You know those places that are so off the beaten path, and so gosh darn delicious that you almost don’t want to let the secret out, because then…well…the secret’s out? Owens Boarding House in Warner Robins, Georgia is that place.
This hole-in-a-wall restaurant doubles as an actual boarding house, and has been around for more than 50 years. While it’s not technically off the beaten path—it’s literally across the street from the Air Force base in town—you usually only hear about it from word of mouth. There’s truly nothing fancy about Owens: inside the dining room are four extra-long tables that sit more than a dozen hungry diners, the menu is displayed on a white board in the corner and they cross off items as they run out, and blue checkerboard vinyl tablecloths act as the decor. But your not there for aesthetics—you’re there for the food. The gosh, darn, delicious southern, get-in-my-belly, soul food.
There are several things to note before I dive into the deliciousness:
1. They only accept cash.
2. Their hours are crazy limited
3. It’s right across from base, so it gets really, really busy
4. They only accept cash
5. Everything is served family style
6. Get there early, because once something on the menu is gone—it’s gone.
7. They only accept cash
And now, the FOOD!
First of all, Owens Boarding House is all you can eat (ALL. YOU. CAN. EAT!!!), and make sure you get there hungry, since there is a lot of food, and they just keep bringing it out as soon as something is low. Oh, and whatever you do, you have to save room for dessert.
One of the dishes on the menu every day is the fried chicken. Y’all, the scent of fried chicken actually wafts in the air, and you can smell it the second you get out of your car, which is just a big tease and makes your stomach rumble a little more. This southern staple is simply scrumptious, especially if you get it when it’s pipping hot—the breading is crispy, crunchy, and perfect (basically everything you want in the “fried” part of fried chicken), and the chicken is so tender and juicy it falls off the bone. And don’t you worry about eating with your hands and making a mess; everything is family style, so be one with the food.
Other main meat dishes includes meatloaf on Tuesdays, ham on Wednesdays, pulled pork on Thursdays (had it once and it was tasty), and ribs on Fridays (meaty, fall-off-the-bone barbecue style). Then you get into the side dishes. Every day there are at least seven sides on the table. Yes, I said seven!
Basically, all the good southern classics are there: macaroni and cheese, snap beans, lima beans, green beans, turnip greens, black-eyed peas, potato salad, cabbage, and biscuits and cornbread. Whew! Fair warning, their lima and snap beans are amazing. I literally had to move the bowl away from me, because I just kept spooning them onto my plate. The turnip greens are packed with flavor, and don’t even get me started on the mac ‘n cheese—the girls devoured it (as did my husband).
As for dessert, they bring out good ol’ casserole portions of peach cobbler (we are in peach country, after all) and banana cream pudding (that my husband announced many, many times that he wanted to eat the entire dish).
“Nom nom nom nom.” I swear both of my girls said that over and over again during our most recent lunch stop there. And I don’t blame them one bit—it’s so good that that’s all you can muster while you’re stuffing your face with food. I only ate at Owens three times, and I’m regretting not visiting more often. It was a huge treat every time we visited.
Owens Boarding House is no joke. It’s local, home-cooked soul food that seriously trumps any chain restaurant you’ve ever visited.
Owens does offer to go orders, and I’m highly considering begging my husband to bring home some fried chicken tomorrow. If you’re lucky enough to visit, don’t forget to wear your comfy pants and bring cash.
Oh, and let me know that you ate there so I can live vicariously through you; I have a feeling I won’t be able to find food like this in California.