What does Southern hospitality mean to you? For many, the tradition revolves around food and bringing nourishment to those in need. Often that nourishment comes in the form of a casserole. Several Atlanta casserole shops are helping us keep this tradition alive.
One such shop, Casseroles, which opened in Morningside this past summer, sprung to life after co-owner Betsy McKay received some Southern hospitality of her own. When her mother arrived home from the hospital after knee surgery, McKay’s attempts to scrape together a dinner from pantry ingredients were aborted by a casserole delivery from a caring friend.
The relief and appreciation she felt in that moment sparked an idea. Using her years of experience in the restaurant industry both here and in Paris, McKay partnered with friend Hunter Hanger, who has front-of-the-house experience, to open Casseroles. Together, they would preserve the tradition of gifting casseroles.
Whether you plan to take a dish to someone else or purchase one for yourself, you will find options for everyone at Casseroles, whose menu includes vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free selections. Additionally, the dishes here contain lower amounts of sodium, often relying on herbs and spices for seasoning instead of salt.
Casseroles serves classics with a modern twist, such as the Cottage Pie ($15.50-$46.50) — a take on Shepherd’s Pie with fall-apart-tender braised boneless short ribs under a mountain of mashed potatoes. The shrimp and yellow-corn grits with spicy and smoky andouille ($18.50-$53.50) take on a new depth with tangy cream cheese and a sprinkling of chives. The herby Stilton potato gratin ($12.50-$37) aren’t your mom’s potatoes. You’ll swim in the sharp oozing Stilton, garlic, shallots and earthy thyme stuffed between the layers of Russet potatoes.
A new shop dedicated to the Southern casserole tradition opened last month in Buckhead. Half Baked, co-owned by friends and Southerners Lee Bradshaw and J.J. Tomlinson, was developed after Bradshaw had a baby and received a simple casserole, which made life as a new mother far easier.
The two friends sought to create a place where folks could get “church-style” casseroles made with tried-and-true Southern family recipes. It doesn’t get much more Southern than the chick-n-biscuit casserole ($11.99- $37.99). A creamy gravy with chunks of chicken envelopes a thick layer of soft buttermilk biscuits — comfort food for sure.
The shop also serves a variety of homestyle appetizers, including a tangy spinach, goat cheese and artichoke dip ($9.99-$11.99), and desserts, like the freezer pies, to accompany casseroles. Half Baked even sells a morning dew casserole ($11.99-$37.99), with soft fluffy eggs, cheese and savory cubes of sausage to take care of breakfast.
Another casserole spot, Mom’s Table, with locations in Roswell and Woodstock, opened to address a different need.
Owner Joanne Rooks, discovered that families could use a source for quick homemade meals. When her children were young and brought friends over for dinner, Rooks recalled, “many of them were surprised to see dinner come from the oven and not out of a bag.” She realized that many people either don’t have the time or the know-how to cook.
Seeking to help, she began by making spaghetti pies, which she sold to co-workers and friends while teaching full time. Rooks later transitioned from teaching to catering before opening Mom’s Table. The lasagna-style spaghetti pie ($9 small, $20 large) remains on the menu, offered in traditional and vegetarian versions.
The fridge at Mom’s Table also boasts classic casserole-style dishes such as a creamy version of broccoli rice casserole ($7.50) complete with a crushed cheese-cracker topping, a potato-heavy chicken pot pie ($10 small, $20 large) studded with black pepper flecks and topped with homemade pastry dough, and a cheesy paprika-sprinkled macaroni casserole ($7.50) — just as you may remember it from childhood. With one of these options, you won’t have to resort to food that comes from a bag.
Whether you have given the gift of a casserole, received one or purchased one for yourself, you know this is a tradition worth preserving. Thankfully, we have folks that dedicate their time to helping us do so in these busy times.
Casseroles: 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. 1393 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta. 404-228-3260. $$-$$$$.
Half Baked: 10 a.m. -6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m. -noon Saturdays. 3185 Roswell Road, Atlanta. 404-228-5836. $$-$$$.
Mom’s Table: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. 1207 Canton St., Roswell. 770-552-7515. $-$$$. See website for Woodstock location information.