Restaurant Review - Mr. Delicious

Curbside Creole: Mr. Delicious revs up the drive-thru with savory Cajun cuisine

In a car-controlled city like Atlanta, citizens are all too acquainted with drive-thru windows. Speed and convenience are the only virtues when you order from your car, which bears little resemblance to an ideal dining experience. It's more akin to swapping ransom for a kidnapping victim.

Not surprisingly, there's little competition for good or pleasant drive-thru ordering. Not counting old-fashioned, eat-in-your-car drive-ins like the Varsity, the best I've come across in the Atlanta area is Mr. Delicious, a New Orleans-themed food stand in Tucker that's a spin-off from a Decatur location. Mr. Delicious can take a little longer than some national fast food chains, but while you wait you can salivate at the smells coming off the deep fryer and tap your foot to the blues music playing on a loud speaker. And you may get called "sweetheart" or "darlin'," which has never happened to me at McDonald's or Chick-fil-A.

Slightly larger than a Photo-Mat, Mr. Delicious can be spotted easily from a distance; it's painted purple-pink with green trim and green awnings. It looks rather like a target at a miniature golf course, or maybe, with its Louisiana motif, a grounded Mardi Gras float. Christmas tree lights surround the menu and daily specials board, car-lot banners flap overhead and a life-sized cartoon of a jubilant chef dubbed "Mr. Delicious" all add color to an otherwise drab strip mall parking lot.

Mr. Delicious features two brightly painted picnic tables, but most diners probably get their food to go, with walk-up and drive-thru windows on opposite sides of the stand. The menu offers a nice range of choices and generous portions, and the po' boy sandwiches can slake big appetites and seafood cravings. Judging from the size of a "regular" sandwich ($4.95-$5.75), a large one could feed two people. Stuffing options include hot sausage, grilled chicken, roast beef, catfish and shrimp. I've sampled the po' boys of fried oysters and a Whiting special (fried white fish), served on hot French bread with mayo, and each had a satisfying simplicity.

I haven't always gotten everything promised at my visits. The jambalaya ($5.95) came with moist morsels of chicken and chewy bits of andouille sausage, but I could find none of the promised gulf shrimp amidst the dark, saucy rice. Another time, ordering a rib dinner ($5.99), I requested coleslaw as one side and red beans and rice as the other. But I received two helpings of the red beans, which did not prove welcome as they were too smoky in flavor and tasted disconcertingly like cigarettes.

A few of the smoked ribs came with meager amounts of meat, but I enjoyed the savory, garlicky flavor of the more ample ones. The ribs can come swimming in a soupy sauce, so beware of mess. The Louisiana gumbo ($2.95-$4.95) is a little salty, but has vivid seasoning and a tangy, brothy consistency. The prominence of cinnamon makes the bread pudding ($1.50) appealingly assertive.

Mr. Delicious' menu is broad enough to meet diverse tastes, offering fish dinners, crawfish etouffee, a bayou salad and a Downtown Creole Burger. Plus, on-the-go service doesn't preclude stylish flourishes. A small cup of gumbo came with an intact and yummy-looking crab claw poking jauntily out. Such an amusing touch came completely unexpected from something served in Styrofoam to a motorist.