The Sun Dial Restaurant: Atlanta, Georgia

The rotating restaurant – originally a feature at the 1962 World’s Fair, this one-time symbol of American post-war innovation and optimism has, over the years, become known as the place to go for tourists who want to pay thirty dollars for a Coke and overcooked steak for the opportunity to sit by a window and get a 360 view of the surrounding urban landscape in an hour or less. Sideshow kitsch it most certainly is; fine dining, it is usually not.

So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I booked my reservation at The Sun Dial Restaurant. Situated on the top floor of the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel, the Sun Dial is Atlanta’s only rotating restaurant, and, from the looks of the website seemed to be a classy place. Linen table cloths and napkins, Gordon Ramsay-esque food presentation, bottles of wine for upwards of one hundred dollars…if nothing else, my interest was certainly piqued.

On the evening of our reservation, my dining partner and I entered the massive honeycomb complex of the Peachtree Plaza and briefly wandered around like lost sheep until we eventually found the reception desk for the private elevator that would squire us up to the hotel’s 73rd floor. Upon checking in we were seated at a formally set table right alongside the soaring 30-foot windows overlooking the sprawling city. As we waited for our server, my dining partner and I debated the mechanics of our barely perceivable movement.

“What’s moving? Like, is this part moving or is the outer ring moving?”

“That makes no sense. The outer part is structural. How could it be moving?”

Our server Ann (who has reportedly been working at the Sun Dial since 1988) arrived, putting a stop to our asinine conversation and we got down to business. After listening to Anne’s helpful and informative recommendations, we put in our order and happily munched on the delicious parmesan oregano bread she had brought out for us while we waited for our meal.

In the spirit of a city where every other street is named Peachtree, we both decided to kick off our dinner with the Peachy Keen daiquiri, a blended cocktail served in a hurricane glass. As a girl who likes her cocktails, I was pleased to discover that the Peachy Keen, while dessert-like in its thickness and sweetness, was also alcoholic enough to satisfy the boozehound in me, and my dining partner agreed. (Plus, you get a free souvenir glass just for ordering the drink – sweet!)

Our first course arrived, a beautifully presented spread of the restaurant’s signature appetizers; the sweet potato tortellini, shrimp and grits, and the crab and bay scallop fondue truffle, served with a parmesan crostini. While the fondue was a little boring (and the crostini not the best match for the dip in my opinion), the tortellini and the shrimp and grits were pitch-perfect: the tortellini had a strong meaty flavor nicely complemented by the sweetness of the sauce, and the grits were creamy home-cookin’ deliciousness.

For the main course, my dining partner and I shared the blue crab, bacon, and spinach-stuffed Idaho trout served atop mashed potatoes in brownbutter sauce and the 8 oz beef tenderloin with haricot verts, baby carrots, and mashed potatoes in black winter truffle butter. As with the first course, both tasted like an excellently rich meal your gourmand grandmother made with thick, flavorful sauces and out of this world mashed potatoes. Of the two, I’d pick the hearty and moist tenderloin over the fishy and slightly bland trout, but god knows we licked both plates clean.

After such ridiculous first and second courses we both questioned our ability to eat dessert, but when we saw the stunning piece of artwork that Ann informed us the pastry chef had prepared especially for us, we couldn’t say no. (Note: something like this will cost you extra, worthwhile, dollars.) A sculpture of white and milk chocolate festooned with truffles and fancy sandwich cookies surrounded by tiny strawberry cheesecakes, key lime pies, chocolate mousse cakes, and something Ann described as “fudge volcanoes,” it was so gorgeous I almost felt a bad about disturbing it. Thankfully, I quickly got over that, because everything was decadently amazing, particularly the light and flavorful key lime pie (dining partner’s pick) and the fudge volcanoes, especially when paired with the neutralizing side of vanilla ice cream (my pick).

By the time we were finished, my comrade and I were both a little sick, as much from gorging ourselves on fantastically rich food as from sitting on a constantly revolving platform for nearly two hours. In fact, we agreed upon reaching the solid ground of the street, while we appreciated the experience of the rotating restaurant, neither of us would ever engage in the nausea-inducing activity again.

However, if you want to want to give a 360 dinner a spin (har-har) and find yourself in Atlanta, the Sun Dial is most definitely the place to do it. With its fantastic service, outstanding food, and serene upscale atmosphere, it is most certainly one of the city’s top dining experiences.

Note: The dishes at the Sun Dial are available seasonally, and therefor the pieces reviewed here may not always be on the menu.

By: Lyndsey Aho

Savannah Done Right: The Mansion on Forsythe

As any traveler knows, the world “hotel” can mean many things. For instance, a Hampton Inn with a nice little lagoon-esque pool and a room with two double beds (one for you and your brother and one for your parents) falls under the category of “hotel.” Or a Super 8 situated underneath an overpass where you and twelve of your friends pack in to a single and take turns using the bathroom which has a two-by-two hole next to the toilet – also a hotel.

But then there are hotels; the stunning, precisely-planned shrines to service and hospitality that stun you around every corner and, by the end of your stay make you not only vow to never stay at a Super 8 again (thriftiness be damned), but make you reconsider how urgent it is that you return to your every day life.

Welcome to the Mansion on Forsythe.

Located in Savannah, Georgia’s beautiful Historical District, the Mansion is the perfect encapsulation of its genteel surroundings. The 126 room, 43 million dollar inn is the brainchild of hotelier Richard Kessler, who, after growing up down the street from where the Mansion currently stands, went on to become President and Chairman of Days Inn, and later formed his own boutique hotel focused company. Kessler’s intimate understanding of Savannah’s Southern charm-meets-cosmopolitan attitude can be seen again and again in the various trappings that the Mansion offers.

And trappings there are. First and foremost, what slaps you in the face upon entering the hotel is that the place is a work of art. From the onyx marble lobby featuring 800-year-old pillars to the ethereal tented pool area to the gold-leafed, fairy tale-worthy ballroom to the avant-garde funeral parlor-themed (a nod to the building’s previous life) elevators, every detail of the Mansion’s appearance has been thought out and carefully executed to make guests feel like they’re staying in a painting.

And speaking of paintings, the Mansion, like all of Kessler’s hotels, doubles as something of an art gallery. With thousands of paintings and sculptures (most available for purchase) covering the walls and festooning alcoves, a walk from your room to the lobby is like a mini-tour of the Met; however, if you’re still not satisfied, a gallery featuring works from local, national, and international artists is located on the ground floor of the hotel and is open to street-traffic as well as guests.

Another unique feature of the hotel open to the public is the Mansion’s 700 Kitchen Cooking School. Located just off of the hotel’s airy and relaxed bar (where I may have enjoyed a beverage or two hundred during my stay), the school offers classes in various cooking styles multiple times a week and can also be booked for private group classes. Though I didn’t take part in any of the classes myself while I was there, I did get a look at the classroom, which was stunning and well equipped. The school is overseen by the hotel’s culinary director Chef Darin Sehnert, who also runs 700 Drayton, the hotel’s restaurant. (Which I declined to hit up after hearing from a local that, for the price, the city offers better. But once again, it is gorgeous.)

However, the real crown jewel of the Mansion is the one thing about hotels that really matters – the rooms. Decorated in white and sage green with a tastefully Edwardian-meets-modern vibe, the room features a comfy lounge chair; a stately desk where one can tap in to the hotel’s wireless or use a cable plug-in, a large armoire housing a flat screen TV, mini bar, and bathrobes; and a colossal, cloud-soft bed that may or may not hinder you from doing anything at all on your vacation due to its comfiness. The white marble bathroom has a glassed-in toilet and shower stall on one side, and on the other, a Jacuzzi bathtub for two, above which are shutter doors that open, giving you the option of watching Family Guy while you soak, or, if you want to act like a five-year-old, literally springing directly from the tub to the bed. And as a special tip, I recommend requesting a poolside room, as the pool’s waterfall wall was excellent ambient noise to fall asleep to.

In addition to all of this wonderfulness, the Mansion also houses a 24/7 business center, a 24/7 fitness center (not anything special, but does the job), a spa (which looks just like what I imagine heaven looks like – covered in white chiffon and awesome pieces of oversized sexy artwork), and a large staff that breaks their collective back to accommodate your every need. While it ain’t cheap, a stay at the Mansion is a one-of-a-kind Savannah experience that, even in these recession-hindered times, is utterly worth the splurge.

By: Lyndsey Aho

Welcome to THE JINX: Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, like many southern cities, drowns itself in charm. Time stands still in Savannah. The crisp air flows between your fingers as they grasp a plastic cup tightly-one filled with the alcoholic beverage of your choice-as you stroll down the wide streets. Ancient trees nearly collapse overhead; bent with time-oh, the stories they could tell. The slow draw of southern accents encompasses each and every conversation in which you partake. Savannah is a flirtatious city. It flaunts its beauty on every corner all while whispering to you dirty secrets…dirty rock ‘n’ roll secrets.

While Georgia is well known for its marriage to the Bible and all other conservative mascots of the sort, certain parts of Savannah give Las Vegas and New York City both a run for their money in the games of sinful indulgences.

Welcome to The Jinx. Continue reading