In Praise of Small Eateries

By Sally Ross

Tiny eateries are the essence of travel. Road tripping outside Adelaide, South Australia, we stopped for coffee and sweets. My husband complained that we had yet to see a wild kangaroo. The lone waitress said, “Just a minute,” grabbed the phone, and asked, “Mom, is the roo still in the back yard?” Just like that, she put up the “closed” sign, led us to the house, and there they were—not only a momma kangaroo, but also the joey in her pouch—right beside the swing set!

After weeks of travel in China, including a 1000-mile train ride, I arrived in Dunhuang, the Gobi Desert, to see the incredible 735 Mogao Caves filled with ancient Buddhist paintings. I was exhausted, hungry, and quite homesick for anything American when my esteemed guide walked me to the Oasis Cafe: an apparition of pizza, hamburgers, and milk shakes!

My sister took my mother and me to Judges Oyster Bar, a tiny trailer in Chancellor, Alabama. Seated on 3 of the 4 stools, we ate dozens of raw oysters, shucked patiently by a gnarly older man, and served with a still wrapped package of saltines and Coca Colas we grabbed from the cooler behind us. I have never tasted oysters as good since that sultry summer day.

In the Northern Highlands of Scotland where I spend summers, the Coffee Bothy in Golspie, serves full breakfast and lunch including home-baked sweets like the magic bar full of caramel, chocolate and crunchy things. It’s also a good place to ask questions, laugh, and hear tales told in the finest dialect in the land.

Further afield in Scotland, surrounded by the grandeur of the wide-open spaces of the Highlands, is the picturesque Crask Inn, a B&B and bar/coffee room run for years by Mike and Kai. In a tiny room with 2-foot thick, stone walls, the peat fire always burns, sheep dogs nap when off work, and bobble heads of Queen Elizabeth nod at your table below the requisite dart board. The hosts gladly give local advice to walkers, cyclists, and drivers while whipping up elegant hot chocolate, pouring a dram, or serving whatever is on the stove that day.

Sadly, the Oasis and Judges are closed, and others remain unnamed in my memory. But small places abound, don’t they? I highly recommend three right here in Northeast Georgia: Faith and Flower in downtown Commerce (try any of their unique cupcakes and pimento cheese with bacon jam), the Caboose in Rutledge (Reuben sandwiches), and Little City Diner in Winterville (Dee’s chicken salad). Who knows what memories you can create even this close to home!



Sally Ross creates fine art photographs that soothe your soul.  Retired from UGA’s College of Education, Sally travels widely, especially in Scotland, China, Italy, Russia, and South America.  Her painterly images appear in juried exhibitions, galleries, and public art spaces across Georgia.  Visit Sally Ross Photography at &

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