Eating Out

Ronnie John’s Beach Café

1951 Canton Road, Marietta
770-356-5251; ronniejohnsbeachcafe.com
Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.- 3 p.m.

Rounding the edge of a bright white fence in a strip mall parking lot, we entered a tropically colored beach café with outdoor seating, hand-painted directional signs pointing to famous beaches (Maui, Key West, and Acworth Beach, of course …) and a laid-back atmosphere that seems far from the concrete jungle a few steps behind us. What a sight for my chain-restaurant weary eyes! It’s lunchtime at Ronnie John’s, and it’s all good, brah.

What’s on the menu: Ronnie John’s serves up “beach fusion,” marrying casual Pan Asian cooking and Hawaiian seaside flavors. Island favorites include grilled and fried seafood, chicken or beef, as well as “North Shore” Hawaiian barbecue. There’s a nice variety of burritos, rice bowls, tacos and salads, ranging $6-$9 for generous portions. Appetizers include chips and guacamole, fish fingers, spring lettuce wraps, and fried pickles, all $3-$6. The children’s “Grommet” menu is all priced under $5 and includes five kid-pleasing choices from chicken fingers to a Lil Kahuna rice bowl topped with teriyaki, spicy, or barbecue chicken. For dessert, Ronnie John’s serves Aloha rolls, deep-fried donuts topped with sugar ($2.50.)

Why kids will like it: Kids can be adventurous with spicy flavors, or stick to basics. My 5-year-old son ordered the cheese quesadilla and some fresh lemonade. Outdoor seating, plenty of colorful signs and decorations to look at, and beach vibe music set a unique scene for little diners. My son even got up to dance to a Bob Marley tune! He also enjoyed exploring the outdoor area and joking with the friendly servers who cater to families.

Why parents will like it: Food is fresh, but quickly prepared. The selections are varied enough to cover those with dietary restrictions, and those who want to splurge on a big entrée or an appetizer-sized nibble. Down with the tropical vibe, I ordered the South Beach chicken katsu (essentially Japanese-style fried chicken cutlets) with teriyaki sauce, Asian slaw, macaroni salad and rice. We gobbled our dishes quickly because they were tasty, but hung out for about an hour to soak up the virtual vacation. For me, this was a welcome change from the bustling in-and-out quick service restaurant scene.

– Valerie Shepherd