When the grand opening sign for Oak Grove Market was erected at a rickety strip mall near my house over a year ago, I stood on my brakes to redirect the car into the parking lot. Was it finally happening? Was my ho-hum 'hood morphing into a downtown Decatur offshoot?
Oak Grove Market wasn't exactly what I was hoping for. It was a 1950s-esque butcher shop stacked with fleshy cuts of cow and poultry, and stocked with a glut of steak sauces with catchy cave-man names like "Bone Suckin' Sauce."
They built, they came: The owners, fortunately, have been flexible enough to meet the demands for a neighborhood lunch spot. One year later, with bulldog flags popping in the wind, plumes of grill smoke filling the air and Volvo station wagons hogging the parking lot, you might mistake Oak Grove Market for a UGA tailgate party.
Inside, empty floor space has been filled with tables and booths upholstered in pillowy aqua green vinyl. Grandmothers with Mary Kay pink lipstick eat chicken salad sandwiches ($4.99) while children on tiptoes plead for ice cream cones ($1.49). At lunchtime, tables fill up fast like a swirling adult version of musical chairs: If the clang and pound tune of an industrial meat tenderizer halts, plop down on the curvaceous red velvet couch. Other patrons are sure to slide over and strike up a conversation.
Fourth of July food: Right down to the paper plates and plastic forks, the atmosphere will remind you of a backyard cookout. Choices include burgers ($2.99) and hot dogs ($1.99) from the grill, as well as chicken quarters ($1.99) and racks of boiled and baked pork ribs ($5.99) dunked in a thick zingy barbecue sauce. If they haven't run out, get yourself a 16-ounce or 32-ounce Styrofoam cup of homemade Brunswick stew ($4.59 and $8.99). This concoction of beef, pork, whole kernel corn and barbecue sauce is like eating a pulled pork sandwich with a spoon.
If meat-and-three is your thing, check out the daily special ($4.99-$6.99). It might be a ketchup-covered meatloaf slab or a slice of spiral ham served with fresh asparagus sauteed in butter and oil. Keep an eye out for signs announcing a $6.99 Filet Mignon special served with baked potato and salad. The filet is grilled on a ceramic smoker so don't expect a heavy chew. With a whisper of smoky flavor, this bacon-wrapped meat is the melting consistency of a lamb chop.
How sweet it is: Desserts are the best bargain here. An entire pie oozing with globs of sour cherry goodness is a mere $2.99. Occasionally the batch of pies is burnt around the edges. Shrug it off with a slice of coconut cake ($1.49), spiky with slivers of dried coconut and light from a sour cream filling. I recommend feasting on the Supreme Caramel Apple Cookies (99 cents for four super-sized cookies), moist lumps of cookie dough bumpy with white chocolate chunks, butterscotch chips and dried apples. Who needs Decatur now when I can get a fresh-baked sugar rush in my own back yard?
Love pork belly.
Some food just doesn't photograph well, even if it is tasty.
Nothing wrong with grease on the walls if the burger is tasty.
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