One Fine Meal: Nature and flavor make Canoe a beloved Atlanta dining destination

Canoe's Asian-flavored, curry-brined pork tenderloin is served with lemongrass sausage, coconut rice and tom yum. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Canoe's Asian-flavored, curry-brined pork tenderloin is served with lemongrass sausage, coconut rice and tom yum. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Nestled in a woodsy stretch of Vinings, and surrounded by colorful gardens that hug the Chattahoochee, Canoe is among Atlanta’s most beloved and beautiful dining destinations.

Whether you’re going for a drink on the covered patio, celebrating a birthday, or attending a wedding, crossing the bridge that spans the river along Paces Ferry Road always feels like the beginning of an adventure.

Even a 2009 flood that destroyed the dining room and shuttered the restaurant for two months couldn’t change its natural spirit.

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American red snapper is served at Canoe with Georgia shrimp, cabbage “pad thai,” enoki mushrooms and cashew relish. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
American red snapper is served at Canoe with Georgia shrimp, cabbage “pad thai,” enoki mushrooms and cashew relish. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

But, beyond the special setting, the food that defines Canoe has remained consistent for some 25 years. Since it opened it 1995, under the direction of chef Gerry Klaskala, the focus has remained on elemental seasonal cooking, going back to labels like new American and farm-to-table.

Australian transplant Matt Basford came up through the ranks to take over as executive chef in 2013, following predecessors Gary Mennie and Carvel Grant Gould.

Not surprisingly, given his background, Basford brought a few more challenging items to the menu, including a peppercorn-crusted kangaroo appetizer, and some clever Southeast Asian influences.

Still, the crowd-pleasers remain, with long-running classics such as the jumbo asparagus salad, wood-grilled beef tenderloin, and a variety of seafood dishes, including the jumbo lump crabcake.

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Canoe’s golden and red beet salad comes with whipped goat cheese, candied walnuts and basil oil. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Canoe’s golden and red beet salad comes with whipped goat cheese, candied walnuts and basil oil. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Although the transition to full-on takeout took some time, in January most of the lunch and dinner menu became available to order online through OpenTable. Recently, I tried out the system, ordering a salad, two entrees and a dessert. The process is smooth, especially if you’ve already signed up with OpenTable. Pickup was easy, too. The valet directed me to a spot in the parking lot, and curbside delivery was quick after I phoned the restaurant to say I’d arrived.

After nearly a year of pandemic takeout, I’ve decided that fine-dining food usually doesn’t travel as well as faster food, but Canoe did a good of job of packing everything in sturdy containers.

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Chocolate grotto, with salted caramel filling and pretzel dust, is a dessert favorite at Canoe. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Chocolate grotto, with salted caramel filling and pretzel dust, is a dessert favorite at Canoe. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

At home, the entrees needed a bit of reheating. After that, the quality was apparent, from the wafting aromas to the first bite.

The golden and red beet salad, with candied walnuts and basil oil, came stacked on a generous layer of creamy whipped goat cheese, and the dressing on the diced beets deftly balanced sweet and savory.

Curry-brined pork tenderloin, with lemongrass sausage, coconut rice and tom yum, displayed an Asian-flavored spark, with bok choy, carrots and the soup broth adding a homey touch.

American red snapper, with Georgia shrimp, cabbage “pad thai,” enoki mushrooms and cashew relish, is a perfect dish for those eating low-carb. The similarly layered Asian flavors enhanced, rather than overwhelmed, the seafood, and the crispy cabbage was a fine foil.

Chocolate grotto, with salted caramel filling and pretzel dust, always has been a decadent dessert favorite at Canoe, and for good reason. Crack the shell, let the sweet caramel flow, then spoon it up with a swirl of salty crushed pretzel, and prepare to swoon.

Overall, it was a meal to remember. And, it made me remember why I want to go back to Canoe, to sit and eat and drink again, down by the river.

CANOE

Menu: new American

Alcohol: yes

Recommended dishes: beet and goat cheese salad; asparagus salad; jumbo lump crabcake; house-smoked salmon; Asian-influenced seafood entrees, such as American red snapper; desserts, including chocolate grotto

Price range: soup, salad and appetizers, $8-$17; dinner entrees, $28-$44; desserts, $9-$10

Service options: dine-in; takeout; curbside pickup; reservations and online ordering through OpenTable

Outdoor dining: large, covered patio

Experience: A big part of fine dining, especially at a restaurant as iconic as Canoe, is the atmosphere, as well as the service and attention to detail. But, all that aside, my takeout experience was very good, and, for dessert, exciting even.

Address, phone: 4199 Paces Ferry Road SE, Atlanta; 770-432-2663

Hours: lunch, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; dinner, 5:30-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5:30-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sundays; brunch, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sundays

Website: canoeatl.com

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