It’s hard not to feel at home when you step inside of Adrienne Scales’ Kennesaw restaurant. And she designed it that way. My first visit to L. Marie’s Southern Cuisine — named after Adrienne’s daughter, Leya Marie — was as her lunch guest. She proceeded to greet me with a hug, courtesy of her southern roots, and I knew then that this was no ordinary place.

“I want everyone to feel as if they’re coming home when they come here,” says Adrienne.

And I did.

Just a few days later I was back with my photographer to talk more with Adrienne and learn about her journey. Cooking has always been in her family and a leap of faith led her to create L. Marie’s — with some divine intervention along the way. Adrienne bills her restaurant’s cuisine, prepared by herself and her chef Larry Epps, as a healthier take on southern food.

The recipes are the same ones she grew up learning with her mom and grandmother, and you’ll notice that familiarity with the names of the menu items.

THE DISH

What’s not to love about the food at L. Marie’s? It might sound cliché, but my photographer and I enjoyed every single dish we tasted that day. One great thing to note is all of the sides are prepared without meat and many are vegan-friendly, with everything made fresh. That makes it a prime spot that caters to many dietary needs of customers — practically unheard of for a southern-style eatery.

If you’re like me and are a fan of Fried Okra, then you’re in luck. I have been hard-pressed to find better okra outside of my dad’s kitchen, but this might give him a run for his money. It was perfectly seasoned and crispy and I ate almost every single piece before even leaving the shoot that day. The spicy ranch aioli was the perfect complement to the dish.

It’s hard for me to resist Calamari on any menu, mostly because so many restaurants like to put their own spin on the appetizer. Adrienne serves up her crispy dish with a creamy southwestern aioli sauce. Just note that I wanted to bottle all of her homemade sauces.

For salad lovers, you must try the L. Marie’s House Salad — with mixed field greens, candied walnuts, roasted corn, fresh tomatoes, cheddar cheese and a honey lime dressing.

You can’t tout Southern food without Fried Chicken, Macaroni & Cheese and greens (in this case a mixture of kale and turnips) — so I was excited to see that L. Marie’s didn’t disappoint in this area. And I’ll go on record as saying, when I got home and reheated the chicken in the microwave (I know, don’t get on to me. I was impatient), it was still crispy! I don’t know what her secret breading process is, but clearly, she’s got some soul food magic happening in her kitchen. You won’t go wrong with this combo, which takes you back to Sundays at your grandmother’s house.

We next tried the Squash Casserole, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, and Green Beans. Again — flavor, flavor, flavor! I can’t express enough how well-seasoned everything was. It may sound like a broken record, but Adrienne and Larry did not skip a beat on either of these dishes. And yes, the crab cake was truly a jumbo lump crab cake.

Probably one of my favorites, in taste and name, was Uncle Bubba’s Oxtails, Mashed Potatoes, and Cabbage. I’ve been on an oxtail kick lately and have tasted quite a few around the metro area. These are perfectly cooked, fell off the bone and were married well with the potatoes and cabbage sides.

I had all but rolled myself to a different chair, when two of Larry’s finest dishes arrived: Peach Cobbler and Red Velvet Cheesecake. Let’s just say, don’t leave without them when you visit.

THE ATMOSPHERE

When first walking in, you’re greeted by a large painting of Adrienne’s parents on one wall and her daughter on the other, which lets you in on just how family-oriented she and her restaurant is.

The large arches, which first attracted her to the space are also a nod to her Mediterranean-style childhood home in Alabama. Gone are the traditional booths, and instead cozy nooks took their place with decorative pillows that are great to lean back on after eating a healthy portion of the delicious food.

While I’ve yet to experience it, customers and Adrienne tout the live Jazz on Saturdays (7-10 p.m.) as one of the best ways to enjoy the restaurant’s atmosphere. I’ll get there one of these days.

L. Marie’s is a welcome space in Kennesaw, and for those who want to have the guilt-free enjoyment of their favorite Southern classics, keep it on your radar.

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LaTria Garnigan is the Magazine Coordinator for Cobb Life. She has more than 10 years of experience editing newspapers and magazines. When she's not working, she enjoys trying out new recipes, traveling and binge-watching and live-tweeting TV shows.

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