Sunday, July 17, 2011
1879 Cheshire Bridge Rd. Atlanta, GA www.colonnadeatl.com
Last Saturday afternoon my grandmother and I had lunch at the Colonnade, an Atlanta institution since 1927. If you're unfamiliar with the Colonnade, you probably don't know that it's commonly called the restaurant for "gays and grays" - seniors and gay men seem to adore it. I can tell you that the average age of those present last week was probably 70, and it was only that low because 2 families brought babies.
If you haven't been to Colonnade but you've been to Piccadilly, you already know just about everything you need to know regarding the menu. Chopped steak with gravy, livers, vegetable plate, pork chops. Several different varieties of fried fish, along with country fried steak or country fried chicken. Vegetable sides include sweet potato souffle', green beans, fried okra, collards - the usual fried or boiled-to-death Southern fare.
I ordered the chopped sirloin with crispy onions and mushroom gravy ($11). You can see right off the bat that the entrees at Colonnade cost about twice as much as they do at Piccadilly . . . but you'll also get twice as much food. If you like large portions, this is the place to go. My crispy onions were slim and fried without being greasy (surprisingly), and the mushroom gravy was quite tasty. My chopped steak was a notch above that commonly available in the frozen food aisle of your grocery store - it actually had a little taste of the grill or broiler. My turnip greens were slimy and nearly tasteless, but my okra was good, only needed a very little bit of salt.
According to a recent PBS special, the current chef at the Colonnade has plans to revamp the menu, keeping some of the popular old standbys but adding a fewer newer, more interesting dishes in an attempt to attract a younger crowd who may have given up on the Colonnade. Guess we'll have to wait and see. The menu last Saturday could have come from the 70's, 80's, or whenever. There was nothing on it that any Southerner hasn't eaten a hundred times by age 10.
The decor? Exactly what you'd think - dark carpet with an unfortunate pattern, lots of unstable wood tables with a few booths, big windows allowing light inside so their customers' old eyes can read the menus. As a matter of fact, it looks like a lower grade version of the dining room at my grandmother's retirement home.
Service was average, a little subdued. Maybe our waitress didn't have enough time to show us her charm and personality. The place was rockin' busy from the time we set foot inside to the minute we left. One thing is for sure - if I never return to the Colonnade, they sure have a ton of other people who probably will.
A major word of warning here - Colonnade does not accept any credit or debit cards. They have an ATM just inside the entrance, if you're interested in paying the fee (in addition to your own bank's fee) to get cash at the last minute.
Verdict: Nothing new here.