For several weeks, word on the foodie grapevine has been that Kathleen’s Catch, a small, retail fish market on Medlock Bridge Road in Johns Creek, was turning out some pretty amazing takeout lobster rolls.
As huge fans of the lobster roll on Bite’s menu in neighboring Alpharetta, we felt it our duty to scope out this dark horse.
Though it’s just 12.5 miles from our office, the thought of endless clots of traffic between here and there made the fish market seem far away.
Then gastronomical guru Deep Stomach mentioned that if we were making the trek to Kathleen’s, we might want to check out two other establishments just a stone’s throw away.
Three good places to try in close proximity? That made the dreaded drive worthwhile.
Here is what we found.
9760 Medlock Bridge Road
Open 7 days a week from 5 a.m. to noon
Don’t look for a website or Facebook page. Owner Debbie Chung and her husband, Jong Lee, probably don’t have enough time in the day to tend to social media.
Seven days a week, the couple is in the back of the store by no later than 3 a.m. to start that day’s baking.
The front door opens at 5 a.m. and customers don’t stop coming all morning. By 9 a.m. on a recent Thursday, Chung had completely sold out of nearly every variety of her cake doughnuts, including the wildly popular red velvet.
I snagged one of the last sour cream cake ‘nuts in the case, and it was one of the best of its type that I’ve ever had.
Tiny bits of apple made the sizable apple fritter especially good, and the éclair, filled to order on the spot with lemon cream, elicited sighs of contentment from my companion as he demolished it.
Nestled among trays of sweet baked goods were three trays of what I used to call pigs in a blanket.
Billed as sausage rolls, these were essentially good quality sausage, made from either smoked beef or a mélange of cheddar, jalapeno, turkey, beef and pork, wrapped in croissants or plain cake doughnut dough.
Warm these puppies up and prepare to become addicted.
But if you want some, get there early. At 9:15 a.m., Johns Creek resident Terry Hernandez had come in to pick up two dozen to take that afternoon to her son, Zachary, in Athens and was dismayed to see empty trays.
Chung volunteered to bake them up specially if Hernandez wouldn’t mind coming back in three hours when the shop closes.
It’s that kind of customer service and of course, the praiseworthy doughnuts, that have made Sara’s a local favorite.
9770 Medlock Bridge Road
Campus Cafe on Facebook
Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner
Small mom and pop eateries usually have rated high on my list, and this unassuming little café is no exception.
Lured by Deep Stomach’s promise of a mighty fine cheesesteak, as well as the menu link on the café’s Facebook page, we stopped in for lunch last week.
On the web menu, I had seen a burger called the Juicy Lucy. In northern climes, that’s a burger with cheese stuffed inside.
It melts when the meat is cooked, delivering a deliciously ooey gooey hit of cheese with every bite.
Owner Satish “Steve” Mudaliar said he’s not offering the real Lucy anymore, but offered to make us a version he was sure we’d like.
He was right.
Out came two burger patties with melted cheese in between graced with bacon, tomato, onion, pickles and lettuce on a fresh, fluffy bun. Messy? Yes. Tasty? Oh yeah.
The café also has two other notably unusual burgers: the Soprano, with slices of ham, salami and cheese; and the Chicago, which is topped with fries and an onion ring.
The mushroom cheesesteak with white American cheese and grilled onions exceeded our high expectations.
The tender, thinly sliced lean ribeye steak was seasoned with Mudaliar’s proprietary blend of 24 herbs and spices and had terrific flavor.
Softer than the rolls you get in Philly, the cheesesteak roll was still quite satisfactory.
Originally a baker by training, the buns and bread Mudaliar uses are made fresh daily from his own recipes.
The café also has hot subs, hoagies, wings, double patty melts, and even gyros. And this is the only place I’ve seen in many years that has birch beer on tap, which we both love.
One bit of advice. Food is cooked to order, so be prepared to be patient. We think it’s worth it.
9810 Medlock Bridge Road
Open 7 days a week; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Hallelujah! I thought I’d never find an independent fishmonger in landlocked metro Atlanta that would measure up to those I frequented when we lived in South Florida.
Thank goodness Kathleen Hulsey experienced the same problem, or she might never have opened this little gem of a market 18 months ago.
“I just never could find good seafood at the grocery stores,” the Johns Creek resident said.
She now has her own store offering a goodly stock of premium quality fish and shellfish for sale every day at prices as good as or even better than what you’d pay at a megachain.
Of course it helps that her husband Mike has been in the seafood business for 30 years and currently is retail sales manager for Inland Seafood, Atlanta’s premiere supplier.
Not only does the store get ultra fresh product every day but Sunday, there is always a wide range of selections.
On our visits we’ve spotted flounder, steelhead trout, North Carolina rainbow trout, red grouper, yellowtail snapper, halibut, monkfish, mahi, ahi tuna, cod and the last of the seasonal Coho salmon.
There also were at least four different varieties of oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp and some of the most beautiful, big, juicy diver scallops I’ve seen in awhile.
We’re working our way through her inventory.
For sheer gustatory pleasure, Kathleen’s lobster roll is not to be missed.
Big hunks of scrupulously fresh and sweet lobster meat, with a bit of diced celery for texture, are held together by just a dab of mayo, seasoned with lemon and a sprinkle of Parmesan and piled in a sandwich roll.
Kathleen, who spent two weeks in Maine this summer, sampled scads of local lobster rolls before settling on this recipe, which she said is pretty true to what she ate in New England.
This is not an overly large sandwich, but it’s priced reasonably ($8.99) for the quality of the lobster.
It’s take-out only, so you’ll have to try to wait until you get home or back to the office before diving in to it.