IF YOU GO
• Where: Old South Restaurant, 796 Chickamauga Ave., Rossville, Ga.
• Phone: 706-866-8933
• Website: www.oldsouthrestaurant.com
• Hours: 6:45 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 6:45 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday
• Price range: 65 cents (jelly biscuit)-$7.25 (Old South Sampler breakfast, two-egg breakfast with country ham, center cut pork chops lunch/dinner, catfish fillets lunch/diner or shrimp basket lunch/dinner)
The placard on the wall was talking about the South, but it may as well have been talking about the Old South Restaurant specifically.
Among the wooden sign's bon mots: "The South is the place where ... tea is sweet and accents are sweeter, macaroni and cheese is a vegetable, pecan pie is a staple, y'all is a proper noun, chicken is fried and biscuits come with gravy, everything is darlin' and someone's heart is always being blessed."
The Old South Restaurant, tucked along Chickamauga Avenue in the dip of Missionary Ridge between Rossville and Fort Oglethorpe, serves up home-style cooking with a home-style smile. And Georgia and Tennessee residents -- it's just across the border in the Peach State -- must like it. The parking lot is usually crowded at lunch and the tables full.
If you go all out and order chopped sirloin, pork chops, chicken, catfish or shrimp, complete with two side items and rolls, you won't break the bank at the Old South. In fact, at $6.95-$7.25, any of the meals is practically a steal. But the restaurant probably sells more meat-and-threes or meat-and-two meals than anything else.
If selections such as country fried beef steak, country ham, barbecue pork, chicken tenders or open-faced roast beef (each $6.95); chicken livers ($6.75); or pork tenderloins, beef liver and onions, or ham steak ($6.50) aren't your cup of tea, there are always the daily specials.
Prefer a sandwich? You can pick from a corn dog or grilled cheese ($1.75), burgers, barbecue or chicken, or specialty items such as a patty melt, catfish sandwich, bologna sandwich, BLT or Philly cheesesteak ($3.75-$4.95).
Eating lighter? Go for a tossed green salad ($2.25), chef salad ($5.25) or chicken chef salad ($6.75).
Side items are plentiful, and there are daily specials there as well.
A child's (10-under) meat-and-two plate ($3.50) is also an option, and hungry diners can finish up with a slice of coconut, chocolate or lemon pie ($2.50).
And then there's breakfast.
The sign out front proudly proclaims: "Best Breakfast in Town."
There's a variety of egg and meat breakfasts, omelets, biscuits with a wide choice of meats, hotcakes and side items such as hash browns, grits, toast and oatmeal.
The daily meat-and-three options included meatloaf ($6.75), and I'm a sucker for a good meatloaf. And this was a good one. Nicely seasoned and ketchuped, my thick slice had visible pieces of onions and green peppers.
My sides were mashed potatoes and gravy, with detectable bits of peel (so you know it's homemade); green beans, which our waitress said weren't homemade but were steeped enough to give them a good, even slightly sweet, flavor; and slaw, which the waitress said was homemade and had a good minced consistency.
My brother, thinking ahead to Thanksgiving, selected turkey and dressing ($6.75) off the daily menu, and he also was glad he did. Both were good, he said, and the dressing especially so. His sides were squash casserole, which he found a bit dry and not comparable to his wife's version, and macaroni and cheese, which he said was "rockin'." The meal even came with a tiny cup of cranberry sauce.
Both meat-and-threes came with rolls or cornbread muffins.
We decided against dessert since both of us had dinner plans. However, we agreed the coconut pie sounded like a winner.
Since we were unfamiliar with the restaurant, we asked whether we were to be seated or seat ourselves. We were told to sit wherever we liked. Our waitress was very friendly, joked with us in a manner befitting the home-style atmosphere, took our drink orders quickly, answered all our questions about the food and checked back with us often after our meals were served. She even made a special point of saying goodbye after we'd left the room in which we dined.
If you're looking for a chain restaurant, where everything looks new, the wait staff is dressed alike and the parking lot is pristine, this isn't it. The Old South, which the menu says has been serving "friendly folks like you for over 20 years," is housed in an off-white, brick-front building that once may have been two storefronts. Inside, the clean restaurant has two rooms, one with five stools offering counter service, two four-tops and two two-person high tables, and a more spacious second room with 10 booths and six four-person tables. There are flat-screen TVs in each room, print and folk art, and wood paneling walls.
It's no wonder this restaurant looked crowded every time I drove by. Its outside appearance won't stop traffic, but the home-style food inside is tasty and filling. My brother and I are looking forward to going back and trying something different. And maybe this time a piece of pie.
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...