Cheap Eats - So-so Southern

Get a heaping plateful of cheap and tasty grub at Satterwhite's meat-and-two

It seems as much as we grow and change as a city, building new neighborhoods or renovating old ones to new splendor, some things haven't changed. Even the "New South" has its holdouts when it comes to traditional down-home Southern fare. Satterwhite's in West End has not only been holding out, but packing them in for the past 12 years, serving up all the good stuff a greasy spoon should.

Crouched in a modest storefront in an eroding strip mall across from West End Mall, Satterwhite's blends into the surrounding barbershops and check-cashing centers. Despite its dumpy exterior, the place is bright and clean inside with pink vinyl booths and a crowd of friendly servers behind the counter.

Some of the meat-and-two choices spelled out on the wall menu stopped my friend and I dead in our tracks. Ox tail? Chicken necks? The special of the day was barbecue chicken and two sides for only $3.95. As tempting as the price was, I wasn't in the mood to be wiping and licking my fingers for the next half-hour. I thought about the fried chicken, but discovered that just because it's on the sign doesn't mean it's served. So I opted for baked chicken, something I haven't had since junior high. The sides included fried corn, which I was eager to try, but again, no go. Instead I chose creamed corn and macaroni and cheese. With the chicken came a scoop of stuffing with gravy and a cornbread muffin. All this piled on my plate for only $5.95.

My friend was tempted by the chicken-fried steak, which we didn't see in front of us, but the server assured us was actually a mass of flank stank steeped in juices and onions. So he took a chance and ordered it with yams and creamed corn, and although he asked for a roll, he ended up with cornbread as well. Because of the difference in meat, his lunch was a little more at $6.50.

You know you're in a Southern restaurant when you don't even get a choice between sweet and unsweet tea. And the sweet tea was just that — a cavity in a cup — but hard to deny at 75 cents including refills so I added extra ice to water it down a bit.

It didn't take long to realize that my friend's flank steak that was supposedly chicken-fried was nothing of the sort. Minced green and red peppers were mixed in with the meat and it was lightly battered to keep it all together. The heavy sauce was a dark brown gravy with large onions slathered on top. This was actually a nightmare from my past — Salisbury steak. I was hesitant to try this dreaded TV-dinner meat bomb, but it wasn't bad. The meat retained its texture rather than dissolving into a soggy mess in the gravy.

My baked chicken, too, was a pleasant surprise. Not a bit greasy, the dark meat I selected was tender and moist with a light seasoning of peppery spices on the skin. It was a hearty serving with both a drumstick and large thigh that had been cut away from a whole chicken.

The side items were a mixed bag. The complimentary cornbread stuffing was a gooey mash of wet cornbread mix, nearly imperceptible celery and indecipherable spices. The greenish-yellow gravy oozing on top, most likely made from the chicken drippings, was too salty for my taste. The creamed corn, though, was quite good, with enough pepper to balance out the sweet taste of the creamy, crunchy corn. The mac 'n' cheese was just so-so, not too dry but still a bit bland. I perked it up with additional salt and pepper.

My friend liked the fluorescent orange yams ("Some of the best I've had," he said), but they were too much for me. The heady sweetness of the glaze overpowered my taste buds, but I could still taste a touch of nutmeg. The pieces were cut in large chunks instead of small bites and thus maintained their solid form rather than dissolving into a sloppy mess.

Overall, you can be certain you'll get an amazing amount of quality food piled onto your plate for not much money here. And with a new buffet-style Satterwhite's Southern Feast in Stone Mountain recently opened, you'll have a choice for downing some down-home Southern grub. The original is perfect for a quick lunch, but if you want more than meat-and-two, head to Stone Mountain to sample a little bit of everything. Ox tail anyone???