Dantanna's Surf, Turf & Turf
3400 Around Lenox Drive, Atlanta GA 30326 (map); 404-760-TURF; dantannas.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Upscale sports bar knocks it out of the park with a big, beefy burger that competes with the city's best
Want Fries with That? Absolutely; they're crisp and fluffy and beautifully seasoned
Price: Grilled Angus Cheeseburger, $11 w/fries or potato salad (additional toppings extra); The "BCS," $15 w/fries or potato salad
If you're seeking exceptional food, your neighborhood sports bar is probably the last place you'd think to go. Understandable. The focus at most sports bars is, of course, on the "sports." The number of flat screens you can boast far outweighs the quality of what's on the menu, it would seem. You're here to watch the big game; you'll get by with whatever overpriced, mediocre deep-fried pub grub we offer, chief.
So a sports bar that serves a truly memorable meal may be awfully hard to find. But if you were to take a high-end steakhouse with a CIA-trained executive chef and add a few dozen TVs, you might have a real contender. Dantanna's Surf, Turf & Turf may not be the best-known sports bar in Atlanta, but it likely has the best sports bar burger.
The split personality at Dantanna's comes by design. There's the traditional sports bar side: TV screens, barstools and tall tables, a blur of high-fives and jerseys, a constant hum of activity. Then there's the other side. Low lighting. Dark mahogany. Linen napkins. Sepia-toned framed portraits of baseball teams from an era when handlebar mustaches were apparently mandatory. A 300-square-foot walk-in cigar lounge/humidor. It's not until the staff pulls drop-down projector screens from the ceiling for the first pitch of the World Series that you can even see a game from some seats in this half of the restaurant.
Dantanna's calls itself "an upscale sports bar," and the menu definitely reflects the "upscale" part of that equation; beef Carpaccio and fried oysters Rockefeller are not everyday bar fare. Even the more traditional-sounding choices get a cheffy twist. Yes, they have nachos...but they're smothered with braised duck and chimichurri crema. Their take on jalapeño poppers—red piquillos stuffed with short rib and smoked Gouda, baked and topped with a balsamic-tomato fondue—was an absolute home run.
The burger selection wanders into similarly fancypants territory. There's a lamb burger and a venison burger always in the lineup (although the venison was unavailable on this night). Their beef burgers are made from Creekstone Farms Black Angus. There's a shock-value bacon/egg/grilled-cheese-sandwiches-for-buns burger, an 8-ounce build-your-own, or there's the BCS:
That's a hefty 10 ounces of ground brisket and chuck steak with sautéed onions, aged cheddar, and marinated portabella mushrooms, served with lettuce and tomato on a buttered-and-griddled brioche bun. Look again. Spot-on burger-to-bun ratio, at least on my scouting report. The patty (although I hesitate to use that word given the thickness of the beef; maybe "slab" would be better?) was beautifully lined with grill marks on the outside and had a lusciously pink interior, the best interpretation of "medium-rare" I've had in quite some time.
I couldn't find a fault with the BCS's game. The sensationally-cooked and exceptionally juicy beef had flavor to spare. The cheddar, shrooms, and onions were ideally proportioned—there in every bite, but never overpowering the beef. (A half-pounder dressed with bacon, blue cheese, grilled onions, and jalapeños got a little lost in comparison—maybe due to the smaller patty, maybe due to being straight chuck, maybe due to topping overload.) The bun soaked up the burg's juices nicely, but never fell apart. Even the fries served alongside were noticeably great: wonderfully crisp, expertly seasoned—a far cry from the limp spud sticks dished out at your typical sports bar.
It had been a spectacular meal, and I saw no reason to tempt fate by getting cute late in the game with a resounding win well in hand. Dessert at a sports bar? Please. But my server had his ace closer waiting in the bullpen. "Four words," Rod said to me, counting them off on his fingers as he continued, "Krispy. Kreme. Bread. Pudding."
That pic doesn't do it justice, but it is, I'm pleased to report, every bit as good as it sounds.
My only knock on Dantanna's might be the cost. I had a bit of sticker shock when I got the bill for what was essentially an app, two burgers, and dessert. But considering that the place is more upscale steakhouse than sports bar, dinner was worth the price.
There are few things more satisfying to a sports fan than his team pulling out an impressive win in a game they perhaps expected to lose. I had low expectations for Dantanna's, figuring I'd get an above-average sports bar experience at best. What I got instead was a huge surprise. Dantanna's may not be where I go to watch a game I'm truly invested in. But if I want to tuck in to one of the better burgers in Atlanta with a game in the background, I'll leave the jersey at home and save the high-fives. I'll need both hands anyway to wrap around that magnificent burger.
About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and recently penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.