If you've lived in Atlanta more than say, I don't know, a week maybe, you've heard of Ray's on the River. It is quite frankly an Atlanta Institution. Oddly, most of this jewel of the south's "institutions" are places to eat and not places of great triumph or happenings. But we do know a great restaurant.
So anyway, it was Serve's birthday, and I decided since I hadn't been out in forever, and I'd always wanted to go to Ray's on the River - it was on my list for me and you know who - that I should take this opportunity to go for their famous brunch, eat hearty and enjoy the river view. Why yes, it does have a river view. It's called Ray's on the River for a reason.
The decor is nice, smooth with the mood waterfall wall in the front and row after row of wine bottles. I liked it. My party is in the lounge and we are, as black folks tend to do, waiting for everyone to show up. I'm hoping CPtime comes to end when Obama is inaugurated, but I doubt it. It's then I realize what Ray's is...it's a 50's bar. They've got pictures of the Rat Pack on the wall and Frank on the sound system and it's cool. I almost feel under dressed, and I'm in slacks and suit jacket. We're a foursome waiting for a moresome for about thirty minutes or so, and I like to think I'm convivial and personable. I like to think that because the bar doesn't open until 12:30.
The rest of us FINALLY arrive and we're seated at a nice table with a view of the river and that's when my imagination and reality diverge.
Now, as I said, Ray's on the River is an Atlanta landmark. I had heard about this brunch for ages. Let's just say my expectations were high. Very high. Statospheric even.
This is not to say it wasn't good food, or plenty of good food, or a vast variety of good food, but when you're expecting say...a Kobe beef steak, that Angus beef hamburger is still a let down. Good, but a let down.
Brunch at Ray's is really the best of what they have. They renovated two years ago and I swore what they would do, since brunch is such a constant, is set up a special brunch area, or one that converted easily to brunch specific. It appeared to me like they took out a row of tables here, took the stools from the bar here, and opened the door for feed.
Now, they had an omlette station with more toppings than whoooo, prime rib, ham, a baked salmon puff pastry, the standards of eggs, crisp bacon (hard to do in quantity), sausage, eggs Benedict, hash browns, cheese grits, Belgian waffles that were simply amazing, salmon, shrimp, a beef in this sauce that was good, the baked fish in a lobster sauce, the sesame chicken. And that's just what I sampled. They must have had 23 kinds of dessert, with cookies, red velvet cake, chocolate mousse, brownies etc.
Don't get me wrong, the food was great. The restaurant looked smooth. The people I was with were for the most part fun. Serve apparently has a new man, because he didn't even flinch when she wiped at his eye.
But in the end...it wasn't the manna from heaven in the form of brunch I had been lead to believe the good Lord had placed here for the hungry. It was just, well, brunch.
On the upside, since brunch lasted from 11am (when we were seated) until the bar opened, what a lucky coinky dink, I found out the real treasure of Ray's. They serve brown liquor.
Most bars in town don't carry a lot of brown liquor outside of the standards - a bourbon, a rum. High end vodkas they might have by the crate, but the browns get no love. Not at Ray's, they had Knob Creek, they even had Booker's which is a rare find indeed. As we sat having our after brunch sip, and considering sneaking back into the food line, I marveled at the sheer numbers of bottles containing brown liquor.
In the end, is the brunch worth it? All you can eat in a swank joint? Sure. Will it be the end all be all of brunch experiences one might have been lead to believe? Um....man, what a view of the river!
Barkeep....we're gonna see what's in them brown bottles.