Long-time friends Erica Broadway, Angela Bethea, and Donna Robinson meet up at Just Loaf’n to celebrate Fat Tuesday.
A group of friends settled in at a quiet table near the center of the restaurant, as other patrons slowly filtered in, guided by brass band music befitting a Mardi Gras marquee evening.
“Everywhere he goes, we follow,” said McDonough resident, Erica Broadway. She and a couple of long-time friends, Hampton resident, Angela Bethea, and Rex resident, Donna Robinson, joined each other to celebrate Fat Tuesday at the newly opened restaurant in Stockbridge.
The eatery, Just Loaf’n, returned to the Southern Crescent city, after a five-year hiatus. The owner, Darren Williams, and his business partner, Laletha Moore, re-opened the eatery this month. Williams first opened Just Loaf’n in 2006, at another location along Ga. Hwy. 138, in Stockbridge. In 2007, he said, he moved the restaurant to Boulevard in Atlanta, in order to reach a broader base of patrons.
The restaurant has since found several homes throughout metro Atlanta, including on Old National Highway, in College Park, and on Roswell Road, in Buckhead.
Just Loaf’n, over the years, has earned a deep following from locals and native New Orleaneans alike.
Hampton resident, and New Orleans native, Lonnie Gatewood, celebrated Fat Tuesday with his wife, Amanda, and his sister, Lethreanna Grace, at the restaurant.
Gatewood reminisced about the food culture in the Big Easy, recalling a restaurant he frequented years ago, called “We Never Close Po-Boys.”
He, himself, owns a snowball stand that he keeps on Tara Boulevard, calling it a quintessential New Orleans treat that brings people together, particularly those familiar with the Gulf Coast culture.
“It’s going to always be the food,” said Gatewood, describing what he considers the focal point of New Orleans culture.
Gatewood spoke about his childhood, growing up catching crabs along ditches and levies around the city. He reflected on the evenings, as a young man, during Mardi Gras, and being able to smell spices cooking all around his neighborhood late into the night, as neighbors and friends congregated on their front porches until sunrise.
“I like that time of year when people are out and about,” he said. “Aint no tellin’ what you gonna smell. The smell of the seasonings, it hits you in the gut.”
Now, when he travels back home, it hits him hard — the humid air wafting off the bay. He smells it, he said, every time he crosses the Bay St. Louis Bridge on U.S. Highway 90, from Gulf Port, Miss., to New Orleans. “There’s always a salty seasoned air,” said Gatewood. “It’s that salt air at sunset. That’s what I get from this food.”
Just Loaf’n Owner Darren Williams said he began serving New Orleans-style cuisine from a food truck soon after he first relocated to Atlanta in 2007. He said he has provided vending services at various events around town, including at professional sporting events.
The truck has a Facebook and Twitter following of Atlantans, who receive updates as to where the Just Loaf’n food truck will be stationed on any given day. The truck, sighted in popular shopping and business districts in downtown Atlanta, and midtown Atlanta, offers a scaled-down version of the restaurant’s menu.
The offerings at Just Loaf’n include Shrimp Po’Boys and Jambalaya, and most items are $7 or less, said Williams. The small restaurant is located at 3797 Ga. Highway 138, in Stockbridge. In its 3,500 square feet of space, there is a band stage, bar and two seated-dinning areas.
The restaurant is open Mondays through Thursdays, from 11 a.m., until 11 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, from 11 a.m., until 2 a.m.; and Sundays, from 12 p.m., until 7 p.m. To learn more, call the restaurant at (678) 369-8342, or at (770) 875-1995. Visit online at www.justloafnpoboys.com.