A MEAL AT CANOE FEELS LIKE A LUXE GETAWAY!
Desperately in need of a vacation but too buried under deadlines to take time off work? Book a table at Canoe. Whether you opt for brunch, lunch or dinner, you’ll leave feeling much better than you did upon arrival.
Nestled on the shores of the Chattahoochee River, this restaurant is more than a place to get upscale food and pampering service, though it’s that, too. At Canoe, you can truly relax as you sit overlooking manicured gardens, rippled water flowing toward a bridge, hummingbirds darting between blooms and people posing for photos against a variety of backdrops. Few restaurants genuinely feel like a vacation destination, but Canoe reliably lifts moods while pleasing palates whether you sit on the covered patio or inside the dining room with expansive windows.
Celebrating its 27th anniversary this year, Canoe has built a reputation that extends beyond Atlanta: It’s been featured in Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Gourmet, The Wine Spectator and The New York Times, among others. Located on the western edge of Buckhead, it’s near the city yet feels a world away.
Thoughtful service begins as you pull up to the valet stand. Step inside for a friendly greeting. If you’ve arrived before your table is ready, you’ll be invited to visit the bar or stroll the gardens. Once seated, attentive servers will describe specials, answer questions, make recommendations and keep your glasses filled with whatever beverage you prefer.
Sipping options abound. More than 300 bottles of wine are available, as well as 40 by the glass. Beers range from well-known international brands to local craft brews. Creative cocktails are updated often and include riffs such as “Bird of Paradise” that steers the classic Aviation toward a more bitter profile, while the Canoe Manhattan adds Cherry Heering for a sweeter edge to tradition. Canoe’s talented mixologists work with a full bar to meet special requests. American whiskey is featured with options that range from Kentucky bourbon to regional ryes.
The food menu is driven by ingredients at the peak of flavor, so several changes are made throughout a season. Fall typically showcases apples and hard squashes. “The goal is always to have a menu that is approachable for guests that are joining us,” says Executive Chef Matthew Basford, who has helmed the Canoe kitchen since 2013. “We want people to feel comfortable and have an option that they can choose.” While salmon, steak, chicken, rabbit and kangaroo are menu constants, presentations vary. “The accompaniments that support the proteins are what will change from menu to menu,” says Basford, who grew up in Australia. He worked in kitchens Down Under before moving to the U.S. in 2002, working in New Orleans before relocating to Atlanta.
Trust an Australian to cook kangaroo to tender perfection and marry it with bold yet complementary flavors such as peppercorns, tomatoes, beets and bacon bread pudding. “We always strive for balance in the dishes we create,” says Basford. “But we also lean towards certain proteins’ characteristics and either complement or play off of them with different sides.”
Creamy Vidalia onion soup proves the chef is equally skilled with native Georgia ingredients. Warmly balancing sweet and savory notes, it’s the equivalent of a hug in a bowl. Drizzled with goat cheese cream and topped with a toasted wedge of brioche dabbed with bacon jam, the presentation is upscale yet approachable.
Slow-braised rabbit is fork-tender and moist, offering about the same level of gaminess as turkey. Tender brie ravioli, tart bacon-braised cabbage and light garlic jus make a delightful combination.
Maple-marinated duck breast balances savory with sweet in each juicy bite. Green tomato vinaigrette adds a tangy kick. A crusty vegetable tart lends a comfort-food component.
Among Canoe’s gardens is a small plot for the kitchen. “It’s more a hobby garden to give guests another avenue to relax and soak up the river vibes,” says Basford. “We also gained a wild bee colony this year, and they seem to be doing great. The bees are Executive Pastry Chef Jessica McKinney’s pet project, and she is attending to all their needs.” McKinney aims to incorporate fresh honey into Canoe’s dessert menu.
Canoe’s signature dessert is its popcorn ice cream sundae, available on all menus throughout the year. Popcorn-flavored ice cream is layered with peanut “Cracker Jack,” Chantilly cream and drizzled with salted caramel sauce. A satisfying combination of textures, it straddles favorite childhood and sophisticated adult flavors. Rising above the rim of a towering glass and accompanied with a handful of crunchy candied popcorn, the portion is generous enough to share. But it arrives with just one spoon, so there’s no need to feel obligated to do so.
Each decadent mouthful is as gratifying as schoolyard recess. Escape to Canoe for blissful refreshment.
Prices: (Brunch) pastries, $2-14; appetizers, $14-18; mains, $14-28. (Lunch) appetizers, $9-18; soups & salads, $10-14; burgers & sandwiches, $14-19; entrees, $16-26. (Dinner) appetizers, $10-22; entrees, $22-48; dessert, $11.
Recommended: Canoe Manhattan, peppercorn crusted kangaroo, slow braised rabbit, maple marinated duck breast, popcorn sundae.
Bottom line: An Atlanta classic known for its lush setting on the banks of the Chattahoochee, its upscale food and attentive service lives up to its reputation.
STORY: Hope S. Philbrick
PHOTOS: Sara Hanna
Simply Buckhead is an upscale lifestyle magazine focused on the best and brightest individuals, businesses and events in Buckhead, Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Chamblee. With a commitment to journalistic excellence, the magazine serves as the authority on who to know, what to do and where to go in the community, and its surroundings.