Affordable picnic food hit or miss

Photo by Brenda Lin

While Tech’s dining might be stellar every once and a while, eating the same thing again and again tends to become rather dull and bland. As the semester continues, many students find themselves disenchanted with the on campus options and willing to venture farther into Atlanta to find sustenance.

Last year, a restaurant, Zesto, closed on Ponce de Leon Avenue. Perhaps not wanting to miss such a real estate opportunity, Cook Out, a growing North Carolina based food chain, opened another branch there in December. This chain has been steadily growing since the 1980s and offers many fast food staples such as hamburgers and fries but also a wider range of food than other restaurants of its kind.

Cook Out chose a theme and ran with it: the menu provides foods one would find at its namesake the decorations are reminiscent of the outdoors, tables are made of heavily shellacked wood (or plastic made to appear as wood) which remind diners of picnic tables, and the food itself is served in disposable polystyrene foam boxes for easy
transportation.

The atmosphere is completed with Christian music playing in the background, occasionally broken up by a loudspeaker at full volume announcing that someone’s food is ready at the counter emulating the hectic atmosphere of a large picnic where everyone is attempting to get their food at the same time even though there are few cooks.

This is not to say that the service is slow, it is a reasonably small wait time after ordering, but while eating, the announcements are quite distracting and interrupt conversations.

Another detail that unintentionally pays tribute to Cook Out’s namesake it the scarcity of napkins. It is a rare picnic indeed where everything can be easily located without asking. The restaurant’s customers are given few napkins and must ask an employee for more (of course, there is always the option which some more resigned picnickers choose: suffer with dirty hands).

Atmosphere aside, Cook Out is a restaurant rather like most, but  it touts one specialty, a great variety of milkshakes. Some flavors are seasonal such as Eggnog in December, while many are year round treats. With more than 30 different flavors, including oddities such as Pineapple, Heath Toffee, and Banana Fudge, Cook Out’s plethora of milkshakes rivals that of Steak ‘n Shake.

Even with this vast number of milkshakes to choose from, the menu displayed at the counter emphasizes something else. The most prominently placed information is the restaurant’s Cook Out Tray, a combo meal. For $4.99, customers may choose a drink, a meal, and two side items. This is quite a luck of the draw deal due to the fact that some sides are miniscule (for instance, if someone orders onion rings, he or she might end up with only four small rings) while other “sides” are entire meals on their own (such as being able to order chicken nuggets or a corn dog).

The quality of the food is not a down side to Cook Out. On the contrary, this restaurant’s hamburgers have a decent amount of meat. Unlike other fast food chains who emphasize the toppings one might add to a hamburger, thus degrading the thickness of the actual meat patty to make room, Cook Out lets customers decide exactly what goes on the hamburger but keeps the meat thick — looking like an actual slice of meat. The corn dog, however, is predictably made of mystery meat. Fortunately though, it is smothered in fried breading and tastes perfectly fine.

Our Take: 3/5 stars