COUNTRY ROADS: There are times, believe it or not, when it’s hard to find something to cover in this column. Athens is not so big that the options are innumerable, unless I wanted to go back over and over to the same places. At those times of year, I tend to start driving around outside of Athens, investigating small restaurants that may or may not be there.
Billy Meadow’s Station (6729 Highway 72 W., in Colbert, 706-788-3517) certainly isn’t new. It used to be farther down the road and an actual service station, but that building was vacated when the road was widened. No worries—the current building has plenty of character, adorned with drawings and watercolors of the old one, novelty signs about duck-hunting season or behaving yourself as a customer and lots and lots of taxidermied animal heads staring down at you. The sign on the exterior boasts “Best dogs in town,” meaning hot dogs. It’s hard to see a whole lot of competition in the area, but the claim doesn’t seem inaccurate either.
The menu is small: hot dogs (with chili, cheese, slaw or all of the above), sandwiches (grilled cheese, grilled pimento cheese, “corn beef,” chicken salad, ham salad), tea, canned and bottled drinks in a cooler and candy on the counter. You would have a real hard time spending $10 for lunch. The corned beef sandwiches aren’t so hot, or maybe they’re an acquired taste. Chopped super fine, smushed between two slices of white bread with cheese and then grilled on the griddle, they taste almost more like tuna than beef. The pimento cheese, similarly griddled, is goopy but not uninteresting.
The slaw dog, however, is better than just the best hot dog in Colbert. It might be the best in a 15-mile radius. The sausage itself is beefy and robust, not a sad, grayish noodle like at many places. The bun is substantial enough to hold up to a whole mess of toppings, at least temporarily, and freshly toasted. The slaw is fresh and peppery, less vinegary than many others but not suffering for it, and not a bit of sweet other than what a cabbage already has. The combination, especially if you are starving and sweaty, is unexpectedly marvelous: hot, salty, crisp, buttery, sharp and perfectly balanced. I don’t know if you’d drive 12–15 miles for a hot dog, but if you would, you maybe should.
The chili dogs aren’t quite as stellar, although they’re fine, and the atmosphere is thick. Billy Meadow’s is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, “subject to change,” and is a cash-only business, but it does have an ATM in the dining room.
BBQ: If you’re heading straight east instead of northeast from Athens, you will eventually hit Crawford, although be careful not to blink. Just before you get to its middle, you’ll see Pig O’s Bar-B-Que, a trailer that operates in a parking lot at 1287 Athens Road (706-255-2358). It, too, does a slaw dog that is worth eating, if not quite worth a haul. I wish the ‘cue itself were better. The pork is chopped and dry as all get-out, although improved by the thin vinegary sauce with a hint of tomato but plenty of pepper. Make a sandwich out of it, with some slaw, and you’ll be happier than if you eat it with a fork.
The beans are fine and the stew likewise. If trifle is available, it’s a pretty cute dessert: layers of chocolate cake, Cool Whip and crushed Butterfingers packed into a plastic cup and chilled. It’s not exactly croquembouche, but it’s kind of good: cold, sweet and simple on a hot day. Pig O’s is open from lunch to early dinner Thursday through Saturday, is cash only and has nowhere to sit but does have a little bit of shade.
SWEETZ: Inside Clarke County and, in fact, inside Wok Star Chinese restaurant in Winterville, is the new Too Sweetz Bakery (225 Cherokee Road, 404-353-2153). Too Sweetz spreads its aim far and wide, turning out cakes by the slice (ready to go), whole cakes, fancy custom cakes (there’s a look book by the cash register), cookies, scones, croissants, doughnuts, biscotti, cupcakes, brownies, coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, caramel apples and probably more things I am forgetting.
The cupcakes are probably the best of the bunch: neatly sized rather than the two-handers that seem to be common these days, and available in flavors like cappuccino and peanut butter. You can pick up a cutely packaged sleeve of cookies (single flavor or pack of two flavors) for a nice hostess gift or get some of the chocolate-dipped and -drizzled pretzel rods for your clamoring children.
Is it a little strange to find a bakery inside a Chinese restaurant? It doesn’t feel like it when you’re in the space, which is sweetly decorated and full of impulse buys. The store is open Monday 7 a.m.–4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday 7 a.m.–6 p.m. and Saturday 8:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Unlike the two above, it does take credit cards.
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