Category Archives: Hungry?

Shield’s Meat Market – Atlanta’s Oldest Meat Shop

Old-time general stores, with their charismatic cashiers and vintage “cha-ching” registers; and barbershops, with their mesmerizing revolving red-blue barber poles and musty astringent smell, both signal the old-school local business era we once knew: when shops emphasized customer service over profit; owners lasted for decades, not years; and business was personal, not expedited and fleeting.

Engulfing CVS Façade
Engulfing CVS Façade

Adjacent to the imposing façade of a CVS drugstore in Atlanta’s Emory Village is a relic of the old-era small business; a butcher shop by the name of Shield’s Meat Market.  Attached to the major retailer’s left hip, Shields’s is seemingly hidden from plain sight like a scar underneath layers of clothing, as its entrance sits inside CVS’s left hand entrance foyer.  To the unacquainted eye, there are few indications of the market’s existence: small decals plastered on the storefront’s glass-face along with the store’s name written on the very top of the building’s structure are similar in color and style to the numerous adjacent CVS logos, making it hard to distinguish between the two at first glance.

Tucked Away
Tucked Away

Yet, while the market is tucked away, it thrives, particularly among local and loyal clientele who habitually frequent the store, undeterred by the looming corporation’s presence.  The reasons for their return are simple: intimate customer service, expert advice, and unmatchable quality of product, guaranteed.

Swinging the door open, customers are played in by the tune of a cackling cowbell attached to the door, an appropriate and rustic signal to their arrival in meat paradise.  Upon entering, a wave of smells inundates patrons, bathing them in the warm scent of eclectic raw meats.  On the left is a refrigerated aisle with four rows, of which the bottom three hold a basic selection of fresh greens, fruits, cheeses, and wine, purposefully placed to tempt customers to purchase the perfect dinner accompaniments to pair with their meats.  The top row is lined with a collection of various craft beers, hand-selected and taste-tested by the owner and further supplemented by helpful ratings.  On the right sits a long, seemingly bottomless freezer-pit filled with a variety of frozen meats and fish, and suspended directly above the pit are freezer cabinets packed with assorted meat patties.  Beyond the freezers stand wooden cabinets on either side, stocked with wine, hot sauces, and pastas.

The store then diverges, the single pathway slicing in an s-formation to the left and narrowing, making space for the prototypical butcher counter. Behind cylindrically curved display glass sits what Shields’s is known for, a diverse selection of quality meat.  Whether it’s beef, poultry, lamb, pork, or even seafood, Shield’s has it.  Poultry delivered three times a week, ice packed, and never frozen by local Georgia company called J&G Poultry Inc. lay nestled in a bed of ice on the left side of the display; home-made Italian sausage links, filled with a secret concoction of spices are stacked into tall coils and laid out in a circular display in the center; and an assorted range of prime aged cheeses fill out the right endpoint of the counter.

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Behind the counter stands a burly, seasoned man, his hair predominantly gray. Spectacles sit atop the bridge of his nose, softening his otherwise tough, steely appearance.  He dons a classic white apron, blue jeans that sag around his ankles, and worn black shoes. The man behind the counter is Geoff Irwin, connoisseur of meats and proud owner of Shield’s Meat Market.

Meat has always been Irwin’s forte.  Carl E. Fassett, the owner of Fassett’s smoked meat shop in Adams Center, New York, trained Irwin after he finished high school, and Irwin credits Fassett’s teachings and expertise to the store’s emphasis on quality and customer service. Irwin’s journey in Atlanta started in 1983. “I arrived with $63 dollars in my pocket … and in about two weeks I was market manager for Mathews Supermarket,” Irwin said.  By 1986, Irwin became the principal owner of Shield’s Meat Market in downtown Decatur after working there for a year. The old store epitomized classical butchery with a butcher-block for precise cuts; sawdust on the floor to absorb moisture, thus making the meat taste better; and suspended cow carcasses displayed to illustrate freshness and classic traditions upheld through life times of experience.


In 2000, Irwin decided to open another Shield’s in Emory Village to increase business; however, while his new location thrived under his watchful eye, the old Shield’s Market had to close much to Irwin’s disappointment, “I tried to run both of them together, but the guys I had running the other store ran it into the ground.”  Nonetheless, Irwin and long time employee Diamond Bardell have tried to replicate the old store’s atmosphere, “This store is similar to the old store; its set up is similar but more modern” Bardell said.  “We try to keep everything the same.”

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Customers affirm Bardell’s claim to uniform high standards even after moving, praising the service as well as quality that Shield’s offers, “Everything he has is quality and Geoff adds a personal touch” regular Lee Alderman said. “He has excellent meat loaf that he’s been making it since 1980.”  Locals Jill Peterson and Elizabeth Bell frequented Shield’s well before it moved to Emory Village and sing nothing but praise for Irwin, “we actually got my son a whole calf for him and his buddies to cut outside, and Geoff arranged for all of that” Peterson said.

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Irwin’s munificent and professional approach to his craft embody the essence of old-era business that once was, and his Meat Market, a vestige in today’s society, should be cherished and enjoyed by all.


Falafel King: accessible location, delicious food, affordable price

As a freshman without a car, Emory Village is the most accessible location to grab a bite to eat off campus. Located next to Yogli Mogli, Falafel King is a tiny restaurant, with the tallest roof. The signs seem outdated, and you may question if the yellow roof had actually started off white.

But don’t let the visual fool you! Since 2006, Nicholas and Jane Nam have successfully served both Mediterranean and Japanese food here to a steady stream of customers.

Easily the favorite on the menu is the falafel sandwich. Priced at $4.50, it has won recognition from various local publications over the years. Atlanta Magazine named it best falafel in 2007 and Atlanta Journal Constitution readers picked it as second best falafel in Atlanta in 2011. Emory University alumni and staff writer at Creative Loafing, Max Blau claims the falafel sandwich is “the vegetarian equivalent of a medium-rare porterhouse cooked to perfection.”

Vegetarian not your thing? How about a shawarma plate! Every plate comes with two sides of your choice.

Not craving Mediterranean? No problem. Nicholas can serve up a variety of sushi dishes for you.

They even have dessert for those craving something sweet!

Below are pictures of Falafel King’s main menu and special sushi menu.

It is a small establishment, with less than twenty seats available inside. So even at an awkward hour like 4:00 p.m., it may be difficult finding a seat. Luckily, there’s eight more seats outside.

There’s more to the establishment than the food. Jane’s eyes brighten up when speaking of the customers, especially those who come back years after graduating. She says she appreciates those that take the time to say a warm hello every time they’re in town. She even keeps in touch with a few former Emory students through email, sending them Thanksgiving and Christmas messages.
Good food and warm service leads to satisfied customers. Or as an Emory freshman put it, “falafel makes me happy!”

When asked what bothers her most about customers, Jane first says most customers are extremely pleasant. Then, after a bit of probing, she shyly mentioned that from time to time, a spicy mayo bottle (pictured right) disappears…

Although I’ve never taken one, I understand the desire of the spicy mayo bottle stealers. Falafel King’s spicy mayo sauce is delicious! I’m sure I could find a number of other uses for the sauce at home. Jane proudly gives credit to her husband for creating the sauce, which apparently includes six different kinds of mayo.

However tempting it may be, stealing is never a good idea. Students, please leave the bottles alone.

Here is a virtual tour of the establishment:



Falafel King
1405 Oxford Road NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30307
Emory Village

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The quest for the best guacamole burger

As a college kid living on a budget, finding cheap, not entirely disgusting food is a habit upon which I pride myself. There are few restaurants in Atlanta that fit this description better than the countless burger joints throughout the city.

The options are endless—BurgerFi, Farm Burger, Flip Burger and Yeah! Burger to name a few, all of which raise the question of whether it’s state law to include “burger” in the name of all potential burger restaurants.

The answer to this question is no, as proven by Little Five Points’ Vortex, which possesses the king of all Atlanta burgers: Not the mildly disgusting Coronary Bypass specials that the restaurant is famous for, but a hidden gem—the Holy Guacamole burger.

photo(6)The Holy Guacamole is the King of Burgers, and should be worshipped as such. There’s nothing unusual about the burger, per se, apart from the fact that it has a huge, glorious glob of guacamole sitting on the patty, waiting to be squashed into a wondrous spread once the bun is applied. But this story isn’t about the Holy Guacamole burger, at least not entirely: it’s about my quest to find a guacamole burger in Atlanta that can rightfully claim to be its equal.

A quick look at a few menus made the job much easier for me. Yeah! Burger is the only other of the aforementioned restaurants to offer a guacamole burger, so off I headed to Virginia-Highland to try it.

I’d been to Yeah! Burger before, but I’d never tried the guacamole there—mainly because it’s subtly listed among their many one-dollar toppings. My expectations weren’t high. Yeah! Burger, in my admittedly amateurish opinion, was a middle-of-the-road burger joint, and the chances of it producing a challenger to the King seemed unlikely. Nevertheless, I included guacamole in my order and sat down to test.

Yeah! Burger’s creation passed the eye test with a generous C+. As opposed to Vortex’s glob, the guacamole was placed on the burger in a less than aesthetically pleasing spread. This resulted in a much smaller guac per capita ratio than desired. Looking at the burger and sighing ever so slightly, I dug in. The results are below:

It wasn’t bad at all. There was more guacamole than I expected, and while it wasn’t in the same ballpark as the Holy Guacamole, it was a viable alternative for about three dollars less.

I should add here that failing to live up to the King of Burgers is nothing to be ashamed of. Yeah! Burger is a fine establishment that advertises simple, tasty burgers and certainly lives up to expectations. Just don’t expect too much.

Here’s a map of some of the best burger places in Atlanta, so you can form an opinion for yourself.

Majestic Diner, does this food really please you?

What with the classic red barstools and friendly Southern staff, the Majestic Diner at Poncey-Highland is very sweet. Many customers are regulars, there for the “homey feel,” of a place that has been serving “food that pleases” since 1929. Unquestionably, the atmosphere is nice.  However, should we really be support a place that essentially sells future diabetes and heart attacks?

True to tradition, Majestic Diner offers heaping mounds of comfort food, an expression I’ve never quite understood. I don’t particularly feel comfortable when food upsets my digestive enzymes and halts the chance of nutrient uptake. Pancakes and syrup may feel wonderful in your belly for about five minutes, but shortly after peaking on the high glycemic index chart they skyrocket you down to the “I feel horrible” stage.

As soon as sugar enters the bloodstream, a rush of insulin and serotonin overtake your body, according to Dr. Gillian McKeith, author of You Are What You Eat. The sudden rise in sugar levels causes the insulin to break it down very quickly, causing a drop in both sugar and endorphins—ultimately making you feel worse.

Junk food is called junk for a reason. A hamburger is part of the fatty food group that clogs arteries, depletes calcium levels, and compromises the function of the heart. Pancakes and syrup are sweets, which cause severe blood sugar imbalances and mood swings. Sweets also disrupt the function of the spleen, liver, pancreas and intestines. Adding a milkshake? According to the National Institute of Health, 30 million of you probably can’t digest milk.

The diner did offer salads, but they were covered with pepperoni and ham. I’m not entirely certain there were vegetables under the thick blue cheese dressing.

Recent nutritional research is producing more and more evidence that sugar is addicting, so pretty much all processed food is addicting. In addition, Nature Neuroscience found that excess food intake can trigger alterations in the brain, creating a neurochemical dependency. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is finding an “overlap between drugs in the brain and food in the brain.” Brain scans demonstrated disturbances in the reward circuit of the brains of obese people and compulsive eaters, just like drug abusers.

That’s enough information to make me want to steer clear of this tradition of American existence.

I’m fine with the décor of the 1950s, but it’s time for an upgraded menu. Sorry Majestic Diner, your food just isn’t pleasing.

Majestic Diner
1031 Ponce De Leon Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30306