Reviewing the Atlanta, GA restaurant Cooks & Soldiers, Basque Tapas.
Cooks & Soldiers is part of the restaurant group Castellucci Hospitality which includes Iberian Pig, Sugo and Double Zero. Cooks & Soldiers specializes in Basque cuisine. The menu is broken down into Pintxos and Asador. Pintxo is a small snack, typically eaten in a bar. While Asador signifies grilling techniques and social events like a barbecue. These are bigger dishes perfect for sharing.
Atmosphere: The restaurant has three different seating options. They have a fairly large bar area, a patio which is enclosed plus a main eating area. The restaurant is open to the kitchen. Tables and chairs are casual and spaced decently. Noise level is moderate as with newer restaurants. When you enter the restaurant, you will see the large wooden bar with dried ham hanging from hooks. The decor is clean and modern, but softened by beautiful wood. ♥♥♥♥♥
Cocktails: Cooks & Soldiers has a full bar offering cocktails, cider, wine and beer. Their specialty is Gin Tonic with homemade flavored tonic water. I adore the Blood Orange Gin Tonic. Our server was highly knowledgeable about the wine. Be sure to ask for suggestions. Bar service can be slow, however, which is way the rating is not a five. ♥♥♥♥
Food: The food is broken down into small plates, Pintxos and very big entrees, Asador. For this latest visit we solely ate Pintxos. These are small bites perfect for sharing and typically come with enough for three people. As we had four, they did provide an extra on each plate, which we were charged for.
We started with the Tradicionales Pintxos, toasted bread with assorted toppings. They come two to an order and are perfect for four people. We have enjoyed the Coal roasted mushrooms with goat cheese. The mushrooms on any dish at this restaurant are outstanding. Barbakoa Vasca is a barbecued braised beef with pickled peppers. My husband loves the Boquerones, which I am happy to skip.
Especiales Pintxos are next. These are small Basque plates and change seasonally.
My absolute favorite was the Escabeche, mussels and local shrimp, served with squid ink toast and lemongrass pearls. The seafood is served with a mix of olive oil and peppers. Place some of the seafood mixture on the toast for a bite of heaven.
Following closely behind the Escabeche is the Pato Bularreko, duck breast served with Marcona almonds, turnip, trumpet mushrooms and duck jus. The duck was perfectly cooked and extremely tender. Be sure to make a bite with each component on the plate. The mushrooms were smoky and could easily have been a star on their own.
Patatas, fried potatoes with smoked manchego fondue and Basque ketchup is a crowd favorite. I prefer the homemade ketchup to the manchego fondue. I find the fondue slightly lacking in cheese flavor. The potatoes are crispy and well fried with no hint of grease.
Another highlight Vieras, pan-seared scallops with pear, carrot, parsnip and pumpkin seeds. The scallops had a gorgeous sear on them and were cooked perfectly to medium.The pumpkin seed provided a nice crunch with the tender scallops.
Fideua Paella, shrimp and mussels with a broken spaghetti base instead of rice. This dish was not one of my favorites. I felt it needed some acid and some type of crunchy texture. Croquetas De Jamon, ham and cheese croquettes are perfectly fried. They were a favorite for the rest of the table, but not for me. I felt the coating masked the flavor of the ham and cheese.
Chistorra in a Blanket are basically a Basque pigs in a blanket. They were again a table favorite, but too sweet for me. The croissant is brushed with a cider glaze which I found too sweet. I was definitely in the minority as the rest of the table loved them. Lastly was the veal cheeks. To be honest, I was too full to properly enjoy this succulent dish. Veal cheeks were braised and served with potato puree.
If you go with a large group, share an Asador. They are very large plates. When we have gone with a party of 8, we shared the whole wood grilled market fish. Beautifully cooked with delicious wood flavor.
Don’t miss dessert. Their pastry chef, Chef Ashley, is phenomenal. She has a gift for making spectacular flavored ice cream. On our first visit, we were lucky to be given a small sampler of her ice cream including a corn flavored ice cream. The texture was creamy and taste was savory and sweet. It was love at first bite. They did not have a trio sampler of ice cream this time. Luckily many of the desserts come with ice cream. My favorite, surprisingly, was the Chocolate & Corn. I do not normally care for chocolate tarts or cakes. This one is served with a pink peppercorn gelato that I would love to eat every single day. It went so well with the chocolate tart which was neither too tart or too rich. The caramel popcorn provided delicious crunch to the dish. If you are a cheesecake fan, be sure to try the goat cheese cheesecake with truffled pistachios. It is creamy, rich with the perfect balance of tang and sweet. The buttermilk doughnuts are light, airy and crisp. They are served with a caramel sauce I could eat with a spoon. I did not care for the chocolate sauce but loved the rhubarb preserves that balance the sweetness of the doughnuts. The bruleed custard missed for all of us. It had little flavor and the balance of pear was missing. Gateau Basque is a traditional Basque dessert. The cake is dense but not heavy. ♥♥♥♥
Service: We have been three times now and had excellent service each time. The first thing I noticed was that all the employees worked as a team. Managers were picking up empty plates just as much as the servers and busboys. Our server was very knowledgeable about the menu and the cocktails. We asked to have a leisurely dinner and they space the dishes accordingly. We were not rushed at all, although the restaurant was extremely busy. They were well staffed. It was noticeable that all the employees were smiling. Managers were walking around the restaurant stopping at the tables to ensure guests were happy. The only area of improvement is the bar services. Each time we have been, we have had to wait a little too long for our cocktails. Another bartender would help immensely. Our server apologized a couple of times while we were waiting for cocktails.♥♥♥♥ (would have been 5 if not for the slow bar service)
Perfect for: Large groups, friends outing, celebrations, business, and couples. We have brought our 9-year-old here and she loved it. She is quite a foodie with a sophisticated palate. Cooks & Soldiers does not have a children’s menu.
Address: 691 14th St NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
Hours:Sun-Wed 5pm – 10pm
Thurs 5pm – 11pm
Fri-Sat 5pm – 12pm (Bar open until 2am)
Parking: Valet parking is available in a parking garage right before the restaurant on 14th st. Be sure to have your ticket validated.
Reservations: You will need a reservation. You can make a reservation through Open Table.
Price: Mid-range to expensive depending on the number of dishes you order.
Overall: We love Cooks & Soldiers especially going with a large group so that you can enjoy more dishes. It is a fun environment perfect for foodies. ♥♥♥♥1/2 out of ♥♥♥♥♥.