4th & Swift: Southern Accent

After hearing and reading about 4th & Swift, I excitedly added it to my “must try soon!” list. It has so many intriguing features: A cool-looking interior, carved from the engine room of the reclaimed Southern Dairies building, in the up-and-coming Fourth Ward district; promising young chef Jay Swift, from South City Kitchen; a witty, south-of-the-Mason-Dixon focus, with plenty of local organics; inventive cocktails; and an (almost) all-American, inexpensive wine list of intriguing labels, many by the glass. It sounded a lot like another restaurant I love, sharing both its concept and ampersand: Holeman & Finch, from Restaurant Eugene’s Linton Hopkins. Critics lined up like beleaguered gas-hunters after a hurricane.

Of course, high expectations can be a liability. On my first visit, I shared some of those cool cocktails with friends in the comfortable, cavernous space: The tart and tasty SwifTea, with Firefly Sweet Tea vodka, housemade lemonade and mint is “kind of like an Arnold Palmer” of half-lemonade and half iced tea, as our server aptly put it. The Old Fourth Ward (Leopold Brothers Georgia Peach whisky and more of that lemonade, both $12) is equally good with these luscious, Southern-accented snacks (popcorn with truffle butter and parmesan; deviled eggs with fried pickle chips). Fun, I thought. Great tidbits.

When I returned for dinner, I prepared to be knocked sockless. Instead, my companions and I found the dishes – and service – surprisingly uneven.

Among the cocktails, the pale Blue Moon Over Georgia (Zuidam gin with crème de violet and triple sec) had a not-altogether unpleasant medicinal tang, though I don’t think I’d order it again. Perhaps some of the best beverages (and values) are on the wine list, including a crisp Italian pinot grigio (Riff, $8/glass) and a pretty, deep magenta Oregon rosé (A to Z, $8/glass), as drinkable as iced tea.

Our server, perhaps in training, combined small faux pas such as overeager removal of our silverware before we were finished with it, with overzealous recommendations that turned out to be our least favorites: A house specialty salad of heirloom tomatoes employed tasty but woefully underripe (to the point of pale crunchiness) fruit. The “lasagne” of braised lamb shoulder was good but one-dimensional, with a leathery thin layer of overcooked pasta on top, and sat largely untouched after a few tastes. But we swiped clean others with the delectably buttery biscuits: a delicate, sweet crab cake – with a perfectly seasoned side salad of tender watercress and vibrant red and yellow grape tomatoes that far surpassed the “heirloom” specialty.

Velvety corn soup with fried oysters begged only for a speck more salt. A fat grouper “steak” over mashed parsnips, with caramelized endive and brown-butter vinaigrette, was a welcome harbinger of cool weather. And the justifiably renowned “Three Little Pigs” plate of tender, fatty pork belly, loin and house-made sausage, with a rich, if simple, mac-and-cheese, was our table’s crowd-pleaser.

However, my favorite was probably the Amish chicken livers, in a rich country ham-and-sherry sauce, perfectly cooked to inner pinkness, handily served with a thick slice of airy white toast. Can I get a “Lord Have Mercy”?

Our dessert choice was a bit of a letdown, with a staid, bland chocolate cake with good caramel ice cream (and side “fin” of something like chocolate cardboard). We’ll be back all right – but next time for drinks and snacks, or perhaps a stop along this area’s increasingly interesting options for a great progressive dinner.

4th & Swift

621 North Ave. (just east of Glen Iris), Atlanta



Hours: Dinner nightly.

Dress Code: Casual to dressy-casual, with a downtown vibe.

Parking: Self and complimentary valet in attached lot.

Categories: Art of the Meal