Olivia Dish

The Cafe on Concourse B

In Georgia, Restaurant on February 25, 2011 at 6:43 pm
Cafe Intermezzo

Really, had I found charm at the Atlanta airport?

I’ve read the articles about good meals that food writers discover in airports, and they make me wonder what’s wrong with me.  Even though I’ve had a few bits of luck (Seattle, Baltimore, D.C.),  it’s not the norm. I assume it’s because I’m just not that clever.

So I didn’t want to get my hopes up when I stepped off the escalator at Concourse B in the Atlanta airport this week. But there it was, looking so gosh darned charming, a “sidewalk” cafe in front of a bookstore. White table cloths. Twinkling lights.  People lingering over glasses of wine and pots of tea as if they were at Laduree in Paris.

I had two hours before my flight might even hope to start boarding. I decided to give this Cafe Intermezzo a try.

I was led to a table inside, not far from the curving bar, a space with warm wood paneling, polished copper accents, and more white linens.  As I balanced my stuff in the spare chair at my table, I looked up to see the guy across from me accepting delivery of a giant piece of red velvet cake. I don’t get the fuss over that particular flavor, but I had to admit to myself: the cake looked pretty good. He swore it was and did an admirable job of polishing it off.

Dessert case

Can't remember the last time I was tempted--by food, at least--in an airport.

It turns out that Cafe Intermezzo isn’t just an airport concoction. There are two locations in the city of Atlanta. They’ve been around for 30 years. The airport version is their third and most recent. Cafe Intermezzo offers an extensive dessert and drink menu; we’re talking more than one hundred choices.

I resisted ordering cake or a cafe cubano, tempting though the idea was,  and decided on a glass of wine (a tasty Malbec) and something more substantial. I consulted with my waiter, Patrick, who said everything was really very good, then started telling me about the percentage of fat they use in their hamburgers.

I don’t believe I’ve ever had any waiter in an airport tell me that.  I ordered the burger and fries, my airport steak frites, out of sheer curiosity  As I waited for my plate to come out of the kitchen, I worried a little. The last burger I’d had in an airport had made me sick.

Cafe Intermezzo

A plastic knife doing its best to blend in. Thank you!

Still, everything around me said “be hopeful”–the cloth napkins, the good wine, the selection of teas and espresso drinks, the steady parade of gorgeous pies and cakes.  And when I unrolled my napkin, even the flatware encouraged me–a real metal fork and the knife, required to be plastic, was a silver plastic that made it seem to be almost real.

At that very moment, I overheard Patrick talking about these plastic knives to the people at the table behind me: yes, he said, we have to use plastic knives because of security.  “And all the real knives in the kitchen are labeled with serial numbers,” he told them.  So  that’s how it works.

My burger was out next. The bun was a fresh, brioche kind of bun. The beef was juicy and full of flavor. The fries were okay, a little too much like those Burger King fries with the funky coating to suit me. But that was alright. The burger was more than enough to fill me up.

Cafe Intermezzo burger

Hooray for a very good burger.

So, my burger was very good–and the atmosphere? Close to the friendly, energetic vibe you’d find in your dream neighborhood bistro and bar. I also have to commend the service: it was so thoughtful that I could have forgotten I was in an airport had there not been rolling luggage beside every table.

Waiter Patrick brought me the check, assuring me, “no rush. That’s just for your convenience.”  It was perfect timing, though, because I had to go.  And for once, I was sorry I couldn’t hang out in the airport longer.

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