Overview: If there’s one expertise most of us southerners share, it’s the ability to find and appreciate a good country buffet. While there are many country buffets out there, there are few that pass some very critical tests necessary to be authentic.
Located on Canton Road in Marietta, John Boy’s Home Cooking has loyal customers that come from far and wide to pile their plates with southern favorites. The restaurant itself is simple, almost plain—a perfect backdrop for its big attraction, the food.
I have never been there when it was slow, a testament to its popularity. It isn’t a huge buffet, but everything they have is cooked the way southerners like it. The price clinches the experience: Buffet plus tea or coffee and tax totals $7.50—always, lunch or dinner. Kids buffet plus tea and tax is only $4.
While I won’t go over every single item on the buffet, I will point out some menu items that passed the tests necessary to be deemed authentic and southern. It is not enough to just say everything is “fresh." For food critics, it’s the details that count.
Don't bother to go if you are a vegetarian; really authentic southern vegetables are normally cooked with some kind of fat. If it doesn’t have some fat in it somewhere, it is probably not authentic.
Meats: John Boy’s serves a variety of meats and fish including fried and baked chicken, country fried steak with gravy, meatloaf, baked fish, fried fish and chicken and cumplings. I was impressed because they serve a delicious fried catfish on Fridays, which is no easy feat, especially on a buffet. Many customers say the catfish is better at John Boy’s than at a bona fide catfish restaurant. And remember, it is all you can eat.
Green Beans: Huge, flat, fat green beans are served here. I think they are called “pole beans." They are cooked until they are super soft and seasoned just right.
Macaroni and Cheese: Do you remember how macaroni and cheese used to be cooked? It was a casserole made with eggs and browned on top. When you dipped your spoon into the dish, it came out as a big chunk of cheese and noodles that stayed put right there. John Boy’s has this kind of macaroni and cheese.
Greens: Whether it’s collards or turnip greens, they need to be cooked in a little fat to taste right. Check. Also if your table already has hot sauce on the table, it’s a good sign that they know their greens. Check.
Biscuits: This is a little controversial as most southerners are very opinionated about their biscuits and most opinions are based on how a their grandmothers used to make them. So I will just say they don’t taste like they were made by a Yankee.
Hush Puppies: These little fried balls of flavor can also be a deal breaker with a southerner. John Boy's were perfect: hot and crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside.
Salads: The salad bar was pretty standard with one exception. They serve huge chunks of watermelon that are really sweet and fresh.
Desserts: Let me take a moment to say this to a (hopefully) sympathetic ear: banana pudding is not packaged vanilla pudding surrounded by some banana slices and vanilla wafers. That version is an insult to southerners who know it takes lots of eggs and sugar with a browned meringue on top. John Boy’s banana pudding is somewhere between the two, which was a little disappointing. It was made up for by the:
Hot Peach Cobbler: Old fashioned peach cobbler is served at this restaurant, and it is heaven.
And last but certainly not least:
Drinks: Sweet iced tea is the only non-alcoholic drink most of southerners care about. It has to be good at any restaurant hoping to be thought of as authentically southern. I know people who decide whether they like a particular restaurant based on how they make their sweet tea. John Boy’s comes through with flying colors on this one.
To make sure you get exactly what you are craving, take note of the weekly featured menu items:
Monday: Hot wings.
Tuesday: Fried chicken livers and chicken pot pie.
Wednesday: Fried and grilled pork chops, chicken and dressing, and spaghetti.
Thursday: BBQ ribs, chicken gizzards, chicken and dumplings.
Friday: Fried catfish and whiting.
Saturday: Beef tips, hot wings and spaghetti.
Sunday: Meat loaf and chicken and dressing.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
John Boy's is located at 3050 Canton Road, Marietta 30066.