You’re looking at 292 years of soul food restaurant experience.
292 years of fried chicken, ham hocks and constant acts of kindness.
292 years of running a restaurant that’s the heart of a neighborhood.
The Beautiful soul food restaurant is a story of faith, survival, mutual respect, and cooperation.
These nine women are among the longest-serving employees of The Beautiful on Cascade Road in southwest Atlanta.
I spent a few hours making portraits of these woman and I felt good for days.
The Perfect Church owns The Beautiful restaurant, giving true meaning to the term soul food.
The Rev. James Robert Chambers started The Beautiful in 1979 with the goal of providing jobs for members of The Perfect Church. The restaurant employs about 50 people. The Perfect is a non-denominational Christian congregation. The women of the church wear a head garment which they call a wrap.
Elder Chambers died in 1983, and the Rev. Ronald D. Williams took the reins of the church and the restaurant.
“Our goal is to provide healthy eating to our customers and to give employment to the members of the church,” Pastor Williams said.
The restaurant offers some 20 vegetable choices as well as made-from-scratch dishes, like their famous banana pudding.
A galaxy of stars have stopped in The Beautiful, like Al Gore, Denzel Washington and Hank Aaron. Katherine Jackson, mother of the King of Pop, requested that a meal from The Beautiful be shipped to her home in California. The Emmy Award-winning documentary, “The Rise of the Southern Biscuit,” featured The Beautiful.
But the daily mission of The Beautiful is far more earthly than these brushes with celebrity. Pastor Williams works with local jails to offer employment opportunities for inmates re-entering society. Every time I visit The Beautiful I see a table or two of neighborhood folks working out the issues of the day. Wednesday night brings a worship service.
Go to the home page of The Perfect Church website and you’ll hear a hymn that will stay with you. Barbara Geter, the restaurant general manager, wrote and performed the song. She is pictured above.
How is the soul food?
I took my family to The Beautiful recently. My brother-in-law, who is not prone to exuberance, exclaimed, “We’ve hit a gold mine.”
The ham hock is the best I’ve tasted since living briefly around the corner from Brasserie Bofinger in Paris where I regularly ordered the jarret de porc. The oxtail belongs in the same league as the ham hock.
I once stopped at Fresh Air Barbecue in Jackson and bought a party pack. I then I popped into The Beautiful for banana pudding. I called a few friends to join me for dinner. I have spent days preparing meals that got less notice than this combination, and I didn’t cook a thing.
Breakfast at The Beautiful belongs in the not-to-be-missed category, somewhere in the same ethereal realm with the Barbecue Kitchen on Virginia Avenue in College Park (great airport tip, by the way, for anyone arriving early for a flight out of ATL).
If you have breakfast at either place, your next meal will likely be a midnight snack. Trust me.
Story and photos © Doug Hall
The Beautiful Restaurant
2260 Cascade Road SW
Atlanta, GA 30311
The Perfect Church
670 McDaniel Street SW
Atlanta, GA 30310