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Carpe diem

Carroll Street Cafe an Atlanta destination

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Cabbagetown exists as an ephemeral memory of an Atlanta that is quickly disappearing. The renegade, hippie dwellers sit tight while the surrounding neighborhoods gentrify and gain better reputations.

The Carroll Street Cafe sits on a street in the heart of Cabbagetown with pastel-colored homes that are more Charleston four-square than Atlanta brick bungalow. It's such a tight fit down the road, you'll cringe when you see cars attempting to go both ways down the two-way street. The quaintness is so charming and authentic you'll forget that the rest of Atlanta waits just around the corner. Andy Alikbash (owner of Apres Diem) bought the former Carroll Street Bakery a year ago and has given its menu a makeover. Now retrofitted with a full bar and snazzy new items, the Cafe is open for a growing lunch and dinner crowd.

What we ate: Brunch is still great here with standards like the lox plate ($7.25), a bagel with cured salmon, tomato slices, capers, Bermuda onion and cream cheese or the breakfast of two eggs any style with bacon or sausage and hash browns ($5.50).

If you're expecting the same tired items from the Apres Diem menu, guess again. The sandwiches here are extraordinary. The Betty ($6.50) is made with grilled turkey, bacon, cheddar, tomato, lettuce, onion, pepperoncini, horseradish and barbecue sauce. I'm a sucker for goat cheese, and on the fabulous Carroll Street BLT ($6.50), it's layered over thick slices of smoked bacon, sauteed tomato slices and pesto between slices of grilled Duran bread. The Cobb ($7.25) -- grilled chicken filet, applewood smoked bacon, blue cheese and avocado slices -- is also a favorite. The only drawback is the hard-to-handle ciabatta bread it's served on; we tossed it aside and made a salad out of the rest. Don't worry veg-heads, there are meatless selections for you as well.

Cheap and good: When the cheapest thing on the menu is also the best thing, you're in for a treat. The homemade soup du jour is $2.95. Once you slurp it up, you'll ready for seconds or thirds. Creamy Manhattan-style clam chowder is stocked with plenty of clam, chunks of potato, carrots and other vegetables. Try the asparagus with risotto, or the tomato bisque, but run to order bowl after bowl of the roasted chicken apple chowder: chunks of chicken and apple with a woody, smoked flavor and sweet bites of apple.

Harold and Maude: For a refreshing yet creepy lunchtime date call ahead and order a sandwich, some soup or a pasta and walk over to Oakland Cemetery. There you can dine among the Confederate dead and pet the sleeping stone lion (old lady not included).

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