Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.
For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.
Whenever we have a great restaurant experience out of town but fail to save room for dessert, we always tell ourselves we really should make time for an encore before we leave for home. Atlanta may be the first city in which we ever went out of our way to make good on that usually hollow promise.
We capped off Day One with a dinnertime recommendation from our friendly neighborhood hotel clerk and walked a few blocks north to Pittypat’s Porch. Named after the magnanimous hostess Aunt Pittypat from Gone with the Wind, the Porch has been a downtown institution since 1967, beginning back in the days before Cain Street was renamed Andrew Young International Boulevard.
Still fairly new in town and exhausted from the 8½-hour drive, I took a few extra blocks to guide us there because the part of my brain that interprets compass directions was checked out. But the important thing is we got there. And we learned prior to Dragon Con that downtown Atlanta sits on a giant hill, and half the time that hill is working against you. Retracing many of our missteps in the opposite direction uphill was not Anne’s favorite part of the day.
On a Sunday night the place was deserted, thus making the two minutes I’d spent setting up reservations on OpenTable a bit pointless. The gentlemanly staff were nonetheless kindness personified for the entirety of our meal. As with virtually every restaurant we visited in Georgia, Southern hospitality was the order of the day.
Our waiter warned us in advance not to make the amateur mistake of filling up on salad. If he’d really meant it, they should’ve tried harder to make the selections boring. Just make a salad bar out of a ten-pound bag of iceberg lettuce and shredded carrots, and I guarantee you I’ll have ample room for dessert later.
Of all the varieties of vegetables and cold salads available, my favorite bite was pickled okra. In a personal milestone, this was the first time in my life I ever bit into okra without immediately wanting to die. To my own surprise, I wanted more. Much more. I’m craving it again as I type this. As I learned last year with beets at an Indy restaurant, it appears the secret to making okra edible and non-venomous is to pickle it. Now I know.
Not pictured: our meals also came with side platters of black-eyed peas and collard greens, which to me tasted marvelous mixed together.
Sadly, we first-time Pittypat patrons packed in a plethora of plates and left no room for dessert. What we’d had was fantabulous, but we lamented what might have been.
Fast-forward five days later to Day Six, Friday. After our first full day of Dragon Con — three panels, one photo op, two floors’ worth of artists and shopping, and many blocks of walking and navigating crowds. By evening we yearned for something above and beyond food court grub. Don’t get me wrong: some of Peachtree Center’s food court grub was great and will receive its own spotlight later in the series, but on Friday night our defenses were down and I wanted something bigger. After reading up on several nearby higher-end establishments and running into numerous roadblocks involving dress codes and/or fully booked time slots, I suggested it was time for Pittypat’s Part Two. They were pricey, but we’d managed to keep many of our meals modest throughout the week to keep the vacation budget balanced. It helped a little that I ended up spending far less in Artists Alley than I’d expected to, so we had more cash on hand in case of emergency over the days remaining.
In addition, I theorized that at their higher price point, Pittypat’s might not be packed like many other eateries surely were, handling whatever influx of business they could from the tens of thousands of D*C attendees, at least several thousand of whom would prefer to spend all their dough on other con-related expenses such as alcohol, games, more alcohol, art prints, coffee, and also alcohol rather than on sumptuous repasts. Best of all, we already knew Pittypat’s wouldn’t demand we dress like businesspeople or catalog models, none of that “smart casual” folderol that once barred us from trying a fancy Chicago dining area a while back.
All my hunches paid off. Pittypat’s wasn’t too packed yet, and they showed no outward sign that they cared how we were dressed. We wore shirts. We wore shoes. We got service.
The same greeter welcomed us again, but I couldn’t tell if we were memorable to him. As we walked past the breadmaker on duty, he pointed at my Porg T-shirt and heartily greeted us, “Star Wars! Yeah!” Such is Dragon Con life.
This time we took it easier on the salad and the bread, though both were proffered in the same heaping helpings. This time we skipped my usual practice of looking for the more unusual menu items and went directly for the famous Aunt Pittypat’s Fried Chicken, per our lead photo. The weight on those birds added up, but we stopped short of going overboard.
This time we left room for dessert.
…and then we were full, nearly to bursting. And that’s the story of our favorite restaurant of the entire vacation. We ended both meals with a bag of leftovers to bring back to the hotel, where our room thankfully had a full kitchen that included a fridge big enough to handle Pittypat’s prodigious prizes. As God is my witness, we never went hungry in that hotel room again.
When we returned home to Indy the following Sunday, we still had leftover mini-breads in our luggage that took another two days to finish off. Now that is Southern hospitality.
To be continued!
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