The route up I-85 north to I-985 and northward on US 441 from Atlanta to Gainesville to Clayton GA ending up in Franklin NC is arid chow country.
After 8 years of making the trip on weekends to our mountain place outside of Franklin, here are a few keepers:
Henrys, just south of town, for its Sunday buffet with damn good fried chicken, home cooked vegetables and yeast rolls. Take all you want, eat what you take. One summer sunday they served excellent homemade ice cream. $9 cash only.
Mountain Man BBQ, just south of the NC border. My wife, a native Atlantan, likes the stew (brunswick stew eaters call it just that: 'stew'). The ribs are baby back. The sides meaningless. Closed Sunday.
Long View Steak house, just south of town. Don't eat the steaks, in fact, don't even go inside--its dark and depressing, and redolent of tobacco smoke if that bothers you. Do go right up to the Drive In window and order the excellent sliced or chopped BBQ sandwiches--served with a good cole slaw (shades of the Bronx near Hunter College!) right on the bun. Also order a milk shake--a real shake, made with ice cream, milk and syrup before your eyes. The burgers are ok too, and so is the fried chicken (although not as good as Henry's). Forget the sides. Then you have to wait (unlike Burger King etc) a few minutes while they actually prepare your food to order.
--Jan's Produce, Franklin NC, about a mile south of town for good local and regional produce. Great Peaches.
--Bateman's Produce, Franklin NC, a few miles south of town for local strawberries, and SC peaches later on in the summer.
--Osage Farms ("Ricky James's place"), just north of Dillard GA. They run hundreds of acres of bottomland in Dillard, and have the best seasonal just picked produce--greens, corn, tomatoes, okra etc and apples in the fall. A place to stock up and buy in bulk for canning.
The secret find--Fresh Strawberry Milk Shakes:
On any nice mid-May or early June day take 64 from Franklin towards Murphy over the Nantahala Gap--a beautiful drive. This area is wild and remote and its where for years the FBI searched for the Atlanta abortion clinic bomber. Over the last decade the lowlands surrounding this whole area have become strawberry country, and they are great and widely available picked that very day. When you come down out of the gap, at about the first town you hit, at a C-Store on the north (right) side of the road, you will see a sign for Fresh Strawberry Milkshakes. Get 3! My wife still asks when we are going back that way.