Mama's Boy at the Falls
BABY BOY: When Mama’s Boy opened more than 10 years ago on Oak Street, it was a breath of fresh air: a cute, fresh take on Southern food that quickly became an integral part of Athens life. It didn’t matter tremendously how its owners tweaked the formula—dinner, no dinner, catering about a million weddings. The line on weekends (and some weekday mornings) was always out the door, enlivening its area of a street lined with businesses that weren’t as outwardly successful. It’s not quite the Salty Dog Cafe in Hilton Head, but it’s close in that T-shirts on UGA alums spread the word far and wide. Endurance of that kind deserves a hat tip.
Now it has a second location, one that seems destined to be more successful than Goodie Two Shoes, its attempt at a space that would function for catering and lunch in the 909 Broad building. Ensconced in the Falls of Oconee, a somewhat fancy shopping center on Macon Highway (that sounds like an oxymoron; it’s actually not), Mama’s Boy at the Falls (8851 Macon Hwy., 706-850-8550) has the advantage of copious amounts of parking, plus the same name as its well-established big brother.
Unsurprisingly, even a weekday lunch can come with a wait at this point, but in the long run, the new space should alleviate the lines on Oak Street a bit. It provides some elbow room, in other words, including at the individual level. The room is open and bright, with lots of room around the tables. Wander outside, where there are some tables currently unoccupied most of the time, and you get a nice view of the scenery. Inside, you’ll recognize a lot of details from the original, including the shmancy, contemporary brocade wallpaper. Elaborate light fixtures that look exotic but turn out to be made of clear bottles fit right in with the aesthetic.
The menu, you’ll be pleased to know, has not undergone alterations. You can still get the mill town breakfast plate, the chocolate cake for breakfast, the strawberry lemonade, the salmon cakes Benedict, the tofu stir fry, the huge cinnamon roll and so on. The biscuits themselves taste no different for having been made in this kitchen. If I had to quibble with anything, I’d say that, just as at the original location, stuff could be seasoned a little more aggressively. When you eat the top layer of a small bowl of cheese grits, the cheese itself provides enough salt, but as you dig down, if you don’t mix it carefully enough, the underneath is blander. Ditto the pork tacos, made with nice beans, which could use a more robust hot sauce than the Tabasco provided on the tables.
The veggie and potato hash, with roasted brussels sprouts, mushrooms and radishes all tossed together then topped with two poached eggs and a drizzle of chive hollandaise, is beautiful and lemony without feeling too unhealthy. Mama’s Boy makes great pancakes, too, keeping them on the thinner side, so they get nice, lacy edges. If you’re a fan of the original, you’ll be a fan of this one, too, which is open from 7 a.m.–2:30 p.m. daily and does the same grab-and-go biscuit special (with free coffee) on weekdays.
SLURP: 180° Cafe (650 W. Broad St., 706-521-5380) recently added some noodles to its menu of Taiwanese street snacks. It’s not quite clear from the restaurant’s Facebook page, which touts the new item, that it offers both a cold noodle salad (with a sesame sauce and your choice of chicken, fried tofu, ham or just veggies to top a mix of thin noodles, cucumber, carrot, cabbage, broccoli, green onion and cilantro) and Taiwanese noodles (thicker, flatter wheat noodles with the same veggies but your choice of shallot, spicy chili, black bean and braised pork sauce, plus chicken, tofu, ham or braised pork).
It’s not really the weather for cold noodles, but the Taiwanese ones are better anyway. The sesame ones work well with their mix of veggies, but the sesame sauce itself is a bit too sweet, whereas the Taiwanese noodles come together a little better as a dish. Your mileage may vary, depending on the temperature outside.
180 also has popping boba now to add to any tea you might get. Rather than Pop Rocks (my first thought), these are spheres of gelatin filled with fruit juice (strawberry, mango, lychee or passion fruit) that burst easily in your mouth when you suck them up with the wide straw and press them against your teeth. They’re fun either with traditional boba (little balls of tapioca) or on their own. 180 still keeps its somewhat strange hours, being open from 2–10 p.m. most days (3–10 p.m. others).