Hal’s Restaurant (Buckhead) – NOLA meets a NY Steak House

Chilean Sea BassHal’s is a little bit of New Orleans trying to be a NY steak house. In the end it comes across as a businessman’s oasis, with a touch of interesting meetups. It is located, unobtrusively off the intersection of Habersham, Roswell, Old Ivy and Piedmont, on a quasi-dead end. With very limited parking, valet is offered and they have the process down to a science. You enter from the side into the bar area, a long highly-buffed wooden structure with about twenty stools, plus 4-5 high top tables. Cigar smoking is allowed in the bar and there were several patrons partaking. With no barrier to the dining area, there is a high likelihood that you will receive a dose, now and then, of the cigar smoke while you eat. In the front corner of the bar is an old-fashioned piano man, singing tunes from the last 50 years. You will never know which decade the next song originated from.

The walls are covered with memorabilia, the tables are all wood, wood seats, and the dining area probably seats about 100 patrons. When we sat, the server immediately offered the menus, wine lists and all of the water glasses were filled. He was a NY steak house clone with a southern accent, and he recited the specials flawlessly.

We had a large group so we ordered a lot of the appetizers to share. There were roasted and raw oysters, clams, calamari, shrimp, fried crawfish, and others. All of them were delicious. If the rest of the meal was on the same level it would be a great night. My favorites were the fried items.

When the appetizer plates were removed, our salads arrived. I ordered a Caesar and it was disappointing, not that it was bad, it was just the run of the mill Romaine thrown on a plate with some dressing and croutons. It was more a time filler than a course.

Service between the salads and the entrée was painfully slow. Other tables surrounding ours were served much quicker. When the entrees arrived, and I had my first taste, it was well worth the wait.

I ordered the special Chilean Sea Bass over spinach and covered with a lobster sauce. The size of the fish filet was enormous, the size of a good strip steak, and when I tasted the first bite I was extremely impressed. It was cooked to perfection. It had just a tinge of crust and the interior was moist, flavorful and worked really well with the spinach and sauce. It was a major hit. I tasted the strip steak from one of my colleagues and it was delicious, with great flavor and seared to a crispy exterior with lots of butter. It is rare that a fish dish at a steak house is this good.

For dessert, we ordered a bunch of them. The cheesecake was probably the best of the desserts, but I thought the addition of the turtle sauce was unnecessary, great cheesecake needs no toppings, and the sauce was over the top sweet. I would stay away from the crème brulée, it was watery and under-sweetened.

Overall, I really liked Hal’s. Would I take my family? Probably not; the portions were just too large and the atmosphere is not a family-oriented environment. Make sure you bring a good credit card as it is not inexpensive, it will run north of $70 per person without wine or liquor.

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