Isabella’s Cafe Review
Life has been a blurry mess lately. It turns out that all of us at Foodie Atlanta headquarters managed to change jobs in the last couple of months. Sure, it’s not that we stopped eating well, it’s just that we haven’t had the time to sit down and write something at least mildly substantive and passingly amusing.
But it’s time to get back on the horse and our latest venture takes us back to Decatur, not too far away from Sun In My Belly to a new place by the name of Isabella’s Cafe.
Main dining area
Isabella’s Cafe is a tough restaurant to describe succinctly. The best I can do is “Kenyan-inspired, contemporary, casual neighborhood gem.” Try that one out on your friends and family and tell me how it flies. Turns out that my inability to summon a pithy description tragic since the food is very, very good. And cheap!
As a big fan of the foie gras + flops faction of the foodie universe, I spend a lot of time trying to demistify the fine dining experience. From this digital bully pulpit, I frequently argue that although eating well isn’t cheap, it isn’t nearly as expensive when compared to unforgivable dining venues like Longhorn and The Cheesecake Factory. Endorsing Isabella’s cafe doesn’t require carefully cherry picking of menus, abstract mathematics or giant leaps of faith. It’s genuinely inexpensive.
That being said, it doesn’t succumb to the kind of corner-cutting antics that are the hallmarks of places obsessed with neurotic attention to food costs and overhead. I’ve always said that the prerequisite for me caring about a restaurant isn’t how fancy it is, or whether the ingredients are high-end. The only prerequisite is passion. Desserts here are made from scratch even though they could easily be bought. The recipes are all drawn from the owner’s own family cooking and they reflect a family history spanning three continents.
Some of it may not be traditionally considered comfort food, but it is. And although it never aims to overreach, it somehow manages to pull off what I can only described as “comfort food you don’t regard as comfort food yet.”
What exactly am I talking about that could possibly fit the bill? Try turkey samosas and sweet potato tater tots and thai chicken wings. The menu seems bizarrely all-over-the-place at first glance, but once you start eating, you start to understand that good food is good food, regardless of its thematic continuity.
To describe the meal blow-by-blow would take another 1,000 words. We tried at least 15 different items are our reactions never fell below ‘good’ and a few times managed to reach deep into the surprising territory.
You want highlights and a bit of steering in the right direction? Very well then:
The sweet potato tater tots are absolutely out of control. They are outrageously good.
The salad we had of spinach, Gorgonzola, strawberries, house-spiced pecans and oranges was fantastic. One of the few salads that I would go out of my way to order.
The entrée of Spanish white beans, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and basmati rice, vegetarian sensibilities aside, was hearty and satisfying.
All desserts we had were excellent and worth ordering even if you aren’t a “dessert person”.