Five minutes from the interstate between Augusta and Atlanta at a country crossroads where nothing else is going on, Sweet T’s is the cafeteria of Roadfood dreams. Remote as it may seem, it is no secret to legions of regular customers who start gathering outside well before the door opens at 11. By 11:30, arriving guests might wait 15 minutes or more before getting to the head of the line.
What a joy it is to survey what’s available: beautiful food in a country-comfort way. Not prettied-up or food-stylist-perfected or chef-improved, it is a vision of what one would hope to find at a pot luck supper prepared by a covey of southern grandmothers who really know how to cook.
Crisp-edged pork cutlets are hoisted from a pan with savory gravy and sided by fragrant dressing that has its own chicken gravy, dotted with chopped egg whites. Chicken is available baked (ridiculously tender, vividly spiced) or fried inside a fragile, potently seasoned golden coat. Slices of succulent pork loin glisten with apricot/jalapeno glaze.
There are so many good side dishes that I recently wound up with a tray of meat-and-5 (plus dessert). Among the highlights are rice and gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, beautiful pods of fresh okra (boiled), cabbage cooked with enough pork to become as meaty as a vegetable can be, cheese-enriched squash casserole, and sweet potato casserole. Accoutrements to go alongside might include biscuits or cracklin’ cornbread, hush puppies, crisp sticks of fried fatback, and pretty little deviled eggs.
Unless one gets more than three or four side dishes, there will be room on the tray for dessert. Banana pudding is magnificent, a perfect swirl of custard, bananas, large pieces of Nila Wafer at an ideal point of tenderness, and meringue that is lighter than air. Other possible sweets from the rotating menu include peach cobbler, pecan pie, individual fried apple pies, apple dumplings, and chocolate layer cake.
It’s impossible not to like Sweet T’s personality. Every member of the staff, from the servers to the cashier to the girl who patrols the dining room refilling ice tea glasses, seems bent on making sure the meal is a happy one. As my plate was filling up with vegetables, the woman serving them fretted that it wasn’t pretty enough and did her best to array everything just-so. When I didn’t finish all the food on my tray, take-away containers appeared so I wouldn’t leave anything behind.
Décor is a curious mix of slogans, some devotional, some cute (“God created man… then he had a better idea”) and photos and posters of Elvis in his prime. On one occasion, the dining room was serenaded by Elvis tunes playing quietly in the background. I am certain Elvis would have liked this food.
Note that weekday lunch is the only meal served.