I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that after living in Atlanta for close to 25 years, there are a lot of local landmarks that I have never visited. I have never been to the World of Coca-Cola or to the Atlanta Cyclorama or to the Margaret Mitchell House. I have also never hiked to the top of Stone Mountain nor seen the laser light show there. Most surprising to me, particularly with my penchant for Southern food, I had not eaten at The Colonnade until last month.
The Colonnade has been in business since 1927. Judging by the crowded parking lot on a recent weeknight, lots of people continue to like this place.
It’s a sprawling space with a big sign at the entrance that alerts you to the fact that they don’t take credit cards; heck MasterCard and Visa didn’t exist 87 years ago, so why start now?
Despite the crowd, we were quickly seated in the busy dining room. Our waiter brought us each a small plate with a pack of Saltine crackers and two little tubs of butter; it was a curious “amuse-bouche.”
The menu is large without being over-the-top “diner” large. There is no bar menu, but they claim to make any cocktail you’d want and offer bottled beer and wine of the red and white varietals. You get the sense that most people don’t even look at the menu. They know what they want and the wait staff does too. There are lots of regulars in this place.
The house specialties are the fried chicken and the fried shrimp, so we ordered both. We also ordered the seafood platter with fried shrimp, fried tilapia and fried scallops, and the nightly special, prime rib.
The fried chicken was good, rivaling any Southern kitchen’s. The skin was crispy and the meat was moist and tender. You get your choice of two breasts and two wings or two thighs and two drums. The portions here are not small. The fried scallops and the fried tilapia were also very good but it was the shrimp, those 18 large, plump, lightly battered shrimp; they rivaled any found at any seafood shack in coastal Georgia or Florida. Everyone in our party agreed that we would return for the shrimp alone.
The prime rib was a large Mastodon-sized cut. It was ordered medium but came definitely more on the rare side. Our waiter quickly remedied the error.
Each entrée came with a choice of two sides or a side and salad. There was a large assortment to choose from. It’s not every day that you see tomato aspic or rutabagas on a menu. The hits were the cole slaw, the macaroni and cheese, and the cucumber salad. The slaw was crisp, rough-chopped cabbage with a tangy sweet and sour dressing. The mac ‘n cheese was not as cheesy as some found on other menus but it was a nice balance of noodle and cheddar. The cucumber salad was cool, vinegary tart, and sweet, as if lightly pickled. The chunked cucumber, tomato and red onion paired well together.
The misses were the fried okra and the fluffy whipped potatoes. The okra was a bowl of cold nuggets, too long removed from their fryer bath. The potatoes were dense, missing their “fluff,” and begging for some gravy or a pad of butter.
The sweet tooths in our party dug into a large slice of coconut ice box pie. It was very good with lots of toasted coconut, egg custard and whipped cream.
It won’t be another 25 years before I visit The Colonnade again, but if I did wait that long, I get the sense that it will still be there. Now, where’s this place they call The Varsity?
The Colonnade is located at 1879 Cheshire Bridge Road. For more information, call 404-874-5642 or visit colonnadeatl.com.
Art Huckabee is one of Yelp’s Elite Reviewers, as well as a pilot, gourmet cook and food lover. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.