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Down on Main Street

It may not look like much, but Cafe on Main knows good food

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The former warehouse district on Howell Mill Road is not the only hotbed of new restaurants in town. You should see -- or more to the point, taste -- what is going on in beautiful downtown Tucker. Long home to the marvelous Mathew's Cafeteria, which has been covered here ad infinitum (because I love their Thursday night turkey and dressing so), this tiny Main Street recently welcomed Cappellini's and its outstanding Italian cuisine. Now, another little eatery has been added to the gastronomic scene: Café on Main.

Café on Main is not serving dinner, due to the fact that its owners have to keep their real jobs for the moment. But breakfast is served beginning at the crack of dawn (well, 7 a.m., which is plenty early for me) until the cafe closes at 3 p.m. And once the morning turns into the afternoon, Café on Main is sending some interesting entrees out of the kitchen.

All of this is occurring in pleasantly contemporary surroundings. Café on Main shares a small building with a barber shop that looks like the traditional barber shops of years gone by. The cafe's decor, though, borders on contemporary, from the large black-and-white floor tiles to the shots of turquoise to the Fiesta ware. In one corner is a semi- circular indoor garden, oddly out of place.

All of the other greenery is to be found on the plates, where the kitchen makes liberal use of fresh herbs. As in, for example, a fragrant and satisfying turkey vegetable soup that was the soup of the day one recent afternoon. To sip the full-flavored broth alone would have been a delight. But to savor the thick, succulent chunks of turkey -- real turkey -- and the plethora of fresh vegetables was an even greater treat. Especially on a blustery day.

While there are the typical kinds of sandwiches on the lunch menu -- hamburger, hot dog, grilled cheese, club, BLT, grilled vegetable -- and an array of salads, what is most intriguing are the specialties of the house.

Put the pot roast at the top of the list. It is every bit as wonderful as pot roast is meant to be -- thick and lean and fall-apart tender, with hearty helpings of potatoes, carrots, celery and onions. And the gravy is rich as can be.

Spaghetti and meatballs comes in a bowl large enough to be a serving dish. And, oh, what fun to twirl the pasta and nudge the meatballs around in the thick tomato sauce.

Marinated, pan-seared chicken studded with fresh rosemary is several cuts above what might be expected of a small-town storefront operation. One thing keeps it from being a roaring success -- at least, this was the case when it was served to me -- and that is that the roasted red potatoes with it had been cooked far in advance; they were flabby and nearly flavorless by the time they got to me.

I have not yet sampled Café on Main's breakfast, but here is what is on the menu: fluffy buttermilk pancakes and bacon accompanied by warm Virginia maple syrup; French toast with fruit (and whipped cream, which sounds impossibly sweet and gooey); biscuits and gravy; country ham and eggs; chicken tender biscuit; steak and eggs; and a tomato biscuit -- a biscuit stuffed with tomato, basil, egg and Swiss cheese. There are omelettes and breakfast sandwiches, and everything is also available separately, as a side.

Café on Main, 2382 Main St., Tucker, 770-934-7178. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Inexpensive. Average price of entree, $5. Credit cards. Dress: casual. Ambiance: contemporary. Smoke-free environment. Wheelchair accessible.

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