough to stay on the biscuit as I brought it to my mouth. The overall flavor was just fantastic. My wife even dipped her fork into it several times to eat by itself. That gravy could have gone well with many different foods like potatoes, beef, or chicken. I’m not usually a gravy for breakfast type person, but this was a winner.
Since I really started my dining adventures, this was the first meal I’ve had where I was unhappy overall with the entire visit. My wife was satisfied with her side, but completely disliked the entrée. Basically she had just a few bites of decent food. I had a few items that were good, most of them were not. The best part of my meal was unfortunately a seasoning.
I love the concept of the restaurant. I like that they try to be green, and cater towards dietary needs and healthier options. Unfortunately the food, which is what really counts the most when visiting a restaurant, was not up to par for my tastes. I don’t believe I will be returning here in the future.