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Light but filling banana pudding  

Uncommonly Good

by Wendell Brock | Photography by Greg Dupree | The Atlantan magazine | December 3, 2013

Since turning Smyrna into a destination for seriously good gourmet sandwiches and small plates with style, the original Muss and Turner (Todd Mussman and Ryan Turner) have sprouted a few side projects. At Local Three, they rejiggered Buckhead’s old Joël into a bastion of whiskey and pig, showcasing the large talent of chef Chris Hall, their third partner. With Eleanor’s, they perversely added a speakeasy behind the one-way mirrors of Muss & Turner’s, naming the joint for their comptroller and mother hen, Eleanor Seale. Now, their fourth endeavor, Common Quarter, finds them in East Cobb, where new partner Chris Talley creates a valentine to coastal Georgia, and Hall (assisted by chef Aaron Crane) shapes a daily menu of Southern comfort food from fresh seasonal ingredients.

Talley, who started out as general manager of M&T in 2009, is fully devoted to Common Quarter. He envisions it as a nostalgic pleasure trip to the Brunswick and St. Simons of his youth: the produce stands and boiled peanuts, the shrimp boils, beach houses and free-flowing wine. So before you can peek at the menu—gumbo, chicken potpie, Georgia trout—you step into an ai3-designed world of Charleston storm shutters, wicker porch rockers and handcrafted Lamon Luther tables.

If you happen to bump into Talley, a bona fide storyteller and former traveling troubadour, he’ll tell you that the nautical map on one wall is a depiction of his south Georgia home surf and that the “community table” is equipped with galvanized buckets intended for oyster roasts, low-country boils and the like. At this point, you’ll want to order a Southern Belle Old Fashioned (made from Belle Meade bourbon, maple syrup, peach and Angostura bitters) or a kicky Horse’s Neck (brandy, ginger beer, lemon peel and bitters), spread some of that killer crab dip onto grilled sourdough and just melt for a minute. (Talley tells me he’s eschewed the whole craft-cocktail scene in favor of a few classic drinks with modern riffs. Why? Because he doesn’t want his customers to have to wait 10 minutes for a hand-built drink.)

While we perused the food list and absorbed the ambience, we noshed off the country ham board—a selection of cured meats from the likes of Tennessee-based Benton’s and Virginia-based Edwards. Served with peach mostarda, black-pepper biscuits and pickled veggies (cauliflower on the night we were there), it’s a fine sampling of (mostly) Southern charcuterie and a wonderful welcome. Next is a lovely salad of balsamic-splashed beets with arugula, marcona almonds and unctuous goat-cheese “mousse,” and the best butternut-squash soup I have ever tasted: a sensationally creamy concoction laced with a touch of curry and a dollop of cranberry-walnut chutney. Fall in a bowl.

Those autumnal flavors continued with my almond-crusted flounder, nicely cooked if a little underseasoned, and gussied up with spiced pumpkin puree, roasted root veggies, Swiss chard and brown butter. I liked the dish, but I was flat-out jealous of my guest’s meatloaf—succulent grass-fed beef on a mound of Logan Turnpike grits, collards and a spiced tomato glaze.

And because I was dining with the president of the National Peanut Board, we just had to try the peanut-butter pie—a graham cracker, chocolate, whipped cream and candied peanut extravaganza that knocked my mama’s peanut-butter pie out of the park. Banana pudding, made with Nilla wafers and served in a little Mason jar, was good. But mine is better, and the pudding just couldn’t compete with the pie.

Considering that Common Quarter is anchored in suburban Marietta, I’d say that Talley and company do a pretty good job of transforming us to the Marshes of Glynn. While Mussman, Turner and Hall have other restaurants to run, Talley’s investment lies here. This is his baby, and he’s virtually etched his heart and soul onto its walls and tables. With the likes of duck meatballs, shrimp cakes and his own Brunswick stew recipe, he’s off to an uncommonly fine start.

Common Quarter
1205 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta, 678.809.4040, commonquarter.com

Hours: Mon.-Thu., 11:30am-2pm and 5:30-9:30pm; Fri.-Sat., 11:30am-2pm and 5:30-10:30pm; Sun., 11:30am-2pm and 5:30-9:30pm

The price point: Lunch: soups, salads and sandwiches, $4.25-$12.25; entrees: $11.25-$12.75; dinner: soups, salads and sandwiches, $7-$13.50; entrees: $15.50-$24.75

The vibe: Casual and relaxed with a pingpong table on the front porch. You’ll forget there’s a parking lot and a Starbucks right outside. It’s a solid place for dates and special occasions, too.

The drinks: Draft beers (including Jekyll Brewing Kolsch and Red Hare Long Day Lager), bottled and canned beer (such as the Duck-Rabbit Amber Ale, Victory Golden Monkey Tripel, Brooklyn Pilsner and Pabst), a short list of classic cocktails with a modern twist and a strong selection of wines from around the globe, including 13 reds and 13 whites by the glass.