Friday, April 17, 2009

Coming To Terms With Dinner

We'd have never found Olivers if we hadn't had a fight.

Well, not so a much a fight as a coming to terms, again, about just
where we're going to eat. His terms: Something familiar, common,
dependable, reliably clean, like McDonalds or a fine steakhouse. My
terms: Something off the wall, indigenous to the land we're driving
through. Like Big Al's Big Butts, the BEST smoked B-B-Q in the World.

We cooled our "coming to terms," gnawed on hunks of cheese instead,
and got back on the road.

Of course we got hungry again. And in Cuthbert, Ga., on Route 82,
Oliver's homemade roadside signs buttered up both of us: down-home
barbecue (for me) and sumptuous steak (for Allen).

We nearly pass it by because it doesn't look like a restaurant at all.
It's a simple, small pine-plank rectangle, nothing special, stuck
between a few fields (We park in one of those fields).

Once inside, again, nothing special. Eight tables, A few diners and us.

Then as the people began streaming in, I notice something special.
Everyone seems to know each other. A young boy in a baseball outfit
walks in with his mom and dad and everyone wants to know: Who won?
(His team won.) Newlyweds snuggle up to one another on the same side
of a table. How do I know they're newlyweds? Because the waitress
talks to them about their wedding she attended.

And a little girl dining with her grandparents draws a picture for the
waitress to hang on the wall. The waitress, the owner's daughter-in-
law (see, I'm getting to know everyone, too) leans over a little
banister and coos over that picture. The little artist clasps her
little hands under her chin, grins and twirls on one foot. She's so

Ken owns this down-home goodness. And he's pretty curious about the
strangers in his midst (us). So, he ambles over for a chat.

"Where y'all from?" he's grinning so wide.

"Just north of Syracuse, NY," I'm grinning, too.

"Why, y'all lost!" He's laughing at his own joke. We're giggling. We
can't belly laugh because we're too stuffed with perfectly moist,
tender barbecue (Allen didn't order steak after all).

Ken's a storyteller (that's why I put that funny picture of him -- and
a customer -- on this blog ... he's just a cut up; more serious pics
are below). While we finish our peach cobblers, he entertains us with
amazing things about this little eatery. It's only 6 months old.
Before that, this man and his son (who does most of the cooking) were
-- ready for this? Roofers, down in Florida, cashing in on hurricane
repairs, while looking for another line of work.

Neither of them did much cooking, except when they were out hunting.
But that hunting food was good, Ken said, good enough to convince them
to cook for others.

Therefore, Olivers, their last name, was born.

Ken leaves us to visit with others as his son, daughter-in-law and
Lori, the hired help, see to the business. I get it. They do the work,
he drums up the business.

As we leave, I find Ken outside, storytelling with yet another
customer (about birds stealing stuff from a hornet's nest). I bet
that man comes back for more, like us (if we're ever in these parts
again), not just for the yummy barbecue, but for the goodness served
up with it.

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