Formerly the Olde Town Diner and, before that, The Whistle Stop Cafe, the reborn Whistle Stop Cafe 573, with it menu of deluxe diner dishes, is oh, so welcome. Despite the abundance of good eats in and around Augusta, Georgia, excellent breakfast is scarce. Excellent, inventive breakfast is even scarcer. But here it is.
Not that the bill of fare is unfamiliar; but what is familiar is prepared with skill and, in many cases, plated and presented in an original way. Fried chicken and pancake hushpuppies, for example: When I saw it on the menu, I assumed the chicken (a lovely, crisp-crusted boneless cutlet) would be served with pancakes made out of hushpuppy batter, something like a hoecake. No, these are hushpuppies made out of pancake batter: red-gold spheres not unlike a well-cooked beignet — more buoyant than most hushpuppies, and somewhat sweeter. But not so sweet that they don’t become even more outrageously delicious when dunked in the ramekin of sweet white icing that comes alongside.
In addition to a fine ordinary BLT chockful of thick-cut bacon, there’s an imposing green tomato BLT that is dressed not with mayonnaise but with house-made pimento cheese and served on Texas toast. The same pimento cheese, in melted form, blankets a luxurious trio of salmon patties which arrive on rounds of crunch-edged fried green tomato.
The breakfast menu (available all day, until 2pm closing) lists a single pancake. It is a big pancake but not a heavy one, each fluffy forkful like some sort of pancake souffle. Wanting only the slightest glaze of butter and drizzle of syrup, it might be the best pancake in town.
Yes, this is a diner with a difference. At lunch, the beguiling repertoire includes a baked tomato & cheese pie, a fried catfish sandwich, a 10-ounce burger, even a vegan sloppy Joe made with beans and vegetables and presented on a potato bun.
By the way, this Whistle Stop Cafe 573, opened in June, 2018, is not related to the original Whistle Stop Cafe that occupied the same space. And its name is not an affectation. Just outside on 6th Street are train tracks where occasional mighty freights rumble past — diesels roaring, wheels clacking, and whistle blowing.