The Images of the South
A big group of us met in Atlanta, and we were deciding what we wanted to do for dinner. There was one of us who spoke about Pittypat's Porch located in central downtown Atlanta. Her dad had gone to Pittypat's porch 30 years ago, and talked about it saying he really liked it and it has stuck in his memory for all theses years. A little more about her dad, he is a sportsman, and he has mounted a deer head and has it hanging in the house she grew up in. Her dad is a southern man who is used to and likes things in a southern tradition. Once we got to the restaurant, we understood more why her dad remembers Pittypat's Porch fondly.
1st off, Atlanta is generally devoid of all things southern, and is basically a generic concrete city with a lot of generic strip malls and generic subdivision in the surrounding areas. There is nothing about downtown Atlanta that says southern. I have never seen a fruiting peach tree in Atlanta. Most of the people I know in Atlanta are not originally from Georgia. CNN headquarters might may be in Atlanta, but if you looked at it, you could be in Dallas, LA, NY, Chicago, it doesn't matter, because it doesn't say southern.
Because Atlanta lost its southern mojo many decades ago, the original owners of Pittypat's Porch decided 50 years ago to open a restaurant that represented the south. When you walk in, it is like walking into what Epcot would design for USA South, but built 50 years ago with some 50 years of wear and tear. The 1st floor looks like a southern plantation home porch with a wood railing and rocking chairs. The concept is to offer the illusion of Auntie Pittypat's southern home charm.
After entering Pittypat's porch, you have to go downstairs to the main dining room. As you walk down the stairs, you walk right by the bakery where there are pies, biscuits and muffins are being baked fresh for dinner. That smell is so good! I mean, the bakery smell was so scrumptious, all I wanted was to sink my teeth into a corn muffin, and I don't even like corn muffins.
Then we got our first view of the dining room. The dining room was designed like a hunting lodge. The walls are wood paneling, there are animal heads sticking out from every wall surface, and also hanging on the walls were period piece weapons that you would use to kill the animals that have heads hanging on the walls. The furniture looks like they came right out of the 1970s and the wagon wheel furniture catalog. The whole dining room is completely over the top southern hunting lodge kitchy.
The dining room is really big, and it looks like it can handle large groups and convention guests. The thought I had was that Atlanta downtown hotels near Pittypat's porch are set up for conventions, and some conventioners may not have ever been to the true south before, and they think Atlanta is the south. Atlanta is not really the south. So the conventioners who go to Pittypat's Porch can get a view of the over-the-top kitchy southern plantation home and hunting lodge restaurant. What an odd thing, going to conventions in generic hotels and contrast that with Pittypat's Porch, what must out of town guests think?
Looking at the menu, most of the recipes are southern standards like fried chicken, fried catfish, and shrimp and grits. The drink "special" is always the mint julep. So some at my table ordered the mint julep. They were a bit underwhelmed with a glass full of mostly ice, mint tea and probably less than a shot of bourbon. Ok, the cup of mostly ice was $17. Nobody at my table ordered a 2nd one, not worth it. My suggestion is, drink water, it is cheaper than the mint julep that was basically water.
The waiter claimed that Pittypat's Porch has the best fried chicken in all of Georgia, and possibly the south. Those are some war words, as there are some mighty fine southern fried chicken cooks in the Nashville area, I am sure there are some fine fried chicken cooks in Kentucky and Mississippi as well. I mean look at the Colonel from Corbin, KY, he was one dang good fried chicken cook when he was alive. So, I said to the waiter, bring on the chicken because there is some mighty fine fried chicken that I know of off of Dickerson Pike, 8th Ave, and Germantown. "Bring it!" I said. Yes, others at my table who grew up in Alabama and Tennessee also said, "Bring it on man!" And what showed up was some rather plain just edible fried chicken, and I can tell you, there are parts of Georgia where you can find some mighty fine fried chicken cooks that can do way better than Pittypat's Porch. The guy one seat over has a southern mom who puts so much love in her fried chicken that her food blows all others out of the water. What I am saying is, don't make a best fried chicken claim at a table of southerns, you can't win against a good southern mom's fried chicken. You just can't win that one.
So the ending of this story is not really about the food or drink, but about the atmosphere. It is about bringing in the southern charm and southern pie and biscuit smell to your nose. It is about sitting in a rocking chair on the upper level "porch" at Pittypat's Porch. It is about suspending time and place for a moment and being in at a sunny and breezy porch where grandma is baking pies for later, grandkids are running around the yard playing with the dogs, and the parents are sitting in rocking chairs on the porch watching the kids while sipping on a cold lemonade. It is about having all the best images of the happy South in your mind. Perhaps this is what one's dad is thinking of when thinking about Pittypat's Porch - a warm, pie scent filled, happy place where you can spend time enjoying a rocking chair and deer trophy heads.