I can’t believe it. I forgot to go to DragonCon. Like, ever.
This is to say that My Parents’ Basement, a restaurant that champions comic book geekery, video game obsession and rec room-issue snackage, is not aimed at me, even if I am capable of the odd Roy Lichtenstein reference.
And, yet, I’m infatuated with this place. It offers enough weird charm to win over even someone who has banned video games from her household, who has never once worn Princess Leia buns to a Halloween party, and who does not speak a word of Elvish.
First on my checklist of delights is MPB’s location. There could not be a better home for this nerdfighter nirvana than Avondale Estates. With its Tudor village, its Waffle House museum and its preponderance of hot dog joints and thrift stores, Avondale is possibly the quirkiest town in the Atlanta area.
Next, there’s the layout. MPB has four areas — a sprawling patio, a properly dingy niche filled with free arcade games, an inner sanctum dedicated to the reverential display and sale of comic books, and a traditional, dark wood bar straight out of old Ireland.
That’s because the bar has barely changed since this building was inhabited by the James Joyce Irish Pub in the 2000s. Which is perfect! A restaurant called My Parents’ Basement should have hand-me-down decor. I only wish there was an orange plaid couch and a TV with rabbit ears, too.
Finally, there’s the food, full of adorkable ideas like chicken-in-waffles, housemade hot pockets and Korean cabbage-spiked grilled “kimcheese.” Conceptually, the menu is perfect in that it’s almost all pick-up grub you can imagine scarfing with one hand in your parents’ basement — the other hand being occupied, of course, with your video game controller.
In reality, a lot of MPB’s dishes are as forgettable as actual video game noshes.
A South Philly special with rib-eye and cheese whiz, for instance, was a strange pile of gamy sliced meat mixed with barely detectable goo.
The hot pocket was not a keeper, either. When we visited, the flavor of the day was mushroom pizza. Allegedly. I detected no mushrooms in the gush of tomato sauce, nor much flavor in the chewy crust or grainy mozzarella.
Most disappointing was the dish that held the most promise: chicken-in-waffles.
The idea of transforming an unwieldy stack of chicken parts, waffles and syrup into tidy little triangles seems as nifty a trick as outfitting the Batmobile with rocket launchers. But, it doesn’t work, despite a delicious drizzle of sweet, maple-scented syrup studded with mustard seeds. The chicken bits inside these waffles were, to use a technical term, icky. They were gristly little nubbins that clashed with the fluff of the waffle. Encountering one in your mouth was kind of creepy.
There are some heroes to be found. Fried black-eyed peas dusted in barbecue rub made an addictive bar snack, a pop of crunch and spice to go with MPB’s excellent list of “beers from around here” (try Wild Heaven Autumn Defense, Terrapin Vapricot or Three Taverns a Night on Ponce) and “beers from somewhere else” (order Alpine Duet, Starr Hill Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter or Boulevard Funky Pumpkin).
A shrimp taco starter was packed with impressively fresh stuff — beautifully cooked shrimp, sprigs of fresh cilantro and lettuce, crisp radishes and a dollop of aromatic salsa. (And, unless you are playing a video game while eating, you can jettison the stiff, crumbly corn tortillas and simply scoop up the innards with a fork.)
The flat top brisket burger was basic but delicious — juicy, salty, earthy, hearty and flavorful. And the wild mushroom grinder was both light and rich, with buttery, sauteed mushrooms, creme fraiche and arugula on an airy bun.
On the side, in addition to respectably crisp, fluffy fries, there was an unexpected jolt of healthy freshness — a bell pepper-dotted farro bowl that was crunchy, acidic and toothsome.
Of course, if you’re really My Parents’ Basement’s target audience, you’ll scoff at such rabbit food. What you’ll order is the Toasted CBJB — the one sandwich to rule them all: white bread, cashew butter, strawberry jelly and Pine Street bacon, all grilled until gooey.
It’s so good, it makes you wish you had a hangover just so you could use it as medicine; so good that dead Elvis may very well be dreaming about it.
So good that — kapow! — I find myself recommending the random, flawed-but-fun Basement to comic nerds and non-nerds alike.
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