Thorn Tree Restaurant

Thorn Tree Restaurant in Norcross is something of a crazy creative anachronism. How else to explain a place with an African safari theme that borrows the name of the legendary open-air cafe at the Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, and is filled with the owner's extensive collection of hunting trophies?

Big game

Texas native Lowell Douglas spent time as a hunter, guide and wildlife manager in the United States, Europe and Africa, including eight years in "the bush." Deciding it would be "fun in our latter years" is the way Douglas describes how he and his wife came to open the restaurant six months ago in the space formerly occupied by Tomas.

The building's brick facade features a bright African thorn tree logo and a pair of dramatic flaming torches. Inside, the decor is decidedly masculine, with an abundance of wood (from the floors and paneling to the shuttered windows), softened by paintings and ornate chandeliers. A large mirrored bar area adjoins the dining room, where the taxidermic displays include a lion, a bear and multiple mounted buck heads. Beyond, there's a solarium-style private dining room and a secluded outdoor deck. Thursdays through Saturdays, a pianist serenades diners with standards and classical selections.

Nostalgic classic

Chef John Steffes, an Atlanta restaurant veteran who has worked at Fins, Mi Spia and 103 West, executes a menu that could be called nostalgic classic. Look for mussels mariniere, crispy fried lobster tail, roasted duck, rack of lamb and, of course, steak at prices that top out at $39 for a surf-and-turf combo of a pan-seared 10-ounce filet mignon and a broiled lobster tail. And if you doubt that the menu is a culinary time machine, just note the "ladies' petite" 6-ounce filet option.

Lunch deal

While the dinner menu ranges into fine-dining prices, lunch, served 11 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays, boasts an $8.50 deal for any sandwich and side served at the bar or on the patio. Recently, a grouper sandwich came with two breaded and fried filets on a grilled bakery bun, lettuce, tomato, a side of red pepper aioli and a lemon wedge. McDonald's-style frites needed another few minutes in the fryer. Other choices include a beef or bison burger, steak or grilled chicken panini, Mediterranean pasta, and meat loaf with whipped potatoes and mushroom sauce. Old-school French onion soup, with a rich, beefy broth and caramelized onions topped with grilled bread and gooey Gruyere cheese, can be ordered in a combo with an organic mixed-green salad. Custard-creamy creme brulee is warm, with a thin, crispy glaze, and more than enough for two to share.

Thanksgiving buffet

Thorn Tree will be open Thanksgiving Day with a traditional buffet and three seatings at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Dining out

Thorn Tree Restaurant, 6025 Peachtree Parkway, 770-817-8733

Signature dish: Grouper sandwich

Entree prices: $10 (lunch) -- $39 (dinner)

Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Dinner: 4:30-10 p.m. Mondays -Saturdays. Bar open later most nights.

Reservations: yes (and for private parties)

Credit cards: yes


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