Photo Credit: Whitley Carpenter
QUANTITY, PART 1: What is it about the building at 3755 Atlanta Hwy. that suggests abundance? It’s certainly not the unremarkable structure itself. First a Sonny’s, then Malinda’s Country Kitchen and Catering, and now a branch of Jefferson’s Carriage House restaurant (706-546-0385), its buffet setup has so far attracted those who prize the amount of food they get over the quality of that food. I’ll say this for the Carriage House: It is possibly a very good deal, depending on how much you eat, and the presence of a whole bunch of big trucks outside suggests that its audience is happy with that bargain. Buffets are hard to do well, given that the food tends to sit for a long time on a steam table, with crisp things rapidly becoming less crisp, delicate things wilting and nothing cooked to order.
The Carriage House offers lunch, dinner and breakfast, the first two having nearly the same offerings but different prices ($9.99 lunch, $13.50 dinner; discounts for kids and seniors). Breakfast is a weekend thing, starting at 7 a.m., and you can go back as many times as you like for pancakes (regular and blueberry, both fairly hard and suitable only as a vehicle for syrup), link and patty sausage, not very good bacon, scrambled eggs you can douse with cheese sauce, biscuits, a white sausage gravy that doesn’t have much flavor, French toast sticks, greasy hashbrown oblongs, chicken tenders and grits, plus, if you want, yogurt, tiny containers of sugary cereal and ice-cold fruit. If you remember the cafeteria of your youth with fondness, this is where you can rediscover it.
Lunch is a bit better, although still not all that great. On a given day, you might be able to choose from fried chicken, fried fish (not bad, considering that it’s been sitting out), steak and gravy, slices of ham, turnip greens, Southern-style soft green beans, corn (the style generally known as “fried,” meaning not on the cob and not creamed), pinto beans, mashed potatoes (instant, it seems, but available to stop you from eating your gravy straight), two kinds of gravy, a salad bar (not much patronized), spaghetti with meat sauce, the kind of sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows that belongs with the desserts, a goopy macaroni and cheese, flat cornbread muffins that are one of the better items because they don’t taste like sugar, fried okra and likely a few other items. It’s certainly possible some of the vegetables come straight out of a can, but in the case of the greens and the green beans, they don’t suffer too much for it.
Finished and still have room? There are lots of dessert options: a big platter of cookies, some casserole-type sweets, a freezer with cups of Hershey’s ice cream and freeze pops and a tall refrigerated case mostly populated by slices of pie. The apple is none too impressive, but the strawberry pie, the recipe for which no doubt comes straight off a Cool Whip container, is kind of perfect in its all-American simplicity. Fake whipped cream blended with a packet of strawberry Jello has been spooned into a graham cracker crust, then topped with more whipped cream. That’s all there is to it, but it’s not pretending to be anything more, and it’s fairly refreshing. The Carriage House is open for breakfast Saturday and Sunday, for lunch 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and for dinner from 3–9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
QUANTITY, PART 2: Doughby’s Pizza and More (50 N. Main St., Watkinsville, 706-705-6500), in the former Chicken Express, definitely has the “and more,” with a menu that incorporates salads, pastas, subs, wraps, wings, desserts and apps as well as pizza, and a decor that includes a lot of murals, including a custom-painted bus outside. It is not a buffet, but its portions are notably enormous.
Would that the food were better. The more toppings on the pizza, the less good it seems to be. Cheese is fine, but other versions get soggier with every add-on, suggesting that the oven needs to be turned up. The chicken parmesan comes with a slab of fried chicken and a large side of pasta, but it, too, isn’t very good. The garlic rolls, which have a little rendition of the restaurant’s Pizza Steve-esque mascot next to them, indicating that they’re a favorite, are quite tasty—huge, garlic butter-soaked things that are bready, not doughy. The bruschetta, also tagged as a favorite, overdoes it on the balsamic vinegar and is seriously garlicky but also a net positive.
Basically, it’s hit and miss. It does have a full bar, with about 10 beers on tap, plus big TVs for sports, an enthusiastic waitstaff, a covered patio out front, lawn games, plans for occasional live music and a kids menu. It’s open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.–11 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.–9 p.m.