200 Minutes in Dunwoody
photos courtesy of SPRUILL CENTER OF THE ARTS; ALON’S BAKERY & CAFE;
BROOK RUN PARK; COWFISH; DUNWOODY CAB; CARL DANBURY
IF I ASKED YOU THE NUMBER ONE THING THAT POPS INTO YOUR HEAD when someone mentions the city of Dunwoody, what would it be? In reality, I probably don’t have to, because I can guess … it’s Perimeter Mall. It’s also the hometown of radio and TV personality Ryan Seacrest and the site of one of the first DOT-built diamond interchanges. On a personal note, it is where my husband and I lived as newlyweds. For that reason, I tend to view it through rose-colored glasses despite having moved away more than five years ago. Years later, I realize what a gem this little pocket of Atlanta still is.
In fact, there is so much to do in Dunwoody’s neighborhoods that the CVB created their own bucket list to help you make the most of your time. With a weekend to fill, that seemed like a good place to start checking things off of my own. So, from iconic restaurants, treetop treats and artful finds, exploring present-day Dunwoody can be a place everyone can enjoy.
Iconic Perimeter Center
This longstanding landmark has evolved and attracted many can’t-miss spots to take up residence in and alongside it. Despite the traffic tragedy that is Ashford Dunwoody, this area provides plenty of reasons to fight it and once you’re in a parking spot, what comes next will leave you far too satisfied to worry about the drive home.
This point is especially true if you’ve chosen to spend your time dining at the iconic McKendrick’s Steak House. Serving one of the best cuts in Atlanta for more than two decades, they’ve perfected the art of the white tablecloth dinner and deliver more than just succulent, ice-cold seafood towers and sizzling steaks. In fact, if you don’t name the lobster mac and cheese as one of the reasons to go there initially, you’ve obviously missed something. My tip? Make reservations for a Friday night to avoid the corporate crowd, which keeps the place buzzing Monday through Thursday. mckendricks.com
For something more casual, but just as legendary, Alon’s Bakery and Café sits right next door. Opened in succession of its flagship Morningside location, this bigger, bustling version of the café provides ample seating indoors and out to meet friends for light bites, big meals, coffees or the universal favorite, a slice of Midnight Cake.
“Some time ago, there weren’t a lot of options [in Dunwoody] and now it is a thriving community focused on offering quality products, elevating the offerings and destinations creating experiences for residents. Dining is important here, just as it is in every neighborhood,” said Alon Balshan. “I have had customers tell me they remember when there were only cow farms where we are now. That was long before we opened, of course, but you can get the idea of the transformation. The area has really grown and I’ve enjoyed seeing it all. It’s exciting to be a part of this center of activity.”
Inside the mall, you can rest your weary feet at The Woodhouse Day Spa. Trade shopping bags for a lush robe and slippers, sip tea instead of chugging a Diet Coke and delight in choosing from an extensive menu of relaxing services meant to counteract the effects of what’s happening out there in the hustle and bustle.
It’s hard to resist the signature Four-Hand Massage, which enlists two therapists to work in choreographed movements for the ultimate relaxation experience. If you don’t have the luxurious 80 minutes for me-time, opt for the Lavender and Seaweed Sugar Scrub pedicure that helps you shed those mall-walking miles via warm, volcanic stone massage and refining scrub. woodhousespas.com
Burgushi on the Brain
Speaking of great things in the mall, my favorite place to meet friends for lunch is The Cowfish. One of their five locations in the Southeast, this vibrant food niche combines two of my favorite things for something that you literally can’t get anywhere else.
You can start with classics (crispy calamari, blackened tuna nachos, Parmesan bacon truffle fries), but make sure you’re cleared for the takedown of some serious fresh-to-order stacks.
Such stacks should include the brave, yet justified, decision to sample the “burgushi,” a modern sushi roll made with creative combinations of traditional burger components. Unable to resist this curious fusion, I went straight to The All American Bacon Cheeseburgooshi for the seasoned all-natural Angus beef, two kinds of cheddar cheese, bacon and onion all wrapped in soy paper and potato strings, then flash fried. Standard toppings added, it all sat on top of their magical Cowfish sauce. Another favorite is The Nature Boy’s Wooooo–shi Buffalooooo–shi roll, a hearty serving of sautéed chipotle bison with a fried green tomato, grilled onions and feta cheese coated with tempura flakes. A little spice on top and my mealtime mind was blown.
The best part about The Cowfish, though, is that this menu is curated to tempt anyone’s tastebuds — be they adventurous or conservative. If you decide to keep land and sea separated, you’ve got countless choices from both the burger, sandwich and sushi lists. Giddy. thecowfish.com
The Village Life
Things get quieter as you make your way from the mall, but that doesn’t mean they get boring. If you can break away from the tempting dinner tables that Dunwoody offers for just a couple of hours, they just might get even more interesting, especially this month. In the area that’s referred to as Dunwoody Village, the 19th takes flight with the city’s 24th annual Butterfly Festival at the 22-acre Dunwoody Nature Center. Hundreds of live butterflies will delight children and adults beneath three enormous butterfly tents, in addition to live animal encounters, a birds of prey show, scavenger hunts, face painting, interactive games, educational booths, crafts, live music, food and more. The only snag in this net is that last year’s event attracted more than 3,000 attendees, so if these winged wonders are on your bucket list, get your tickets now. dunwoodynature.org
Speaking of being entertained, The Stage Door Players Theater has done so since 1974, when its performances were a community project put on by the area’s Woman’s Club. Now, it’s a fully functioning, professional theater with a packed calendar of plays, musicals and more. If you’re just reading about it for the first time, you’re in luck as the next show on the marquee is “Dial M for Murder” and it kicks off next month. stagedoorplayers.net
Of course, if your outings bring you back to the dinner table — and no one blames you if they do — then this pocket offers almost too many to make it an easy decision. For something exotic, snag a seat at Co’m Dunwoody Vietnamese Grill for a fusion of French, Thai and Vietnamese flavors. Or, savor something fresh and made-from-scratch, like the Chicken Club or Glenda’s Garden sandwich from Wright’s Sandwich Shoppe, which has been open since 1984 and still serves many of the same tried and true recipes.
Burgers and hot dogs from Village Burger’s original location (they’ve got one now in Johns Creek) prove perfect handheld meals. If an Italian experience is what you crave, then indulge in plenty of red sauce and family style meatballs from Carbonara Trattoria or try the latest menu from chef and restaurateur Ricardo Ullio, the man responsible for Sotto Sotto in Inman Park — one of the finest Italian trattorias west of Naples. His Novo Cucina delivers brick-oven pizzas, like the sweet and spicy Salsiccia with roasted peppers and sweet Italian sausage, authentic pasta dishes like the savory Tagliatelle ai Funghi and 18 daily flavors of creamy gelato.
Across the city, one dinner table lets you take matters into your own hands. Vino Venue lets you enjoy shareable bites and self-poured wines in a chic atmosphere that’s perfect for fun dinners with friends or unique date nights. The space offers wine and cooking classes throughout the week as well as different dinner pairings on the weekends, such as this month’s Parisian Bistro Classics, the Southern Comfort Series: -Succulent Seafood or the Entertaining with Ease: -Ultimate Steak Night. vinovenue.com
We know it’s hard to get away from the idea of good eating (and drinking), but one of the best parts about this little neighborhood is the green space and you can get off the beaten path then you’re in for a real, fresh-air treat. Brook Run Park spans 102 acres of green grass, multi-use trail, dog park, community garden, Veteran’s Memorial, skate park, children’s playground and more. In fact, that “more” may be your ticket to unexpected adventure in the city with Treetop Quest, an adventure course with more than 50 obstacles and 12 zip lines soaring to heights of 55 feet. Back on the ground, the multi-use trail system connects Brook Run Park to Pernoshal Park and Georgetown Park, making park hopping as appealing as a pub crawl.
Even if the adventure doesn’t lead you to break a sweat, we know your appetite can appreciate Food Truck Thursdays with some of the best trucks and live music.
A Family Affair
Even farther off that beaten path, you’ll find yourself in a little borough on the outskirts of Dunwoody that you could miss completely if you’re not en route to Dunwoody Country Club or dam fishing on Kingsley Lake. The reason you’ll find yourself there is for the edible treasures that the Augello family provides at E. 48th Street Market. In business since 1986, this quaint Italian market also packs up meals you can take home, making it a “mom” staple as well for more than 30 years. e48thstreetmarket.com
Prepare your eyes to match your stomach when you see the stuffed cases of specialty Italian antipasti, aromatic spices, classic family size pastas and decadent desserts for the first time. The friendly hospitality and multitude of unique items create an aura, almost, that makes you hungry on impact. Or maybe that’s the smell of freshly baked Italian bread. Either way, finding a reason to indulge comes easily.
Circle back to the land of shoppers and steaks, and you’ll spot Spruill Gallery’s motivational landmark that has inspired good vibes since 2009. The story here is that local artist Jason Kofke erected the quote, “Everything will be ok” on the side of an old seed house.
“The message was simple, but its impact was profound and now years have passed and the art installation (now a replica) still serves as a mural of encouragement and positivity for visitors and locals alike to contemplate and resonate in the message that sets Dunwoody apart from the rest of Metro Atlanta,” said Kimberly Franz, marketing director for the Dunwoody CVB.
Who knows … it may even help you get through rush hour. The gallery itself boasts a curation of artwork from students, teachers and emerging artists of all ages with special keepsakes available for purchase. Through the 19th, you can catch the tail end of this year’s Spruill Arts Student & Faculty Juried Exhibition. After taking a year off for renovations, it returned to the gallery with more than 90 artists showcasing mediums from fabric panels to watercolors, mixed media to ceramics, jewelry and metalsmithing, among others. spruillarts.org
Sleep it Off
Amidst five boroughs of good food and outdoor activity, you may choose to ditch getting back in your car in lieu of kicking your feet up for the night. We couldn’t agree more, as Le Meridien Atlanta Perimeter offers a boutique option for a hotel stay. Open across from the mall, but tucked away from the sights and sounds of 285, the property boasts culinary and comforting experiences to add to your bucket list. A calendar of special events adds even more entertainment to a night out compliments of eclectic, artful décor that makes happy hour as chic as any downtown spot. Globally inspired dining at Portico or casual eats from the lobby’s Longitude 84 just might convince you to make that night out something you do inside the hotel … in fact, once you see the outdoor pool, you may be enticed to forgo a day anywhere else altogether. Again, we wouldn’t blame you. We might have been tempted to do the same. lemeridienatlanta perimeter.com