Foodie Travels: The Dillard House, Dillard, Ga.


“If you tell me I can only have salt once from now until the end of time, I would drive up to Dillard, Georgia, and go to The Dillard House, and I would have the country ham.”

That endorsement by popular television food show personality Alton Brown was what initially alerted us, like so many other foodies, to the culinary wonder that is The Dillard House, a now 100-year-old restaurant in the north Georgia mountains, just across the North Carolina state line.

When we investigated the place further, we learned The Dillard House offers overnight accommodations, as well as horseback riding and other activities. Seeking the perfect anniversary getaway, we decided to take advantage of both the opportunity to stay a few nights and to enjoy a farm ride from the stables. But just like our initial discovery, our visit to The Dillard House started with the food. (Big surprise, right?)


The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the year. A switchover from lunch to dinner happens about 5 p.m., and we arrived shortly before, still able to take advantage of the slightly less expensive lunch prices and the menu posted on the wall at the entrance.

After drinks were delivered, a cold tray of slaw, marmalade and apple butter arrived at our table. Then came the feast. We found our table suddenly and beautifully covered by fried chicken, pork chops, turkey pot pie, cream corn, lima beans, cabbage casserole, fried potatoes, squash casserole, fried zucchini, yeast rolls and corn mini muffins. Room barely remained for our plates and our elbows.

At this point, if you didn’t get lost in the list of delicious dishes, you may be wondering: Where’s the country ham? Well, it’s available by request, and servers will gladly deliver a plate to your table. It turns out, the ham is delightfully salty, just as Alton Brown advertised, and also has a slightly sweet quality to it.


As for the rest of the plates and bowls on the table? Everything was scrumptious. The fork-tender fried chicken had a soft and crispy breading to it, which surrounded a meaty and juicy interior. The bone-in pork chops were massive and tender. Every vegetable was fresh, well-seasoned, and the buttery lima beans may have been Molly’s favorite item of everything on the menu. We enjoyed it all from our little two-person table in the corner, which was a nice surprise.

Most seating at The Dillard House is family-style, which means you may dine with strangers around a big table where everything on the menu is delivered. Since we were on an anniversary getaway, it was nice to have our own space. We even enjoyed an apple betty—slightly crisp and tart apples paired with a crunchy topping—a la mode.

There was only one problem at the end of our meal. We couldn’t finish even half of our food.

Luckily, like the table, The Dillard House has that covered, too. You can request a few takeout boxes and carry the remaining part of your meal home with you. The leftovers provided a great dinner the next night, easy to reheat in our microwave in the chateau in which we stayed in Dillard. Being able to take food with us was nice because it makes The Dillard House an even better value for your money, and we never like seeing food go to waste!


So, if you’re looking for a good, filling meal to enjoy with your spouse, a few friends or your whole family, do as Alton Brown does. Drive to Dillard, Georgia, and enjoy a meal at The Dillard House. Don’t forget to ask for the country ham!

The Dillard House, 768 Franklin St., Dillard, Georgia

Celebrating a #FoodieScore milestone

#FoodieScore celebration

Dear #FoodieScore Friends,

These words mark the 100th post here on #FoodieScore. Thank you for supporting us each and every day with your visits, your shares, your comments and your suggestions. You have allowed us to experience more great food than we ever imagined when we started this space.

#FoodieScore began more than two years ago with the sole idea of helping us organize favorite recipes we tried in our home kitchen. We cook often and just wanted a way to remember delicious simple dishes that we discovered. We had no idea so many people would be so kind by reading and sharing with other eaters. Several posts in particular seem to have deeply connected with fellow foodies, most of all our Mississippi Slug Burger, which astounds us when we see its thousands of views continue to climb.

The kind people in the state of Mississippi are a great example of the incredibly generous support we’ve received throughout these past couple years. When we began sharing restaurants in addition to recipes—and when we launched the #FoodieScore social media family on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—the folks in the Town of Holly Springs helped spread the word about our Foodie Travels series by sharing a piece on a visit to Phillips Grocery. We delight in every bite we enjoy, but it thrills us even more when we see others reminiscing about delicious food from the past or discovering a great meal for the first time.

To be honest, we are both humbled and proud to welcome those who come to #FoodieScore for recipe and restaurant suggestions. We take great pride in supporting the #EatLocal and #ShopLocal movements through our approach, which focuses more on sharing great food instead of critiquing anything less than stellar. But in an age of gimmicky marketing tactics everywhere we look, we are even prouder that you, dear friends, are what keep our food adventures alive and well. All our support has come from what marketing moguls might call “organic” generation, meaning we’ve done no paid advertising or sneaky shopping of personal information to get our #FoodieScore posts in front of your eyes. It’s all been old-fashioned foodie-friend support, and as we roll into the future, we will continue to share simple recipes and great restaurant finds with you, thankful that you share our joy in food so much you’ll continue to help spread the love.

And speaking of that future, we have a great plate of new features cooking up in the #FoodieScore kitchen that we’ll serve up soon. We spent a lot of time traveling America this summer, and that means we have some top-notch restaurant suggestions on the way. Our experiences also mean we’ll have quite a packed Best We Ate in 2017 coming out by year’s end. (Check out Best We Ate in 2016 here for a preview.) And just as we began, with recipes, we continue to cook up lots of tasty dishes with simple ingredients and directions, and you are on our mind with each bite. So keep joining us for dinner!…and breakfast…and lunch…and dessert.

In the meantime, be sure to check out our Foodie Travels map for ideas on where to eat when you’re on the road, or at home. You might have also noticed that we recently reorganized our archives into distinct Travels, sorted by state, and Recipes, sorted by dish type, sections to help you (and us!) more quickly search among all the great food!

So, thank you again from the bottom of our stomachs (and hearts). Your kindness to join us on this journey makes each #FoodieScore experience more flavorful.

Your Friends,

Matthew & Molly Tessnear


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Foodie Travels: Chico’s Tacos, El Paso, Texas


The United States-Mexico border is just a couple of miles down the road. You see hills jammed full of colorful houses in Mexico’s neighboring Ciudad Juarez on your drive to dinner. After arriving in the small, packed parking lot off Alameda Avenue in El Paso, Texas, you walk into an equally packed, nondescript building and walk to the counter, where orders are being taken—in Spanish. This is Chico’s Tacos.

The far-western Texas town of El Paso is America’s 20th largest city with more than a half million people. Ask any of the locals (and anyone who’s made their home in El Paso in the past) where you should eat; Chico’s Tacos, open since 1953, is always the answer.

We first heard about Chico’s Tacos from celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez on one of our favorite food shows, “Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Sanchez hooked us from the beginning of the episode by saying, “It’s always a good time to eat a taco. There’s never a bad time to eat a taco.” Amen, Aaron! Molly and I have a mantra about such food: #MexicanEveryDay. Sanchez goes on to share the delightfully simple pleasure of eating Chico’s Tacos, and those words—delightfully simple—are exactly how my wife, Molly, described the experience after our first-ever visit.

As Sanchez explains, the Chico’s Tacos are not the prettiest, most photogenic tacos you’ve ever seen. In fact, by today’s standards, they don’t look much like tacos at all. To the processed-food society we live in, they look more like what we’d call taquitos. But they are light, crispy and covered in a very thin tomato-chile sauce that fills a little cardboard food boat. Then all of that is covered in basic, finely shredded American cheese. It is indeed simple, yet so satisfying and authentically El Paso. And two people can dine (we had a double order of tacos, a bean burrito and two drinks) for about $10. For the non-taco-inclined, it appeared many of the locals were also fond of the Chico’s cheeseburger.


I took Spanish classes for five years in high school and college, so I’m proud to say I knew what was said at the order counter and when our number was called. I was even able to answer a question from an employee about whether we wanted packets of “dulce,” or sweetener.

It was obvious we were one of few visitors in Chico’s at the time, as most folks appeared to be dining as part of a regular routine. In a time when so much emphasis is put on the struggles between different people in our country, it was nice to experience being visitors in this great place. El Paso is a city with many bilingual English and Spanish speakers, and some patrons even live or do business across the border in Mexico. Walking into Chico’s was a chance for us to experience life in the everyday world of another culture, still within the borders of our own country, though close to another.

Chico’s Tacos is essential El Paso dining. You’ll find fancier, pricier, more Instagram-ready food. You won’t, however, get a more realistic, local food experience.

Chico’s Tacos, 4230 Alameda Ave., El Paso, Texas (Other locations in town as well)

Foodie Travels: Best We Ate in 2016

2016 has been a year of travel across the South for us. And from east Texas to coastal Georgia to the West Virginia mountains, we have enjoyed the ongoing gifts of incredible local food at every stop.

Many of our experiences have found their way here to #FoodieScore, but there have been too many great eats to have time to share them all. However, as the year comes to a close, we’d like to recap and award favorite designations to some of the best food we ate at restaurants in 2016.

Without further delay, here are the first-ever Year’s Best #FoodieScore winners, our short list of favorite experiences, somewhat categorized in the style of Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”


Matthew – Lankford Grocery & Market, Houston, Texas – In a year full of delicious burgers on our foodie travels, this local dining institution gave me the second best burger experience I’ve ever had (after the now-closed Kim’s Kitchen in Stanley, N.C.). The fresh meat, soft yet hearty bun, creamy cheese and fresh veggie toppings on my traditional burger was the perfect bun-meat-condiment ratio. Even Sheldon Cooper would be proud. And the friendly southern-style atmosphere of this place, set right in a neighborhood near the downtown of the nation’s fourth-largest city, was memorable. Lankford edges out a long list in this category, which also includes Al’s Burger Shack (Chapel Hill, N.C.), Betty Bombers (Savannah, Ga.), Burger Bar (Bristol, Va.), Pawley’s Front Porch (Columbia, S.C.) and Secret Sandwich Society (Fayetteville, W.Va.).

Molly – Al’s Burger Shack, Chapel Hill, N.C. – Out of all the delicious burgers we tried this year, Al’s eclipsed them all in multiple respects. Al’s burgers come with a delightful, soft bun that is freshly cut almost all the way through. The bun is still held together on one side, which means the ingredients – the meat of the meal – don’t move around or fall out like with most burgers. I eat a lot of messy burgers, but this bun held it all together for me. That’s one reason Al’s burgers are my new favorite. The second big deal for me is, of course, taste. I got a Swiss and mushroom burger with a garlic aioli sauce. The garlic flavor along with a slew of mushrooms atop a very juicy, perfectly-cooked burger made this sandwich my best burger of the year. Honorable mentions include a mushroom Swiss burger from The Copper Penny (Forest City, N.C.) and the Hey Good Looking burger from Burger Bar (Bristol, Va.).


Matthew – Red House Inn in Brevard, N.C. – A bed-and-breakfast often gives you pancakes, French toast, eggs and other mainstays on a B&B menu. This homey B&B in western North Carolina does all that, but they also offer a traditional English breakfast. You get an English muffin, multiple meats, a cooked tomato, beans and mushrooms, along with other breakfast favorites. Everything is hot, fresh, and thanks to the B&B setting, you don’t have to drive to get there. It was a nice walk from our cottage next door to the main house. This was a wonderful place to celebrate the joys of marriage on a Valentine’s Day weekend.

Molly – The Collin’s Quarter in Savannah, Ga. – You can’t go wrong with the perpetually busy, Australian-inspired, unique cafe that is The Collin’s Quarter. (Unless you don’t like Matcha lattes.) (Inside joke.) We decided on brunch and my Avocado Smash was one of the freshest, most hearty, delicious brunches I’ve ever had. Here’s a description from the website: “[Smashed avocado] served on artisan toast bread with feta, heirloom tomatoes, micro herbs, and shaved radishes topped with a poached egg and sesame seeds.” It doesn’t get much better than that, and I didn’t even know I liked radishes! I also had a Madagascar Vanilla Latte. This place even inspired us to try our own poached eggs and smashed avocado toast at home. That makes it a winner in my book.


Matthew – Cupcrazed in Fort Mill, S.C. – A simple follow of this spot on Instagram shows you just how much this place knows cupcakes. Success in Food Network competition proves it, too. Seriously, I can’t explain it any better than this: Follow Cupcrazed on Instagram. You’ll get a daily digital dose of cupcakes. They offer the basic favorites, but they get crazy, too. My s’mores cupcake was righteous. It was so good that we took a box of cupcakes to our family.

Molly – Sweet Paris in Houston, Texas – It was so difficult to choose a best sweet treat spot, because we went to so many! But perhaps the most out-of-the-box was Sweet Paris Creperie, suggested to us by a dear friend for whose wedding we were in town. Their website says, “Welcome to our beautiful world of crepes” and I couldn’t agree more. I decided on a s’mores crepe. It was soft and delightful, filled with marshmallow creme, and covered with a chocolate drizzle, powdered sugar, and flame-torched marshmallows. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything more delicately sweet in my life.


Matthew – Profiteroles at Superior Seafood in New Orleans, La. – A hearty dessert for $2 while traveling 1,000 miles across the southern U.S.? Yes, please! Our meal was great at Superior Seafood, but the $2 desserts topped it off so well. In a city known for its food and for its beignets, I discovered the profiterole, a soft and light pastry with ice cream and various sweet toppings. Other restaurants came close on taste this year, but none offered the corresponding value of Superior’s $2 dessert.

Molly – Banana pudding at Ronda’s Kitchen, Kings Mountain, N.C. – I got local for this one, because the best darn dessert I’ve put in my mouth this year is Ronda’s banana pudding. Let me tell you why. It’s homemade weekly, cooked slow on the stovetop, and topped with fresh bananas just before it’s served. It’s so creamy and sweet, with just the right amount of vanilla wafers swirled inside, that you forget any other banana pudding exists. It’s spoiled me on banana pudding anywhere else. Nom!


Matthew – Sweet Potatoes in Winston-Salem, N.C. – Perhaps the place I was most excited to visit this year for its southern and local flair, Sweet Potatoes did not disappoint. We enjoyed brunch while on a one-night weekend excursion. My chicken and pancakes (a take on the famed chicken and waffles) were like a slice of grandma’s old kitchen. Crispy, flavorful, boneless fried chicken tenders, atop a light and rich sweet potato pancake. And the brunch macaroni and cheese was a creamy, light appetizer to start us off. We lucked out with a window seat, so we got to take in Winston-Salem’s outdoor arts district, while also getting a view of the entire restaurant, which filled up immediately after opening on a Sunday morning.

Molly – Time-Out Grill in Chapel Hill, N.C. – Clearly Chapel Hill was a win for us foodies, and Time-Out had it all. We made a late-night stop upon our arrival into town, with no idea the caliber of soul food we were about to encounter. We sampled a chicken and cheese biscuit, broccoli casserole (the warmest, heartiest broccoli casserole you can imagine), sweet tea, country ham, and even a slice of pecan pie. A great stop for any hungry passerby at any time of day or night, Time-Out is a 24/7 soul food capital for North Carolina.


Matthew – El Rey in Houston, Texas – We eat Mexican food often, and most restaurants offer a similar set of familiar favorites. Not El Rey. Maybe that’s what you’d expect of a restaurant just a few hours from the Mexico border. But it struck me how surprised people were when I told them how great the food experience is in Houston. Folks seemed further surprised to discover Houston is one of the nation’s largest cities. El Rey was not just Mexican. It was Mexican and Cuban and other ethnic food goodness. We had tacos with plantains. We had fish tacos. We had fajita tacos. This place was a mix of the tastes of Mexico, San Diego, Miami and more. And the restaurant space itself gave off a very boutique cantina vibe. Best Mexican experience all year.

Molly – El Rey in Houston, Texas – Nope, that’s not a typo. When we were discussing our favorite Mexican food of the year, both of us chose El Rey. Another great suggestion from our awesome friends in Houston, my favorite fish taco of all time can be found here. Just crispy enough, just flaky enough, on a warm flour tortilla, with all the right toppings. Fish tacos, for the win.


Matthew – Big Mike’s in Brevard, N.C. – This is the definition of a local Italian-American joint. Red-and-white plaid tablecloths. Delicious pizza dough. Sweet tea to drink. Sports memorabilia all over the walls. Big Mike’s had great pizza, great garlic knots and a homey feel. It’s the kind of place that can turn lunch into lunch AND dinner. And that’s a good thing.

Molly – Dino’s in Bessemer City, N.C. – My mom and dad recommended Dino’s after they visited a few times and enjoyed the plethora of options this local Italian place has to offer. My stromboli was on point, Matthew’s pizza was on fleek, and the appetizer plate my mom shared with us gave us a taste of fried zucchini, fried mozzarella and more.


Matthew – Tie between Peace-N-Hominy Q Shack in Belmont, N.C., and Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, N.C. – Peace-N-Hominy is a chic modern Q Shack. Creative menu. Tasty meat. Decorated space. Lexington Barbecue is the legendary classic. All the favorites. Delicious meat. Non-fussy decor. Two different sides of the barbecue experience completely, both thrilled me in different ways with their range on the barbecue restaurant scale. And they offered something different than our three barbecue restaurants here where we live in Cleveland County, N.C.


Matthew – Desposito’s in Thunderbolt, Ga. – If you want fresh, flavorful seafood presented simply without frills, this is your spot. Right off the water in coastal Georgia, I don’t know that Molly and I have ever visited a more hole-in-the-wall restaurant with more simple decor. And I don’t know that we’ll ever have boiled shrimp and deviled crab with more flavor. This place has served stars like Michael Douglas, and it’s been featured in publications nationwide. We understand why, and it has the distinction for me of serving the best seafood we ate all year.

Molly – Superior Seafood in New Orleans, La. – My hat’s tipped to Superior Seafood on this one, mainly due to the incredibly superior shrimp and grits I had the pleasure of eating here. Shrimp and grits are where I set my bar for the quality of a seafood or southern restaurant. I have sampled them in many places, but Superior Seafood’s were exactly…perfect. No gravy, instead a simple, flavorful, delicious “tasso cream” sauce. Perfectly-cooked grits. Perfectly-flavored, sauteed shrimp. Tiny squares of sausage. I savored every bite.

What’s the best thing you ate this year? Have you tried any of our favorites? You can find out more about most of the restaurants above in our Foodie Travels section!

Pictured Above (clockwise from top left): Lankford Grocery cheeseburger in Houston, Texas; Cupcrazed s’mores cupcake in Fort Mill, S.C.; El Rey fish taco in Houston, Texas; and Red House Inn English breakfast in Brevard, N.C.