When I walked into Strickland’s Restaurant in Bogart, Georgia, it was exactly what I expected. From from my online research, I could tell that the decor would be a bit understated…a kind of a no-nonsense-you’re-here-to-eat-and-that’s-it vibe. It was my kinda place. I quickly glanced around and noticed that all eyes were on me. At this point, I had no idea that the Athens Banner-Herald had run an article about my visit the day before, so everyone knew I was coming…and they were there waitin’.
I noticed a group of people in the center of the restaurant…it was the Strickland family. Waiting to greet me was Michael, a third generation Strickland with his wife, baby boy and other kin who introduced themselves…hello, southern hospitality! Michael and I discussed what I needed for my visit and he graciously offered me a guided tour of the restaurant, kitchen and outdoor smoker. It was impressive to say the least.
While we toured the kitchen I couldn’t get over the lingering aroma of butter, butter and more butter. It was Strickland’s employee, Michelle, making what would be nearly 500 handmade biscuits for an event they were catering later in the day. This, on top of the nearly 400 to 500 biscuits she normally prepares!
As I made my way back to the dining room to set up for my interview with Michael, Ray Hanson – clearly a Strickland’s regular – approached me with a few questions.
In a thick southern drawl he asked, “Whut you writin’?” *NOTE: I’ll be writing phonetically in the hopes that you’ll pick up on Ray’s terrific accent!
I explained that I was a food blogger from California who travels the country to write about breakfast.
He quickly responded, “Yew wanna know whut I eat fer breakfast?”
“Yes, absolutely!” I said.
“Well, first, I eat hur evraday…sept fer when I’m outta tan or thur closed.”
“And, what do you eat here everyday, Ray?” I inquired.
“I eat thur biskits and grayva…”
“Oh, wow,” I said.
“And, at least 8 to 10 tomatuhs.”
“Mmm, hmm,” he said. “You like tomatuhs?”
“Sure do,” I said.
What happened next was something from a movie. I wasn’t quite sure where Ray was heading, but one of Ray’s cohorts picked up on it and quickly drew his pocket knife…in preparation to cut the tomatuhs. Ray returned with some beautiful on-the-vine ripened tomatoes. I asked, “Are these from your garden?”
“Oh, no,” he replied. “These’r from Sayam’s Club.”
Ray cut the tomatoes for me and introduced me to something called, “Tomatuh Gravy.” In effect, it’s dipping my Sayam’s Club tomatuhs into some delicious Strickand’s Grayva.
Finally, I had a chance to sit and speak with Michael who gave me a brief history of Strickland’s.
The original Strickland’s Restaurant was founded in downtown Athens in 1960 by Michael’s great-great-aunt, Essie. The restaurant moved to Bogart in 1995 and has remained a popular breakfast spot for many locals and travelers alike.
Michael described Strickland’s breakfast as the workin’ man’s breakfast. “There are no frills to what we do,” said Michael. “It’s simple. It’s easy. This is food you go to ‘work’ on…you’re not sitting inside an office, you’re outside in the sun working hard.”
Well, that being said…I think I’ll need to work a little harder to work off the breakfast they prepared for me! It was a breakfast feast like I’ve never seen…just a sampling of everything…cheese eggs, butter grits, smoke links (affectionately known as red hots), Strickland’s homemade sausage, thick cut bacon, strickolean, breaded pork tenderloin, country ham, biscuit, gravy, a hotcake and a side of red-eye gravy.
I started with Strickland’s homemade sausage patty…think large and in charge, flavorful and filling.
Next up, the red hots! These smoked sausage links are tasty and a little spicy. Michael said these can be addicting and I might have to agree.
Now, onto strickolean…which is salty. It’s typically paired with their biscuit. Did I say it was salty? Strickolean is salt pork. I feel like my grandmother might have used this to season her borracho beans, but I’m sure we never had it alone. I certainly would have remembered that.
In fact, their breaded pork tenderloin (their customers’ favorite) and country ham were just as flavorful. What’s more, the country ham is actually marinated with coffee to tenderize it. The brilliance then comes in the form of their red-eye gravy – drippings from the country ham. I could have bathed in this…if salt isn’t your thing, then I’d hang back from this one, but if you can handle a little salt and some AMAZING flavor, then their red-eye gravy is definitely something you should try. In fact, when you visit Strickland’s you should try the red-eye gravy with one of Michelle’s homemade biscuits!
Their cheese eggs and hotcake were cooked just right…both were light and fluffy. The butter grits were really more of a filler food, but once I dipped the cheese eggs into them, I began to love me some butter grits.
I saved myself for their handmade “cat head” biscuits and gravy. Michael said he wasn’t quite sure where the name “cat head” came from, but basically they’re formed the way one would hit a cat on its head if it were walking by…gotta love the south!
Also, a shout out to my friend, Betty Wolf, who was my hostess with the most-est for my stay in GA.