SIMPLE STUFF DONE WELL: Kirsten Bradford is really doing her part to make Watkinsville better. First, she opened KiKi’s Bakeshop, taking over The Granary and expanding its offerings. Then she moved into the space next door, formerly The Big Easy, and opened up Local Table (20 Greensboro Hwy., 706-310-4188), a friendly breakfast and lunch spot that has been welcomed by the community. (She also just added dinner, but too late for this column.)
Local Table is much like KiKi’s. It’s not shooting for high-end gourmet, but rather for classics done right, in a straightforward manner, with a Southern base. The graphic design says “nouveau rustic charm,” which is about right.
The bread from its sister establishment serves as the foundation upon which sandwiches are built, and it can be sliced a bit thin at times. It’s not that the Reuben is enormous, but it still overpowers its thin slices of bread to some extent. Ditto for the meatloaf sandwich. The fillings are great. You can also get the meatloaf sans bread, on a plate with gravy and two sides for $9, a solid deal for a substantial serving size.
One of the nicest things about Local Table is the way it doesn’t try to do too much. Order a side of lima beans, and they arrive undoctored with hot sauce or pepper or much of anything at all. They are lovely legumes, cooked right, and they feel they are worthy of your attention just by being themselves. That’s true of most of the sides, which are not overseasoned.
The fried chicken is nicely done, too, although it suffers a touch by comparison with Strickland’s, where I recently found myself, upon needing some auto maintenance work done in the area and was reminded that it is one of the finest executors of Southern cooking in Athens. Seriously.
Local Table also does big salads, breakfast sandwiches, build-your-own omelets and more. The sunny room is full of folks who are not in a hurry to get back out of there, and the waitstaff are sociable and kind. The restaurant is open Monday 11 a.m.–2 p.m. for lunch, Tuesday–Friday 7 a.m.–2 p.m. for breakfast and lunch, Saturday 8 a.m.–2 p.m. for breakfast and lunch and Wednesday–Friday from 4:30–8:30 p.m. for dinner. It gives discounts with your church bulletin, does takeout, serves no booze and takes credit cards.
BBQ BEAT: Smokin’ Po Boys BBQ (67 W. Athens St., 678-425-9374), in downtown Winder, has been on my list of places to investigate for some time now, and a recent weekday presented the opportunity for a trip to Barrow County. It’s fairly easy to get lost, due to a less-than-gridded street system, but if you locate the county courthouse, you should be able to see the big pig mural on the side of the Po Boys building easily.
The place started out doing competition BBQ and uses the motto, “Home of the Best Butts Around,” but its ribs and chicken are both better than its pork. The pulled pork isn’t bad (neither too wet nor too dry), and neither is the sauce, which comes in four varieties (Sweet, Spicy, the vinegar-based Sassy and the wussier Sissy), but the ribs, though a bit fatty, have great flavor and pull right off the bone. The chicken is best of the three, with a dark, crackly, salty skin that conveys its rub to the meat below.
Sides-wise, the coleslaw is classic stuff, prepared without sugar, which is how it should be. Winderians recommend the fried okra as your other side, and they are correct. The stew is not particularly good. The place does not move quickly, but it does take credit cards and is open for lunch every day and dinner every day but Sunday.
While you’re in the area, take a trip around the corner to Bentley’s Butcher Shop (105 E. May St., 678-963-9877, bentleysnaturalmeats.com), which will surprise you, especially considering its location in a run-down strip mall. When you walk in the door, there’s a sign advertising kombucha for sale, and, in fact, the meats on offer are organic, grass-fed, well priced and often local. Bentley’s makes its own sausage (brats, Italian, more) and retails a wide variety of meats, including special orders (the girl behind the corner mentioned “zebra” without batting an eye). The shop also does its own BBQ, but it’s Crock-Pot stuff.
Better and odder are the sides available by the pint or quart in one refrigerated case, including a zippy potato salad and a coleslaw that tastes marvelously of fermentation. Made with purple cabbage, it seems to have a bit of fresh horseradish incorporated and is one of the more interesting variations I’ve come across. Bentley’s is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, takes EBT, runs great specials and seems very involved with its community.