Getting My Fried Chicken Fix at O’Neals Country Buffet

Sometimes you just want a plate of fried chicken, peas and greens. When this craving hits, I head up U.S. 19 to Thomasville, Georgia, and make a bee line to O’Neals County Buffet. The restaurant sits in a small strip mall on West Jackson Street (U.S. 319). From the outside, the building looks nondescript and the lack of an apostrophe somewhere at the end of the “O”Neals” sign bothered me. Undeterred by this punctuation omission we entered the restaurant with Mason and Julia in tow. We were immediately greeted by the woman behind the cash register. On Sundays, O’Neals allows you to eat and then pay for your meal on the way out.  However, during the week, apparently, you are required to pre-pay. The entry fee for 30 feet of county cooking goodness was $9.00 per adult. The kids were free, and our meals included a choice of beverage (coke, tea or water).

The inside of O’Neals is simply decorated with old tools, signs and other country nick-knacks. Dark blue vinyl upholstered booths line the edge of the main dining room while tables of four fill the middle. Through a set of doors is a second dining area and, further yet, is a third, which fills up on Sunday, with the after- church crowd. On the day we visited the lunch rush was over, and only a few tables in the main dining area were occupied. We found a table relatively secluded from the other patrons and sat down. A waitress appeared immediately and took our drink order. She returned a few moments later with three large tumblers. The sweet tea is very good, and it hits the target of being perfectly sweet without being syrupy.

Becky went to get some lunch while I watched the kids. While waiting the guy who buses tables stopped by to chat. We have known him since Mason was a newborn, and he remarked how big our boy is growing. Mason was initially shy, but before he left gave him knuckles. As I sipped my tea and waited, the kids were enthralled with the old tools lining the wall of the main dining room. Whoever attached them to the wall must have anticipated little hands would try to pry them free and used extra fasteners. Miss Julia was thwarted in her attempt to pluck a planer free and I sat her down to play with a straw.

Soon enough it was my turn. I grabbed an oblong plastic tan plate and started navigating the buffet. It begins with a selection of fresh vegetables for salads. I passed this over and moved over to the section containing black-eyed peas, butter beans and collard greens. After making a little pillow of rice I piled the beans on and nuzzled the greens next door. Sweet potatoes were selected next along with some creamed corn. I added some dressing before grabbing two chicken thighs and two legs. Other meats were also present including the infamous fat-back my preacher  usually makes me eat. I skipped the fat-back and took a piece of fried catfish (with the fins on) and a few fried shrimp

I sat down and before digging doused the fried chicken with hot sauce and the greens with some pepper vinegar. The chicken was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It was well seasoned and Becky had a look of horror on her face as I consumed the two thighs, two legs, and went back for more (in total I had seven pieces; unhealthy but delicious). The catfish was average and was put to shame by the chicken. The coating on the outside of the shrimp was soggy by the time I tried it and was average. However, the vegetables were in the same league as the chicken. The peas and greens were well seasoned and did not require any additional pepper or salt. The dressing was moist and contained large pieces of celery and onions. I was in country cooking heaven.

The taste of their food, the friendly service, and the value they provide makes us always want to return for to O’Neals for another visit. In fact, it is one of our family’s favorites.  It may not be a fancy place, but what it does, it does well, and it is well worth the short drive from Monticello (or even the slightly longer one from Tallahassee, Florida).

*I usually try to take a picture of my plate before eating, but on this occasion completely forgot until I was two-thirds of the way done.

Sweet Tea & Bourbon’s Rating:
Atmosphere: B+
Taste: A
Presentation: N/A (You make your own plate)
Service: A
Cleanliness: A
Price: $

O'Neil's Country Buffet on Urbanspoon

2 thoughts on “Getting My Fried Chicken Fix at O’Neals Country Buffet

  1. If you are ever in the area, you need to try the fried chicken at the Dixie Grill in Live Oak. Often on trips south, we stop on the way back to Tallahassee just for the chicken and of course, the coconut cream pie! (We have also been known to bring an entire pie home!)

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