Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith
NEWNAN — On the way to Callaway Gardens, it was refreshing to organize lunch at the "Redneck Gourmet," founded by the late Mike Smith and run by his widow Cile and her sons Casey and Chad. "Casey and his wife Melissa," Cile said, "actually own the business but Chad works with him, and we see a lot of Chad's wife Angie."
David Boyd, the syndicated political cartoonist hangs out here. We are talking about every day. Sometimes, David shows up for all three of his daily meals. He has behind-the-counter privileges, often serving himself. After scheduling lunch, I invited Sam Jones, publisher of the Newnan Times Herald, and long time friends Truett and Bonnie Jarrard to join us. Lunch didn't take but two hours. Good food and good conversation keep you from monitoring your watch.
I arrived first. Cile pulled up a chair and reminisced about the cafe which features appetizers, including fried green tomatoes, salads (roast beef blues), roll-ups (rusty rooster), sandwiches (Durango), Hoagies (Chicken Philly), burgers (bacon, mushroom & blue cheese), vegetarian dishes (Dr. Feel Good) and entrees (Gourmet yard bird). You have plenty of options other than those highlighted in parenthesis.
When you get to the section, "Dawgs and more," there are 13 selections which makes lunch appealing to a broad spectrum of Newanites and visitors -- anything from a "Naked Dawg" to "Chicago Dawgs" to "Texas Dawgs" to "Double Dawg Dare Ya Dawgs" to "Stew Dawgs." With abiding affection David Boyd said, "The greatest fun is to come here on the Fridays when they serve nothing but hot dogs." He licked his lips vigorously as he praised the "Dawg Days."
Jeff Foxworthy, self proclaimed redneck, autographed a picture for the wall, and country singer Alan Jackson is an occasional customer. There are autographed photos, in addition to Foxworthy's, from Larry Munson and Herschel Walker. Also one from Steve Bedrosian who has been patronizing the Redneck Gourmet, dating back to his days with the Braves. There are several posters from the handiwork of Bulldog cartoonist Jack Davis hanging about, along with football jerseys, photos of Gen. George Patton and "The Duke," John Wayne on the Redneck Gourmet's wall of fame.
There is also an assortment of David Boyd's cartoons. The cartoonist usually holds court on a daily basis. "This is where everybody comes to find out what is going on in town," Boyd said grinning. Small towns thrive on local gossip -- everything from foreclosures to drug busts to DUI's and somebody, reportedly, cross dressing at a wild party in Atlanta.
The Redneck Gourmet is so well-known, it has its own familiar logo, "rg." If it is a redneck joint, you know its initials have to be lower case. In addition to serving three meals a day (except on Sunday), there is a catering business and cafe in nearby Senoia.
It doesn't take long to realize that the Redneck Gourmet is popular for a lot of reasons. Firstly, it is located on the square on a downtown corner. People can walk to the "rg" for coffee and Cokes or whatever they want at any time of the day. However, if the food weren't good, you could expect a serious decline in business, but Ceil and her sons not only serve good food, they are creative and versatile. Just ask David Boyd if you are not convinced.
Better still, come here and enjoy the emotional pleasure of seeing Cile, who bakes all the cakes, interact with a variety of friends and customers. As Jeff Foxworthy might say, "You don't have to be a redneck to enjoy the Redneck Gourmet."
Loran Smith is co-host of "The Tailgate Show." He is also a freelance writer and columnist.