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Dillard and Clayton, GA report

I'm up here in the mountains between Dillard, GA and Highlands, NC. I've spent more time on the GA side because that's where all the farm stands and "home-cooking" restaurants are. There are some nice restaurants on the Highlands side, but this report is about country food, (and yes, I searched CH before heading out).

First, I'm amazed at how many places that bill themselves as "down-home" are really just mediocre hamburger and sandwich places. Very disappointing, when what you are looking for is Fried Chicken, collards, squash casserole, etc. It's been harder than I thought to find the kind of food I remember from my childhood. I was on the search for the meat-n-three kind of place.

So, in that vein I found:

Granny's Kuntry Kitchen. Yes, I spelled that right. This is actually my favorite so far- Fried chicken that was still sizzling when it hit the table. Tender and juicy on the outside, very crisp and dark brown on the outside- no flabby-ness to the skin- all cah-runch. Also happy with the sides of turnip greens (with diced turnips within) and the mashed potatoes, although I should have asked for the gravy on the side. I think part of what endeared me to the place was that there was no paper to read, and I was solo, so the waitress brought me her Family Circle magazine to read. About $9 after tip for lunch.

Henry's- mentioned here a few times. Was a weekday, and they do brunch on weekdays. Not bad- plenty of nice fried chicken- not as dark as Granny's, but well cooked, juicy. The sides available that day were just okay. Watery mashed potatoes, bland boiled cabbage, but good fried squash, and black-eyed peas and biscuits (more stuff I can't remember). Sadly, no collards or turnip greens. There was an icebergy salad bar, but I skipped it. Also about $9 after tip for lunch.

Third choice- The Dillard House. An institution, I know. Went for dinner, and while I understand the "family style" concept, it's weird for 2 people. They just start bringing out small plates with food on them- things you get whether you want them or not. Trying to send things back or not accept things (don't want to be wasteful and accept things you know you won't touch) resuts in great confusion. The array of plates on the table was amazing- fried chicken (okay), baked/grilled chicken (pretty good), roast pork (fatty but tasty), country ham (salty as I remember- made a great breakfast this morning), green beans (overcooked, but southern style), squash casserole- (Excellent!), stuffing (okay), fried okra (breading fell off), basket of assorted bread- okay cornbread but great biscuits, creamed corn- meh, white rice (didn't try) and that's all I can remember. Price- a whopping $20 base price. Not worth it, in my opinion. A friend and I went to relive a childhood memory. Consider it re-lived.

Good things about the area- the farm stands are outstanding. The local corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, melon, cabbage, peppers, etc. keep me very busy in the kitchen. I love the abundance of the produce. There's a meat market that will cut to order, and very reasonable in price.

When I decide to spend more time in Highlands I'll report on that. One thing I will say- On The Verandah has an excellent wine list, and great by-the-glass offerings (i.e. 2002 Paso Robles Turley- when do you ever see Turley by the glass?)

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  1. If you're up there go to the Troll in Helen, GA for the best Bloody Mary EVER! Also, Helen has a very fun Oktoberfest. If you're coming from Clayton to Helen the best boiled peanuts can be found at the store near the Indian Mounds. YUM!

    1. Henry's is a little off this year. I think the four lane construction is really hurting them.

      As you head north out of Clayton, and on past Mountain City, just past the first farm stand on the right on the side road, before you get to the Rabun Flea Market on the left and Ricky James huge Osage Farms' farm stand/bbq on the right, on the left side of 441 set back from the road is a new restaurant. Wood sided, almost no sign, almost always has a crowd. Which means its either cheap (most likely) and / or good. Have you tried it?

      +1 re Dillards.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Steve Drucker

        Steve- I've seen that place- my brother pointed that out to me, and I do mean to check it out- it does always look busy around lunchtime. It's called something like "Home Cooking" or something fairly straightforward. Also the Cupboard Cafe on 441 near the intersection of 246/106 looks like something to try- I saw it mentioned here, and that's the turn I take up towards Highlands.

        I often stop at the Osage Farms stand (and the Tomkins BBQ stand there is exactly what I love for BBQ pork sandwich), but yesterday I had to go to the vet, which is down that side road where the other stand is- I bought the most beautiful poblano peppers I have ever seen. Tonight is the great chile relleno experiment.- cornmeal crust or fluffly egg batter??? Which will prevail???

        1. re: cheesemonger

          Is the BBQ stand between Dillard and Clayton? Is it open on Sunday?

          1. re: steveindurham

            The BBQ stand is at the north end of the big Osage Farm Stand on the east side of 441- same parking lot. It's only opened Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May through October. So, yes, it's in Rabun Gap and opened Sun.

            It's a little red shack, and it's Tomlin's, not Tompkin's (I checked to be sure). The BBQ pork sandwich I got- the pork was so tender it was almost "fluffy". They have 6 sauces you can choose from- spicy, vinegary, sweet & smoky, and variations in between. The Tomlins are the very nice couple that own and run it. They have more stuff- brunswick stew, BBQ chicken, baked beans, deviled eggs, pork ribs, beef brisket, sausage etc. But I haven't gotten past the pork sammie yet (only 2 visits so far). There's always a line, so be prepared for that.

          2. re: cheesemonger

            re Cupboard Cafe. We tried a few times several years ago, and haven't returned. Maybe we weren't old enough.

            You wrote:
            "...the vet, which is down that side road where the other stand is-"
            Prices a bit better than Osage Farms, stuff fresher. Limited selection, though--only what's coming up out of the ground that day. Our fav farm stand.

        2. Friends have a house up in that area so we are often begging, borrowing, or stealing away. Since we are in a hurry to get there and I prefer to cook once we do we seldomly stop along the way for food but you are correct about the farm stands. I usually take basics and hit the stands to see what is on sale.
          There is also a mill up in that area (going north the mill is on the left down one of those back roads just o/s of Clayton0 but they sell the grits at some of the stands. The grits are pretty good but a little too coarse ground for my preference.
          If you continue up 441 just past the NC line there is a place on the right between the road and the river called "The Creamery" and it is just that. Freshly made butter and, for a real treat, ice cream. They also have local eggs and, of course, milk and cream. The prices are not awful.
          I do remember stopping at Dillard House many, many years ago. As you described it was good but not great and not nearly as pricey back then (I think the room and dinner for two was less than $100). The funniest thing was watching them deal w/ wine. I had asked if I could bring a bottle and was told it would not be a problem. We sat down at our table and the waitress saw the wine bottle and panicked. She ran to get the manager who assured us every thing was fine they just had to find all the accoutrements. As the waitress brought our cold food the manager showed up w/ an ice bucket. As the waitress picked up our cold food he came by w/ two freshly washed wine glasses. I told him I could go and get our wine opener but at that point he was bound and determined to find every thing so I let him enjoy him self. A few minutes later he showed up w/ one of those old butter fly style openers and proceeded to open our wine (a very inexpensive white) w/ such a flourish you would think he had studied at French waitering 101. That alone was worth the price of admission.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Lan4Dawg

            Just got back from the Clayton, GA area. Had breakfast at Granny's Kuntry Kitchen . Had excellent cinnamon French toast, bacon , apple juice and cheese grits.

            Went to Hillside Orchard Farms - got a fried apple pie.
            Had lunch at Tomlin's Bar-B-Q stand - 1/2 Barbecue chicken, cornbread salad, cabbage casserole, blueberry cobbler with whipped cream.

            Got a pastor taco from La Jerezana -very good.

            The night before went to La Cocina (beside La Jerezana) and got the chorizo torta - outstanding.

            Very beautiful country and a nice trip.

          2. Cheese and/or Steve D

            Have either of you, or anyone, tried the White Hall Inn in Dillard, and if so how was it? I'm having a hard time finding anything definitive about it. We are going there with a group tomorrow eve. (I'll report myself if there is anything worth reporting.)

            14 Replies
            1. re: johnb

              John,

              Went to the Cupboard with my Dad a few weeks ago for lunch. Steve hit it when he said "Maybe I'm not old enough..." Dad had the parmesean crusted tilapia that was the daily special. The specials repeat by days of the week. He declared it acceptable, I declared it devoid of all flavor. I really wanted fried chicken, but they don't have that. They do have a fried chicken "filet", essentially a boneless breast pounded to death and fried- Dad saw it and thought I had the fish too. We each had the choice of 2 sides from a list. I got the greens and squash casserole. The squash was so salty I couldn't eat it, and I have a very high salt tolerance, and love squash casserole. I love salt- it's the wonder mineral. But aaack. The greens were fine, and what I pretty much expected. If given the opportunity, I would have done a double of the greens. Dad's sides I don't recall- probably beans, he loves beans.

              It reminds me a bit of the Cracker Barrel concept, with the little gift shop you have to maze through to get to the dining room.

              And, while I'm at it.....

              I had the misfortune of going to the new place in Clayton- Rumor Hazit. The food is just as fantabulous as the name. It's "theme" is as a seafood place- lots of light blue and tan, because that's the color of the beach, you know..... Some groovy painted walls, and big pretty fish tank.

              But the food. I don't even want to remember it, but I'll say this. This was probably the worst meal I've had in so long I can't recall. The entire menu is straight out of a Sysco catalog, and even the things I suspect they prepare in house were very poorly executed. Mashed garlic Red potatoes? A thick wad of icky-sticky gum. Any idjit knows that red potatoes make lousy mash, especially if it has to sit all night. Seriously, I don't even want to think about it, much less break it down it detail. Please don't make me. It's so sad, because you know- it's EASY to make something like a excellent caesar dressing for a restaurant, I've done it alot- you need a robocoupe and the basics, like real lemons, anchovies, etc. But so few do it. And it shows.

              The bar area is nicer than most in Clayton, the bartender affable and engaging and unsmarmy, the food is dreadful. Dah-red-ful.

              1. re: cheesemonger

                Cheese

                My apologies---I meant the White Hall Inn dining room itself, not the Cupboard, which is apparently owned by the same people and is featured prominently as the main "dining option" on the White Hall's web homepage. Somewhat confusing. We have eaten at the Cupboard and I recall it being essentially as you and Steve describe it.

                Have you tried the actual White Hall Inn dining room?

                We are in Franklin and always on the lookout for better places in the vicinity, difficult as that quest is. If you are interested in some joint hunting, send me an e-mail at john.janet@yahoo.com.

                1. re: cheesemonger

                  Cheesemonger,

                  I would have to disagree with you on your anaysis of Rumor Hazit. Being from Dillard I know that the food selection is slim. I am a big Momma G's fan (more so before the move), but other than a few chinese places and the Dillard house on Saturday and Sunday morning, there isn't much to offer in the area (unless you want to drive to the Highlands). I've been to Rumor Hazit twice now and have had a great experience both times. I took my girlfriend there and had a grouper ruben. It sounded weird, but I tried it and it was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had. My girlfriend got the ribs (of which I ate most) and they too were very good (fell off the bone). I liked the mashed potatoes, but I love garlic, so they might not be for everyone. I do agree with your analysis of the bar. The second time I went to Rumor Hazit, I sat at the bar and watched a football game. Any bar that serves my two favorite beers on tap (Stella and Sweetwater 420) gets my vote. Finally, I thought the price was very reasonable. All together, my girlfriend and I ate for under $35 (with drinks). I will definitely go back. To each his or her own I guess....I just wanted to add my two cents.

                  Hunter

                  1. re: hunterthompson

                    I'll start with what I agree with you about: I was pleasantly surprised by Mama G's. It's obvious that they make a large part (if not all) of their menu there in that kitchen, and those garlic rolls are like crack, the staff is friendly, and the food is pretty good "red sauce" italian. Better than I expected, and my expectations up here are pretty low.

                    Then I have a question- are you saying that the best places are "a few chinese places and the Dillard House on weekend mornings"?. There's good chinese here? Where?

                    And what I disagree with: I stand by my Rumor Hazit review, and I'll tell you exactly why, even if I shudder to re-live it. Rubbery calamari with a bizarre "dip", Smelly microwaved fish straight from the sysco catalog with a strange "olive butter" atop.... that never melted..... what was it? Not butter, that's for sure. And why olive butter on a coconut crusted fish?

                    The "wasabi cream sauce" that was to accompany the tuna, but which was delayed by about 5 minutes, and arrived scalding hot, the consistency of milk with powdery lumps of the mix in it, and flavorless. My Mother-in-law makes better Knorr sauce- at least she stirs the lumps out.

                    The "salmon caesar" salad with the bland sysco dressing- not a trace of anchovy or lemon to be found. The watery flavorless side veggies. The wilted side salad with the slimey bits.

                    And the potatoes- it wasn't the garlic, it was that they were the consistency of wallpaper paste. Nobody in my group ate more that 2 bites of anything- it was all inedible. It was expensive at any price, since it all went uneaten. We looked at each other just stunned at how awful it was. And we were so disappointed because we really, really wanted it to be good.

                    I can see wanting to have a beer there and watch a game, but since they fired the good bartender, I've lost interest in that as well.

                    Best food in Clayton/Dillon is La Jerezana, hands down. Yes, anything else I go to Highlands- We love Cyprus, which is surprisingly reasonable- and wonderful.

                2. re: johnb

                  We have not tried the White Hall Inn. With Henry's off a bit this year, our go to place is La Jerezana--Fri night to stock up on the tamales when they are fresh starting around 5:00 PM $9.50 or $10 a dozen or $1 each eat in, Sat when the carnitas are fresh or Sunday for the Barbacoa de Chivo, either tacos or a big bowl of meat and consomme. The Oaxaquena cook is back in the kitchen, and almost everything is aces. The tortas are terrific. Cash only btw.

                  I feel for the Henry's folks. They have had some family stuff this year, and now the issues with the four lane construction. We will be back soon to try again.

                  1. re: Steve Drucker

                    Steve

                    We've been to Henry's several times during the construction, and while we haven't seen lines, even on Sunday, they are still doing a decent business. Hopefully they will have good access back soon. GADOT has done a really poor job of getting the four-lane project done--it is inexcusable that they still let southbound traffic back up at the light in front of Wal-mart/Home Depot where so many are making a left turn and blocking things--the fix would be so easy. And I'm sure that backup is hurting Henry's traffic since they are the next business south of that light.

                    Haven't been to Jerezana for a while---can't get Janet to go. It's still probably the best food in Clayton.

                    Thanks for your recent comments about Tasty China. We will have to get back there the next time we get to ATL. BTW, didn't 99 Ranch used to have a big cookware section off to the right when you go in, down a ramp, or am I confused again? I was there last week and that big room seemed to have disappeared.

                    1. re: johnb

                      *cue Emily Litella voice*.... well, that's different..... never mind.

                      FYI- the southbound backup at WM/HD is remedied. Southbounders are riding on the new section.

                      And I do keep forgetting about La Jerezana- if I'm back up by next weekend I'm picking up a dozen tamales on Friday.

                      1. re: johnb

                        dunno about Ranch mkt. For equipment, I go to Buford Hwy Farmers Mkt, Buford Hwy just outside I-285 on the left. Nice selection of tortilla presses too over in the Maize aisle.

                      2. re: Steve Drucker

                        Picked up a mess (colloquialism!) of tamales at La Jerezana today. Tried to get them early- just around lunchtime, because I didn't check this thread, but he said "6:00" and so I came back down. Got a dozen green and a dozen reds, @ $10/dozen. Screaming deal- these pups are stuffed full.

                        Wow. Great stuff. How have I never been here before? The corn meal soft and fluffy, the meat nicely spiced (Pollo only). No, the 4 of us did not eat 2 dozen, but at purchase, we were consumed with the greed! We easily have more for tomorrow's lunch, and then I'm asuming they will freeze well for later thawing/steaming. Thanks so much for the tip. I'll be back to try the other items.

                        Oh, and they are really nice- The guy at the kitchen window didn't understand much english, but my passable spanish restaurant lingo worked- any confusion was happily cleared by the guy at the register.

                        1. re: cheesemonger

                          Henry's today, first time in a couple of months. Glad to report Henry's is back to the top of its form. VG fried chicken, exc cornbread dressing, vg fried green tomatoes. Access from the four lane is almost civilized now, too.

                          In the cooler, 4 dozen tamales verdes (already frozen for the winter stash) from La Jerezana fri night. There is a new cocinera, and if possible, her carnitas and tamales are even better than her Oaxaquenua cousin's.

                          1. re: Steve Drucker

                            Steve--My daughter and I were in La Jerezana today about the time you were in Henry's. She needed a snack--I wasn't hungry. She only wanted chicken tacos which was too bad because they aren't the best thing LJ has to offer. But I finished off what she didn't eat anyway. It's still the best food in Clayton, tho I'm glad to hear confirmation from you that Henry's is going strong. Need to get back there--been a while. We'll be in Atlanta tomorrow on the way to the airport looking for some cheap ss things (turkey roasting pan, bowls) for her kitchen. Any suggestions where to look?

                            1. re: johnb

                              She would have been better served with a Torta de Pollo. LJ makes an exc torta; or at the very least a quesadilla de pollo.

                              "We'll be in Atlanta tomorrow on the way to the airport looking for some cheap ss things (turkey roasting pan, bowls) for her kitchen. Any suggestions where to look?"

                              Around this time of the year, I've done well in the past for these very items at ...drum roll...Marshall's.

                              1. re: Steve Drucker

                                Thanks for the advice, which alas came too late. We didn't have much luck at the Asian places, but I'll remind her to try Marshalls when she gets back home (Boston).

                                On my way back from ATL I stopped at LJ and inquired about the tamales. Apparently not only are they fresh on Friday, but in fact they are only available on Friday, so I'll have to swing by there some Friday soon.

                                Speaking of Asian cookware, on a previous trip I found some examples of a non-stick type pot at the Asian places that looks intriguing. It is some sort of "stone" surface, built up in five layers over a cast aluminum piece. Today at Buford Farmers Market I noticed they have quite a selection of the stuff, on the far wall in the corner nearest the parking lot. It's made in Korea by outfits with names like "Joycook" and "Dreamchef," but it seems pretty good---in some cases the producers are claiming ISO 9001 certifications. If you haven't tried this stuff give it a shot and tell us what you think. Here's a link

                                http://www.dreamchef.co.kr/

                        2. re: Steve Drucker

                          We stopped by La Jerezana on a Sat for lunch based on these recommendations and loved it. No ambiance of course, though it was fun to watch the small child with the family seated next to us dancing to the Latin music from the television perched high above our heads. Food was terrific, fresh, plentiful and very inexpensive. We had the carnitas and pollo (chicken)(one of each) platters which were much more than enough food for 2 people. With non-alcoholic beverages lunch came to just $18 and we had meat lelftover for to make soup for more meals!

                      3. Well, we tried the White Hall Inn in Dillard tonite. It was not great, but not bad. Fairly upscale ambiance in an old inn, big dining room with enthusiastic if not utterly professional service, about what you'd expect in Dillard. Piano player, half decent selection of wines. Most entries priced in the 20's, including several seafood choices, steaks, duck breast, several chicken items, pork loin, and so on. Fresh lettuce in the salads. Competent if not cutting-edge presentations. I had chicken liver app--it showed up with crumbled bacon and blue cheese. A lot for six bucks, but the livers weren't very "livery" for my taste, but maybe right for others who don't like liver as much as I do (but then, why order it???) For my main I had a pasta dish ("Low Country" carbonara with shrimp and sausage and cream--interesting). Janet had the pork, which was pretty good. Several others had poached salmon, which seemed a bit bland to me. Most of the folks at the table are not 'hounds by a long shot, and generally thought the food was good.

                        Figure on about $60-65 for two w/out wine. On the whole, it's a nice place to have dinner in Dillard, but it's certainly not playing in the big leagues. From strictly the food quality standpoint, both Henry's and Jerezana are more compelling.

                        It's directly across 441 from the Fred's, back from the main road and up on a hill.