You won’t need a ton of money if you come to Olean’s Cafe, but do bring plenty of appetite. Posted on the wall above the service counter is a vast menu from which to choose. Everything is piled in abundance into Styrofoam clamshell containers, which customers either take out for eating elsewhere or bring to one of the handful of tables in the airy dining room.
Breakfast is especially grand, the Olean omelet less a traditional omelet than a casserole, each serving of which is a block of food about the size of half a brick. It reminds us of a high-rise frittata: eggs baked with sausage, ground beef, potatoes, onions, peppers, and tomatoes, all under a mantle of melted cheese. Every forkful is a different medley of taste and texture; a single serving is a mighty meal. But you do want to side it with a serving of grits (or cheese grits), preferably garnished with rivers of melted butter. Fried chicken, which is available with or without a waffle as its trivet, comes encased in gnarled, crust-hugged skin that fairly drips fatty juice with every crunch. It is the most flavorful chicken imaginable.
For lunch, Olean’s menu lists a full repertoire of classic southern side dishes such as collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese, fried okra, braised cabbage, blackeyed peas, and candied yams. Everyday entrees include catfish, smothered pork chops, baked or fried chicken, and chitlin’s. Ribs are featured Thursday, mullet Friday and Saturday.
Religious mementoes are everywhere on Olean’s walls: plaques with spiritual homilies, posters for church events and gospel sings, and bas-relief praying hands. If you don’t drink ice tea with your meal, an equally sweet alternative is Hawaiian Punch-colored “Jesus Passion Juice,” the secret ingredient for which, Olean told us, is love.