It’s Thursday at 1 p.m., and Spades Kountry Kookin’ is empty. Its lone employee nearly bowls us over with her short strides as she hurries to swing open the restaurant’s front doors.
Downtown Kirkwood is little more than two blocks of storefronts and restaurants, plus a BP gas station. Spades stands alone in a gravel parking lot, sandwiched between a funeral home and a realtor office off Hosea L. Williams Drive. Yet its view of the neighborhood is daunting. Across the street, the newly-opened Kirkwood Bar and Grill dwarfs the whitewashed storefront by a full story. And to the left, on any given morning, neighborhood patrons file inside Le Petit Marche like marching ants.
Sunlight pours through its horizontal windows and illuminates its blank walls, two rows of tables and booths, plus the dining nook to the left – everything but its gas-station coffee machines and the modest a la carte line in the back with its baked chicken, baked turkey or even oxtails swimming its its own juices. Every meal, served on a red cafeteria tray, comes with a corn muffin, two side dishes, two scoops of rice and either sweet tea or lemonade poured inside a Coca-Cola contour glass. More importantly, every moderately seasoned offering had been prepared at 5:00 that morning.
For just a few years, and for as little as $6.99, Spades serves what its owners and their relatives each just about any day of the week – though especially on Sundays after church. Individual, tender noodles of macaroni and cheese inevitably start to slide and swim into the juices of the baked chicken, or mingle with the dark green collard green stems that have retained their natural texture even after hours of sitting under a heat lamp. Its candied yams, scooped onto its own saucer, break apart with the stab of a fork. And its corn muffins may not be the same as your family’s corn muffins, but the Spades family dinner will instantly remind you of your own.
As the warmth of our plates settled into our bellies, a group of four co-workers stepped inside to inspect the restaurant’s options. A regular customer ordered food to go, only to sit at a booth with a friend and chat with the woman behind the counter. “I’m in love with her,” he said.
‘Home Away from Home’ is PURGE’s semi-regular, darndest attempts to find the best in Atlanta shack eating – those mom and pop shops marked with just ‘BBQ,’ or the ones set up shop at gas stations, even those without a proper website. E-mail suggestions at email@example.com.