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Pot calling the crock ambrosial

What A Crock! cranks out a lunch supreme



On a list of really bad restaurant names, What A Crock! must surely rank toward the top. Thankfully, just a few bites of the homey cooking at this month-and-a-half-old spot is all you need to see that the only thing the lunches are full of is good, savory value. When holiday shopping panic hits full stride at the nearby shops in the heart of Decatur's cute-boutique central, I'll rest and regroup at this new lunch favorite to gather my wits over a sandwich.

Country, with a twist: What A Crock!'s interior is textbook soup/salad lunch cafe, featuring tables set with country floral tablecloths and a wooden bookshelf that looks as if it's been crafted from parts of a barn. Breaking into the warm, country-kitchen feel, however, are several hyper-modern paintings on the walls that resemble light-exposed camera film. The setting might be as strange as the name, but items such as the Unfried Chicken Salad ($6.95) are marvelous whether you dine in or take out. Fresh mixed greens -- a little romaine here, shreds of frisee there -- are tossed with a sweet, creamy honey-tarragon vinaigrette, and topped with chunks of breaded chicken breast that is baked, not fried. Each bite I took of the succulent, crispy chicken was met with exploding juice bombs of red grapes, tamed by leaves of bitter green.

Addicted to pot (pie): Few things elicit more glee within my heart than pot pie. And I have completely lost my head over What A Crock!'s chicken version (quarter pie, $3.95). Gorgeous golden pastry, flaky yet crumbly and short all at once, yields easily to the fork to reveal a luscious white-meat chicken filling. Studded with broccoli florets and cubes of buttery potatoes, the filling is just creamy enough to create a sinful richness in the mouth without a touch of heaviness. My first serving was followed by a second and serious consideration of a third until a gentleman came in and ordered the last half-pie for himself.

Not to be totally overshadowed by the pie are the restorative soups of the day. On our first visit, a beautiful black bean soup ($3.95 for a bowl) was offered. Smoky with bits of bacon, sweet with onions, and tangy with a dollop of sour cream, the soup was hearty enough to be a meal in itself.

Tip of the iceberg: I'm not much of a deli sandwich person, but eating the smoked turkey sandwich ($5.50) feels like healthy adult behavior. Lacy slices of smoked turkey, Swiss cheese and tomato, and a light hand with mustard and mayo on multigrain bread makes for a filling lunch without excess calories. The wedge salad ($3.95) is dainty and rich. An iceberg lettuce wedge is lightly napped with a creamy blue cheese dressing, hefty tomato slices and house-made bacon bits of a large, irregular size that made my pork-loving friend's eyes twinkle.

I'm afraid all attempts at weight maintenance over the winter will be for naught now that I have developed a crack-like addiction to the restaurant's chicken pot pie. I know, I know, moderation is the key, but if you try the pie, you'll see what a crock self-restraint is.

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