I thought that I should probably strike a balance in this blog between writing about my favorite restaurants and those which, while very notable, aren’t really the ones that I want to go to on a crazy basis. That way, I’ll never get hate mail demanding that I explain how I could possibly stop by scenic, downtown Frostbite Falls and not eat at the writer’s all-time favorite restaurant, when everybody on the planet knows it’s superior to the one I did stop at for a snack. That lasted about three seconds until I remembered that I’m writing on the internet, and have been ignoring hate mail about irrelevant crap for a decade. Well, that’s not true. I spent much of 2004 answering it. It wasn’t ‘til about the third time a particularly poor, deceased comic artist’s insane troll-like kid sent me a nastygram for saying I liked other inkers better than his dad that I started ignoring hate mail.
Anyway, my point is this: given time, this blog might develop into something particularly roadfood-worthy and memorable, and when that happens, I don’t want it to feature gigantic holes where notable, well-known restaurants should be. Obviously, I can’t eat everywhere in Athens in a big hurry, as the town is packed to the gills with excellent restaurants and I don’t visit often enough to do it justice anymore, but the day could conceivably come when the little sidebar could show you I’ve got 20 or so articles tagged as “athens” and not a one of ‘em would be the internationally-known Weaver D’s, because I just don’t eat there very often. And where would my credibility be then, I ask you? No, if I’m going to do this right, I need to mention Weaver D’s pretty early on, and I’ll worry about people rushing me to write about The Grit and The Grill and Five and Ten and Last Resort and… heck, there’s just no way I’m going to satisfy everybody, is there?
Truth be told, while a bad meal at Weaver D’s is hard to find, I just haven’t eaten there very often. You probably heard of it as the place that gave its slogan to R.E.M.’s 1992 album Automatic for the People, and true to form and expectation, any given half-hour stretch of enjoying your lunch while Dexter rings up another long line of customers will have him calling out “Automatic!” about three or four times.
There’s a lot to like about the way Dexter Weaver, who’s always grinning and calling out orders in a booming voice, runs his business. I’m particularly taken with the way he deals with indecisive time-wasters like my daughter, who couldn’t make up her mind. She was asked “You like fried chicken, darlin’? Good, I’ll give you two legs.” Just as well Dexter serves up the best fried chicken in the city, really.
Weaver D’s is in a tiny little building a short walk east from downtown Athens, just above a beautiful view of the Oconee River. The weather was very nice for a wonderful day up in Athens with my kids. The only down side was that the sky was mostly industrial-smog-yellow with pollen for most of the drive, with clouds of eye-killing garbage dust drifting across GA-316. We tried not to breathe, and dodged a hell of a lot of carpenter bees after lunch to walk around the riverbank for a few moments after lunch. A short walk is always a good idea after eating, especially if you can eat before the temperature reaches ninety-stupid with 100% humidity, as will be the case in Athens in about a month. I love that town, but there are limits.
Lunch was incredibly satisfying. My son, who knew what he wanted, ordered steak and gravy over rice. Both kids had buttered mashed potatoes and mac-n-cheese as their sides. Weaver D’s might just serve the best mac-n-cheese that money can buy. It’s absolutely heavenly. I remember that Dexter released a cookbook some time back; maybe there’s a recipe in it. I had green beans and squash casserole with my chicken and gravy, and got a faint smile from the girl in the kitchen when I misread the options on the wall and asked for broccoli and squash casserole. “Those are two different casseroles,” she told me. Ooops. I also had sweet tea; I try to just order water in restaurants to save a couple of dollars, but some things you don’t scrimp on. Missing out on this tea would be a shameful mistake.
Athens is simply a town full of great restaurants – another in the next entry – and I’m rarely in the mood for a meat-n-two, so I have spent years overlooking Weaver D’s and its very good competitors in town like The Mayflower and Wilson’s, which isn’t very sensible of me. The crowd that packs the place for lunch every weekday surely has its collective head screwed on right. If I still lived in Athens, I’d do a lot better job getting my tummy filled here. Then again, I recall with disgust just how many damn times over those dozen mostly wonderful years I wasted my money at chain sandwich shops and fast food before I got my head screwed on right, somehow justifying a Subway over a Steverino’s or a Papa John over a Pizza Pronto. Any chance of a do-over, God? I never got enough of this mac-n-cheese…