You see, we often think of gas stations as semi-filthy highway oases at which we stop on road trips for a bathroom break or to pick up a family-sized bag of pizza-flavored Combos (which are so fire, by the way). But in the South, where food rules our souls, we have access to a good pairing of coleslaw and BBQ, at gas stations that don't have Subways attached to them. The best are the ones that offer up a good biscuit, the flaky, made-with-lard kind… like the kind from Mt. Paran Country Store on Northside Drive. The morning biscuits there are top-notch; that's a capital-T Truth. I’ve also found gas stations that, despite being nowhere near a body of water, have some of the freshest fried catfish money can buy… and they serve it up with a side of hush puppies, of course. Go to Texaco on Northside Drive, on the west side of the city. You won't be disappointed.
Onto one of my favorite places, a spot that's in a state of constant flux. Every other weekend or so, a man rolls into the Texaco on Memorial Drive with his smoker in tow. He drives a large unmarked truck that has seen better days, but his face remains young and enthusiastic. Fully suited with his apron, he moves the meat around the smoker seamlessly -- knowing where each piece needs to be placed every time. His voice is raspy -- possibly from singing, possibly from smoking, we never really talk about that -- and I still hope for the day that he recognizes me. His mobile restaurant cares not for health scores or having somewhere to sit. His restaurant is truly food-focused. I know that if I stop by, I’m going to pick up a crispy, fall-off-the-bone rack of ribs for only a few dollars. After ordering, I often walk back and sit in my car with the window open and my feet over the wheel and sip on a Coke.
And those are the times I feel immense pride for the city I live in, the times I’m incredibly grateful I grew up in Georgia where, despite what many folks say, the barbecue is finger-lickin’ good. While I don’t think we should identify a region solely on stereotypical food (ahem, sweet tea), it’s a blessing to have spots in Atlanta -- and beyond -- that are served with a side of no bullshit and no frills... simply paper plates and your jeans to wipe your hands on.
And by this point, I know what you're thinking: not all gas station food can be this good. Perhaps you've had a bad experience, perhaps you're simply a skeptic. Whatever the case, allow me to help you distinguish a legit spot from a dud. Realistically, you're playing roulette, but I will offer you my best tips: check out the gas station preemptively, walk in and see what they have. Don’t be afraid to talk to the cashier about the selection. I didn’t for a long time at my favorite fried chicken spot, and when I finally decided to approach him, he would give me tips on the best pairings. Let's just say we talk a lot more now.