Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones
Carmike Ovation 12
BBQ BEAT: When I’m heading out on a road trip, I have my standard sources I check to figure out where I might want to stop off or detour to: Jan and Michael Stern’s Road Food site (and their wonderful book, even though it’s a little outdated); its forums; Chowhound and Trip Advisor (very city-oriented but sometimes helpful). Less known but probably just as helpful, if not more so, when it comes to barbecue in our area is Marie, Let’s Eat!, the regularly updated site of Grant and Marie Goggans. The Gogganses cover a wide variety of eats, mostly in northeast Georgia, with occasional trips to Athens, and the amount of content makes the site a real resource.
Even better is the map they’ve created. Searching by city doesn’t usually work all that well, as BBQ places often tend to be out in the sticks, and Google Maps seems generally more interested in showing you the nearest Subway. The map is perfect for figuring out where you might want to go on your way or plan a trip to. It most recently directed me not to some far-flung den of excitement but, instead, just down the road to Madison, where I’d noticed the sign before for Crowe’s Open Air Bar-B-Que (1320 Eatonton Road, 706-342-7002) but hadn’t really realized the place was open.
Crowe’s has been around for about 25 years, but it’s easy to miss. Set back off the road a little, next to a bunch of nondescript low-rise buildings across the street from the Madison Flea Market (which hosts bluegrass music on weekends), it has an enclosed open-air space for dining out front and a small, darkish interior room with a few picnic-style tables that face the open kitchen. There are signs for deer processing and a handwritten one promising homemade strawberry cake. You could pretty much climb inside the tea dispenser in the itty-bitty back room reserved for beverages.
The sides aren’t particularly impressive. The slaw isn’t sweet, but it isn’t really tangy either; it’s basically just chopped cabbage. The potato salad doesn’t have a lot going for it. The stew is the best of the bunch, but you’re better off just going for the meat. The ribs are a bit heavy on the bark and, while fall-off-the-bone isn’t exactly what you should be looking for, these are too far in the other direction; on the other hand, their flavor is excellent, so they’re worth the chew. The pork is relatively finely chopped and, therefore, best off in a sandwich, which comes dressed with the house sauce (vinegar-based; a hint of tomato) and nothing else, wrapped in paper and easy to eat with one hand in the car.
Do not ignore the sign about the strawberry cake. It is pink as can be but tastes of fresh fruit, even in February.
Crowe’s is open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday and, thanks to Square, takes credit cards.
WRESTLING WITH DEMONS: Is it morally wrong to eat a hamburger and a side of fries while watching a movie in the theater? It might be, especially if you’re a cinephile. It’s certainly still weird, even as more and more theaters adopt the practice, but it’s also convenient, if you don’t want to choose between nutrients and entertainment and your time is stretched thin. That’s the situation I found myself in a few weeks ago, and the Carmike Ovation 12 (1575 Lexington Road, 706-354-0016) was more than able to meet my needs.
The cheesy names of the dishes (e.g., Salmon L. Jackson), the size of the menu and the enormous leathery chairs with desks that swivel over your lap to hold your plate all combine to make the experience a little difficult for food snobs and movie snobs alike. And yet… the food is not bad. The fries are hot and crisp. A shrimp quesadilla, packed with vegetables, is just as good as at any mainstream American restaurant chain. So is the hamburger, well cooked, with a buttered and griddle-toasted bun, and available in a variety of configurations.
You may find yourself feeling like David Foster Wallace aboard his cruise ship: enjoying yourself despite having been somewhat determined not to. You can also purchase and nosh on a full pint of ice cream with chocolate sauce and chocolate chips, a cheesecake chimichanga, pizza, boneless wings, nachos, soft pretzels, salads, fried shrimp, Jurassic Pork tacos and the traditional buckets of Coca-Cola products and popcorn. The latter two are as overpriced as ever, but everything else is fairly reasonable. When you consider the cost of a babysitter, it may well be worth combining your eats and movie, especially as there’s a full bar.
The restaurant is open when the theater is, although you don’t have to go see a movie to eat there. (There are tables in the lobby, and the theater ticketing is at a counter off to the side.) Credit cards are eagerly accepted.