Barbecue Kitchen in College Park 

Red-eye flights and red-eye gravy

I used to travel for a living. After returning from a long flight exhausted, I would nonetheless always stop at Barbecue Kitchen by the airport en route home. I needed a waitress named Mildred to call me "honey," and I needed homemade biscuits. This gave me sustenance. I knew I had landed.

Frequent flyer: The simply named Barbecue Kitchen, which has been open more than 40 years, has long been my safe touchstone going in and out of the travel twilight zone. The eatery has had its own set of transitions, but the food has remained consistent despite changing hours and aesthetics. Barbecue Kitchen was once open around the clock and had a large following of truck drivers. They still pop in and out and complain about dining in the daylight. They sit side by side with business and casual (or casualty) travelers and a few of Atlanta's finest police officers taking a break.

The breakfast is a deal, with most meals costing $4.05. Try the two eggs with cured ham and red-eye gravy. Take heed: Red-eye gravy is made only from strong coffee and smoky ham drippings, so it's salty stuff. But it's great to dunk the restaurant's fluffy homemade biscuits in. Cream gravy is also available. The French toast is made from simple, thinly sliced white bread, but is surprisingly airy and moist. Breakfast sandwiches and meat-filled biscuits are a cheap snack available anytime starting at only $1.70. You can actually order buttermilk as a beverage. The only thing to skip is the likely canned corned beef hash.

Visit veggie heaven: Lunch is the restaurant's best meal. From 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., the eatery becomes a hopping meat-and-three. And, in the tradition of classic country kitchens, all vegetable refills are free. Which means half a smoked chicken, salmon patties, breaded pork tenderloin or the like, along with biscuits, corn muffins and endless veggies, are all available for only $7.35 or less per entree.

The vegetables vary daily but always consist of a good mixture of cholesterol-laden comfort classics as well as some lighter cold salads for the health-minded. Hand-mashed potatoes with rich gravy, chunks of perfectly steamed rutabagas, stewed squash casserole, beets with onions and a crunchy, sweet cucumber salad are among the best. Also, be sure to try one of the homemade desserts. While the banana pudding is a winner, there is no beating the homemade cobbler, especially the berry flavors.

What about the Q? As for the restaurant's namesake, the barbecue is well above average and often excellent, although I'm still in search of exceptional BBQ in our metro area. The long smoking method usually renders a moist and complex flavor to the pork and chicken, which are best, although the accompanying sauce seemed somewhat simple last time I tried it. Still, it's well worth a try. Barbecue platters, as well as substantial seafood and steak entrees, are available from $8 to $9.50 anytime and they come with all the trimmings.

You don't need to be coming to or fro from the airport or hauling the big rig on the highway to stop at Barbecue Kitchen. No matter where you're from or going to, it's a restaurant that will remind you that you're in the South and there's good eatin' here.

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