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Oktoberfest in Helen, GA/Rec's from Atlanta to Ashville

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I "inherited" a timeshare in Cleveland, Georgia which is a part of the country I've never been to. The nearby city of Helen is built in the style of a German village and is known for its Oktoberfest celebration in the fall each year, but not wanting to spend the entire week in what may well be a tourist trap, I'm looking for dining suggestions in this region of North Georgia (about an hour NE of Atlanta).

I found some recommendations on Tripadvisor, which I'll summarize here:

North Georgia BBQ (Helen, GA)
* Address: 663 Edelweiss Strasse, Helen, GA 30545
* Phone: 706-878-5753
"Having traveled all over the US, I can honestly say they have everyone beat! The pork is moist and smoky and all the sauces are homemade. I like the sweet, but they have others like hot, tangy and extra hot. The ribs are probably the best kept secret - so good you would not believe it!"

La Cabana Express
* Address: 8520 S Main St, Helen, GA 30545
* Phone: (706) 878-8412
"We visted Helen during Thanksgiving Week. This Mexican Cafe was almost a daily for lunch. The food quality is very good. There is a lunch menu."

Rhapsody Grill (19 miles)
* Address: 135 North Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533
* Tel: 706-867-0123 Website: www.rhapsodygrill.com
"The Rhapsody Grill is a new restaurant just off the square in Dahlonega and is located in an historic house. The service was great and the food was excellent and reasonably priced"

Any advice would be appreciated!

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  1. Hold your expectations for Helen low. Its a cute town that straddles a nice mountain stream and does have some small semblance of a German town, but only because the town fathers sat down and decided on a marketing strategy for the town a few decades ago and set out with some gingerbread and lederhosen to make it happen. Its a fun time but not authentic.

    Its a haul to Atlanta from there. If you want to make the drive I would suggest dim sum at the Oriental Pearl.. Its on the side of atlanta that youre approaching from.

    http://www.igougo.com/dining-reviews-...

    5 Replies
    1. re: ddub

      Sounds like we'll be making some road trips. Ashville's about equidistant in the opposite direction, and both it and Atlanta have good coverage on this board. Thanks ddub!

      1. re: non sequitur

        Octoberfest is great fun. Get a wurst platter sitting on the banks of the Chattahoochee, meander around town, then go to the Festhalle to drink beer and watch the enthusiastic German/East European Americans dance to authentic live polka bands. Totally fun and different.

        In Dahlonega, stay away from The Smith House. Really horrible false "sourthern" cooking. If you want Southern food (yes, the cooked-for-hours green beans and all) in Dahlonega, go to Danny's, on the road from 400 into town. Danny's is not fancy or pretty, but the little cafeteria line holds southern classics, meat and three.

        If you have time to kill, go to beautiful Lake Burton, a little to the northeast, and the Talulah Gorge. There's an amazing fried chicken restaurant on the shore of Lake Burton...can't remember the name, but ask anybody, there's just the one.

        Also worth a side trip is Amicolola Falls, the highest falls East of the Mississippi (?).

        And if you're driving down toward Atlanta but don't want to make the trip the whole way, Alpharetta is full of great options, Ray's Killer Creek, for example, off Mansell Rd.

        1. re: martyparty

          Since my trip to Helen, GA is now an annual one, I found this post (which I started), when searching for anything new this year. I thought I'd supplement the thread with my experiences last year, and put some names to martyparty's rec's above.

          The "lake burton travel guide" [http://www.world66.com/northamerica/u...] gives a clue as to that chicken joint:

          "The most famous of all places on Lake Burton is the LaPrades marina and restaurant. Owned by the LaPrades/Kastner familes and in business from the 1920's to around 2005, the restaurant served many generations of families who kept coming back for more. Their family-style atmosphere drew on people's hearts no matter where they were from and what their background was. Nothing compared to sitting in the rocking chairs on the wrap-around porch and playing checkers with your child as you waited for your name to be called off of the seating list. As soon as the sun set behind the mountains in a majestic fanfare of orange and purple, a chorus of katydids, cicadas, crickets, tree frogs, and bull frogs would begin to warm up their voices. When it was your family's turn to be seated, the head waiter would send a lucky child scampering down the gravel driveway to ring a large dinner bell that announced to everyone that it was time for another round of seating. Families were ushered into the old restaurant and seated at long tables covered in red-checked table cloths, complete with bowls of steaming, home-cooked foods that can only be found on a Southerner's dinner table. The bowls of sides were passed around the table, and soon huge dishes of fried chicken were brought out for all to share. The original LaPrades burned down on Mother's Day 2005, however another completely rebuilt LaPrades with a Marina area offering boat rentals, boat repair, and a new restaraunt was completed in the fall of 2007.

          Also on Lake Burton:
          "Cherokee Marina, Bar, and Grill serves enormous hamburgers cooked and topped however you request, and of course no good hamburger is complete without a cold beer to accompany it, which the gap-toothed, large-bosomed, red-faced woman behind the counter will gladly give you for a small price and a flash of your ID. Every Friday night, the entertainment consists of a local guitarist playing and singing favorite oldies and requests on a small, make-shift stage next to the outdoor deck and eating area that extends out over the lake. Although its main decor consists of flashing neon beer signs, the place is very family-oriented. There is a sandbox next to the dock which the owners gladly stock with fun sand toys that children of all ages enjoy playing with while they anxiously await the arrival of their chicken fingers and hamburgers. The owners also give the children leftover bread so that they can feed the ever-present bass and brim that lurk under the docks, an activity which produces countless squeals of delight."

          I will try one or both of the above this month, but from my last trip the one place I can personally vouch for was the bbq place in Helen. We went about 3 times that week, and I plan to hit it frequently again this year.

          1. re: non sequitur

            We returned from our 2009 week in the region, and I'm back to update my update:

            LaPrades does not do the fried chicken brunch except in the summer, so that was a disappointment.

            North Georgia BBQ continued to deliver - went 3 times and LOVED it. It is strictly outdoor, but in the cool fall day air after a hike to Ruby Falls there is nothing better.

            In Cleveland I received multiple recommendations for GLENDA's, but did not make it there myself. The mexican place next door to Glenda's was also recommended.

            Hawg Wild BBQ in Clarkesville drew a large crowd when I drove past at lunch so I had to stop in. While good, it was more oriented toward ambiance than the food, and I found the pork to be a little fatty here. Should have tried the catfish, which rates equal billing on the big sign out front (they also have a big fudge making operation on site).

            The real standout this trip was a new find: Smoke Rings BBQ in Hiawassee, GA (325 Big Sky Dr, Hiawassee - (706) 896-6467). This place had even better food quality than North Georgia BBQ, and even better ambiance than Hawg Wild - the best of both worlds. The newly-constructed building has an extensive patio overlooking the lake in Hiawassee, and is one of the cleanest BBQ joints I've ever come across (I don't mind a greasy spoon, but this was a nice surprise). The food was fantastic: pork wasn't fatty or greasy, with a perfect assortment of sauces tableside. Battered onion rings were just what the doctor ordered (of course a doctor would surely never recommend onion rings of all things). The smoked chicken was fantastic, as were the sides, of which we selected baked beans with peach (surprisingly excellent), and something I think was called cornbread salad (it was almost like a cole slaw, but less watery - I'd never even heard of such a thing and had to try it, and was not disappointed). I ate so wantonly here that I did not need dinner that evening.

            To summarize, Smoke Rings was so good that I bid on a property for sale by auction in Hiawassee largely on the strength of this local BBQ institution.

            I'll report back again, in 2010.

            1. re: non sequitur

              I moved to Clarkesville earlier this summer; Hawg Wild is good sometimes but it really varies from visit to visit. Every time I've been to Cleveland, Glenda's has been packed out the door...haven't tried it yet, but that many people can't be wrong?

              A&E grill just west of Clarkesville on hwy 155 has great burgers, when/if the burger urge strikes you.

    2. Rhapsody Grill is very good. Off the square and the tourists haven't found it yet. I recommend the Marcel Marceau burger (brie and pub mustard...mmm) and a slice of whatever pie the chef's mother-in-law made the night before.

      In Helen...stay away from the oom pah pah strip. Nacoochee Grill is quite good. http://www.nacoocheegrill.com/ It's across from Nora Mill Granary. I recommend the crab cakes, the cornmeal dusted trout, and whatever you get be sure to have the corn hash as a side. It is AMAZING.

      Enjoy North GA. If you're hiker's, take a picnic lunch to Raven Cliff Falls. As far as I'm concerned...that IS Helen.