Saveur recently ran a nice story entitled,"12 restaurants that matter." Of the 12 i have been to half and have heard of 11 of the 12. The twelfth is located in Decatur, Georgia and its called Watershed.
As luck will have it, next month i'll be in Atlanta for 3 or 4 days. Does anyone out there have an opinion on this restaurant? I took a look at the menu, and its not really expensive v some of the others mentioned. Any insight/thoughts on Watershed would be great.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Atlanta suburb where I was staying for a few nights happened also to be the home of one of Saveur magazine’s “12 Restaurants That Matter” featured in the April 2009 issue. So I made a reservation at Watershed Restaurant in Decatur.
This happened to be a Monday, which is half-price wine night. I asked the server about the 2005 Kenneth Volk Sierra Madre Pinot Noir, and he was unable to give me any information. I ordered it anyway and was happy I did. It was a good value at half-price, but would not have been at its regular price, which was about 3x retail.
I started with the Creamy Stone Ground Shrimp Grits and Pullman Plank, the latter being a long (4”x10”) piece of crispy buttered toast. The grits were a little chunky and nicely cooked, although the shrimp flavor was subtle.
I continued with one of chef Scott Peacock’s signature dishes, the Southern Table Salmon Croquettes, with a side order of Gingered Beets. The croquettes were served with more grits (sans shrimp), collard greens and roasted tomatoes. The croquettes were mildly flavored, the grits good, and the greens nicely de-veined. The low-key flavors of these were more than offset by the overwhelming flavor of the roasted tomatoes. One bite of those and it was necessary for the palate to recover before continuing with any of the others. The beets were heavy on the beet flavor and light on the ginger.
I finished with the Selection of Southern Cheeses, although only two of the three were actually southern, those being the Lumiere and the Eden, both goat’s milk cheeses from Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville, GA. A drizzle of honey and some pecans were served alongside.
The place is in a converted service station with high ceilings (high enough to accommodate an auto atop a hydraulic hoist) and plenty of windows, at least in the front room. The walls are lined with blue glass bottles. It is roomy with plenty of spacing between tables. The service was competent but indifferent. There were no “extras,” e.g., bread, amuse-bouche, etc.
Overall I thought the food was good but generally bland, like refined versions of the steam table fare that used to be found at cafeteria chains like Morrison’s throughout the South.
But my reaction is almost certainly colored by the inclusion of Watershed on the Saveur list. My expectations were high and they were not met. I have had occasion to eat at a couple of other places on the list (Gramercy Tavern and Commander’s Palace) and I am bewildered that anyone would consider Watershed to be in the same league. So either Saveur is nuts or I hit Watershed on a really off night.
Would be curious to learn whether baldwinwood ever got there.
Greetings from Georgia. I loved Watershed. Went there for my birthday in November. My friend called ahead and Scott Peacock signed one of his cookbooks for me. It's definitely one you want to try.
They brought us butternut squash soup in demitasse cups, an extra we didn't order. It was great. I too had the salmon croquettes and they were amazing with mac and cheese and greens. Do go.
Thursday May 14 we had dinner at Watershed.
After the amuse bouche butternut soup, was placed on the table, expectations were raised. I was expecting a very good meal, the butternut soup was the highlight of the night.
Like you i started with the shrimp and grits. While the grits were stone ground and cooked very well, i was not in love with the idea or the 'ground' shrimp. When i order shrimp and grits, i want see some pieces of pork and shrimp in the dish. The shrimp taste was so subtle, it could have been a shrimp stock or ground shrimp.
For my entree i had the pork chop cooked medium with the mac-n-cheese and the collard greens. The pork chop was brined and cooked to perfection. It had nice char marks on the outside and a perfect pink and warm center. The mac-n-cheese was good , as were the collards.
Once again i will agree with your assessment of Watershed. I thought the food was good, a little bland and far from great. The three others that dinned with me, all had similar feelings. Not sure if i went in with unrealistic expections, but Watershed is not in the same league as Commanders, Slanted Door, Topolobamo or any other restaurant on that list i have visited.
The waiter after a little conversation(and a nice tip), did give up Scotts technique for their famous fried chicken. No idea if it works or not, i'll let you know after i try it.
I've never been to Watershed at dinner, only lunch. I like it alot, but I wonder if I , too, wouldn't consider it a bit spartan for dinner. Although I did not see the Saveur article, I'm guessing that Watershed "matters" because it serves true, high-quality, southern food. Not tarted up new-american with "a southern twist" and not cliched southern food made as heavy as possible a la Paula Dean. Not because it's divine ...does that make sense?
And yes, I think expectations can hurt your opinion of a place. I was underwhelmed at Gramercy Tavern and I know it's supposed to be exceptional.
That was an interesting piece....funny that Chez Panisse and French Laundry were not on the list of 12, but they did merit their own article in the same issue, highlighting Waters and Keller.
Watershed is an excellent restaurant, and maybe you'll be here when they have the fried chicken (Tuesday nights I think). It's worth a visit to add to your Saveur list.