As the update on the favorite eatery reached my hungry eyes just before lunch, I trekked to West Paces Ferry Road on the city's northwest side for a return to the dining destination, a first since its closure due to an accidental fire in December 2014.
The "restored" interior is pretty much the same as the dining room ever was, with colorful folk art, vintage curtains and fixtures, carved hardwood booth frames and lamps proclaiming "OK" in big, clunky or stylized letters. Even the "money tree" in the back room looked all spic and span.
It's my understanding most of the public areas survived with only smoke damage that required extensive cleanup. Crews were still working on touch-ups, especially to the Take-Away areas for "Food That Pleases" to go.
OK Cafe was one of the first restaurants I visited upon arrival in Atlanta to work at the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. Along with Mary Mac's Tea Room -- another Southern cuisine destination -- OK Cafe was my target spot for comfort food when I missed home cooking.
During the winter and spring of 1996, OK Cafe was a late night dining option when our evening Olympic Village training sessions took place at the nearby headquarters for IBM.
Later that year, I recall taking several visiting friends from out-of-state to sample OK Cafe's Southern specialties and soak in a dose of "real" Georgians on a spectrum including local celebrities, colorful wait staff, families with folks aged one to 101, politicians, anyone and everyone enjoying a great meal.
Any time athletes or coaches of Atlanta's Games asked me for a restaurant tip, OK Cafe was my first suggestion.
My "usual" meal at OK Cafe became their enormous all-beef burger with a dab of Maytag bleu cheese and thick-cut fries, and their milkshakes and cobblers are killer. Their breakfast items are hearty, though I've only enjoyed a.m. dining once or twice for early meetings with clients or colleagues.
Starting in 1997, I averaged about a quarterly visit to the restaurant, often meeting reporters there, and sometimes taking family members -- my sister, dad and mom visiting from Oklahoma (another place that is "OK") each joined me there on various dinner visits, and the entire Annie Moses Band (my cousin Bill's family, with a new album currently on the Billboard charts) filled a large booth with me after one of their Sunday concerts about 10 years ago.
Today's lunch also brought back memories of fun conversations with local friends, a few date nights, and meals with two long-time girlfriends. How better to woo someone than with collard greens stuck in one's teeth?
Though it's unlikely any fresh Olympic memories will be forged at OK Cafe, I do look forward to sharing many future visits with family and friends at the reopened hotspot. See y'all there!
Photos by Nicholas Wolaver except the entry photo by HallieAtlanta.