An imaginatively brilliant clarity and articulation of traditional Thai dishes and spice.
Drink Art Vegan Thai Restaurant is located at 199 Walker street, Atlanta, GA 30313 404.592.5275 Drinkart.com
Those of you who know me know that I am not one to write restaurant reviews, however Drink art has inspired me to break the mold.
Atlanta is blessed to find a number of excellent Black-owned vegan restaurants. Those who have been able to keep their doors open and sustain a level of service to the community are led by the ever-present Soul Vegetarian with two locations in town. Lov’in it Live shines with simply superlative not to be missed raw gourmet cuisine (I can state right now that I will die a happy man if my last meal is their orgasmic-ally delicious vegan raw quesadilla). Healthful Essence has delicious home-style Caribbean vegan cooked and raw dishes created by Chef Princess who hails from Jamaica with partner Kwadwo. (Don’t miss the curry un-goat). Tasilli’s Raw Reality has enchanted the young, hip West End crowd into digging on kale wraps while jamming to local performance artists.
We are fortunate to see two new Black owned vegan restaurants opening this winter. Sadiq’s Bistro is expected to open any day now, bringing sit down vegan food from Chef Queen Vida to the Campbleton corridor outside the perimeter. I’m looking forward to that.
Beating Sadiq’s to the punch is Drink Art, which opened late January in the revitalized historic Castleberry Hill district of Atlanta, in what was originally the Hellmans’ Mayonnaise headquarters (Old Hellman is spinning in his grave — no mayo anywhere to be found.) The décor, top shelf, visually appealing and welcoming, uses sustainable construction methods featuring exposed brick and wood. In the heart of winter it is not in the least bit drafty or rustic.
Already drawing a loyal clientele, proprietor and chef, Shandon Anderson has created a fresh new take on traditional Thai flavors using the freshest organic ingredients and the best whole spices. Hailing from Thailand belonging to a distinguished family of chefs, executive chef Alex has re-imagined the genre. And did I say it is vegan? Did I say I am hooked?
Funny how with Asian food, Thai food in particular, there is never any trouble finding vegan dishes at a restaurant. But how does it work for only vegan? At Drink Art quite well thank you!
First let me give you some background. I have been a Thai food aficionado for over three decades going back to my favorite Thai restaurant Khan Toke in San Francisco. I was thrilled to hear from our friend Vanya (who is by the way a fabulous yoga teacher and health coach) that there is a new vegan Thai restaurant now in town. Of Asian cuisine Thai is hands down my favorite and probably my favorite of the world’s cuisine. I have a history with and an understanding of the genre. Over the years, I have had many different versions of almost everything on the at first glance traditional looking menu at Drink Art. My wife and partner Ama and I have been going to the excellent L’Thai West for some time however I can safely say Drink Art has taken their slot in the rotation.
Traditional Thai cuisine standards have been creatively reimagined with a firm and clear respect for the ancient spices of Thailand. It is simply the most scrumptious Thai food I can recall ever having had and one of the best restaurants period I have had the pleasure of frequenting. I have set out to try every dish on the menu. I am afraid I may become hooked on Drink Art and am already planning my recovery.
The extensive menu begins with appetizers. Khao Phad Thord (corn fritters) and the hand twisted Thung Tong (golden bags), I am only slightly ashamed to say are in fact quite appetizing and potentially habit forming. The Popia Thord (vegetable spring rolls) hand rolled on site are tasty. The soups are in the usual Thai tradition but taste fresher with a cleaner articulation and clarity of spice than I can recall. My favorite is the Tom Kia with coconut and mushrooms, or is it the Tom Khlong, spicy and sour with baby corn, mushrooms, sweet basil, coriander, roasted chilies and more. I could be satisfied eating any of the soups alone. The curries and stir-fry’s are satisfying and can in the tradition of Thai restaurants be ordered to one’s personal level of hotness/spiciness. I savored every drop of the Kaeng Par (Jungle Curry, no coconut). The Phad See-ew that comes with flat rice noodles and fresh vegetables is the best I have had of this traditional dish. The Phad Thai was a bit on the sweet side for my palate but that could have easily been toned down with the absent wedge of lime. I have yet to sample the salads or the rice dishes which all sound and look great.
Chef Shandon Anderson, a long-term vegan and gourmet himself, is gracious, approachable and quite happy to talk food with his customers. Shandon, a retired NBA player, who towers over the crowd with his stately six foot six frame, did not give his soon to become famous restaurant the name Drink Art for no good reason. They indeed create drink art there. Unique among vegan restaurants is a selection of organic beers, liquor and wines, mixed creatively in what I am told by other diners are delectable cocktails. Not to be left out, teetotalers such as myself are delighted with delicious and imaginative juice blends squeezed fresh and blended by Chef Shandon. Make sure you order a drink while you are at drink art.
Take your carnivorous family and friends. Drink Art has a selection of vegan “meats” that can be included in the dishes that are sure to mollify the most stubborn blood eater. I think they detract from the flavors and are better substituted with more veggies, but they are good for transition vegetarians who still crave the flesh concept.
Drink Art is already a fabulous restaurant and is only going to get better as they get into the groove. For those who enjoy fine food it is an essential stop. Once the weather breaks, try sitting on their romantic upstairs patio with a vertical fresh living herb wall with a view of the Georgia dome and downtown. Parking is adjacent to their organic raised bed vegetable garden across the street. Prices are moderate and are a bargain for the quality of the food.