There’s a gilded sheen to the Real Milk & Honey Cafe in College Park. You notice it the minute you walk through the door and spy the shiny gold faux-leather Chesterfield sofa with the instructions not to sit on it; the gold mannequin with a wig and sunglasses; the white mannequin with the golden bowler; and the references to Atlanta’s blingy pop-music industry. If a modern-day King Tut strutted in, he’d feel right at home, probably order himself a chicken and waffle.
Always loaded, always over the top, the rich brunch food here mirrors the glam setting: catfish fried to a golden-brown crisp and served with creamy grits; waffles topped with a deeply burnished jerk chicken quarter and accompanied by Crown Royal-spiked peach compote; fluffy cathead biscuits drizzled with honey butter so vivid and silken it looks almost like lemon curd.
These are some of the offerings you’ll find at the restaurant from executive chef Sammy Davis and his partner, Monique Rose, who with four Milk & Honey restaurants in the Maryland-D.C. area and Georgia (and two more in the works) seem to have something of a Midas touch when it comes to breakfast crowd-pleasers.
After working together in Atlanta, the duo opened their first Milk & Honey in Maryland in 2016; followed up the next year with a Cascade Road location with which they are no longer affiliated; then returned to Georgia in July. Their second local endeavor, which they call the Real Milk & Honey to distinguish it from the still-extant Milk & Honey Restaurant at Cascade, is the third in a lively trio of black-owned restaurants that have sprung up on College Park’s Main Street in the past year-and-a-half. (The other two are chef Darius Williams’ Soul Crab and Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen & Bar, from the husband-and-husband team of Gee and Juan Smalls.)
For now, the only place in Atlanta to get Davis’ heavily embellished yet wallet-friendly biscuits, waffles, burgers, and seafood dishes is College Park, where you may encounter standing-room-only crowds and weekend waitlists.
After three visits, I may not have all the feels for the Real Milk & Honey like some folks do. I roll my eyes at concoctions like fried shrimp on a Key lime waffle and Cajun seafood avocado toast. Still, I’ve never had a bad meal here, and even on a frantic Wednesday night, my order of fried whitefish fillets and grits came out promptly and was unforgettable in the way good soul food should be. Sure, I would have preferred the whole fried catfish option, but the kitchen had run out. After polishing off the impeccably crisped substitute, it would be petty of me to complain, though.
As a lifelong Southerner, I appreciate this genre of anything-goes, Paula Deen-worthy comfort food (Williams’ Greens & Gravy and the beloved Home Grown on Memorial, for example). My doctor probably wishes that weren’t the case. That said, I didn’t feel inclined to order the cuisine-hopping seafood burger (beef patty, grilled shrimp, cheese sauce, fried green tomatoes, fried egg and “Cajun creole” sauce on a challah bun). Nor a biscuit stuffed with a deep-fried lobster tail, fried egg, cheese sauce and avocado spread.
I did enjoy the shrimp and grits, not because of the namesake crustaceans, turkey sausage, hard chunks of fried green tomato or plain cherry tomato garnish. No, it was the ground corn and the chef’s creamy-spicy sauce that rocked my world. Another time, I had my eye on the crab hash (with a Maryland crabcake), but the server steered me toward the deep-fried salmon hash. Alas, the pile of lightly breaded and fried fish on hash browns, with sauteed kale and more cream sauce, was tasty and filling aplenty — but not something I’d order again.
On the sweet side, the Crown Royal Peach Cobbler French Toast was another crazy-big, well-buttered portion: three 2-inch-tall pieces of fluffy cinnamon-roll-like challah covered with a streusel-like blend of oats and honey. With the peachy compote, it was totally over the top and kind of wonderful. Dare you to finish it.
One good shareable nosh are those extra-large, extra-tender biscuits drenched in honey butter. Cathead lovers will find them exceptional.
Waffles are served with many things: fried chicken, jerk chicken, fried crab legs. We liked the Caribbean-inflected version, on a fat, plate-size Belgian waffle with a spicy jerk leg-quarter, sweet peaches, a mint leaf and a dusting of powdered sugar. I’m pretty sure it was my favorite dish on the menu. Like nearly everything at this cafe, it was eye-popping and decadent. For better or worse, gilding the lily (well, the waffles, grits, toast and biscuits) is what the Real Milk & Honey does best.
THE REAL MILK & HONEY
9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays-Tuesdays and Thursdays; 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Wednesdays; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. 3719 Main St., College Park. 404-458-5500, milknhoneycafe.com.
Recommended: Honey-butter biscuits. Shrimp and grits. Fried fish and grits. Jerk chicken and waffle. Crown Royal Peach Cobbler French Toast.
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