Tasting Intown: A review of Tupelo Honey Cafe
By Megan Volpert
Maybe it’s because everybody who lives there is getting up early to go hiking and biking, but Asheville, N.C. has an incredible breakfast game. At the undisputed top of the heap is Tupelo Honey Cafe, where lines at the no-reservations downtown location usually stretch on to a two-hour wait on Saturdays, whether you like pancakes at 8 a.m. or 10 a.m. or noon. As a result, I have never eaten at THC because I’m impatient.
At long last, my wait is over, for Tupelo Honey Cafe has come to Sandy Springs. THC has been spreading slowly across many metro areas in the Southeast, with a total of 13 locations running from Arlington to Charlotte to Myrtle Beach to Knoxville. Here, you’ll find THC in the multi-use Gateway complex behind Chastain Park.
If you like Flying Biscuit or OK Café, THC was made for you. Order up the fried green tomatoes and you’ll immediately see why. Above all else, an establishment wishing to garner respect for its Southern cuisine must possess the ability to do a good fry, on the level of OK Cafe. Doesn’t matter whether it’s fried chicken or fried potatoes, fried avocados or fried green tomatoes – there’s got to be a golden brown color on a crispy outer shell that doesn’t break apart just trying to get the food onto the fork. I sampled all four of these menu items at THC, and dang, they’re nailing it. The chicken was plenty tender inside but firmly crispy outside; what they call potato cracklins are a crunchy, chunky delight way beyond regular french fries; if you have never eaten a fried avocado, you simply haven’t lived.
The fried green tomatoes showcase the fryer skills of this place, but moreover, the goat cheese grits underneath got my attention. I think they can give those “creamy dreamy” white cheddar grits at Flying Biscuit a real run for their money, and as those are the hometown favorite for most of us, it’s not a point of comparison that I make lightly. You can find goat cheese all over the menu, most obviously in the pecan-crusted goat cheese – a spread for people who normally won’t touch the cheese plate. Here it’s so sweet and so soft, thanks to finely chopped pecans and a pear-onion marmalade, there’s no problem piling it high on expertly thin and super salty crostini for a perfect balance of flavors and textures.
They do a pretty good pulled pork, too, which you can get on top of the johnny cake appetizer or as a meat-and-two entree plate. They slow roast it for 14 hours for a protein that melts in your mouth but falls short on smoke. Though the pork doesn’t pick up any wood flavor, THC is banking on two solid BBQ sauce options, a Western North Caroline smoked jalapeño and a South Carolina tangy mustard. Both sauces bring the heat and the flavor. If you’ve got kids in tow, note that Thursdays after 7 p.m. you can get four kinds of bottomless mac ’n’ cheese for 10 bucks. If you walk in a little early, enjoy $3 craft brews and $5 cocktails.
Know why Tupelo Honey Cafe is truly great? Whiskey, y’all. Can’t get whiskey at Flying Biscuit or OK Cafe, plain and simple. THC has just as much ability to fry up all your Southern favorites and is equally full of all-day breakfast options even though they’re going by other names after sunset. But a proper bar sets it a cut above the rest. Have you ever tried that sake bloody mary at Flying Biscuit? It’s an abomination. THC doesn’t just have a decent bloody mary made with pepper vodka and a house mix, it’s even got a couple cocktails on tap, including a Kentucky Mule, an Aviation and a moonshine daiquiri.
If the liquor license doesn’t make you leap with joy, the coffee will – it’s Counter Culture. Based out of Durham, they get that smooth, chocolately mountain flavor that’s the only thing you want to wash down your buttermilk cheesecake or banana pudding.
Welcome to town, THC!
Tupelo Honey Café is located at 4600 Roswell Road, #110, Sandy Springs. For more information, visit tupelohoneycafe.com.
Megan Volpert lives in Decatur, teaches in Roswell and writes books about popular culture.