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Eat well, do good

Feed your Tummy and Soul at new co-op restaurant


It's true that restaurants, such as Iris in East Atlanta, can renew forgotten urban zones or serve as anchors in developing areas. The notion that an eatery could enliven a neighborhood as well as provide livable salaries for members of that community isn't just a hopeful one, it's a promise put into action by Georgia Avenue Coming Together. This economic development organization's first business is Tummy and Soul, a cozy restaurant where scrumptious Southern cooking comes with a side of healthy pride.

Breakfast with spirit: Tummy and Soul might be housed in a building that looks more like a lifeguard outpost than a restaurant, but its interior is homey and sweet. Sunshine yellow walls and folksy paintings brighten the small dining room, where chairs upholstered in flowered cloth add a cheery note. The menu changes daily, but delicious breakfast is a constant. A meager $3.99 gets you a satisfying "Soul Breakfast Special" of sausage patties or four crispy strips of bacon, two eggs to order, grits, and toast or a biscuit just the way I like it: compact and powdery. For $1 more, the pleasure of wiping runny yolk and creamy grits off the plate with a chunk of griddled, honeyed ham is all yours. I might find time every morning to pick up a biscuit with gooey orange cheese and sausage ($1.99).

Tummy yummy: Flaky fillets of white fish coated in zesty, peppery breading are offered daily for $3.99. They're reminiscent of the fried seafood baskets you find at fish camps a long drive from home. Dinner specials ($7.99) are lip-smacking bargains that include meat, two sides, corn bread and a drink. Fried pork chops are outstanding -- you'd be hard-pressed to find more succulent ones outside of a grandma's kitchen. The corn bread's a bit dry, but made for crumbling into your greens. Collards are tender and earthy, even more delicious with a lashing of hot sauce. Cheesy mashed potatoes are thick, smooth and comforting, while green beans are alluringly smoky from simmering with ham hocks. Candied sweet potatoes live up to their name, dense with brown sugar and speckled with raisins. Even though it's outrageously sweet, I can't pull myself away from the sugary custard.

Why not fry?: I'll have to revisit for the meatloaf and country chicken and gravy, as the fried chicken was too enticing to pass up. A dark meat portion is a superlative example of Southern fried chicken with luscious meat underneath a thin, crisp breading. Red velvet cake ($2) is fluffy and surprisingly not too sweet, with just enough icing to go around.

Had there not been a massive storm brewing, we would have lingered for a nibble at the smothered turkey wings or for another big glass of very sweet tea. But we'll gladly go back for more of the heart- and belly-filling eats.

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