Tasting Intown: A review of Old Lady Gang

Fried chicken, collard greens and mac ‘n cheese at OLG. (Photos by Megan Volpert)

If you’ve never seen a minute of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, we’re in the same boat. One of those reality television stars, Kandi Burruss-Tucker, has opened a restaurant in Castleberry Hill. The place is run by her mother and two aunties, and is appropriately named Old Lady Gang. Seems to me that every decent soul food place in Atlanta is run by an old lady gang. Though a certain crowd may consider this particular trio pretty famous, Atlanta has no shortage of restaurants owned by stars of stage or screen—the bigger question is whether the food they serve is legit, or as fake and cartoony as reality television.

Deep fried deviled eggs, cornbread and crab cakes at OLG.

What initially drew me is the fact that on Sundays, they serve an all-day limited brunch menu. Breakfast for dinner is obviously terrific. Most of their brunch menu items can also be found on the dinner menu. Southerners know that shrimp and grits must get its due no matter what the mealtime hour. Some of the dishes are attributed specifically to one of the three ladies—Mama Joyce, Aunt Nora, and Aunt Bertha. The namesake OLG beverage is a margarita that comes with a side car of Grand Marnier. Like a lot of soul food places, much of the menu pays quiet but detailed attention to sweetness and this extends to the beverages. They also put Hennessy in their vodka and ginger beer mules.

Every table gets complimentary cornbread, which is itself plenty honeyed and still comes with a honey-butter sauce for dunking. Amongst the apps, you want the deep-fried, whipped deviled eggs. The Old Lady Gang sure can fry! There wasn’t a drop of grease in sight. I’d put their technique up against the legendary fry-anything folks at OK Cafe. With a dollop of hot sauce and a sprinkle of bacon, these deviled eggs pack a savory punch without sticking to the roof of your mouth. We also ordered the crab cakes. The menu says it’s lump crab, but it’s more shredded than lump. Again held together by an expert fry, the crab cakes have a solid hit of spice inside. The remoulade was decent, but not as wonderfully flavored as the crab cake alone.

Shrimp and grits with vodka cream sauce at OLG.

For entrees, we got the fried chicken and also the shrimp and grits. The fry on the chicken was crispier than on the appetizers and you get dark meat unless you want an up-charge for white. The collard greens had nice-sized bits of smoked turkey still clinging to them, and the pot liquor was savory without being oily. The macaroni and cheese with a hard top on it is passable, but also sort of standard and lazy compared to the rest of the plate. It was good, but not especially creamy or extra cheesy, or anything else worth dreaming about when it comes to mac ’n’ cheese. The shrimp and grits came with five tail-on shrimp of a decent size, and they were made wonderfully sweet by the vodka cream sauce. The grits themselves were thick and dusted with a fine layer of Tony Chachere’s or similar seasoning.

There are two desserts on the brunch menu and we got them both. Kandi’s peach cobbler is actually more of a bread pudding because there’s no top crust and the crust isn’t very doughy or mushy. Two or three deliciously sugary bites is plenty, so this dish is great for sharing. The bananas foster banana pudding is also going to need spoons for sharing. Does banana pudding need to be smothered in caramel sauce? Maybe not, but of all the sugary upgrading going on at OLG, this dessert makes the most worthwhile sense.

Cocktails at OLG.

The service is overwhelmingly kindly and fun, perhaps because the hostess and kitchen still have some issues with wait times. It’s not a huge dining room, but thanks to its famous owner, OLG is constantly slammed. We’d made a reservation and got seated promptly, but they do fill up those reservation slots several weeks in advance. If you’re just going to try walking in, expect a two-hour wait outside because they keep the aisle pretty clear at the bar. Drinks and apps appear quickly, but entrees still take quite awhile even with the limited Sunday brunch menu. OLG may be a celebrity joint and it may still be working out the service kinks, but the food is the real deal, especially if you’ve got a sweet tooth.

Old Lady Gang is at 177 Peters St. SW. For more information, visit oldladygang.com.

 

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