Recently while on a 1,100+ mile road-trip designed to put Honda’s 2012 Civic SI to the test we chose to take an unconventional path that wound include both interstates and blue-highways. Winding our way north from the suburbs of Tampa, Florida all the way up to the pastoral woodlands of North Georgia’s Appalachian foothills we were afforded a unique opportunity to enjoy some of the South’s best driving roads, agrarian scenery and small-town eateries.
Somewhat off the beaten path but just barely an hour north of Atlanta on US-19/SR-60 lies the sleepy 19th century mining town of Dahlonega, Georgia. Once the home of America’s first gold-rush, tiny Dahlonega is today something of a weekend-tourist mecca. Quaint by nature and pastoral by location it’s easy to quickly see why a town like Dahlonega has gained such popularity with Atlanta day-trippers and vacationing tourists alike. Ideally set amidst the scenic foothills of North Georgia, Dahlonega offers visitors the unique opportunity to enjoy the community and culture of the region without sacrificing most of conveniences of the city. That being said, most of the restaurants and eateries scattered around the town’s central square while picturesque are anything but “local.” To that end we ventured just beyond the buzz of downtown to a little restaurant deceptively adjacent to old service-station and just within a stone’s throw of the local North Georgia College & State University’s campus; welcome to Dahlonega’s perfectly “local” Foothill Grill.
Nothing fancy, yes…that’s ostensibly the best way to describe the outward appearance of the Foothill Grill. Situated directly adjacent to an old service station it’s the sort of eatery you might first dismiss or pass by without notice, but that would be at a great loss as this is undoubtedly one of the single best places to enjoy some quality food amidst the locals of the Georgian foothills. Once inside the ambiance changes a little, possessing a down-home quality that incorporates familiar elements from the sports-bar, the pub and the traditional American casual restaurant, elements that serve to create a warm and hospitable public space that feels both casual and relaxed. Decidedly unpretentious this is the sort of storied American eatery where a split dining room plan adorned with wood paneling throughout, festooned with both current and vintage local art and featuring unmistakably hand-crafted wooden booths not only makes sense it defines the experience.
The service here is prompt and friendly, whether you are a local or a tourist the staff is eager to get you seated and go over the day’s specials. The day’s specials…yes, this is exactly the sort of place where you should take heed of just what the kitchen is making special for the day, because odds are good it’s something you are going to want. Friendly and informative our waitress made sure to let us know just how fresh everything on their sizeable menu was and the fact that everything is cooked to order! She was also kind enough to let us know everything they may have run out of for the day, (Foothills Grill serves breakfast all-day…but that doesn’t mean they don’t run out of grits, etc.. along the way).
The food lives up to the hype. Arriving at our table in short but accordingly good order, the food was every bit as good as we had heard from locals and tourists in the know. My hamburger was thick and juicy at a ½ pound and cooked perfectly medium rare as requested. Nothing fancy but a good reminder of how awesomely simplistic a good burger can really be. (Sometimes in bigger markets like Tampa or Atlanta we become lost in the intricacies of the more complex burger that we lose sight of it’s simple but tasty origins.) The tomato was fresh as were the onions and everything indeed tasted as fresh as the waitress had assured us it would be. Having opted for the potato salad I was happy to discover it was as fresh and unique as the burger, a sort of different take on the traditional southern potato salad that used a little less mayonnaise in lieu of dill and a light dusting of paprika. The hushpuppies…now these were the sort of thing that legends are made from. Perfectly browned and perfectly seasoned they were crispy to the touch but melted in our mouths. Chicken Fingers, while not sounding like the most prototypical sort of fresh made delicacy were in fact actually that, as much like the hushpuppies they were hand shorn and then expertly battered and fried. The results of which were easily the most sublime chicken fingers you will ever find, delightfully simple but greatly fulfilling.
Walking out of the Foothills Grill it was easy to understand why the locals frequent this place, it’s simple, fresh and unpretentious; a family restaurant by definition and the sort of place where locals and passers-through alike can meet and enjoy terrific, fresh and made to order food at extremely reasonable prices…yes, Foothills Grill truly does epitomize the spirit of the rural community in Dahlonega, the embodiment of exactly what the tourists and weekend-getaway folks come looking for when they venture into Georgia’s Appalachian foothills.
995 Morrison Moore Parkway West
Dahlonega, Georgia 30533
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