Among the many fantastical dishes of the South, few are closer to my heart and make me yearn for them with a passion that is decidedly not Jewish as the pimento cheese sandwich. A simple concoction made of cheddar cheese, pimento peppers, mayonnaise, hot pepper sauce and occasionally another ingredient or two, the pimento cheese sandwich is an unfussy little guy traditionally served on white bread. At places such as the Redneck Café in Newnan, Georgia, which is a large, boisterous, order-at-the-counter restaurant where coaches bring packs of screaming little league brats or at more traditional hole-in-the-wall Southern restaurants with any kind of a lunch menu, the pimento cheese sandwich is fine, but a little too straightforward, almost like ordering peanut butter and jelly at a restaurant.
The most scrumptious pimento cheese sandwich I had found until just recently was the not very traditional one at the Gold Star Café & Bakery (903 Peachtree St. Ste. Atlanta 404-870-0002) in Midtown. I believe it’s called the California Pimento Cheese or something like that. It has avocado (to the rest of the country “California” added to a food item means avocado or sprouts or cucumbers) and the pimento cheese is grilled. That is really the winning trademark of a superior pimento cheese sandwich. This one is a big mess and with the avocado seems tailor-made for a Westside Jew. This place, however, has the vibe of a forlorn coffee shop that even college kid lowlifes have abandoned. (I JUST WENT BY GOLD STAR TODAY AND IT'S CLOSED)
Then, the other day, the wife and I went to the very popular breakfast and lunch spot, Highland Bakery (655 Highland Ave. Atlanta 404 586-0772). Their pimento cheese sandwich comes on crunchy sourdough bread (can’t beat that) with a tomato slice. This, the mother of all pimento cheese sandwiches, is grilled and not too mayonnaisy. It’s about perfect. Highland Bakery is another place that doesn’t bother much with décor. But that sort of goes with the whole concept of the pimento cheese sandwich. It’s no Cirque de Soleil spectacular. It’s no dolled-up honey. It’s a damn fine, working class sandwich (not so findable outside of the South) that kicks the bejesus out of them other sandwiches.