While they might not all hail from the South, the folks that run the Pony Express Country Diner have plenty of southern hospitality.
Restaurant co-owners Sam Cooke and Tom Gregory Sr. greet all of their patrons with wide smiles and booming salutations of "Welcome!" and "How are you today?" While in the kitchen, one of the restaurant's cooks, Brooklyn native Hopeton Gordon, can be heard singing as he works the grill.
"These guys love cooking and I think the customers feel that - the joy in the job makes the food taste better," Gregory said. "I think that's key. We love having people enjoy themselves."
Located near the intersection of Ga. Highway 11 and Ga. Highway 142 in Mansfield, the Pony Express Country Diner is adjacent to the Pony Express Horse Auction Barn. Previous to Gregory and Cooke taking over ownership of the restaurant six weeks ago, it was known simply as the Pony Express Diner.
"We decided when we took over to keep the name of Pony Express," said Gregory, adding that the long history of the restaurant and its historic location near the auction barn were factors in the decision to keep the name.
Serving a mixture of hearty country fare and traditional southern foods, the Pony Express menu is heavy on taste and light on the wallet.
For first-time customers, Gordon recommends that they try his famous lasagna. The restaurant's fried chicken, beef stew and barbecue also come highly recommended by the cooks.
Pony Express' "Rise & Shine" breakfast features sandwiches, biscuits, pancakes, French toast and omelets. For $5.99 patrons can order the restaurant's Country Classic which includes grits, two eggs, toast or biscuit, two pancakes, your choice of ham, sausage, bacon or red link and coffee.
The restaurant also has daily specials. On Friday, for $9.99, customers can enjoy an all-you-can-eat fish fry. On Saturday, the restaurant has an outdoor barbecue from noon until 7 p.m.
Other menu items include grilled chicken, meat loaf, pork chops, country fried steak, hamburgers, chicken fingers, salads, a variety of vegetables and homemade desserts.
The second and fourth Saturdays of the month when the horse auctions take place can be pretty exciting and entertaining according to Gregory since all of the cowboys and cowgirls come over to the restaurant to fill up on food before heading out to the biddings.
Bulldog fans on their way to Athens, truckers (the Pony Express has plenty of parking), and college students are especially encouraged to come to the Pony Express for a bite to eat says Gregory.