The eggplant is a humble thing. With basically zero nutritional value, most of what it’s got going for it is a truly spectacular color and a near-endless malleability, cooking-wise. As long as you’re wise to the possibility that it can a) be bitter if allowed to sit around too long, b) be full of water hampering the cooking process, and/or c) soak up a truly heroic amount of oil if you let it, eggplant will magically assume just about any flavor and a fair range of textures. All of which makes it a great food for vegetarians.
Depending on the authoritative hand of the cook, eggplant can reach a transformative level when fried and matched with cheese and tomato sauce to make eggplant parmesan. It is possible that Mr. G’s (6268 Atlanta Hwy) serves great food, but that list must exclude, sadly, their eggplant parmesan, which presents a watery eggplant served mysteriously over pasta with sauce that lacks for a substantial bite. A far cry from the religious experience that is Tut’s eggplant parmesan sub, off in the far-away environs of Tuscaloosa.
We went to Mr. G’s on the promise of Greek food, but when confronted with the menu, opted for the eggplant. It came with a salad and garlic bread. The garlic bread was good, conspicuously and deliciously saturated in butter. The salad arrived twice with meat on it, despite us asking for no meat. The third time was less than charming – it was like being served a handful of shredded Subway-style lettuce with cheese on top. We had high hopes for the grape leaves, which were pretty good, if a bit oily. Stephen assures me that the ones you can get from the Fresh Market bins are better, although I remember them being a little lemony for my taste. He’s the Armenian with the refined tastes for the nuance of the rolled grape leaf.
The service was a bit odd — somewhat stilted, as if over-attention would make up for the repeated bumbled salad orders and as if people who don’t go out to eat all that often expect servers to do certain things (rattle off “specials,” making a big scene out of re-filling drinks) and if those things are rigidly checked off a list, tips will follow and it’s okay for the joint to mark up the prices a buck or two because, hey Martha, this is one of those sit-down joints.
I think we’ll go back. If nothing else, the place has a good enough reputation to merit another try. Eggplant parm on pasta? We’ll have to venture out into one of the few other vegetarian items next time. From the looks of the menu, we might have a better go of it if we went Greek. We’ll update the review after we do that. We’re optimistic, if a bit nostalgic for Tut’s in Tuscaloosa and the joy of a truly great eggplant parmesan.