Yesterday we took a drive to see the Chattahoochee RiverWalk in downtown Columbus, but got lost and ended up in Alabama. Whoops! At least we can check off another state on our adventure.
We eventually found our way to downtown, but crossed the river once again (this time on purpose) to hit the CVS in Phenix. We were running a few errands that we didn’t have a chance to run in Atlanta, but finally got the pictures we needed printed and mailed off a couple of packages.
After about an hour of running around, we were able to drive through the downtown area. It was so quiet that it felt like we were there on a Sunday afternoon. There are a couple of massive buildings in the area for what I’m guessing are probably the largest companies in the city (TSYS and Aflac), but the majority of the downtown area is quaint and framed with old brick buildings that appear now to have many empty storefronts.
We parked at the end of Broadway near Country’s Barbecue, a restaurant one of our good friends recommended we try while in town. We could see a walking bridge and finally found an access point to the RiverWalk, so even though the air was filled with the delicious scents of Southern BBQ when we got out of the car, we decided to take a stroll up the path.
This time we stayed in Georgia and walked up the river. The cement trail was lined with trees and bushes all ready in full bloom. To our left we could see the surprisingly fast-moving Chattahoochee forming rapids as it dove and splashed over large rocks and downed trees (up near us the river tends to be a bit more on the lazy side). It’s easy to see why Columbus trumpets its whitewater course (which is reportedly the longest urban whitewater course in the world).
We strolled to the end of the northern path and then headed back towards Country’s (the BBQ was calling my name). The exterior had the nostalgic feel of an old diner meeting the five and dime (according to the website it used to be a Greyhound bus station). A 1930’s era bus flanks a drive-through that wraps around the building. When inside, you can actually sit in the bus which has been retrofitted with a countertop running along the windows that face out to the parking lot. The rest of the restaurant looks like a charming old diner, complete with a milkshake bar and jukebox spitting out free tunes.
We sat at a booth towards the front of the restaurant and were greeted by a slightly over-eager teenage waitress who asked if we were ready to order as our butts were barely finished sliding into our seats. Matt and I looked at each other and laughed, then begged a few minutes to look over the menu (which is fairly extensive). She reappeared what felt like two minutes later with our waters and asked again if we were ready to order. We hadn’t even made it past the appetizers yet, but decided to go ahead and put in an order for Frito’s and a southwest dip and a cup of Brunswick Stew.
The stew that, according to the restaurant menu, is made from scratch over the course of two days came out FAST! The Frito’s and dip followed shortly behind. The stew was good–it reminded me a bit of a tomato soup spiked with bits of barbecued pork and corn. The dip wasn’t our favorite (it was a mayo-based dip seasoned with garlic, onion and chili), but it’s hard to go wrong with a plate of Frito’s sitting in front of you (yes, as much as I love a plate of well-crafted food, I could also devour a bag of Frito’s in about 10 minutes if I put my mind to it–don’t judge!).
For the main course, I picked the Jimichanga (the Monday night special). It is a burrito filled with barbecue chicken, jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and the restaurant’s “backfire” sauce. It is covered with more cheese and sour cream and sails on a bowl of chili. I got the salad as my side item. It came out first and was basically a bowl of iceberg lettuce sprinkled with a couple shreds of carrot and cabbage. We joked when it arrived that I’m probably the only one who’s ever ordered the side salad there and the kitchen crew was scrambling around asking, “do we even have salad here?”.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Jimichanga. The chicken was tender and good, but I could have done without the backfire sauce (which tasted much like yellow stadium mustard to me), the hamburger slices of tomatoes and salad-sized lettuce. The chili was good, though a bit more on the mild side than I typically eat it.
Matt ordered the Conglomeration Platter, which included ribs, pork and beef along with two sides. Interested in the collard greens, Matt asked our server what it meant by “fresh” on the menu; were they served raw like a salad, sauteed or stewed? Our server was very confused as she explained that “fresh” means they are cleaned and cut up at the restaurant versus bought pre-cleaned and pre-cut as they often are at other places. I had to giggle at Matt after she left, teasing him that it was probably the first time she got that question being this far south.
Matt’s ribs were very tender and delicious. The pork and beef were a bit hard to tell apart at first (even our server didn’t know which was which), but the pork ended up being so tender you could cut it with a spoon (though it was a bit on the bland side). The beef was savory and the greens ended up being very good. The coleslaw was vinegar-based and the cornbread actually tasted of corn.
We were barely halfway through our meal when our server came over and asked if we wanted dessert. Matt and I had to laugh again at the timing, but at least our server was quick and friendly.
Overall, we appreciated the atmosphere and the meal was very reasonably priced (only $30 for two appetizers and two entrees), but I can’t say we’d ever eat there again. Still, it was worth the experience. I must say, having the opportunity to eat and write about food is awesome!