I wouldn't say I travel to Athens all that frequently, but when I crank my car, I have a hard time steering it in another direction. It is much like a trail horse that wants to go to the barn at feeding time.
The funny thing is, my kids laugh at me and insist that I don't know my way around Athens because I don't use the new bypass unless someone is in the car giving me directions. Yes, I said new bypass. How long has it been in use? Fifteen, 20 years? If it wasn't in existence before Herschel scored his first touchdown, it is new, as far as I'm concerned.
Besides, my kids should talk. I bet none of them even knows where to find the tree that owns itself, and they probably couldn't get to Hole in the Dam if their lives depended on it. Actually, I couldn't either. It has been 40 years since I was there. There might not even be a Hole in the Dam now -- or even a dam.
Now I told you that to tell you this. A couple of weeks ago, most of my family and I were in Athens looking for a nice place to eat. We wanted to celebrate the sun coming up that day or another revolution of the Earth around the sun or Mike Bobo's announcement that he wasn't interested in becoming a Hokie. I honestly can't remember the occasion. I don't need much of an excuse to celebrate, these days. As we tried to decide where to dine, I began waxing nostalgic about all the places I would like to have gone if those places still existed.
We could go to the Peddler Steakhouse on Broad Street, I lamented, if only it were still in operation. Now that was a place to eat a steak! They had one of the first salad bars I had ever experienced, and I mean it was always loaded with the freshest lettuce and other vegetables and fruits. Sometimes you could even catch them putting out boiled shrimp and those homemade croutons!
If you ever ate at the Peddler you recall that they would bring whole cuts of meat out to the table and you would tell them how much you wanted them to cut off and cook for you. And cook it they would -- to perfection. Their steaks were better than snuff and not half as dusty.
On the other end of the downtown Broad Street strip was the Spaghetti Store. At least I think that's what they called it. It was a favorite of my lovely wife, Lisa, and me during the early days of our marriage. Yes, the spaghetti was very tasty and they had good salads, too. But most of all it was cheap! And kids ate free and got to color while they waited for their spaghetti and meatballs. That's always a plus for young couples starting out who don't have much money. I guess it wouldn't be bad for old folks finishing up that don't have any money. It's been a long time since anyone offered to feed my kids for free. Too bad, too. I usually have six of them along nowadays.
I also told them about the Swamp Guinea, speaking of places I can't find anymore. We used to get up a group and go there on Thursday nights, about once a month, when I was a poor college student. The catfish and other dishes were served family style and they would bring hot platters of deliciously greasy food to your table as long as you would sit and eat it. We had some big old boys in my group -- and a few not so big boys that could put away some groceries. There have been so many times I have longed to take my son Jackson to the Swamp Guinea. I don't know how they ever made a profit.
As we drove out toward Atlanta Highway I told them, for the umpteenth time, about my two favorite Athens eateries. Poss' and Charlie Williams -- and, yes, I realize there is a family connection.
What I wouldn't give to be able to sit down at Poss' one more time. OK, maybe four or five more times, because on one trip I would have to have a little barbecue and stew and the next time some pan-fried catfish and then a BP Special -- hamburger steak with grilled onions and melted cheese, served on a sizzling platter with a baked potato and tossed salad on the side. It was so good it would make you slap your mama. And of course I would have to have one more Crown Steak.
And Charlie Williams' Pinecrest Lodge! I still haven't forgiven Mike Williams for closing that place down. Crab legs and oysters and shrimp and sirloin steak and ... well, you remember what they served. I heard they still cater events at the Lodge. Maybe I will think of an excuse to have a knock-down-drag-out party down there soon.
I have to go now, y'all. I have made myself hungry. I have to find something to eat before I starve.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.