A foodie tour of Georgia

What is one of the best parts about exploring a new destination? The food of course! The USA has always been one of the most diverse places to enjoy some great dishes. Georgia is certainly one of those places, whilst it is known for its traditional southern cuisine there is myriad of different cuisines to try.

Georgia’s diverse terrain and long-standing culinary traditions makes it the ultimate foodie destination. With typically Southern dishes on offer like Biscuits & Gravy, Fried Okra, Grits and of course the ubiquitous peach pie (Georgia, of course is known as the Peach State) you really will be spoilt for choice!

So, what is so special about Georgia’s foodie scene? ‘Top Chef’ judge Hugh Acheson says: “Georgia is one of the quintessential places of amazing bounty. From coastal shrimp, clams, and fish, to apple orchards in north Georgia, to olive oil production in Lakeland, to peanuts and grits and every vegetable under the sun, we have an agrarian history that we are reclaiming.”

We started our foodie tour in Atlanta at the incredible TWO Urban Licks, a fabulous restaurant on Atlanta’s nationally-acclaimed BeltLine. If you are a fan of hip, industrial chic dining experiences, then the wood-fired cuisine of this critically-acclaimed restaurant is the perfect choice for you. Why not try the empanada, white shrimp or even the bronzed scallops with gouda grits (my favourite dish whilst in Atlanta)

Acclaimed restaurateur and chef, Ford Fry, has opened multiple award-winning establishments in Atlanta, including JCT. Kitchen & Bar. This warm and friendly restaurant on Atlanta’s Westside serves up sophisticated, Southern fare. JCT’s menu is refined comfort food but amplified by Executive Chef Brian Horn’s masterful technique fused with bold and balanced flavours. Dishes to try includes the ‘angry’ mussels (with bacon and serrano chile) shrimp and grits and the North Georgia trout with lacquered pork belly.

The Atlanta locals love to brunch and one our favourite places to brunch in the city has to be Sway at the Hyatt Regency. Executive Chef Thomas McKeown’s menus are a joy at anytime of the day, but their breakfast/brunch offering is something to be admired. Pancakes and waffles and pastries – oh my!

Barbeque food is huge in Atlanta and with fantastic joints like Heirloom Market and Smoke Ring which is in the city’s Castleberry Hill area. Smoke Ring offers a unique twist on typical barbecue fare such as fried green tomatoes, smoked meatloaf and smoked brisket melt.

Not sure what you want to eat? Take a visit to the Ponce City Market’s food hall in midtown Atlanta where you can choose from a bowl of Japanese ramen to Indian street food at the mind-blowing Bottiwalla eatery.

AtlantaPonceCityMarketBeltlineAerial Credit Gene Phillips Courtesy ACVB & AtlantaPhotos.com

Known as the Classic City and less than 90 minutes from Atlanta is one of my favourite places – Athens. With its friendly small-town feel, historic architecture, eclectic music scene and great shops, Athens is a pretty college town that offers mouth-watering fare from both internationally acclaimed chefs and up-and-coming talents alike.

 

The Last Resort Grill serves southwestern-inspired southern cuisine in beautiful downtown Athens.  They use traditional methods like open fire, grilling, brining, pickling and preserving to create amazing dishes such as six-hour pig, firecracker filet and picancillo & black pepper crusted hangar.

Another great place for foodies is The National which is run by local renowned chefs Peter Dale and Hugh Acheson. With dishes such as stuffed medjool dates, pizette and fish with green calasparra rice, sauté of squash blossoms, you will walk away with a full belly and a smile on your face!

One of my favourite dishes whilst travelling through the state of Georgia was grits – this is a typical Georgian dish that is synonymous with breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can have grits in Georgia prepared any way you’d like, with butter and salt, with melted cheese, or even a Georgia specialty—with shrimp. Some even have theirs with sugar but every person that I met from Georgian told me this was definitely not the right way and the best way had to be something savoury.

If you are planning a road trip throughout the beautiful state of Georgia (and why wouldn’t you?!) there are lots of amazing restaurants and eateries to try along the way. Lanier Islands is a 1,500-acre year-round vacation destination and is one of Georgia’s most popular lake destination thanks to its premier location on the shores of Lake Sidney Lanier – this is where people from the cities come for their holidays. The resort has an array of restaurants to choose from including Sidney’s which features elegant continental fare and Bullfrogs Bar & Grille which is a more casual affair. The resort is known for its fun water-focused activities which are ideal for visitors of all ages.

Approximately 50 miles northeast of Atlanta, is the adorable town of Gainesville – known as both the Queen City of the Mountains and the ‘Hospitality Capital of the World’. One of my favourite restaurants there was Avacado’s – a friendly and fun café and restaurant in the heart of the historic downtown Gainesville Square. Not only is the food terrific, but the restaurant has a cosy and eclectic atmosphere with local musicians playing on the bustling sidewalks. Yes, of course – avocados do feature on the menu!

If you are looking for traditional family-style cooking, then look no further than The Smith House in downtown Dahlonega. Bessie Smith and her family have been serving family-style country cooking since 1922.  Think fried chicken, cornbread and lots of traditional iced tea!

The Forrest Hills Resort doesn’t just make a stunning place to stay and relax, thanks to its picturesque location in the foothills of the Georgia mountains. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a cocktail or two, paired with some traditional Southern cuisine in the most gorgeous surroundings.

Like a quirky a restaurant? Then the Hofer’s Bakery in Helen, Georgia should be on your list. As you enter the town of Helen, you almost feel like you could be in some alpine town in Germany or Austria. Located in the southern Appalachian Mountains, this town is adorably kitsch thanks to its Bavarian style buildings, quaint shops and riverside location. Bigg Daddy’s Restaurant & Tavern is also a great place to visit for a casual night out with lots of beer.

Georgia, you have been an absolute peach of a trip and the food has been an absolute treat – We can’t wait to say ‘Hey y’all’ once again soon!

www.exploregeorgia.org

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