Raise your drumsticks high in a final salute to the Piccadilly -- a Southern tradition that was making mac-and-cheese before Paula Deen learned to boil water.
The Piccadilly Cafeteria in Peachtree Mall is one of four locations that the chain is shutting down Sunday, another indication that we are a fast food nation raised on assembly line dishes delivered at drive-through windows.
Piccadilly has served comfort foods in the mall since 1996, the year its Louisiana owners bought out Morrison's, which had done business there since the shopping center opened in 1975.
The company has been in and out of bankruptcy court for the past 10 years, the latest crisis coming in September, leading to the closure of cafeterias in Chattanooga, Mobile, Dothan and Columbus.
Tammie Harper takes the news with a smile. She has been a server at the local Piccadilly for 12 years. "And I'm one of the babies," she said, pointing to a coworker that has worked there 37 years.
Harper was supposed to begin a two-week vacation today. Plans changed when the manager told them they were closing.
She and the other servers shared that news with longtime customers Thursday. For both sides, it was personal, not business.
Her attitude was buoyant until she described her morning at Grace Christian School. The cafeteria catered daily lunches at the school and Thursday the children told Miss Tammie goodbye with hugs and kisses.
Cafeterias were once a vital part of our culture. Morrison's opened in Mobile in 1929. Piccadilly started in Baton Rouge in 1944 and once operated more than 90 restaurants in 11 states. S&S Cafeterias, another popular chain, began in Columbus in 1936. At one point, each had a local serving line.
Southern cooking was the foundation of their success, and the menu did not vary from chain to chain. That was still true Thursday when I went down the line a final time. The food was fresh, but the selections were familiar.
My appetite harkens back to Sunday dinners with my family behind slow-moving lines of churchgoers. The words to "Just As I Am" still echoed as we headed for Morrison's. We had many a conflict and many a doubt, but we knew where we wanted to eat.
The AARP generation still frequents the Piccadilly. They're not on Ronald McDonald's guest list. Only their numbers are declining while prices are going up. My meal Thursday was $13.98.
Tammie Harper and the others will be there Sunday, loyal to the end, making sure their customers have lemon for their tea and tartar sauce for their fish.
"I'm going to try and sneak on out of here," she said. "It'll hit us when we walk out, and they lock those doors behind us."
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. He can be reached at email@example.com.