If you go
› Where: Karl’s Family Restaurant, 5100 Hixson Pike.
› Phone: 423-876-5506.
› Hours: 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
› Price range: $3.25 (regular burger) - $10.65 (country ham plate).
Nestled near a bustling Northgate Mall at noon on a weekday, Karl's Family Restaurant offers a relaxing escape from life's busyness.
The parking lot is packed, and the restaurant is full. Ten women are grouped at a long table in the center, chatting about grandkids and whatever life exists beyond the grandkids. Smaller groups surround them. Several appear to be on their lunch break. Across the room, one gentleman occupies his time on his tablet and another reads the newspaper.
Still, it doesn't feel crowded. It's a place you can slow down and enjoy life.
My wife and I have been here once before. It's the type of place we love. The servers are kind, and we don't feel rushed. We wish the food gave us that same level of satisfaction.
"Stick to the breakfast."
That was the advice I got from a friend after my first trip, and it's what I would recommend to anyone going.
On my first trip, I ordered a cheeseburger. My wife got the meatloaf. Neither of us thought either was particularly good. The burger was dry with an oversized bun that didn't taste particularly fresh. The meatloaf wasn't much better.
We left loving the atmosphere and the service but unimpressed by the food. After the recommendation from a friend, I went back to try the breakfast.
It wasn't fantastic, but it was good. I got the breakfast special: two eggs, sausage with biscuits and gravy ($4.65) with a sweet tea ($1.95).
It's hard to mess up scrambled eggs, but it's also hard to make them just right. Karl's eggs were better than average. They were sprinkled with pepper and as good as it gets at a restaurant for that price.
The special came with two biscuits and a bowl of gravy — my favorite part of the meal. Once again, it was good but not exceptional. For the price, I would get it again.
The menu offers a full page of breakfast items served all day. There's no need to look further as they are the best things on the menu. But for those who would like something different, there's a list of specials inside. For $7.95, diners can get a main course with a choice of two vegetables and cornbread, biscuits or rolls.
The restaurant offers a wide course of side items to choose from. The ones I've tried were just so-so and didn't stack up to the taste of other side items at similar restaurants in the area.
Karl's has a homey feel. It's cozy. The dining area looks similar to an older living room, complete with striped wallpaper, a wreath and photos on the wall. Behind the cash register is a gift shop that sells dolls.
These homey touches make you feel like you're in someone's living room. Well, at least until you look at the cars whistling down Hixson Pike.
It's a good space for groups as well as anyone looking to eat alone. The living room looking area has tables that can be pushed together. There was a large group there both times I went, and they seemed to be regulars. In the back, there's a long room with booths for individuals or smaller groups. It's a great space for a weekly get-together with a friend or for a church group to meet.
Travelers along Hixson Pike likely know Karl's Family Restaurant for its big, red roadside sign and the inspirational messages that appear on it, along with the specials.
On both trips, the waitresses were kind and helpful. There were two waitresses working the floor, and that seemed to be plenty. My glass was refilled before it was empty, and the waitresses regularly checked on each table without being overbearing.
On both visits, it took a while to get our food. We waited about 20 minutes after ordering on my first trip and only slightly less on my second trip. It's not a problem if you have time, but it's not the place to go if you're in a hurry. It is worth noting they have call-ahead carry-out available.
Karl's Family Restaurant has a great staff with friendly servers, but the food is bland. If you're looking for a place with a quiet atmosphere and cheap food, it's not a bad option, but in this case you get what you pay for.