Miss Meg’s, Clayton, Georgia.
The late comedian and character B. S. Pulley once defined “a pleasant surprise” as a tit full of whiskey. But there are other Pleasant Surprises out there... and a couple of weekends ago, a group of us managed to stumble upon one.
Houston Steve, Bartimus the Magnificent, “Job Johnny” C., and I were on our way up to Clayton, Georgia for our annual “Men of the South” retreat, a weekend both spiritual and spirituous. A restful weekend combining davening and distilled beverages. Torah and tippling. You get the idea.
On the way up, we began to develop that borborygmus-inducing Hearty Appetite that comes from sitting in a car for two hours, and so we began casting about for a place to enjoy a spot of luncheon.
The place where we ate last year, the Tallulah Gorge Grill, was closed; a sign announced that it would be opening April 1. Alas, too late to help our growling kishkes. So we kept on going, until we hit the outskirts of Clayton... the last wide spot in the road before Camp Ramah, our destination.
Our eagle eyes spotted a small strip of restaurants... several holes in the wall all lined up in a row. Hmmm. Grandma’s Kuntry Kitchen? There was something offputting about that name... perhaps the unfortunate proximity of “grandma” and “kunt.” But two doors down there was a little spot called Miss Meg’s, and a quick glance at the posted menu was promising. We went in and sat down.
Most of the time, little operations like this will give you a decent plate of food, modestly priced. You’ll walk away satisfied, if not impressed, and chances are you won’t get food poisoning. But Miss Meg’s was another story entirely.
Job Johnny ordered a Reuben sammitch, and it was the Real Thing, piled high with meat and kraut. The cole slaw - a throwaway menu item I don’t bother to eat half the time - was so good, I asked for a side of it to go with the blueberry pancakes I had ordered for myself. Peppery and delicious.
The pancakes? Ridiculously good, to the point where adding syrup was almost a waste of effort.
Houston Steve ordered the house-made corned beef hash, and I am here to tell you that it ranked up there with the best corned beef hash of all time, the stuff they sell at The Donut Hole in Destin, Florida. It was oniony-good, and very clearly made by hand.
Bartimus the Magnificent had selected an oyster po’ boy, and it, too, was suitably magnificent, packed with crisply breaded shellfish that tasted of having only just been yanked from the briny deep.
“WTF?” was our collective thought. This stuff was competitive with any good white-tablecloth place in Atlanta. What the hell was it doing in li’l ole Clayton?
The owner and chef, one Brian Smith, explained that he liked the small-town life, having come from Brunswick, a coastal town halfway between Savannah and Jacksonville. That’s where he had developed the relationships with his seafood suppliers.
Owner-chef Brian Smith.
This guy clearly loves what he does (and where he does it) - and it shows. Because he does it exceptionally well, producing amazingly well-crafted meals when he could get by with a whole lot less. But “getting by with a whole lot less” doesn’t seem to be in Brian’s vocabulary.
What was for dessert? we enquired, half-jokingly. We expected the usual: pecan pie, banana pudding. But no.
Our servitor announced that the dessert of the day was “cream bru-lay.” Holy fuckamoley! Of course we had to get one for the table.
It was superb, a crackly crust over a rich, creamy, perfectly done custard. Wow. Wow wow.
Miss Meg’s was no tit full of whiskey - there would be enough whiskey later, albeit no tits - but it was a most pleasant surprise. Waaaay better than you’d have a right to expect from a small-town joint. Right then and there, we promised to come back on the tail end of our weekend... and we did.