Art Of The Meal: Mayberry Meets Midtown
Home Grown GA
968 Memorial Drive, Atlanta
Open for breakfast and lunch.
Credit cards: All major.
Parking: In attached lot.
Dress code: Work shirt and construction hat. Tattoos optional.
Just about the time you’re about to get depressed about all the great restaurants that have ascend- ed to that great dry-erase board in the sky, along comes something fresh and fun and brave – in ways you never could have anticipated.
Atlanta’s Memorial Drive through Reynoldstown is a prime example. Somehow this rugged stretch of road dotted with liquor stores and light industry missed the boom years that boosted East Atlanta Village, Midtown, Oakhurst and East Lake. For a while The Shed at Glenwood, a few blocks off the beaten path and opened just before the economy tanked, was the only new and notable dining spot for the area’s pioneering loft-dwellers. Now, suddenly, a few others have popped up, including H. Harper Station, an upscale dinner spot, and Home Grown GA, a new kind of blue-collar breakfast and lunch diner.
The place would be notable if its only accomplishment were taking over the garishly painted, unfortunately named Mammy’s Kitchen and making this worn old spot look bright and clean. But that’s not all owners Lisa Spooner and Kevin Clark (he’s also head chef) have done – not by a long shot. They’ve also re-interpreted what a well-priced meat-and-three should be and captured the youthful, optimistic spirit of their clientele.
It’s a big, rambling old building, with lots more room for booths than you first suspect. (Thankfully, Home Grown also has its own, spacious parking lot.) A long counter stretches across the main room, with handy perches for singletons and people waiting for takeout. On two recent midweek visits, the place was nearly full of a racially diverse crowd of tatted young people, greyhairs, working stiffs, police officers and artsy types. (A large back room is the “Cornbread Gallery,” with amusing, original artwork.) Serving breakfast until the 3 p.m. weekday closing time and lunch after 11, Home Grown is already so popular we hear the weekend lines spill out the door.
Everything is house-made – if you include the thoroughly authentic chip dip made from sour cream and dried soup mix, and served, of course, with Ruffles. You’ll also find crisp-edged cornbread muffins, fluffy biscuits, turkey sausage, eggs to order, well-browned home fries, pancakes and other must-have breakfast items. But true to Home Grown’s name, the real standouts here are the vegetables – fresh, lightly cooked and allowed to speak in their native tongue, without overly porky, salty or sugary interpretations. Each time we ordered the blue plate special – including a drink, bread and meat plus vegetable for $9, I was stunned at the quality and value – not to mention the selections that scream “Georgia”: cornmeal-crusted trout from the north Georgia mountains and fried quail from the southern part of the state. (The last time I saw quail on a meat-and-three menu, I was at Mom’s Kitchen in Plains.)
But we swooned even more at the deliciously earthy black-eyed peas, served with a little diced onion, and tender field peas. Fresh sauteed spinach was brilliantly green and lightly buttery.
On another visit, old-fashioned collards were given the slow-cook treatment, without the pork. Chicken and dumplings were slightly underseasoned, but true to the simple, old-fashioned recipes you’ll find in places like Savannah’s Mrs. Wilkes’. A chicken-biscuit breakfast special was a spot-on combination of crumbly scratch biscuits and tender, peppered fried chicken breast – the kind that reminds you there was a version before fast food.
Desserts are just as fun and varied, including cupcakes with one of the best browned-butter frostings I’ve ever sampled. It’s not just the eclectic music that keeps sparking spontaneous dancing at the checkout line.