Beltline restaurant evokes the great outdoors


LADYBIRD GROVE & MESS HALL

684 John Wesley Dobbs Ave., Atlanta. 404-458-6838, ladybirdatlanta.com. $$-$$$

2 of 4 stars [very good]

If you’re looking for a bike-up restaurant where you can reward yourself for a moderately strenuous ride with never-ending beers and salami, this is it.

Situated at mile marker 9.5 on the Beltline, this restaurant has a grand patio and an indoor “mess hall” that suggests the dining room at Camp Firewood. Chef Kyle Schmidt plays up a campfire cooking theme in ways grand, small and occasionally a little corny. He also casts about so broadly for ideas that a meal can feel disjointed. But the pleasures on this menu are many, and the food is cooked with more finesse than you’d expect.

You’ll feel an instant surge of happiness when a crock of bubbly crab imperial, cheesy and sweet with leeks, comes to the table with (not quite enough) bread to slather it on.

If you’ve got a willing group, then don’t miss the whole spatchcocked chicken, which arrives on a slab of wood as large as a palanquin. Grilled onions, chiles, cactus strips and a stack of hot tortillas come on the side with two salsas, a pan of roasted potatoes and a bowl of slaw. New-classic alert.