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Good golly, Miss Molly!

Youngblood's R&B Cafe is a tasty variation on a theme


What you want? Baby they've got it at Youngblood's, the R&B-themed restaurant in the Midtown Place shops across from City Hall East. The diner appears upscale and corporate from the road, but inside you'll find a mom-and-pop affair with mismatched furniture, casual service, comfy booths and plenty of (er) respect.

Framed albums from the Ike & Tina days carry the theme throughout. Isaac Hayes grins along, but the space seems almost too big and airy for the homestyle cooking and soul food dishes being served. Nonetheless, Youngblood's would do well to keep its lofty space in Midtown where it offers something you can't find anywhere else in Atlanta.

What we ate: Sam Cooke Spinach Nachos. James Brown Burger. Lil' Richard's Mushroom Sandwich? It doesn't always work, but the theme is everywhere. It was enough to attract one friend to the Big O-Otis Redding Baby Back Ribs. The half rack of ribs spills over the plate and comes with coleslaw and a choice of baked beans or French fries ($13.95). You figure out if you can turn 'em loose. Marvin Gaye's Pork Chop sandwich ($7.25) is two thick chops deep-fried and placed on a sesame bun -- touted on the menu as "ain't nothing like the real thing," which mainly just left me wondering.

There's also the Mittie Collier Grilled Chicken Breast sandwich ($6.95) and the Ray Charles Caesar salad ($6.50), but what keeps people coming back time after time is the Aretha Franklin's Do Right Catfish ($6.95). Just about every table had a plate of the catfish (if not two or three). The two whole catfish are deep-fried and served with coleslaw and fries.

And don't forget dessert. The homemade banana pudding ($3.95) is served warm with a thick layer of meringue and loads of vanilla wafers and banana chunks. No R&B product placement needed.

Service: The servers are still learning how to quickly move things from the kitchen to the table, but as soon as they get their groove on, there won't be crying no more.

Most expensive item: The Gene Chandler T-bone steak'll set you back nearly $15. But the "Duke of Earl's" 16-ounce slab of meat is served with grilled onions and mushrooms with vegetables and a choice of a great big baked potato or fries.

Cheapest item: The Etta James Cheese Trio Taco ($3.95) includes three cheeses between flour tortillas and a dipping sauce of your choice. "At Last!"

Who to take: R&B fans will either be overjoyed to partake from the table of their songsters or offended by the tag lines inserted to sell. But whatever the response to the themes and titles, there's no knocking the mean, real mean food.

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