Executive Chef: Andrew Isabella
🙂 = Great location right in the heart of Downtown Decatur, with (paid) public parking within walking distance. Authentically warm, friendly, knowledgeable staff and versatile atmosphere that’s suitable for family dinners, date nights, business lunches, and everything in between. High chairs and a cute Kids Menu + crayons. Tasty Italian-inspired fare made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including wood fired pizzas, handmade pastas, innovative small plates, hearty entrees, and delectable desserts. Extensive wine and cocktail menu for mommies and daddies.
🙁 = The restaurant isn’t huge. If your little ones are hyper and looking to run around, this probably isn’t the best place to take them. Bring them here when they’re calm and ready to enjoy some yummy food.
Notes: Mommy follows some specific rules when she takes us to nicer restaurants, like 246, that Yelp says are not good for kids. Scroll down to the end of this post to learn Mommy’s tips for going upscale with toddlers. ~ If you’re lucky, you will get to sit in Neil’s section. Neil is one of the best servers we’ve ever met. In fact, we visited 246 primarily because of the great service he gave Mommy and Daddy one evening when they snuck out for a dinner date. Neil, if you ever get to read this post – thank you for taking our messy eating in stride, not getting disgusted when one of us tried to show you our bare foot over the table, and teaching us all about the food we ate. You rock!
We enjoy cooking with Mommy at home and, clearly, we love to eat. But we recently developed an obsession with chefs after watching the movie Rataouille. One local chef we admire is Chef Ford Fry. (Remember our glowing review of Superica, his newest restaurant in Krog Street Market?) We love that his restaurants focus on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients to make innovative dishes with a down-home feel. We also appreciate how Ford Fry restaurants are “accessibly hip” – super cool in their own unique ways, yet not so trendy that you feel like you need to be a celebrity to eat there. And, most importantly, the food at the Ford Fry restaurants we’ve tried has never disappointed us. Chef Fry owns seven restaurants in the Atlanta area and all of them are great. We picked 246 because Mommy and Daddy had been there before, liked the food, thought the atmosphere could handle a couple of toddlers, and were huge fans of a server there named Neil. So off to Decatur we went. We arrived at 246 a little after 6 PM, while it was still fairly empty. The hostess surprised us by giving us crayons and kids menus – not something you’d expect of a restaurant that Yelp claims isn’t good for kids. She led us to what we thought was the best table in the house, given our current obsession with chefs: a booth right next 246’s semi-open kitchen. It was like Ratatouille… but in living color! We were able to watch Executive Chef Isabella man 246’s rustic “expo line,” where he carefully dressed each dish using shredded cheese pulled from a large mason jar and even fresh flowers plucked directly from a hand-picked bouquet. Watching Chef Isabella reinforced our admiration for chefs and their dedication to their craft.
Neil brought out to-go cups of water for us along with some fresh baked bread and premium quality olive oil for dipping. While we munched on that, Mommy ordered a few different starters off the menu for us to try: the special small plate of the day, which was salmon rillettes served with house-made flatbread and an arugula salad tossed with a blood orange vinaigrette dressing; blue crab toast (toasted, crusty bread topped with a crisp mixture of blue crab meat, avocado, and a fresh cabbage slaw); and the famous No. 246 meatball (one huge meatball that’s big enough to share, swimming in delicious tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella).
All the small plates we tried were delicious. The salmon rillettes had a nice, creamy texture and slightly salty and citrus-tart flavor that contrasted well with the unflavored, crisp flatbread and tangy, peppery arugula salad. (We have a long-running love affair with salmon, so we were fine with scooping the rillettes onto our forks and eating it by itself.) The blue crab toast was tasty, too; but we didn’t love the slaw because we tasted something bitter in it – Neil thought it might have been radishes. In any event, we found a way to eat the things we liked in the blue crab mixture and then push out with our tongues any bits of radishes we tasted, causing Mommy to play catcher as she rushed to grab chewed bits of food from our mouths before they landed on the table. And then there was the meatball. It was as big as Daddy’s fist, big enough for all three of us to share. It was sturdy enough to hold its own under the weight of the delicious tomato sauce and cheese smothering it; but soft enough for our little teeth to chew easily. Perfection.
After we finished our small plates, we moved on to some entrees. We walked in knowing we needed some of 246’s acclaimed wood-fired pizza, so we put in an order for the Pepperoni (which is actually sausage and fresh basil). We also knew we wanted pasta, but we weren’t sure which one to pick. Fortunately, 246 offers half-orders of their pastas so that noncommittal folks like us can try multiple options. We got a half order of the spaghetti (squid ink pasta tossed with shrimp, pequin peppers, and a buttery garlic-lemon sauce) and a half order of the garganelli (tossed in a lamb ragu and drizzled with a slightly spicy yogurt-based sauce).
Of the two pasta dishes, the squid ink spaghetti was our favorite. The sauce was light and summery, with strong notes of lemon and a little black pepper, and the shrimp were plump and tender. And we had never seen jet black spaghetti before! Mommy told us the spaghetti was made with black paint that came out of a squid when he was scared. This fascinated us and somehow made us like the spaghetti even more.
It goes without saying that we loved that pizza. 246 does pizza right. The crust has that great tangy, charred flavor found in all well-made wood fired pizzas. And 246 does not skimp on the toppings. We had fun picking the big, juicy clusters of sausage and aromatic basil leaves off our slices and eating them before diving into the crust. (We picked the toppings off Mommy’s slice, too.) By the time we’d done damage to the spaghetti and pizza, we barely had room for the garganelli. We each tried one bite and decided we liked the spaghetti better. Mommy liked the gargnelli, though. It was the polar opposite of the spaghetti – heavy and gamey with a distinct peppery heat. Of the smorgasbord of food we tried, it was our least favorite. Of course, after a meal like that, we had to make room for dessert. So we ordered the ricotta fritters, which were like little doughnut balls drizzled with dulce de leche. Of course we loved those fritters. They were like a fancier, creamier version of funnel cake. Mommy would only let us have 1.5 fritters each because she said they would make us hyper. She’s such a Debbie Downer!
As for us, we’re not Debbie Downers. We have only positive things to say about no. 246: delicious food, incredible service, and a welcoming atmosphere for grownups and little ones alike. After visiting 246, we totally get why it’s one of Atlanta’s favorite restaurants – and why Ford Fry is one of Atlanta’s favorite chefs. Thanks, no. 246, for a great visit. We’ll see you again soon!
129 E Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur, GA 30030
~ Call in advance and talk to the host about whether the restaurant is kid-friendly or not. Tell the host you’re planning to bring toddlers in and give him/her details about whether you need a high chair, booster seat, etc.
~ If you’re having dinner, make a reservation for an early time. The best times are between 5 and 6 PM. Grownups looking for adult time will generally arrive between 7 and 8 PM, so if you’re concerned about disrupting them, try to get in and out early.
~ Bring noiseless distractions – coloring books, stuffed animals. If you’re planning to distract with an iPhone or iPad, turn down the volume or bring headphones. And refrain from bringing squeaky toys into the restaurant. Mommy made that mistake once and really regretted it.
~ Arm yourself with toddler-friendly snacks, just in case your little ones decide they don’t want fancy food that day. ~ If the outing begins to go awry, stay calm and don’t stress out. The more stressed you get, the more stressed the toddlers will get and the more stressed your server will get. Stress = poor digestion.
~ Know when it’s time to cut the visit short. The other diners will thank you – and you’ll thank yourself. Happy eating! 🙂