**THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED**
Glitterati do not eat at the L&M Cafe, nor do persnickety epicures. It’s far from the culinary cutting edge. But if you seek a family-run diner with honest proletarian character, if time-burnished upholstery induces a warm nostalgic glow, and if you smile at a menu of effulgent burgers and meat-and-3 classics with Jell-O and thickly iced sheet cake for dessert, this inconspicuous roadside eatery on old Augusta Road is a detour you’ll want to make.
Whataburgers are the menu’s featured attraction. No relation to the chain of Texas-based Whataburger restaurants, these are thick, irregular patties of beef that are powerfully flavored by the vintage iron grill on which they’re sizzled. Piled into a big, soft bun with cheese and bacon, lettuce, tomato, and condiments, these are cooked-through diner paragons, large enough that a single is right. In fact, I thought my double bacon cheeseburger was overly beefy, if such a thing is possible. French fries are a worthwhile option: thick, skin-on logs with crisp edge and soft, starchy center.
Fried pork chops are outstanding. They’re juicy within and wrapped in golden crust that is salted enough to become powerful harmony for the meat it envelops. Extra-thick crust on fried chicken is an even more significant presence: chewy, flavorful batter that is a joy to tear off and eat all by itself. The chicken inside drips full-flavored juices. On the side, green beans, field peas, corn niblets, stewed tomatoes, and cole slaw are bit players in their little sections on L&M’s diner-style partitioned plates. Weekdays, a help-yourself buffet lunch offers all the side dishes and a couple of entrees from which to choose.
Although L&M is a short-order diner, service is not instantaneous. Those sitting at the counter or in booths near the kitchen hear meals being chopped, mixed, cooked, and assembled. In the case of deep-fried food or even the fairly thick hamburgers, this can take a while. I enjoy the wait, as it provides plenty of time to poke around the colorful dining area and the adjoining game arcade, which includes an old-time claw machine.