I visit the deep south of the U.S. every year for a lot of reasons–one of the main ones, I have to admit, is for southern cooking. I’ve got a lot of favorite foods and restaurants, so thought I’d share my thoughts, er, tastes, with you.
Georgia’s state prepared food is grits. Well, okay, I’m not a grits lover, but I have to say the box of Grits Bits Sweet Cream Butter cookies that somehow ended up in my hotel room was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I can see some great ways to use grits after all.
The state fruit is peaches. And who can resist peaches, especially when they’re deep fried in peach pie? Not me! Filled with peaches grown on their farm, the most delicious peach pie I’ve ever tasted was at Jaemor Farms. Stop in and check out their country store full of fresh produce, preserves, and of course, home cooked pastries and homemade ice-cream, plus a few boiled peanuts, which are the state crop.
And what of the state vegetable–Vidalia Sweet Onion? I’m assuming it made an appearance in a number of the soups and fine meals I ate at many of the restaurants in my list of favorites.
My Favorite Georgia Restaurants
Harvest Moon in Rome, Georgia
Jeff Beard, kitchen manager at the Harvest Moon Cafe, says they use traditional Southern flavors and ingredients “with a twist.” In fact, they “make sure everything on the menu is something your grandmother would recognize.”
While grandmothers are familiar with the food, they may also remember the building where the restaurant is as the Fahy Department Store–or maybe not, since it first opened way back in 1895. I found the renovations, which were completed in 2001, maintained the warm and friendly atmosphere of its past with a very happening present.
The Thursday night I visited, there was great entertainment in the form of a local singer/guitar player strumming out some easy-listening tunes.
And of course, there’s the food. I selected the pan-seared, blackened trigger fish in a creole cream sauce. It was fabulous. Since I’d never eaten trigger fish, I was delighted to find the texture was firm, with a mild flavor perfectly enhanced with the creole seasoned sauce.
The fish also came with fresh green asparagus, and grits, surprisingly prepared in a deep fried grit cake that was quite tasty. (Okay, another grits dish I enjoyed!)
I can highly recommend the Harvest Moon for its fine food and only wish I’d had time to visit the Moon Roof bar later for some relaxation!
The Catch Seafood & Oyster Bar in Albany, Georgia
The local restaurants in Saskatchewan where I eat don’t usually have oysters on the menu–and they sure don’t have one employee spending the whole night shucking fresh oysters! While I’m not up to raw oysters, I certainly enjoyed the Oysters Rockefeller that were baked with cheeses served at The Catch.
Crab is another favorite seafood of mine, so I had to try out the Crab Cakes and Crab Claws appetizers as well. Lucky for me, I was with a group, so we could share!
While it was tough to decide, I went with grouper, one of my favorite fish as a main course. It was panko (the Japanese word for bread crumbs) crusted, topped with lemon-basil beurre blanc (white butter sauce), accompanied by hush puppies, another Southern specialty.
And to end my memorable meal, I had key lime pie for dessert!
Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant in Lakemont, Georgia
Lake Rabun is a reservoir that began filling in 1915 after the Mathis Dam was completed. A few years later–in 1922 to be exact–the Lake Rabun Hotel started in business on its scenic shores.
One thing I really appreciated about the food here was the locally grown produce included on the menu. In fact, I’ve never had tastier fried green tomatoes, which are just as southern as the movie by the same name. Back home in Saskatchewan the only thing I’ve ever eaten made with green tomatoes was mincemeat (you can hardly even tell it’s tomatoes!).
This green tomato appetizer was cornflour fried with layers of spinach and goat cheese, all topped with a Creole spiced cream sauce. The textures and flavors created an excellent blend with a subtle cheese flavor.
For my main course I selected the mountain trout crusted with pecans, along with handmade potato gnocchi (soft dumplings), grilled portabella mushrooms, roasted zucchini, glazed carrots and a caper-herb butter. Fresh veggies have never tasted better!
Cafe International in Helen, Georgia
What’s not to love about a restaurant perched over the scenic Chattahoochee River in the fairy-tale town of Helen, Georgia? I loved this little town that looks like a Bavarian Village plucked out of Europe.
The Cafe International menu takes you around Europe with its listings, so I had my choice of such things as French dip, Italian sausage, and German Wurst platter. However, it was lunch time and I decided to take it easy on the calories and go for a salad.
It wasn’t any ordinary salad though! I ordered the Scandinavian Shrimp and Crab salad. This amazing creation of Baby North Sea Shrimp with crabmeat and sweet peas was marinated in a seasoned Scandinavian marinade. It was served on a bed of fresh greens surrounded by cucumbers and sliced tomatoes and topped with sliced lemon–all very diet conscious, right?
Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia
Buffets aren’t usually my pick of places to eat, but I join the throng of Atlanta diners who pour out of the city on Sunday mornings to rave about the food at Dillard House.
Dillard House has a long history of hospitality in this part of Georgia, starting way back in 1917 when John Dillard’s grandmother ran the original building as a small inn. Over the years the inn grew, and in 1958, John’s father adapted his mother’s recipes for serving to crowds–and the crowds came! Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, John told us, have been right out on those same fronts steps. Dillard House has even fed the movie crews for Deliverance and Long Riders, and I can understand why.
So what makes Dillard House special? Those original recipes and homegrown preserves for me, that’s for sure. Served family style, our table overflowed with everything from ham and sausage, to pancakes and biscuits, to grits and preserves. Eating just doesn’t get any better.
Visit these great restaurants in Georgia!
- Cafe International – 8546 S. Main St. Helen, Georgia
- The Dillard House, Dillard, Georgia
- Harvest Moon Cafe – 234 Broad Street, Rome, Georgia
- Jaemor Farms – 5340 Cornelia Highway (Highway 365) – at the 35 mile marker, Alto, GA
- La Marie’s – 201 Broad Street, Rome, Georgia
- Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant, Lakemont, Georgia
- The Catch Seafood & Oyster Bar, 2332 Whispering Pines Road, Albany, Georgia