* Where: Home Plate Grill, 7807 Nashville St., Ringgold, Ga.
* Phone: 706-935-4663.
* Website: http://homeplategrillga.com.
* Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
* Price range: $7 to $9 range for most meat-and-veggie plates.
Daily specials (entrees and sides)
* Monday: Grilled marinated chicken ($8) and hashbrown casserole
* Tuesday: Meatloaf ($7.50) and broccoli casserole
* Wednesday: Chicken parmesan ($8.95) or spaghetti ($7)
* Thursday: Chicken and dressing ($8) and sweet potato casserole
* Friday: Smothered chicken ($8.95) or all-you-can-eat catfish ($14.95) and squash casserole
* Saturday: Meatloaf ($7.50) and hashbrown casserole
I don't get to Ringgold, Ga., with any regularity, except for the Dixie Highway Yard Sale in June and the occasional trip to prowl through the downtown antiques stores. But Ringgold Feed & Seed Antiques was celebrating its third anniversary last Saturday, so off I went, unconcerned about the torrents of morning rain and the 65-mile round trip from home.
Alas, the antiques stores yielded nothing on this venture, but my stop for lunch more than made up for this rare shutout. While poking around the cluster of businesses on Nashville Street, I spied Home Plate Grill and scored one of the best lunches I've had in a while.
Home Plate Grill rounds the bases several times with its sports metaphors. The menu is divided into Short Stops (appetizers), Outfield Salads, Hits (popular sandwiches), Home Runs (specialty plates) and the Daily Curve Ball (the Monday through Saturday specials).
Several items, according to the menu, are specialties created at Home Plate's sister restaurant, Choo Choo BBQ and Grill in Chickamauga, Ga. These include the Saturday special, meatloaf, said to be a family recipe, made fresh and topped with ketchup.
Sign me up. I love meatloaf, and the side of the day was hashbrown casserole, another favorite.
The rest of the menu had plenty more enticements. Appetizers include Brunswick stew and chili, either of which would have been a good choice on a rainy January day had it not been for the meatloaf. The priciest appetizer is the large serving of chicken wings (12 for $10).
There are five salad choices, including a BBQ Salad, made with chicken or pork ($7), and a small salad bar ($5.50) where you can serve yourself.
The Hits menu includes the expected assortment — hamburger, chili dog, turkey club, barbecue sandwich and a barbecue-stuffed potato. At $7.75, the open-face roast beef is the priciest item here, but it comes piled on Texas toast and served with mashed potatoes and coleslaw.
The Home Runs are Home Plate's meat-and-threes, with baked ham, country fried steak, catfish and fried shrimp among the entrees. Prices range from $5.25 for the vegetable plate (four sides) to $10 for smoked ribs with three sides.
There are more than a dozen choices of sides, including pinto beans, fried okra, potato salad, turnip greens, green beans, corn, french fries and onion rings.
The Daily Curve Ball is a lineup of true Southern classics — with the possible exception of chicken parm and spaghetti, which your Southern grandmother probably didn't make unless she was also Italian.
To go with my two daily specials, the meatloaf and hashbrown casserole, I ordered green beans, macaroni and cheese and a cornbread muffin. There was only a brief wait before the plate arrived, everything piping hot.
The description of the meatloaf "topped with ketchup" sold me on it, and it lived up to every expectation I had. I like meatloaf enough to enjoy it in all the fancy ways restaurants can serve it. But Home Plate's meatloaf is how my people — Mama 'n' 'em — cook it.
It was served in two good-size slabs, each about an inch thick, with the top browned to a crisp in the oven and then slathered in ketchup. Delicious.
And it's worth noting that Home Plate's meals come with three sides, not two. That's how I like to eat.
The hashbrown casserole was cheesier than I expected. For a moment, I worried that having the casserole and macaroni and cheese would be overdoing it, but then I laughed at such a thought. There's no such thing as too cheesy. The mac and cheese was wisely served with a spoon to get every drop of the drippy cheese.
I was stuffed when I left.
The seat-yourself sign was out when I walked in, and I found a lone two-top. There were several other tables filled with customers and a steady stream of people coming in, and I was concerned that I'd be overlooked there in the corner — my stomach rumblings shrugged off as thunder.
But as soon as the young lady working the register finished up with a group of paying customers, she brought me a menu. My waitress, the pleasant and helpful Kayla N., came around for my order soon after and checked back a couple of times to make sure all was well. Another server actually brought the food. Great teamwork.
Home Plate Grill is a single, large open room with rows of tables down the middle and along both side walls. The server station is at one end of the room, the cash register at the other.
The decor is a curious assortment of sports memorabilia — with roller skates, hockey sticks and a Braves jersey — along with black-and-white portraits of Charlie Chaplain and Audrey Hepburn. My table was actually beneath what appeared to be an authentic, five-sided home plate mounted on the wall.
The color scheme was muted brown and beige on the walls, brown tile floors and black tables and chairs. The TV was tuned to a football game.
One meal had me cheering for Home Plate Grill the rest of the day and thinking of reasons to go back to Ringgold. If I lived closer, I would be a regular customer. As Southern-style restaurants go, Home Plate Grill is playing in the big leagues.
Contact Lisa Denton at email@example.com or 423-757-6281.