Mack’s Cash Grocery is not a grocery, nor is it cash-only. It is a limited-menu dive/diner where you order, pay, and pick up your food at the counter and eat it either indoors or at one of a set of concrete picnic tables out front. Longtime fans come to “Mack’s on Laurel” for breakfast sandwiches and eggs starting at 6:30am. Among the morning highlights is a steak biscuit. It’s a cube steak sort of thing, semi-pulverized but more substantial than ground burger meat, tightly hugged by a seasoned crust. No, it’s not wagyu beef or prime or maybe not even choice, but its flavor is radiant; and at $2, it is in the running for the sandwich with the most taste for the least amount of money.
There is nothing intrinsically excellent about either the hamburgers or the hot dogs that have earned Mack’s a glowing reputation among devil-may-care aficionados. But order a burger fully accoutered in lettuce, tomato, onions, and mayo or a dog with chili and slaw, and you will be very happy. The buns, again, are nothing special; but they are impeccably fresh; and the dressing is done with expertise, adding up to a package that is in some alchemical way greater than the sum of its parts.
Likewise, bologna starts out as standard lunch meat, but a fried bologna sandwich — two medium-thick slices, grilled to succulence with a crunchy circumference, topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo — is an under-$5 delight. (Breakfast bologna biscuits also are notable, even if the biscuits themselves are boring.)
Bottom line: Mack’s Cash Grocery is not for the nutritional worrywart; nor is it four-star Roadfood. But if you are in Columbia in search of good cheap eats in a place with no airs or pretense but a big, bold urban personality, it belongs on your hit-list.
Note: At peak meal times, enter through the back door, where the line starts.