COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — Before you can even sit down to one of Sharon’s Family Restaurant’s mouth-watering plates of smothered chicken or fish and grits, your nasal passages get a full course of owner Bobby Washington’s menu.
The intoxicating aromas wafts up from the kitchen, snakes around the service desk hovers around until it envelops the entire restaurant West Fayetteville Road in College Park, Ga., which straddles the southern tip of Atlanta.
This is a twist of Mississippi that causes a state change in people. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when Washington sets down one of those plates in front of you that’s overflowing with smothered pork chops on a bed of rice and side of mac and cheese.
Washington has been honing his skills as a chef since his teens and he felt he was ready to follow in his mother’s footsteps and become an entrepreneur. Even though he was born and bred in Syracuse, N.Y., Washington’s mother’s cooking expertise, which informs her son’s menu options at Sharon’s Family Restaurant, comes from her original hometown of Mississippi. That’s why you can indulge in the fish and grits, sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, collar greens and mouth-watering bacon cheeseburgers, and so much more.
“I been cooking since I was 18. I was the fry cook and the fry cook turned into a grill cook and the grill cook turned into sautéed cook. It’s a skill that that I picked up that I’m real good at and I really enjoyed it,” Washington testified while preparing for the afternoon rush.
As soon as Washington felt he could match (or better yet, out-match) his superiors’ skills in the kitchen at other restaurants, he convinced it was time to strike out on his own and open up his own restaurant.
“I’ve always had that mentality, like, I can do this better than the boss,” a usually humble Washington said with resolute confidence. “With this opportunity,” Washington is proving just that. With his mother, who the restaurant is named after, owning three businesses back up in Syracuse, the matriarch supported her son’s ambitions and aspirations to own a business of his own — doing something that he loves to do: cook.
“She basically said ‘go ahead, do your thing.’”
And that’s exactly what he did when he brought that smothered chicken nestled comfortably over a bed of rice and set it down carefully in front of me as if it were a newborn. Suddenly I was no longer hungry for conversation. My mindset was to simply assault that plate with extreme prejudice. I almost inhaled the food, it was that good. The chicken was tender with the gravy even more delicious (I’m getting hungry just thinking about the experience).
“My mom cooked with that style,” Washington answered when I asked him where they got their culinary swag from. “We just try to bring something different to Georgia, a different kind of soul food to Georgia.
The mother and son also adorned the restaurant walls with photos from famous folks who are from Mississippi – everyone from Elvis Presley to Tavis Smiley. It serves as a fascinating and educational backdrop to the restaurant (that is, if you can even look up from your plate while you’re eating).
“I try to create the best soul food in Georgia. Smothered in gravy, rice, mac and cheese and collar greens and yams. It’s really what you got a taste for that day. If you have a taste for fish, we’ve got that. If you have a taste for smothered pork chops; we got that too.”
Sharon’s Family Restaurant is located at 5611 West Fayetteville Rd #112, College Park, GA 30349
You can find out more information via phone:(770) 703-1263
Photos: Twitter and Terry Shropshire of Atlanta Daily World