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Way Southern 

Good ol' meat-n-two at Our Way Cafe

It might not have made front page news in Atlanta, but the uprooting a few years back of Our Way Cafe from its slightly down-at-the-heels but charming Decatur corner to a decidedly down-at-the-heels strip mall set-up further down College Avenue created a ripple of anxiety in the Decatur lunchtime crowd. It seemed unlikely that the gently modified, homey Southern standards would survive the transplant. Judging by a full noon-hour dining room last week, though, Our Way in fact has prospered from the move and now forms -- along with neighbors that include the original Waffle House location, the last Skips Hot Dogs outpost and newcomer La Piccolina -- a kind of cheap eats gourmet gulch.

Friday is Fried Chicken Day: Likably quirky, it shines with a roster of reliable, well-prepared meats and vegetables that put it in the same league with intown favorites like Son's Place, Thelma's and Busy Bee.

Service is cafeteria style, and follows the meat-and-two-vegetables-plus-bread routine ($6.25) that most folks will find familiar. A four-vegetable plate ($6.25) or three-vegetable plate ($5.50) round things out. Drinks are a dollar, desserts two. Certain vegetables, including fresh-cut creamed corn and honey-glazed carrots, are available daily, as is (this month at least) the meatloaf. Friday features oven-fried chicken; Monday, chicken teriyaki. You get the idea.I Feel Like A Vegetable: Surveying the dry-erase board that lists the day's offerings usually presents some flinty dilemmas. The entrees -- be it a he-man portion of tender, cooked-to-melting pork roast, the reliable meatloaf or even a slightly odd but richly satisfying spinach tofu pie (imagine spanakopita having a hippie cousin) -- all merit a try, particularly if you become a regular. And, though soul food aficionados will wince, a healthy portion of oven-fried chicken (you won't leave feeling hungry) is worth a brief lapse of principles.

But it's the vegetables that make the meal. Everything from dusky-sweet field peas with snaps to a retro green bean casserole (complete with fried onions on top) to the "real" (as in real good) mashed potatoes make the trip worthwhile. Macaroni and cheese, everyone's favorite honorary vegetable, is a crusty, gooey exemplum of the species. Heck, even the steamed cabbage is good.

Don't Fill Up on Atmosphere: Any restaurant that shares a neighborhood with the Pampered Lady beauty salon and Mobeta Wings can't be all bad, and Our Way has taken its responsibilities in anchoring the Twin Oaks shopping plaza in aesthetic stride. Two large adjoining rooms match a faux exposed beam motif with all-weather carpeting, mix-and-match outdoor furniture (including green porch umbrellas) with a yard sale worth of odd collectibles and bizarre art. Your crazy Aunt Lucy seems to lurk in details like a tabletop gourd display, a row of antique hammers and small groupings of porcelain knick-knacks. People-watching doesn't fetch the same entertainment value here as it does in Midtown, so take the sports pages if you bore easily.

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