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Open just shy of two months when I visited Isabella’s Cafe in Decatur, I wasn’t sure what to make of the menu. Isabella’s Cafe ranges from items like Swahili Shrimp Curry to Turkey Meatloaf to New Orleans Shrimp and Andouille sausage over pasta. Yes, the menu is all over the map. That’s because Isabella’s owner, Wambui Maina, has been influenced by so many different regions in her cooking style. She grew up in Kenya, her parents spent a lot of time in Europe and she lived part of her life in New Orleans.
The oldest of all her siblings, Wambui began cooking at a young age. She shared with me that almost everything on the menu, are items she has been cooking for years for friends and family. I asked her about the restaurant’s name. She said it is a tribute to her mother who has been an inspiration to her.
We visited on a Wednesday and Isabella’s had a small crowd, but I suspect it fills up pretty quickly on weekends. The wine list is small and (at least the reds) consist of only South African wines. Ranging in price from $7 to $15, I tried a sample of the $15 one who’s description sounded dreamy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t thrilled and opted for the $7 Shiraz instead which tasted much better to me. The Cab/Merlot that Glen had was delish too.
For appetizers, the appetizer sampler, at $12.95 is a great value, and I’m guessing they sell a lot of these as Isabella’s has dishes to a accommodate for the trio. And what a beautiful presentation it makes. Without a doubt, the hummus / olive tapenade and samosas are standouts. Note that if you order the samosas (choice of turkey, vegetable or tilapia) as part of the sampler you’ll have to choose two. It wasn’t as issue for me, as I’d much rather have turkey and vegetable samosas over the tilapia. If I had to choose again, I’d choose two of the vegetable samosas as they were perfectly spiced as if I was at an Indian restaurant and complete with authentic dipping sauce.
The hummus was yummy as well. It had a fantastic spice and overall smokey flavor, which I just couldn’t get enough of. And, while I am not a fan of olives, Glen loves them and he devoured the tapenade. It was so yummy, we kept nibbling on it well after our entrees arrived. In fact our server, kept trying to take the plate away, only to have us shoo him away over and over gain.
The thai chili wings (you get 4 in the sampler) were meaty and spicy just how I like them to be. I can’t complain about them, but they were definitely overshadowed by the other two apps to me.
For our entrees, we ordered the Shrimp Swahilii Curry and the Spicy Asian Beef. Entree portions seem pretty large, at least for the two items we ordered. So, if you aren’t starving, you could totally get by one the appetizer trio and sharing of one meal if their are two of you.
Both dishes were served over Basmati rice. My dish, the curry, had perfectly cooked shrimp and large chunks of mango as well. I liked that there was a faint amount of heat to the dish but not overkill. I tasted the Spicy Asian Beef, which had a little more kick to it. Overall, it was tasty but a couple bites were a tad mushy, as if it had been left in the cooker too long.
We also ordered some sides. Totally not needed (between the apps and entrees we were getting pretty full), we just wanted to sample them – Sweet Potato Tater Tots and Chipotle-Maple Black Beans. The tots rock! Seriously, do not go to Isabella’s cafe and miss these. They are crispy on the outside and sweet and tender on the inside.
The chipotle-maple black beans were really good too, however, we were pretty full by the time we got to them and barely made a dent in them. Glen took them home to eat with his leftover Asian beef. Incidentally, these are served as a meal over basmati rice. It would make a great vegetarian entree. Tip: the price of the meal is $10.95 but if your order the beans and rice as sides the total is only $6.
For everything we ate, the total was right around $70. Very reasonable and would be pretty hard to beat in Buckhead or Midtown. If you haven’t yet checked out Isabella’s Cafe, swing by soon!
910 West College Avenue
Decatur, GA 30030
404 373 7177