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Jolly Joli-Kobe

Euro-Japanese bakery rakes in the dough with affordable scrumptious lunches

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For Atlanta's northside lunch crowd, Joli-Kobe Bakery & Cafe offers a welcome respite from the usual chains and generic office-park luncheonettes. Nearly hidden among the horrors of Roswell Road just inside I-285, this petite bôite serves exactingly made sandwiches, salads and baked goods to satisfy even the pickiest eaters.

For 17 years, Joli-Kobe has successfully melded elements of classic European baking with Japanese tastes and sensibilities. Their to-die-for baked goods have a huge following among the Japanese-American community as well as anyone else who tries their breads and pastries. Joli-Kobe's breads are the cornerstones of their lunch menu: rich croissants and toothsome baguettes, along with hearty sandwich breads, and of course dessert treats like Grand Marnier cream-filled doughnuts, Napoleons, meringues and so forth.

As wonderful as the breads are here, salads and sandwiches are generally as delicious. Joli-Kobe's signature lunch item is chicken strips with ginger-soy dressing on your sandwich ($4.60) or atop your salad ($4.85), and you have a happy, not to mention relatively low-fat and healthy, lunch.

Other sandwich choices range from more traditional deli-style fare to a mildly sweet, almond-curry chicken salad to Teriyaki chicken, all available on either a baguette, white or whole-wheat bread, or croissant. Sandwich side choices include pasta salad, fresh fruit or a creamy whipped-potato salad which is a lovely combination of textures and flavors.

Green-leaf lettuce, tomatoes and carrot and bell pepper slices make Joli-Kobe's garden salad worthwhile. Top that with the Joli chicken with soy, the almond-curry chicken salad or the shrimp salad for a more substantive meal. Joli-Kobe also offers a soup-of-the-day for $1.95, a pleasant accompaniment to any of the entrees.

To make your meal a true cross-cultural experience, try the iced coffee, an espresso-style coffee served with thick, sweet condensed milk and poured over ice in a tall glass: Western Europe meets uptown Tokyo. You'll be buzzing all afternoon on this one.

While Joli-Kobe's food is reliably pleasant, service here is not always. You can count on brisk efficiency, but not a personable touch. The idea here is to eat your lunch and move along, as the low-ceilinged room gets incredibly loud during lunch. If you don't mind cigarette smoke, the front terrace is a sunny and pleasant option, weather permitting.

Joli-Kobe also does a brisk carry-out business, and they encourage customers to fax in their orders ahead of time (ideally before 10 a.m.). Happily, parking is ample and easily accessible, so the next time you're in the mood for a Euro-Japanese lunch excursion, or just a good, cheap lunch, stop by.

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