Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones
EXPRESS: Our alien overlords may have assumed that everything necessary would be included within the Space Kroger that opened on Highway 29 in 2014 (sidebar: It’s a good place to find lemongrass), but supplementary businesses have been popping up around it nonetheless. One of the newest is Tokyo Express (690 U.S. Hwy. 29, Suite 130, 706-543-8833), a quick-service hibachi/sushi place that looks like a chain but technically isn’t.
The food is prepared to order in an open kitchen, and the fish for the sushi sits out in plain view for your inspection. Whether the sushi is better or worse than the stuff in the Kroger next door is undetermined. It’s fine and fast, but not up to the level of the rolls Inoko Sushi Express makes on the Eastside—the best combination of cheap, good and fast I have found. Tokyo Express doesn’t offer a huge range of rolls, but it does have a sweet potato and avocado roll, an eel-cucumber roll and both red snapper and masago available as two-piece sushi.
Bento boxes offer a choice of hibachi vegetables, chicken, steak or shrimp and teriyaki chicken, which come with rice, vegetables, a California roll, a few sad gyoza, ginger-dressed salad and a spring roll at dinner (they’re available at lunch, too, with slightly fewer options for a slightly lower price). Sides include the standards (miso soup, edamame, seaweed salad) but also Tokyo noodles (basically lo mein, served with nothing but a faintly sweet sauce) and hot wings in a variety of flavors.
The place is small, with counter service and Coffee News to occupy you while you wait. There isn’t a whole lot to it, but it’s OK, and it’s good to have some diversification of food options in the area. (Shane’s Rib Shack, Burger King and Jersey Mike’s Subs are in the same shopping center, as well as the brand new Golden Panda Chinese restaurant.) Tokyo Express is open 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Monday–Thursday, 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Sunday. It serves no alcohol and does a lot of take-out, although you can eat there.
HOT DOGS ON THE ROAD: Should you find yourself driving down I-75 to middle Georgia and wondering where to eat, one thing that may catch your attention is the number of hot dog stands that seem to be in the area. It’s not something we have a whole lot of in northeast Georgia, apart from The Varsity. I don’t mean street carts or mobile vendors, but rather businesses of long standing that focus their attentions primarily on non-gourmet hot dogs, usually topped with chili and/or slaw.
The most famous, of course, is Nu-Way Weiners, in Macon, founded in 1916. The original store, in downtown Macon, burned last year and is in the process of renovation, but there are five others in Macon, two in Warner Robins and one in Fort Valley. Nu-Way No. 2 (5572 Bloomfield Road, Macon, 478-781-1305) is quite a bit younger than its big sister but still dates to 1969 and feels like it. A U-shaped lunch counter fills almost the entire space, with a small cash register at one end that also operates the drive-through.
The hot dog that arrives within a couple of minutes is bright red, topped with yellow mustard, chopped (but not minced) onions and “chili sauce,” a sort of thinned-down meaty chili fragrant with cumin. The bun is soft but stands up to the job just long enough for you to wolf down the whole thing. Soft drinks come with “famous flaky ice,” which is indeed somewhat distinctive. The no-fuss atmosphere, the low prices ($1.89 for the basic all-the-way dog) and the quality of the wiener itself combine to make Nu-Way a true classic. Location No. 2 is open 6:30 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday–Saturday, with breakfast options and giant hamburgers should you want to veer away from traditionalism. Location No. 1 may yet be back open this year.
Down the road in Albany, you may find yourself choosing among Hot Dog King, Jimmie’s Hot Dogs and The Little Red Dog House (821 W. Broad Ave., 229-883-6059), all of which are in a fairly small radius. I didn’t have time to hit all three, but the latter was a fine example of road food. A couple of picnic tables under a carport roof are the extent of the seating. Order from a window in the side of the tiny building after perusing the tall wooden menu that stands next to it. A “combination dog” with chili, slaw, ketchup (hey, when in Rome), mustard and onions plus an absolute bucket of soda will run you $3.07, but the place takes credit cards anyway.
The dog isn’t quite as good as Nu-Way’s (the sausage itself is less firm, the chili less flavorful; maybe the ketchup really is a bad idea), but the experience is peerless. The Little Red Dog House is open 10 a.m.–7:30 p.m. Monday–Saturday.