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How Izola's saved my sanity
Food column
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About Izola's Country Cafe
• The family who owns Izola’s Country Café has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years and can trace its ties to Liberty County back more than a century.
• None of the restaurant’s vegetable sides is cooked with pork, bacon grease or meat, although you would swear they were based on the deeply infused flavors. The secret lies in the special blend of ingredients.
• Breakfast is served from 6:30-10 a.m. Monday through Friday and 7-11 a.m. Saturday.
• Lunch and dinner hours are from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and
11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
• Izola’s takes orders for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. The diner is located at 809 Willowbrook Circle. For more information, call 912-463-4709.

When I first moved to the area, I was happy to see there was a KFC in town. I don’t always get food cravings, but when one hits, the one thing I normally crave is fried chicken.

For the longest time, the Colonel’s place was my fix. But then I discovered Poole’s Deli in Hinesville.

Poole’s was right down the street from the office. The fried chicken was perfectly cooked, they offered much better menu sides and definitely a much better price. I was in fried chicken nirvana, and I could justify my craving weakness by walking there and back.

Then the rug was yanked from right under my feet. In October 2012, after 21 years in business, Poole’s Deli closed.
I panicked. Truth be told I cried a little. OK, a lot.

The Colonel’s place no longer filled the void. It suddenly lacked the flavor I had become accustomed to. The taste, the crunch of the lightly battered skin. The juiciness of the meat. The real going-to-have-to-lick-my-fingers-because-this-is-too-good-to-waste deal.

What were my options? Would I have to join Fried Chicken Anonymous? Would I even survive the detox?

Around that same time, a little frozen-yogurt shop, Yogurt Café on Willowbrook Drive, started to add soups and other Southern staples to its menu and re-emerged as Izola’s Country Cafe.

Friends, who by now were feeling sorry for my fried chicken withdrawals, or maybe just tired of seeing me whimper in the back corner of the office, suggested I go check it out.

I perused the menu, which contains a smorgasbord of items like smothered chicken, chicken ’n’ dumplings, meatloaf, fried shrimp and catfish, pork chops, chicken gizzards. And then I saw it: FRIED CHICKEN, available every day of the week.

OK, it was on the menu. But what about the taste?

Would it come close to what my taste buds now demanded from fried chicken? Would I find my new escape? Or would a bad taste test take me to the brink of a full-blown meltdown and a trip to the psych ward?

I drove out to Izola’s, stepped into the diner and took a step back in time. The cafeteria-style eatery had the home-cooked feeling of being in Grandma’s kitchen. The side offerings of mac ’n’ cheese, mashed potatoes, rice, beans, yams, green beans, cabbage and collard greens had me mesmerized, as did the great smell that permeated the entire room.

I walked up to the counter and looked at the one thing I came to sample.

“Fried chicken, white meat please,” I said.

I ordered mac ’n’ cheese and some collard greens to complete my meal. I walked over to the far corner of the diner, found an empty seat, sat down and, for the first minute or so, just stared at my plate.

It looked promising. It looked crispy. And when I cut into it, juices oozed out, as did some steam. I held up the piece of chicken on my fork, closed my eyes and took the bite.

A smile broke through my still-chewing lips, and Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major filled my head. Etiquette be damned from that moment on. I grabbed the chicken with my hands, hoisted it to my mouth and took a second huge bite. CRUNCH. Bliss.

The rest of my lunchtime was a blur, and it was over much too soon. Content, I did the last thing I felt would validate the remainder of my meal. One by one, I licked my fingers and savored the last taste of the chicken I had just devoured. I sat back in my seat and looked around at my newfound temple of fried chicken.

My soul and craving monster were saved.

Now, every time I get that hankering, when the craving is more than I can bare, I happily drive, without remorse or guilt, to Izola’s Country Café.

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