Get Yellow-bellied in Gotha 

A good cook used to be someone who could take so-so ingredients and make something fancy. These days, however, "good cooking" means using the highest quality ingredients and doing as little as possible to them to screw them up. Yellow Dog Eats falls squarely in the latter category.

The food, though simple, is scrupulously fresh and shows great attention to detail. We ordered the "Yellow Dog" club and a veggie burrito ($6.95 each) and split a side of the "TOC" (tomato, onion and cucumber) salad. The club was a classic, tweaked to improve. The turkey was mesquite-smoked, the mayo spiked with Cointreau, the bacon super-crisp and the addition of seedless cucumber added snap. But the real revelation was the coleslaw. Crunchy cabbage, sweet cranberries and a surprise hit of cayenne in the fruit juice-based dressing: It balanced sweet, sour and spicy perfectly.

The dining room-slash-general store -- walls liberally scribbled with tame graffiti ("Courtney loves boyz!"), faux-rustic signs hanging here and there -- was a bit twee, and the piped-in Pablo Cruise finally drove us outside.

The garden behind the store, though, is charming. Green vines twine around umbrella'ed tables; plants in huge pots are dotted about; a Chinese elm shades the scene. Even our uberhealthy friend was enticed to nibble half of a luscious piece of bourbon pecan cake -- dense and gooey, pure sugary delight -- and have a sip of iced coffee (they serve Starbucks, and brew it strong enough to stand up to being iced). Never underestimate the power of a good setting.

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