At the end of the last century, not long after Jane and I started writing for Gourmet magazine, we met Jack Howard, the creator and proprietor of Mamie’s. Mr. Howard, who passed away in 2004, was a man with a big, welcoming personality who simply loved being in the biscuit business. “I am rolling in dough,” was his personal motto; and it was a highlight of our Roadfood journey to talk to him about the beginnings of his restaurant when he used to drive up to the mountains to buy big cakes of butter from the farmers and bring back jars of their preserves to put on his restaurant’s tables.
There now are three Mamie’s east of Atlanta, and although Mr. Howard is gone, the high standards he set for biscuit-making endure. I especially appreciate Mamie’s Kitchen in Lithonia. It is such a convenient hop off I-20 and even has a drive-through window for fast service and in-car dining. Speed is where any similarity between Mamie’s biscuits and franchised breakfast sandwiches ends. For one thing, the list of available ingredients in Mamie’s sandwiches is vast, including the usual (bacon, eggs, cheese, etc.) but extending to streak o’ lean, country ham, smoked sausage, hot sausage, tenderloin, fried chicken, and salmon cakes.
Even more important than variety is the biscuits’ quality. I could quibble and say they are so light and fresh and fluffy (and always oven warm!) that they don’t quite stand up to the more heavy and juicy ingredients, tending to fall apart as you lift them from the wrappers in which they are presented. No, they’re not easy to eat while driving. But in my book, their precarious delicacy makes it well worth pulling over or sitting down at a red-checked table to dine inside Mamie’s Kitchen.
While Mamie’s biscuits are elegant, the experience of dining here is boisterous, especially in the morning when the line of cars waiting for the drive-through window stretches out into the street and hungry customers crowd up to the counter inside to place orders for breakfast. The semi-open kitchen is very small; it is hypnotic to watch the staff do three dozen things at once all over the cramped space, never once bumping into each other.