By Sam Burnham
I had heard rumors, one might even call them legends, of a restaurant on Memorial Dr. in Atlanta. The rumors were aided by social media as well as word of mouth and the temptation finally became too much to handle.
I was in Atlanta for a radio appearance anyway. The restaurant in question is just a few blocks east of Oakland Cemetery making the outing a two-for-one proposition. A bite to eat and a quiet stop at Oakland? It was a no-brainer.
So I made my way to 968 Memorial Dr. I'm not going to lie. There is some rough looking real estate along that stretch of road. Folks from outside the metro area might think twice about getting out. They possibly would not even consider it. But when you go to get a late breakfast/early lunch at 10:30 in the morning and you have a hard time finding parking, there is bound to be something good for you inside.
I found parking and then took one of the vintage lunch counter stools at the bar. That was an immediate seat as opposed to a wait for a table. There was a wait for a table at 10:30. The building looks like a quint local Atlanta eatery. The wait staff is efficient and many are well inked. an ecclectic array of stickers and pictures, etc. serve as the decor. The waitress handed me a menu which I looked at because: 1) I wanted to find the correct name for what I was on a mission to find & 2) an air of nonchalance seemed to be more polite than screaming out my request as I entered the door.
It's called the Comfy Chicken Biscuit.
It costs $10 and it's worth every penny.
It's an open-faced cat head biscuit topped with a generous portion of fried chicken breast filet strips, smothered in white gravy, and garnished with an orange slice. I don't mean some rinky-dink kitten head biscuit with a cute nickname. I'm talking about Lion-of-Atlanta-sized piece of Southern biscuity goodness. I saw someone eating one down the bar as I sat down. It looked even better than the pictures I had seen. I ordered one and then tended to social media updates as follow up after the radio appearance.
Then another man, most likely a local, came and sat beside me and ordered the same thing before tending to his social media as well. My plate arrived looking just as delicious as the one I noticed on the way in, followed shortly thereafter by my neighbor's plate. I put my phone away and took my first bite. I'm not often dumbfounded by a biscuit but this was an exception. I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed the outpouring of glory that had just occurred on the first stool at the bar but no one was sharing my amazement at that moment. I looked to my left where my neighbor was still scrolling on his phone while the steam from his gravy rose to heaven with a pleasant aroma. That's how I knew this guy was a local. I was the tourist gawking upward at the spires of the skyscrapers while he walked along the sidewalk facing forward, oblivious to their existence.
I just continued eating, savoring every bite. It had crossed my mind that someone's sweet grandmother might be chained to the stove and forced to produce locally-sourced ambrosia all day every day. The chicken was crispy and not greasy, the sausage gravy was very flavorful. As for the biscuit...there's a good reason Home grown Georgia was named by Zagat as having some of the best biscuits in Atlanta. If they have your grandmother hostage, I'm sorry. I didn't pursue my suspicion for fear of ruining a good thing.
This was my first experience with the Comfy Chicken Biscuit at Home grown Georgia, but barring divine intervention. it won't be my last.
Home grown is open Monday - Friday 7am-3pm, Saturday & Sunday 7am-2pm. They are located at 968 Memorial Dr in the Reynoldstown area of Atlanta.
By Sam Burnham
Last night we saw an upheaval that echoes of the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention which also took place in Chicago. A protest swarmed a Donald Trump campaign rally in the Windy City and fingers immediately began to point in every direction in an attempt to both deflect and assign blame. There were also statements made to try to remain above the fray, to try to stand on the moral high ground or even take on victim status in order to not take on any of the blame for what was going on.
As I followed the developments in Chicago, I couldn't help but think over the course in my life how The South and racial unrest have been synonymous. Then I thought about my day yesterday.
I found myself in various racially diverse settings in three different counties yesterday. That's not unusual for Georgia as it is a diverse state. But if one only had the developments at the Trump rally to go on, one would easily determine that racial unrest is the natural state of things. But in every instance I encountered, no one punched anyone. There were no hateful slurs slung in any direction. People talked about issues, difficult and humorous. People ate meals together, or at least in close company. People walked and enjoyed the sunshine. People shopped for items to buy.
What I wish to convey is that what we saw last night in Chicago is reality. It is a state of affairs in our nation that we must find ways to deal with. But it isn't the only state of affairs and it is not insurmountable.
I am not trying to imply that Georgia has it all solved and doesn't have racial issues because we do. But I also believe that over the last seven decades or so we have learned to get past a lot of it. We've found ways to make our society better. I'm not describing a shining city on a hill, I'm showing a point on a map to that city.
As Fred Rogers used to tell the people in his neighborhood, "when bad things happen, look for the helpers". I think in this case the helpers are the people who engage in everyday life without pushing the world, the nation, or even their community into chaos. I think if we're honest, there are more of us than there are of them.
It's time for the helpers to shape society.
By Jennifer Perren
For now, I live in the country, in a rural area of Georgia that my father's side of the family settled down in over 200 years ago. My mother's side of the family, however, is from the city, from Atlanta.
Growing up, I spent a great deal of time in the city. And as I've visited over the years, I've seen the changes to my city. I have also read and listened to many different opinions regarding the evils of our capital city in my day, and I understand the point of view. I have seen the crime, first hand. I've watched corruption unfold, I've sat in the traffic, I've seen beautiful old, historic, buildings come down and more modern contraptions built in their place. Atlanta has grown like these pines out here on my great grandaddy's old farm, up and out. In my mind, it will be as my mother said to me once when I was maybe 6 years old - we were driving through downtown and the interstates were being constructed and revamped - I asked "when will they be finished with these buildings and roads?" To which she replied, "Jennifer, this is Atlanta, we'll always be building".
I can imagine that she probably heard that from her grandfather, a mason and builder. Born Giovanni Amendolia, Sicily, 1896. He came to America at the age of 16 quickly passed through New York, becoming John Amandolia at Ellis Island, and onto Philadelphia, where he worked as a carpenter's assistant. His first English word was "nail". He was determined to be an American, however, and upon doing so, he was drafted into the Army during WWI. He was not deployed overseas but rather sent to police the troops that were stationed here in Atlanta. Which is where he met my Great Grandmother, Lenora Willoughby.
Blue eyes and dark hair, she was a bright, funny, feisty girl. They fell in love and were married, which was not without its challenges as Italian Americans were not exactly welcome with open arms at that time. My family is unique in that not many Sicilian/Italian immigrants settled in Georgia. I have yet to meet another family that has been here in the Atlanta area as long as we have. Most stayed up north where they had built communities. My great grandmother, though, did not care and in fact was determined to raise her family here in her home, regardless of what anyone thought or felt of her husband's nationality. They lived and worked together in Atlanta their entire lives. John became an expert carpenter and was involved in many projects that we can still see in our city today, including Hartsfield Atlanta Airport and Rich's on Broad St.
They raised a family, including a brown eyed girl, Dorothy Camilla, my grandmother. Also, another lively, funny, feisty, girl. My grandmother was a fighter her entire life. She faced prejudice growing up because of her dark hair and skin and was bullied in school. Her brothers protected her daily and one day, one of them said to her "the next time you get beat up at school, I'll beat you up at home, it's time for you to fight back". From then on, my grandmother never let anyone pick on her, or another weaker person - ever, for the rest of her life. History repeated itself when she caught the eye of my grandaddy, a soldier passing through town, down from the mountains of Virginia during WWII. He saw her on the street in Atlanta, fell in love with her and remained that way until the day he died. Together, they fed, clothed, defended, entertained, and ministered to the people of the city as well as our family and friends - anyone who came into their lives for over 60 years.
They taught their children as well as grandchildren a great love for this city and its people. My grandmother would take us all to the zoo, to the Braves game, to the Varsity, anywhere she felt we would enjoy, she shared her love of her hometown with us. My grandfather devoted his life to his family and spent his retirement feeding and sharing God's love with the homeless and needy of Atlanta, and we went along. I have never once been afraid in any city, I attribute this to my time with him. I haven't spent a whole lot of time at swanky bars, I've maybe been to the Fox 3 times, but I know the city, I grew up there, went to school there, ran around there, I've laughed, cried, lived, learned, worked and played there.
Atlanta has ugly, the same can be said for any small town in Georgia or any other state, you can't move away from dark hearts. I can tell you this, every, single, time I drive east on I-20 and come up over Riverside Drive, I can't wait to see the city - it's still there, I get feeling that I can only describe as joy. I have lived all over this country and seen every major city, all the skylines - there is none more lovely to me than mine.
What makes a city are it's people, it's families, it's stories, it's character. I like to compare myself and the people in my family to Atlanta - to our symbol the phoenix. Our resilient nature, our determination to rise to any challenge, up from the ashes of any defeat.
I don't know what the future holds for Atlanta, but I do know a lot of her history. It's still there in the people, in the families, the historical sites that remain, and if you're very lucky, the pretty Georgia girls might tell you a story or two.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire