A survey of Georgia’s Best Farm to Table Restaurants by Chefs David and Gayle Darugh. We’ve been to restaurants where just moments before you are seated for dinner you observe the chef clad in her white coat tip toe into the gardens to snip fresh herbs and edible flowers. You just know you are in for a treat. We both steer our travels in the direction of new culinary experiences, especially if it is Chef/Owned and operated and is a ”Farm to Table” venue.
Best Farm to Table Restaurants in Georgia – That are Not In Atlanta
Georgia’s Best Farm to Table Restaurants by Chefs David and Gayle Darugh
We’ve been to restaurants where just moments before you are seated for dinner you observe the chef clad in her white coat tip toe into the gardens to snip fresh herbs and edible flowers. You just know you are in for a treat. We both steer our travels in the direction of new culinary experiences, especially if it is Chef/Owned and operated and is a ”Farm to Table” venue.
But please don’t try to pull the wool over our eyes. Diners are savvier than ever in knowing whether restaurants source from the back of a food distribution truck or whether they’re really sourcing from local producers. Put simply: People are much more interested in understanding where their food comes from than ever before. And we are also looking for a wonderful dining experience that is modestly priced. We do splurge on occasion. For Gayle’s birthday we enjoyed an exquisite “farm to table“ dining experience at Baccanalia in Atlanta, but at $150 per person, not including wine, that won’t happen on a regular basis. We do not fault the owners. The reasons are obvious. It’s prohibitively expensive to do business in big cities like Atlanta, New York, Chicago. Rent, taxes, parking, food, labor. I can’t imagine what the overhead is in big city establishments.
So we often look for product oriented chef dinners away from metropolitan areas. We are now a food nation. Clearly a city like New York is always going to be a dining destination; but across Georgia we now have the kind of ambitious chefs who are prepared to break new ground in our smaller towns and cities.
These are the restaurants we seek, the ones that are contributing to a national discourse around eating. Georgia’s small cities and towns have always had great places to eat that are expressions of that particular place and its local traditions, such as our nearby icon of local food the Dillard House. But what has struck me in recent years is the way in which our Georgia towns are increasingly part of a nationwide network of culinary innovation. We see it happening in our own Rabun County through its designation as the “Farm to Table Capital of Georgia.”
So, we have rounded-up our top recommendations for “The 10 Best Farm to Table Restaurants in Georgia – that are not in Atlanta.” If we have left off your favorite, please let us know.
Frog Hollow, Augusta Georgia: Our long –time friend Chef Sean Wight owns and operates three restaurants in a row including Frog Hollow, Craft and Vine (small plates for sharing), and Farmhuas Burger located in the Historic District of Augusta. Chef Wight’s vision of an affordable yet stylish dining and social club is born in Frog Hollow Tavern. The menus highlight local and regional ingredients, and he sources some specialty heirloom products from regional Southern producers, such as lamb from Border Springs Farm in Virginia, and grits, farro, polenta and other products from Anson Mills just across the river in South Carolina. Small plates include house-made duck sausage with sea Island red peas, preserved peach mustard and caramel sorghum gastrique. His melding of Southern flavors creates worthy dining. Pork dominates the menu, appearing in a wide variety of selections, including the duck sausage. Andouille is made in-house. Service at each restaurant is meticulous. The wine list boasts over a hundred value driven wines and has a focus on sustainable, organic, or biodynamic practices. The bar also features a diverse offering of Scotches, Cognacs, Bourbons, and Vodkas, Whiskey Barrel Aged Cocktails and many great classic and seasonal cocktails, all made with fresh squeezed juices and homemade mixes. Chef Wight selected “Best Chefs America.” 1282 Broad St, Augusta, GA 30901, (706) 364-6906 http://www.froghollowtavern.com/
5 and 10 Athens, GA: Canadian born Chef Hugh Acheson is a familiar face in Georgia, with plenty of magazine appearances after his Food & Wine Best New Chef award and a recurring role as a judge on Top Chef. But it’s the Canadian-born chef’s enthusiasm for Southern cuisine that has buoyed his reputation. His four restaurants in Georgia — Five & Ten and The National in Athens, Empire State South in Atlanta, and The Florence in Savannah — along with his cookbook, A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen, have earned him James Beard Foundation awards as a chef and as an author. Many of the restaurants in town are now headed by chefs that have worked for Chef Acheson. While we miss the old folksy location, 5 and 10 in its new digs, is still one of the top places for fresh local food and service. It is now a destination restaurant, so plan your reservations well in advance. Chef Acheson selected as “Best Chefs America.” 1073 S. Milledge Ave, Athens GA 30605 (706) 546-7300 http://fiveandten.com/
Fortify Kitchen and Bar, Clayton GA: Owner/Chef Jamie Allred and business partner Jack Nolan opened Fortify in April 2014 and by November were named by Open Table as one of the “Top 100 Restaurants in America.” Before opening Fortify, Chef Allred put the Lake Rabun Hotel Restaurant on the map, by drawing diners from as far away as Atlanta and Highlands, NC, to enjoy his creative use of local produce from our regional farms and farmers. As Executive Chef he guided the Lake Rabun Hotel Restaurant to 3 consecutive TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Awards. He has also been selected for inclusion in “Best Chefs America.” Fortify Kitchen & Bar was an immediate success and continues their focus on creative mountain cuisine with seasonal farm-fresh meals featuring local and organic ingredients, heirloom fruits and vegetables and regionally raised meats. Cooking with these local ingredients showcases local farmers, their produce and Chef Allred’s creativity in the kitchen. Fortify provides an unforgettable experience and is a catalyst for North Georgia tourism. Reservations must be made early as their tables are always full. Jack is the consummate front of the house manager who remembers everyone’s name and makes all of the guests feel special, and crafts many of their artisanal cocktails – a dynamic duo! Staff is well trained and the service is impeccable, knowledgeable and friendly. 69 N Main St, Clayton, GA 30525 (706) 782-0050 http://www.fortifyclayton.com/
Halyards, St Simons Island, GA: Chef Dave Snyder is the owner and executive chef at Halyards Restaurant and its neighboring Tramici Neighborhood Italian. Chef Snyder embodied the spirit of the whole farm-to-table movement before there was a slogan for it. In recognition for his efforts, Chef Snyder was named a 2013 Georgia Grown Executive Chef. Chef Snyder was one of only four chefs named by the Georgia Restaurant Association for this honor. The program fosters relationships between Georgia chefs and Georgia farmers while promoting the use of quality, local products at restaurants across our state. He purchases much of his produce from Baker Farms in Brantley County and chickens from Grass Roots Farms in Glennville and most of the time the restaurant’s fresh catch of the day is his own prized catch. He loves to fish off-shore and in the rivers and brings his success back to the restaurants. One of our favorite menu items is Wild Georgia Shrimp and Gayla’s Grits with Andouille Cream Sauce with Tomato. Next door, Tramici’s massive brick oven puts out some amazing Roman style pizza pies and calzones. The lasagna and spaghetti with meatballs are spectacular. Chef Snyder selected as “Best Chefs America.” 55 Cinema Ln, Saint Simons Island, GA 31522 (912) 638-9100 http://www.halyardsrestaurant.com/
Green Truck Pub, Savannah GA: Chef Owner Joshua Yates and Wife Whitney founded the Green Truck Pub on a simple premise: local folks in Savannah deserve a casual place to eat and drink well. The pub does simple food the hard way – by hand-making everything from ketchup and pimento cheese to salad dressing and veggie patties. Eating well also means doing some good for the local economy by sourcing everything from meat to corkboards to salvaged furnishings close to home. So, if a trip to Savannah is in your future and you’d like to seek out neighborhood favorites where the locals go instead of shiny tourist traps, take note of Green Truck Pub. This advice is specifically aimed at visitors, but not to exclude locals because if the local weekly’s “Best Of” awards plastered above the door are any indication, Savannahians are already well aware of the achievements of this friendly little spot. Tasty things between bread dominate the menu. There is a smattering of sandwiches, but the favorites for most folks are the pastured beef burgers. But you don’t have to be a carnivore to have a great meal at Green Truck. The restaurant has a nice selection of vegetarian options, including a veggie reuben, adult grilled cheese sandwich and a variety of salads. Mindful eaters will appreciate Green Truck’s commitment to using locally sourced ingredients. Its house-made condiments, including its pickles, add to the quirky experience. 2430 Habersham St, Savannah, GA 31401 (912) 234-5885 http://greentruckpub.com/
Jasper’s 61 Main, Jasper, GA: How often is it that you actually see a chef in the garden? Through Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA), Whitestone Farm grows it and 61 Main loads it onto your plate—fresh from the farm, with loving preparation by Chef Jenna Schreiber. Gayle and I applaud her efforts to go back to the basics of fresh, local products provided in an earth-friendly way. A Johnson & Wales culinary school graduate, Chef Schreiber worked in the demanding Charleston, SC, restaurant scene for a decade before finding Jasper as the spot for the “farm to table” restaurant she wanted to run. Chef Schreiber has a passion for the farm to table concept, utilizing as many local ingredients as possible, with an eye fixed on both the local community and the environment. Fresh vegetables and eggs are delivered by Dig It Farm, while Whitestone Farm provides tender lettuces, herbs and other seasonal items. Even 61 Main’s coffee is locally roasted by Foggy Hollow Coffee Roasters. The building is the old Jasper theater, offering the historic beauty of old brick walls and time honored wood flooring. Together with husband Tadd they have made 61 Main their own by utilizing as much locally sourced products in their restaurant as possible, serving seasonal cuisine, creative cocktails, and sustainable wines in an inviting atmosphere. We love family owned and operated places like this. Their aim is to make a visit to their restaurant feel more as if you have been invited to dinner into their home. 49 S Main St, Jasper, GA 30143, (706) 253-7289 http://www.61main.com/
Liams, Thomasville, GA: We love quirky restaurants, especially ones that tell a story. Just take a look at Liam’s Website and tell me they don’t have a story to tell. Renovated and updated, Liam’s is a Mecca for both Thomasville locals and their neighbors across the state line in Tallahassee, Florida. The early twentieth-century commercial space has been home to the restaurant for more than a decade and they have retained the richly textured old-brick walls. Owners Rhonda and Chef Scott Foster named the place after their son, Liam. Here’s what they say: “While there are many environmental and socially responsible reasons to serve only sustainably-sourced, natural, organic, artisan made and harvested ingredients, our principle is much simpler. . .it just tastes better!” At brunch, you’ll find adaptations of several French dishes, such as croque monsieur or an omelet périgourdine, while lunch may feature fried oysters or freshly made pasta. Look for the mac ‘n’ cheese of your life. The crowning jewel, however, is dinner. The tiny open kitchen turns out a weekly changing, seasonal menu that seeks out fresh local ingredients, such as pork from Thompson Farms in Dixie, and cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy up the road — even the coffee is locally roasted. In cold weather, there may be cassoulet or braised short ribs. The wine list, focused on small producers, is joined by a first-rate craft beer list and liquors. Scott Foster Selected “Best Chefs America.” 113 E Jackson St, Thomasville, GA 31792 (229) 226-9944 http://www.liamsthomasville.com/
Harvest on Main, Blue Ridge, GA: Located on Main Street in the historic area of Blue Ridge, this wonderful post, log and beam building with stone fireplaces, moose heads and twig furniture offers rustic high country elegance, and a wonderful farm fresh dining experience in our North Georgia Mountains. The restaurant is the dream of Executive Chef Danny Mellman and partner writer/farm director Michelle Moran. Chef Mellman’s modesty shines through his successes. A self-taught chef, he honed his skills in England, France and Italy. After returning to the states, he became Executive Chef of The Mad Batter in Cape May, New Jersey where his use of game and wild herbs garnered national accolades for creativity. In 1988, Danny headed south to Captiva Island where he opened The Greenhouse Grill, spending 25 years in Florida before joining the ranks of “half-backs” settling in North Georgia with his wife Michelle. They started their own farm for production of specialty produce, adding chickens and bees for egg and honey production. And they have even more plans to grow the farm. They also offer adult cooking classes, farm-to-table dinners, and kids’ farm-to-table classes. So successful, Harvest on Main expanded their offerings in 2013 with the addition ofHarvest’s Blue Ridge Grocery offering a from-scratch bakery, deli and café items, coffee bar and menu for take-away meals. Again the restaurateurs will soon expand their portfolio with a Mediterranean-style restaurant. On our last visit we were blown away by the 16-Hour Hickory Smoked Pork Stuffed Roasted Poblano Pepper with Cheese Sauce, White Rice, topped with Black Bean Corn Salsa. 576 E Main St, Blue Ridge, GA 30513 (706) 946-164 http://www.harvestonmain.com/ http://thechefandthewriter.com/
Lake Rabun Hotel, Lakemont, GA: Since its renovation the Lake Rabun Hotel has employed a series of exceptional farm to table product oriented chefs, including Chef Chris Bolton, James Beard Award Winner Chef Louis Osteen, Chef Jamie Allred (Fortify Kitchen and Bar) and now Chef Ryan Spruhan. Cuisine prepared at the Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant is American, brushed by world influences that range from French and Middle Eastern to down-home Southern. It’s unique and adventurous, with ample selections for even a vegan. The Lake Rabun Hotel maintains a close working relationship with regional farms and farmers throughout the entire growing season. Featured Farmer Thursdays bring a selected farmer into the restaurant with his or her produce to acquaint dinner guests with uses and growing practices, while the chef prepares small plates featuring delicious recipes that use a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as other produce supplied by the farmer. The restaurant also features an outstanding wine list that offers select wines including local vineyards, choice micro-brews, and a full bar with specialty seasonal drinks. The beautifully restored rustic hotel finally offers a paved parking lot with painted lines. Chef Spruhan selected “Best Chefs America.” 35 Andrea Ln, Lakemont, GA 30552 (706) 782-4946http://lakerabunhotel.com/
Harvest Habersham, Clarkesville, GA: Last year Laura Farrelly and Chef Chris Bolton returned to the North Georgia Mountains to open Harvest Habersham, a new Farm to Table restaurant in Clarkesville. Chef Bolton, born in Clarkesville Georgia, is a true native son to North Georgia. We have known Chef Bolton since 2000, when he was Executive Chef at Glen Ella Springs. During that stint the inn attained 4 Silver Spoon Awards for dining excellence from Georgia Trend Magazine. Even at that time he was very involved in the Farm to Table scene. He was generous enough to introduce us to many of the farmers we still feature at Beechwood Inn. He even worked one night at Beechwood Inn as our special “Guest Chef.” Chef Bolton later worked at Lake Rabun Hotel and then moved to Santé Fe and next to Florida where he and Laura opened Merritt’s Table featuring fresh and local produce and seafood. Chris told us, “At Harvest Habersham we’re dedicated to great food that is inspired by fresh local ingredients. We work with dozens of local farms to procure ripe ingredients and prepare them in a way that enhances their fresh flavors. We call this style of cooking “Genuine Food”. Our menu depends on farmers, fishermen and foragers, so the menu changes frequently based on whatever fresh ingredients are available.” We are thrilled to welcome Chef Bolton back to our special corner of the North Georgia Mountains. 1362 Washington St Clarkesville, GA 30523 (706) 754-0056
Beechwood Inn, Clayton GA: Rabun County has long been known for farm fresh bounty. As early as 1917 the traveling public flocked to the Dillard House to dine on just-picked produce from Carrie and Arthur Dillard’s gardens. In 1922 Lura Buchholz opened Beechwood Inn as a Summer House, feeding her guests fresh farm products. We found an old ad from 1931 and it stated that “the inn had all the modern conveniences: fresh vegetables from our garden, fresh milk from our dairy, chickens and eggs daily from our poultry yard, and the most appetizing things to eat on the market.” Under the stewardship of Chefs David and Gayle Darugh, Beechwood Inn has returned to its roots as a Georgia Farm to Table restaurant. The Inn is celebrating 16 years of offering breakfasts, appetizers, fine dining and cooking classes featuring the best of fresh and local products. Menus are based on seasonal shifts in the gardens and they change as often as the weather. We believe that making shopping decisions that favor sustainable and local food sources, especially organic sources, benefits health, improves the local economy and is ecologically sound. We are proud of our local farmers and ranchers; their names dot our menus paying homage to those who have done the work to get such delicious ingredients through the kitchen door. Once through that door, respect and care for the ingredients play as important a role as the preparation of them. The goal of our chefs is to make as much of what is used from scratch as possible – we think that is what makes cuisine authentic. That’s what makes Beechwood Inn one of Georgia’s Best Farm to Table Restaurants. Chefs/Owners David and Gayle Darugh were both selected for inclusion as “Best Chefs America.” 220 Beechwood Drive, Clayton, GA 30525 http://www.beechwoodinn.ws
Okay, we can count – we included 11. We could not figure who to leave out, and we have another dozen we should have included. In conclusion, we applaud these chefs who are making choices to seek out fresh locally produced ingredients. Our hope also is that a few of the diners who experience these local foods, and sustainable practices will want to make their own connection to time, season and place and will be encouraged to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and diet.
Ten Best Farm to Table Restaurants in Georgia – That are not in Atlanta
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by Chefs David and Gayle Darugh, Beechwood Inn, Clayton, Georgia