Above: Diners enjoy relaxing and eating in homey atmosphere of H&H Soul Food. Photo by Mark Woolsey.

You’re visiting Macon and taking in the music attractions and you want to eat like a rock star? Look first and foremost for H & H Soul Food at 807 Forsyth Street, but don’t rule out other options.

The unpretentious home of meat and three plates, fried chicken and other soul-soothing goodies shines. Service can be slow, but the arrival of the food makes all things right in the universe again.

Founders Louise Hudson and Inez Hill may no longer be in the kitchen, but their spirit of love and service survives, said former general manager Drew Jennings.

Jennings told the Georgia Public Broadcasting show “Hometown Georgia” in 2017 the restaurant’s famous connection between “Mama Louise” and southern rock icons the Allman Brothers began when the band was struggling to get established-and flat broke.

“Mama Louise saw a bunch of hippies walking her way and didn’t know what they wanted. She walked outside to talk to them, and they asked for two plates of food. That was all the money they had, and they were going to split the food among the seven of them.”

Jennings said Hudson noticed the boys were “skinny as a rail,” brought them in and generously fed all seven. Thus began her lifelong friendship with the Allmans as well as other Capricorn music icons.

Hudson had a moment in the sun at the Dec. 3. Capricorn Studio re-opening ceremonies. During the “Jimmy Hall and Friends” set, a band member noticed the 90-year-old in the audience and wheeled her up to the bottom of the stage where Hall leaned down and belted out a song he’d written for her called “Leona’s Home Cooking Café.”

“If it hadn’t been for Mama Louise, we would have starved,” he told the crowd.

H & H’s decades of feeding hungry musicians came to a temporary end in 2013. Co-founder Hill had passed away a few years before. The eatery struggled and shut down, re-opening the next year under the ownership of a local restaurant group. The customers came flooding back for breakfast and lunch.

The first thing you notice walking in is that the walls are festooned with pictures and stylized drawings of the Allmans from all phases of their career. The Marshall Tucker Band and other Capricorn Records greats get some wall-display love as well.

We missed breakfast but lunch was a belt-loosening indulgence. A meat-and-three of moist friend chicken, collards, mashed potatoes and gooey mac-and-cheese didn’t miss a beat. The meatloaf was Sunday-dinner-style goodness. The tangy-tomato-sauce-covered slice had my companion remarking that it was “just like my mom used to make.”

Breakfast features the holy trinity of eggs, bacon and toast (and more) plus variations like the “Red Dog,” an open-faced biscuit freighted with fried chicken, collard greens and a poached egg.

It’s stick-to-the-ribs fare that’s timeless. No trendy avocado toast or meatless burgers here, but it you’re jonesing for country fried steak, pork chops and BBQ brisket you’re in luck.

Tic Toc Room steak
A sample of the delicious dishes available at Tic Toc Room in Macon. SPECIAL

On a recent weekday, the room was peppered with visitors, but a hometown-crowd-feel dominated. Cheery greetings, handshakes, backslaps and hugs were frequent. The diners ranged from “suits” to blue-collar ballcap wearers to three guys in hunting camo. One table over, a group of tourists talked about a planned afternoon visit to the Allman Brothers museum just minutes away.

Buyer beware: the service is polite and enthusiastic but can be sluggish. And a series of Yelp reviews—somewhat predictably—were all over the map, ranging from “the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten” to “the food was very bland.” Could unfamiliarity with soul food be part of that picture?

Their biscuits may bear names like “Butch” (Trucks), “Midnight Rider” and “Ramblin Man,” but H & H isn’t the only place you’ll find food echoing the town’s performing greats.

  • The Rookery is a nearby restaurant with a more upscale feel and treads the same ground, with “The Little Richard Pennimelt” and the “Jimmy Carter Burger”—smeared with peanut butter.
  • For something less caloric but still with a rock-n-soul connection try Molly’s Café, named after Macon native Little Richard’s song “Good Golly Miss Molly.” The lunch-only spot has heavier southern-style food but also lighter fare such as wraps and salads.
  • It’s now known as the Downtown Grill, but it used to be called Le Bistro, said to have been Macon’s first French restaurant. It’s where Gregg Allman proposed to Cher in the 70s. It bills itself as an English-style steakhouse that’s open evenings.
  • Also in the heart of the city is the Tic Toc Room. A cape-clad Richard thumped the piano there in the late 1940s. Today it plays host to a more sedate crowd with steaks and seafood featured.

A day of looking at music memorabilia coupled with dropping in on one of the city’s live performances can certainly generate that empty belly feeling. Macon’s eateries stand ready to satisfy with a wide range of edibles coupled with a side dish of performance history.

Mark Woolsey is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.