Few Atlanta institutions are as unheralded as the White House Restaurant. While it may not have the following of the Colonnade or the name recognition of the Varsity, the White House holds up just fine in a comparative analysis. Part Greek diner and part meat and three Southern eatery, this Buckhead breakfast/lunch spot has been around in one form or another since 1948. Walk in on any given day, at any given time, and you’ll find a number of devout followers getting their fix.
Demosthenes Galaktiadis took ownership in 1970 and relocated the restaurant some four years later. Ever since, the restaurant has sat comfortably in a cookie cutter strip center on Peachtree marked by a truly bland facade. To put it another way, there is nothing about the place that will remind you of its presidential namesake, save for a handful of pictures of past Commander in Chiefs and some knock off presidential seals.
In explaining WH, people have used words like quirky, off-beat, and out of place to describe the atmosphere. I think those terms are misapplied. Rather, what you have is the static of the 70s holding true through today. The decor is essentially the same, the menu is essentially the same, and the staff members are essentially the same.
In keeping with that idea, I find the descriptors applied to the patrons equally as befuddling. I’ve seen more than a few mention how the White House is a place for the blue-collar folk of the city to rub elbows with the Richie Richs that call the surrounding area home (what the hell is the plural of Richie Rich?). I don’t know about that one. Granted, the last time I was in there before 9am, my idea of going for a ride was taking my motorized Big Wheel around the basement. It’s possible that the blue collar folk find their way in early in the day. In the meantime, I find “Old Guard” residents dominating the skyline. However, keep in mind that all comers are welcome and nobody will ever have a problem fitting in.
I guess now is as good a time as any to drop in this comic gem (completely off-topic and totally NSFW):
It goes without saying that over the years, several members of my family, myself included, have found great comfort in a meal at the White House. Part of that pleasure was and is most certainly derived from the consistency and predictability of a visit. But still, let’s not get all mushy over the nostalgia. Just because something has been around, doesn’t make it good.
Walking in, you know almost immediately know what the menu will offer. Pleather booths line the walls while a handful of free floating tables hold down the rest of the crowd. Meanwhile, the cooking area is on full display. Just opposite of the line cooks, you’ll find a food bar for the lonesome customer. As the counter stretches southward, the seats fade away and cash register gives way to the cafeteria line that wraps around to the wall. This place serves traditional diner food for both breakfast (available until close) and lunch. One whiff of the air, a look over at the cafeteria line, or a quick word with Galaktiadis, and you’ll realize that a number of Greek options are available.
The breakfast menu reads like most any diner. The omelets might be my favorite of the lineup. The eggs are always fluffy, and for some of the more adventurous type – there is a Greek omelet. The bacon is usually crisp, the grits creamy, and the coffee hot. Ultimately, it is consistently solid. In that, there isn’t anything here to separate the breakfast items from those at Waffle House. If you’re grabbing breakfast, the muffins are particularly dense and buttery.
The lunch menu offers up a wider selection. Sitting down, you have a full service menu at your disposal. Sandwiches (BLTs, Turkey, etc) make up a large portion of the menu. All use simple ingredients and deliver straight forward experiences. Surprisingly, there is also a section of fried seafood. I frequently order the fried shrimp, though I’ll admit, they don’t inspire me to crave-like status. Again, without fail, the food tastes exactly the same regardless of the day or time of your visit.
Meanwhile, the hot bar offers up a handful of items that come and go with scheduled precision. The Greek mainstays like Moussaka and Pastitsio show up with distinctive success. The Pastitsio relies on a well executed Béchamel sauce with touches of garlic and nutmeg. The Moussaka is also competent. They are perhaps the two most well-executed dishes on the menu. The open-face gyro is available daily, and another item that i go to frequently. The baked chicken, steamed vegetables, and various other items found there seem to fit their description. The quality of the food here isn’t anything to jump out at – but if you’re heading out for diner food, you will have a harder time doing better than worse. While the portions are more than ample, the price point seems reasonable. Usually, I’ll get out of there for about $12/13 with tax, tag, and title.
Ultimately, the White House is one of those restaurants that adheres to Gestalt theory. That is, while the majority of the individual elements do not elicit any great reaction, something about the experience on the whole is quite pleasing. Plates and silverware will clang throughout your meal and serve much like wind chimes – constantly moving but also a relaxing amendment. There’s also a good chance you’ll hear a belly full of laughter crawling past your ears … it’s just one of those places.
The true crown jewel of the White House is the staff members. A number of restaurants around town can taut a friendly folk or two behind the counter. However, many of them lack a competent staff. The wait staff and line cooks at the White House are all friendly and capable. Sure, once in a blue moon it might take you a minute or two to flag Ella down; however, those moments are fleeting and rare.
The experience is as consistent as Demosthenes Galaktiadis’ smile. While the food is well-executed and incredibly consistent, the middle of the road quality of the ingredients holds them back from a higher score.
Ratings (Explained Here)
Atlanta Foodies On The White House Restaurant
- Lynne’s Life On The White House Restaurant (04.19.08)
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