Address: Bocado, 887 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta, GA 30318 (West Midtown)
Cost: $$-$$$
Atmosphere: Casual, modern, open, kid-friendly (especially early), great for a speedy business lunch

Bocado means “mouthful,” “morsel” or “bite” in Spanish, but in West Midtown, Atlanta, it means a casual dining experience with locally-sourced ingredients, great service, and delicious food. Ashley and I elected to sit on Bocado’s covered patio for our recent dinner, and the restaurant is a great opener for the Atlanta restaurant survey Judicious Dishes because it fits squarely within our criteria by offering fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, grass-fed beef, sustainable seafood, and vegan and vegetarian options.

Bocado has long been in my top ten restaurants in Atlanta since I first tried it. Bocado is well regarded for its burger, so you’re just as likely to see a group of tech students dining close by(each ordering a burger and paying on a separate check) as you are to see a couple celebrating an anniversary with a bottle of wine. (Speaking of wine, Bocado offers a corkage fee of $20 with a limit of 2 bottles, so if you have a special bottle of wine or are eating with a group and want to keep the cost in check, this might be of interest.)

Although Bocado’s menu changes daily and seasonally , some staple items find their way to the menu most days. We elected to share several small plates and split an entree.

Quinoa: field peas, avocado, cucumber, radish, cilantro, cashew lime cream

Bocado’s Quinoa small plate is one of the staples that you'll find on the menu often. The quinoa dish is one item on their menu that comes vegan with no modifications needed from the menu preparation. While quinoa is not a traditional southern dish, you won’t feel out of place eating this well prepared starter. The quinoa was perfectly cooked and had a nice nutty flavor and a little toothiness to it. The field peas offer a southern twist and make the dish feel like a modern spin on something your mom would cook. Watermelon radish adds color and texture, and the cashew lime cream (described by our server as “like peanut butter, but made with cashews and lime juice”) gives you the sense of indulgence with its added flavor and creamy texture. And I almost forgot, ripe avocado chunks are added to enrich the dish further.  Even if you don’t like quinoa, I would suggest you try this dish. If you do enjoy quinoa, it’s a must have. I once ate at Bocado with a friend who made a meal from this small plate by asking for two orders of it!

Beets: brebis, radish, orange, pumpkin seed, lemon vinaigrette

Our second small plate was Ashley’s favorite selection. Golden and red beets shared the plate with orange slices, pepitas and a lemon vinaigrette. Although it was not referenced in the menu description, the dish contained some onion-like slices that were perhaps shallots or cipolinne. This is a thoughtfully crafted dish that is light despite being made up mostly of fresh, earthy tasting beets. This is a great option, and one that is very easy to share with a larger table.

Figs: Iowa prosciutto, red onion, arugula, blu di bufala

Our third small plate was the fig starter. Figs are a summer delight that aren’t available very long. I’m not sure I’ve seen this dish on Bocado’s menu, and my guess is that it’s a temporal one. The sweet figs are paired with very thinly sliced red onion, Iowa prosciutto, arugula and blu di buffalo. The saltiness and pungency of the ham and cheese with the fig was a delight. The peppery arugula added further depth to the dish. This dish is a little harder to eat and harder to share because the prosciutto forms the base of the plate and needs to be cut on the serving dish before it's moved to your individual plate. It can also be a little tricky to create your perfect bite with all of the elements. Unlike the quinoa or beet dish which is somewhat pre-mixed, the fig small plate, while beautiful in appearance, requires some construction to get all the flavors on your fork. My one complaint about this dish is that if you get too much prosciutto in your bite, the salt can be overpowering. Overall, however, this dish is pleasing to the palate and one I would order again.

Culotte Steak: fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, salsa verde

Last but not least, we ordered the culotte steak. This grass-fed beef cut appears on Bocado’s menu frequently, and it is a go to for Ashley and me. We’re consistently delighted with it. This particular evening, the steak came with red and orange carrots, fingerling potatoes and a salsa verde (not the Mexican tomatillo green sauce, but an herb sauce made with olive oil, parsley and capers; Bocado’s version was creamy like mayonnaise). I must admit that I prefer this dish when Bocado serves it with a chimichurri sauce, but this preparation was nice too. The steak, which comes sliced, had an excellent sear, forming a delicious, crispy outside. The meat was also seasoned with some spice adding heat to the dish, which paired well with the creamy salsa verde.

Although you may have heard of Bocado for its burger, I encourage you to re-visit it for its fresh vegetables and grains, daily-made pasta and other delicious (and judicious) dishes.

Next month I’ll be reviewing True Food Kitchen. Please let me know what you think about the review and share your own experiences from Bocado or suggestions for future reviews you would like to see.