progressing to 30

for my 30th birthday we didnt have plans. i definitely did NOT want a party or anything group-ish. it may surprise you that i am a hardcore introvert and though i love people and being in groups, what fills me up is alone time. especially with jesse.

we took care of the #1 main thing and that was getting rid of the kids.  i swear those little gremlins KNOW when they are headed somewhere else for the night because they try to pack a whole extra day's worth of boundary-pushing, food-spitting, and harpy-screeching into the abbreviated time we are with them.

by the time we bustled them into the car at 5 pm, we were but frazzled, empty husks of the robust, well-meaning parental life-forms we had begun our day as. we looked at each other over the console with the haunted eyes of bewildered teenagers who've just realized that the house they are making out in is possessed by poltergeist, both thinking, "what the HELL would we have done if we had to keep them for 3 more hours?!?!?"

needless to say, having grandparents who are near, willing, and able is a boon beyond compare. bump "wit beyond measure," rowena ravenclaw; i'll take free, loving babysitting and you just keep that diadem.

so when we dropped them off at the grand dukes (barely controlling the impulse to turn and flee before they changed their minds), the first thing we did was sit there in the driveway brainstorming how to use our dizzying new freedom.

i'm so wishy-washy and unpredictable that jesse knows not to bother planning anything. a few years ago i would have been pouty at this and called it "unromantic," but now i am at peace and know myself a little better. i am too much of a controller to handle surprises well. 

so we decided to head north to atlanta for dinner. but i was oh so starving. so i asked if, before we got to our destination north of the city (and 45 minutes away), we could stop at a bar by georgia tech and have one of my favorite appetizers from my college days. this would be a way to calm the hunger monster that was getting agitated in my belly and plotting an emotional ambush on jesse to tide it over. PLUS we could do a few things we wanted to do in midtown before real dinner.

then an idea hit me, what if for my 30th birthday we went all around town and got my favorite course from a few of my favorite restaurants? a city-wide progressive dinner.

so that's what we did. i posted a little of our journey on instagram and lots of folks asked to see the full list of my favorites. so here's the full menu. there were no rules or restrictions on geography, price, or cuisine type. 

*this isnt a BEST OF ATLANTA list or anything (i could totally make one of those though...food, she's my forte). it's just what i was feeling like that night at a few of my favorite places that i dont get to go to very often because we live so far in the suburbs.*

1st COURSE:   

this is the bar that sits pretty much right on georgia tech's campus. on the night of my 21st birthday my senior year in college, this was where the party started (ending destination: a vomitorium on the outskirts of regretsville). i was so nervous as we pulled up in our minivan that the college kids would just smell the 30 on me and throw produce at the shriveled crone i must look like to their nubile young retinas, but we entered unscathed.

we found a seat at the bar (hoping to avoid having a fully tip a waitress) next to the drunkest man i have seen in a long while. there were several moments where his esophageal integrity was in question and i thought jesse might be getting baptized by jagermeister and shame. 

we ordered the strizzata, a favorite that my best friend and i often drooled over in our dorm before, duh, finding ourselves shoveling it in a few moments later at the nearby source.

i can never describe it adequately to anyone, but its just good. heres what the official menu says about it:

Baked Strizzatta- rocky mountain pizza dough rolled thin, topped with our own white sauce mixed with applewood smoked bacon, baked and then rolled up and sliced into bite sized pinwheels.  Insider Tip! add pepperoni for 50 cents more

this was where i first learned to love banana peppers. 

we washed it down with some beverages (and a healthy dose of, "so help me, if i see that guy get behind the wheel, we are calling the cops") and reminded ourselves how stupid we must have looked as college kids who thought we were the coolest thing the greater metro area had ever been lucky enough to see. 

we tooled around atlantic station for a bit afterwards doing some shopping with a little light illegal parking thrown in for good measure. then we departed for the 


if you are blessed enough to have a chuy's in your area, stop what you are doing and go there NOW.

i first sampled the manna of this establishment when i visited a college boyfriend at his home in arizona. it would be 10 more years until i tasted the sweet mexi-goodness again when one opened up north of atlanta.

whatever you order when you go, you MUST ask for the creamy jalepeno dip to go along with your chips and salsa (all complimentary). 

the first time i went to the atlanta one, i was so afraid they would leave and never come back that i ordered a HALF GALLON of this stuff to go and ate pretty much just it and chips for an entire week. my colon got the scourging of a lifetime, but dont you think for a second it wasnt worth it.

jesse and i split one plate of the ONLY thing we ever order: the baja shrimp tacos (with extra creamy jalepeno sauce atop) and i got a mind-blowingly delicious strawberry margarita. jesse willingly gave up his drinking rights to be the driver and keep me in my happy zone for the night. 

at this point we were feeling full so we took a little detour and went goodwill thrifting. it's always exciting for me to go to a goodwill away from my home one because EVERYTHING is new. 

it was pretty funny to be tottering around in my fancy wedges with my date-night clutch in goodwill on a saturday night. 

 you see me rollin'...

after a little thrifting, digestion and deliberation we hit the highlands for:


harry & sons is a thai and sushi place and is my all time life's favorite restaurant. i have eaten here probably 200 times since i found out about it my junior year of college. 

i can think of at least 30 people that i have taken here. it is my [other] gospel.

besides having amazing sushi, thai food and a great bar, this place also randomly has the WORLDS GREATEST CREME BRULEE. 

i know youre thinking of some place in your town that you think has creme brulee that cant be beat, but i have to tell you, youre wrong. it's at harry & sons and i will fight you about it.

but this time i had to forgo the brulee since this was just to be a sushi and wine course.

 tropical maki. heaven

next i had to make up my mind about dessert.  was contemplating the not-flashy-but-delicious chili's chocolate chip paradise pie, but there is one of those near us that i can go to any old time. 

inspiration came via instagram when someone i followed posted a picture of CHEESECAKE! 

we turned back north and plunged into the chaos of


on a saturday night, even at 9 pm, this place was SMASHED. people were lined up outside (i am guessing that reading the 50 paged menus doesnt help the average diner's time spent) it was going to be a 30 minute wait and we would have to valet the car. so i sent jesse to do a lap while i got the goods to go.

because youre only 30 once, instead of sharing a piece (which a family of 4 could easily do) we EACH got a slice. 

i ordered a tuxedo and one slice of just oreo, but the dude gave me the oreo extreme dream instead (which i was sad to see didnt have the oreo crust that i adore, but did have lots of other goodnesses to offer). 

we went to a nearby starbucks to dig in, and naturally be came the target of many an envious eye. poor guys probably thought their muffins where the cat's pajamas until we waltzed in with our bounty.

 we made it through maybe a 1/3 of each slice before we tapped out. the leftovers would get me through a stressful locking-in of keys the next day as i awaited rescue. 

in the end, we only spent about 60 dollars total because every place was just one dish and maybe a drink. it was SO much fun to be completely untethered  by time or geographical restrictions. i felt so special and had SUCH an amazing time with my #1 boy be-bopping all around creation for whatever my tummy felt like at that moment.

it was my progressive fantasy birthday dinner and it was perfection!

would you ever do this? what would you construct as your dream progressive meal in your city?

UNRELATED: i will explain this more tomorrow, but can you  PLEASE go here and thumbs up layla? (there might be something in it for you)


  1. HAVE and will again! My hubby and I are so funny about food! We usually end up at the same places! But it ALWAYS starts at our favorite with sweet and spicy sweet potato soup!
    It's the best of ALL worlds!

  2. I had two finals last year on my birthday and didn't get out until 9:30, the boyfriend went to all my favorite local restaurants and picked up my favorite things and had them waiting when I got home. It was so sweet! I think going to each place would be even more fun! I'll have to think about that this year.

  3. My tummy actually felt full just reading of this madness. I love The Cheesecake Factory so much. So.SO.much. I am physically hurting to be there right now.

    Dream progressive meal in my city? hellz no.
    Cipro, Cipro, Cipro.

    Happy 30th (BON FET!) to you ... I'm thinking this is our year friend. 30 and 40 and ready for more four course meals ... maybe even together.

  4. It would take hours of deliberation for me to come up with a plan....so awesome you came up with this on the fly!!!! maybe i will steal this idea for my 30th this year. also, 10 points to gryffindor for the ravenclaw comment! my dessert might have to be at cafe intermezzo...but thats all i can conjure at the moment. happy birthday dragon friend!

  5. I LOVE the Cheesecake Factory, so I'm spending the entire meal there - maybe with a side trip to TGIFriday's to continue my quest to find this amazing brownie/cookie/ice-cream/caramel thing I had there once and haven't been able to find since! (I have the palate of someone 1/5 my age)

    If I could requisition a private jet... Toulouse Petite in Seattle (french toast), Blossoming Lotus in Portland (raw vegan nachos that taste just as good as they sound bad), Tamarind House in Boston (crispy pad thai), and definitely Cheesecake Factory (anywhere!).

  6. Thanks for taking me back to college. Harry & sons always reminds me of you. What a great birthday!

  7. First, Happy Birthday!
    Creamy Jalapeno is amazing! I would drink it through a straw if I could.
    I looked around for ages to find a good copycat recipe and this one is pretty close. You should check it out.

  8. FUN!!! I'm definitely stealing this on my birthday next year.

  9. How did I miss this? Creamy Jalapeno, you spin me right round, like a record baby.

    Happy Birthday!