The Track Kitchen is so laid-back and friendly that the first day I ate here, I finished breakfast, brought my dishes back into the kitchen (as all customers do), and walked out … forgetting to pay! When I returned the next day and confessed my crime to Carol Carter, who runs the place, she joked, “I’ve got my eye on you!” I did remember to pay that day – for both meals – but I get the feeling that there are customers pay weekly, or whenever they remember to do so. It’s that casual.
Named because it adjoins the dirt track where thoroughbred horses are exercised, this little breakfast-only joint is more like a friendly company dining room than a regular restaurant. The same people come every morning, sit in their usual seats, and table-hop throughout the meal. They are the trainers, owners, and riders of the sport horses around which much of Aiken’s life revolves. They range from billionaires to hourly wage earners, from Arabian sheiks to southern rednecks.
What do they eat? Good old southern home cooking. Nothing on the menu is exotic or audacious — not in the least. But that’s the charm. These are square-meals breakfasts prepared with care. You know this even before breakfast arrives because you will wait a good while for it. (If you are in a rush, go to Waffle House.) Every plate is doted over by the one and only person who does the cooking: Carol. The last time I stopped in — the first customer of the day — she was sitting at her kitchen counter painstakingly dicing green peppers, destined for one of her fine and fluffy western omelets.
Carol’s grits are rich and buttery; eggs are cooked exactly as requested. Country ham is pretty good, although not ringing with cured-meat savor like the best of them, but Track Kitchen bacon is fabulous. It is baked, the slices put close enough together in the oven that several might stick together, resulting in deliciously unctuous bacon clusters that are crisp but barely bendable – just the way bacon ought to be.