My commercial pilot friend Tim deserves some credit for the pleasant discovery of Lickety Split Southern Kitchen & Bar in Hapeville. When Tim passed through town earlier this summer, I poked around for a restaurant near his hotel by the airport and I landed on Lickety Split.
Lickety Split is located in a small, L-shaped strip mall that wraps around busy Virginia Avenue and Norman Berry Drive. Yet, with its entrance on the side street, you could easily fly right by. That’d be a shame. It’d mean missing out on some filling, homestyle Southern fare featuring family recipes from Mississippi native Melissa Harris and her daughter Nadia Harris. Melissa hails from Jackson, but she’s lived in Atlanta since 1998, when Yum Brands transferred her here to operate a handful of its fast-food restaurants. She retired last December but couldn’t sit still. Cooking and entertaining had long been her hobby, so she decided to bring her greatest menu hits to the masses.
Dishes like Juicy Smoked Turkey are as juicy as the name promises. It’s a big ol’ turkey wing, offering a bit of smoke and a whole lot of tenderness. Smothered in turkey gravy and served with a hefty scoop of a memorable dressing scented with sage, the plate was like a precursor to Thanksgiving.
That brown gravy needs sopping up. For that, there’s the Bread Basket – a choice of dinner rolls, cornbread or hoecakes. The muffin-style cornbread is moist, smooth instead of grainy, and on the sweet side but not quite of cake classification; the popular hoecakes glisten from frying oil without being too heavy when they go down the gullet.
The kitchen knows its catfish, sourcing pond-raised catch from Delta Pride to prepare nicely battered and fried nuggets as well as blackened, grilled and fried fillets.
Fixin’s are plentiful, with enough to create your own colorful vegetable plate. Among sides, be sure to include Kick‘n Collard Greens, which offer back-end heat from chile peppers, as well as Smoked Turkey Cabbage with killer pot liquor.
Less convincing were appetizers of salmon fried croquettes and fried green tomatoes, whose preparations can be uneven. During one visit, the patty-shaped croquettes were heavy to a fault, tasting less of fish than filler. On another, the salmon shone through, along with fork-tender texture.
An order of fried green tomatoes can also vary widely. In one instance, the kitchen sent out four disks the size of a dollar coin. In another, the plate held three slices, twice as big. Breading, too, is inconsistent; the golden fried batter may or may not slip off the green fruit. One dining partner – a lifelong Southerner – was perturbed by the aftertaste of the frying oil, which carried the flavors of everything else that had been fried in it previously.
Lickety Split’s version of banana pudding will really get Southerners talking. Theirs marks the first time that this Midwestern transplant has seen strawberries stirred into the mix. And vanilla yogurt. Whipped cream, too, instead of on top. It’s delicious all right — just different.
The shrimp and grits at Lickety Split have Gulf spirit to them. The triple-cheese grits are toothsome, offering a texture smack in the middle between smooth and grainy. The shrimp (although not the jumbo size advertised on the menu) hold the warm heat of cayenne. The punctuation mark, though, is the deeply flavorful Creole sauce ladled on top.
I wish the shrimp and grits were on the dinner menu instead of only during weekend brunch, because I’m less inclined to hit the place up for a morning meal. Most offerings were average — or less than that.
Peach Walnut French Toast might taste worlds different if the peaches didn’t taste of the canned variety and the walnuts were toasted and chopped. The Breakfast Bowl of scrambled eggs, grits, peppers, onions, hash browns, mushrooms, cheddar cheese and pico de gallo was blander than an undressed grain bowl; the Buffalo sauce accompanying an order of dry fried chicken wings over waffles spiced the bowl up nicely, though.
Lickety Split gets cutesy with its Chicken ‘n Waffle Pops. But threading a tough chicken strip onto a skewer and shoving it into waffle batter to make a floppy “pop” the size of your face is a flop.
Still, with no-frills, homestyle Southern classics – done their way – for a very reasonable price and served with a noteworthy level of hospitality, Lickety Split is a welcome addition to Hapeville’s lunch and dinner scene. I’ll gladly meet up here with out-of-towners on their overnight stay, place an order with a capable server who doesn’t even need a notepad, dig a fork into juicy turkey and smoked cabbage, and ponder pink banana pudding.
LICKETY SPLIT SOUTHERN KITCHEN & BAR
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays. 1155 Virginia Ave., Hapeville. 404-963-5009, licketysplitdining.com.
Recommended dishes: Juicy Smoked Turkey. Catfish ‘N Chips. Smoked Turkey Cabbage. Shrimp and Grits. Bread Basket. Strawberry ‘Nana Pudding.
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