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Cartersville, GA: Rusty Cars and Rustic Diners

Updated: Nov 1, 2019

Before last week, the only time I’d heard about Cartersville, Georgia was when my daughter who lives in Rome, Georgia said, “That’s where we go to shop at Target.” Needless to say, that meant my knowledge was practically non-existent. Everything changed when I had a chance to explore the town and pretty much all of Bartow County with several fellow travel writers and people familiar with the attractions of Cartersville. As a result, you can anticipate several posts about various aspects of this surprising destination.

Definitely getting the award for the most unusual attraction in Bartow County, Old Car City U.S.A. was a big surprise! Six miles of trails, 34 acres, 4400 old cars — really? Who knew that could be so fascinating and so appealing to photographers? It truly was, though. For folks like me, it was a step back in time as I spotted cars I used to be picked up in for dates or cars my parents had when I was growing up. No, these aren’t mint condition, car show cars. These are a part of what the owner Dean Lewis proudly calls “the third most famous junkyard in the world.” His parents originally opened the junkyard in 1931, but Lewis has expanded the business and marketed it very effectively.

Inside the large building at the entrance, you will also found a car once belonging to Elvis Presley, an antique toy collection and an eye-popping display of Styrofoam cups that have been used as canvasses to create folk art pieces. The Styrofoam cups, by the way, are identical to the ones used for serving beverages across the street at Wes-Man’s Restaurant. Somehow I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It is open Tuesday – Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission for ages 13 and up is $15, for ages 7-10 it’s $10, and children 6 and under are free. If you have a camera or plan to have your picture made on the lot, the price is $25.

A sample of the vast Styrofoam cup collection at Old Car City U.S.A.

If you’re a “car person,” you’ll like this place. Even if you don’t think you’re a car person, I believe you’ll be surprised at how peaceful it is.



Wes-Man’s Restaurant, as I mentioned above, is right across the highway from Old Car City U.S.A. In keeping with that theme, there is a rusty truck in the parking lot that has been used for special greetings for years. When my fellow writers and I arrived, our names were already painted on the truck, and it acknowledged the birthday of my new friend Laurie.

The important truck in the parking lot of Wes-Man’s Restaurant.

The decor can best be described as vintage, and the menu is truly Southern with lots of fried choices — even an ear of corn and cheesecake! Owner Wes Wesley does a good job of making his customers feel special, and if you’ve seen the movie “The Fundamentals of Caring,” the diner scene was filmed inside of Wes-Man’s.

Wes Wesley greeting guests with part of his impressive license plate collection displayed in the background.

Fried green tomatoes, field peas, mashed potatoes and a hoecake at Wes-Man’s.

4 Way Lunch is billed as “Georgia’s Oldest Restaurant Without a Telephone.” In reality, it is a tiny diner with a single row of stools that opened in 1931 and is pretty much serving the same menu it served at the beginning. Typical breakfast fare can be ordered from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., then hamburgers, cheeseburgers, steak and chicken sandwiches, chili and peach cobbler for lunch. The prices are unbelievably low. You can find it on East Main Street near the center of town.

Ross’ Diner, established in 1935 and located at 17 Wall Street, is slightly larger than 4 Way with approximately 2 dozen stools arranged in a u-shape. Ross’ also offers expected breakfast dishes and an array of sandwiches for lunch, but it goes a step further with lunch-time meat-and-three plates. No reservations are taken, of course. You just arrive and wait for an open stool. The prices are great here, too, with nothing on the menu topping $10.

Pancakes and cantaloupe at Ross’ Diner.

Sausage, scrambled eggs and grits at Ross’ Diner.

Ross’ is open Monday through Saturday from 6:30 – 2:30 but extends its Friday hours to 8:00 p.m.

Doug’s Place on Georgia Highway 293 in Emerson, GA, grew from a roadside country store to a full-fledged cafe when Interstate 75 was being built and a large detour took drivers right past the store. Those drivers looked mighty hungry to Doug, so he decided to offer biscuits, then meat-and-threes and a variety of Southern comfort dishes. The interstate has long been completed, but the parking lot at Doug’s stays impressively full.

Western omelet and hash browns at Doug’s Place

Doug’s is open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday and for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Next Monday I’ll give you even more reasons to visit Cartersville and Bartow County.

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