Saturday, July 2, 2011

Shilling's on the Square



19 North Park Sq. NE, Marietta, GA www.shillingsonthesquare.com

If you've been to the Marietta Square and haven't noticed Shillings, you haven't been paying attention. It's occupied a prime corner spot for the past umpteen years, and from the exterior appears to be the most upscale restaurant in the area. There's a few tables outside, and the interior is broken up between upstairs and downstairs dining rooms, with an average-sized bar right up front downstairs.

So let's talk about the food. Heidi and I had Sunday brunch here last week, and we were pretty happy with our meals. I chose the corned beef hash and eggs, which comes with a choice of a biscuit or wheat toast. I got the biscuit, and it was above average (but alas, no biscuit in Atlanta can compete with those at the chain restaurant Copeland's). This combo was only $8, and I got plenty of corned beef, which was just the right consistency (not mushy, but not undercooked either) that popped with great flavor, big chunks of home-style potatoes, a handful of fresh, sliced strawberries and a fat serving of creamy butter. It was really a great deal.

Heidi ordered the almond chicken salad on wheat from the lunch menu ($8). The liked it for several reasons. #1 - no one ingredient overpowered any of others, #2 - it wasn't ground up to mashed nothingness, and #3 - you can see from the pic that she got a heaping portion of it, along with a snappy dill pickle and some delicious pasta salad.

Along with the aforementioned, there are lots of other brunch/lunch options, including French toast, more sandwiches, salads, burgers, and some platters featuring things like Caribbean chicken or chop sirloin patty. Basic stuff, not especially creative, but they do a good job with it, and all of it is reasonably priced.

Dinner is more expensive. Downstairs you can have lamb shank, wasabi crusted tuna steak, filet mignon, or a big salad. The entrees come with your choice of mashed potatoes, roasted red potatoes, or wild rice. Plain meat and potatoes, nothing out of the ordinary. Anyone between the ages of 4 to 104 could find something they like here, which is probably the intent.

There's also an upstairs menu. (While I've never eaten upstairs, I've had lunch or dinner downstairs several times, and it was always predictable - slightly above average). Upstairs you can get some of the same selections as are offered downstairs, with the addition of shrimp cocktail, escargot, pastry wrapped brie, steak au poivre, honey glazed salmon, etc.

If you haven't gotten the idea already, here's the deal with Shillings: you'll get regular food without any novelties - no crazy pairings, no obscure ethnic dishes, no uncommon fish or offal, no use of liquid nitrogen, no inclusion of organic ingredients or mention of the currently trendy farm-to-table goals. The current menu at Shillings could've been issued in the mid 80's, for all of it's innovative quality.

However, that doesn't mean the food is bad here. People aren't always in the mood to go out on a culinary limb at dinner - maybe they just want some dill crusted salmon or a pork rib chop with escalloped apples. And there's nothing wrong with that. If that's what you want, Shillings will fit the bill.

The website says Shillings has a "pub-like atmosphere". This would be true if there weren't always so many kids there. Let's face it - Marietta is classic OTP, and the Square is a big draw for family outings. If you want a pub, go to the nearby McCracken's. If it's more important to you to get better quality food and a smoke-free dining room, go for Shillings.

Verdict: Unexciting, but good, basic American food.

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