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

Foodie Travels: Eating Through a Weekend in Atlanta, Ga.

Atlanta may not be the first city that comes to mind if I ask you to name Southern metropolitan areas that serve up legendary food. But on our tour of the major cities in the South in the past two years, the Georgia capital just might have produced the most memorable lineup from top to bottom.

When we visited town for a weekend last year, we arrived with three restaurant destinations in mind. And those were the three we visited. We still have a handful we’d like to try when we’re back in town, but there were no disappointments among the stops we made.

Per our usual foodie travel plan, we visited one featured restaurant each day during the three-day trip, supplementing those meals with free hotel breakfasts and a cheap third meal. Here’s our experience and what we suggest if you find yourself in Atlanta.



Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles

How can you not be attracted to a restaurant that bears the name of the “empress of soul,” Gladys Knight? How can the words “chicken and waffles” not further propel you to seek out a place that promises a menu of delicious soul food?

Well, unfortunately one answer is all of the news about a corruption investigation among Knight’s family, which has prompted some periods of closing in the restaurant’s Atlanta-area locations. Knight has even filed a suit to have her name removed from the restaurants altogether.

But before all of that was in the news, the downtown location was our first Atlanta foodie stop on a Friday night, and we left full of Southern favorites and surprises. Molly enjoyed the shrimp and grits, which she’s now sampled among the most Southern cities on the map— Charleston, S.C., New Orleans, La., and Atlanta, Ga. I had the signature chicken and waffles plate, which offered a simplicity that felt very true to the dish’s roots. It was almost a Waffle House-style waffle, alongside several bone-in chicken wings that were juicy inside and crispy outside.

The jewel in this eatery’s crown was our dessert: quite possibly the best cheesecake of any variety that we’ve ever eaten. Our slice of sweet potato cheesecake was a heavenly combination of light yet rich, flavorful yet not over the top.

If you visit Gladys Knight, as the Travel Channel and other food TV media have done, expect a crowd at peak times; it’s a pretty popular joint. And consider parking elsewhere in town and walking here. The parking situation wasn’t ideal, and we unfortunately ended up paying to park in a lot right next door.

On my dollar sign price scale ($ is cheap, $$ is moderate and $$$ is expensive), this one gets $$.

Online: 529 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, Ga.


Varsity burger

The Varsity

What’ll ya have? That’s been the catchphrase at The Varsity for nearly 90 years. Known as the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, this place offers you plenty to think about before you answer that question.

We visited on a Saturday night alongside five other family members in two cars. This place draws a major crowd at most hours on the weekend, but there was plenty of parking to be had.

Expect to stand in line at the counter for a bit if the joint’s hopping, but that’s OK because you’ll have more time to decide on your order if you’re a newbie. We ended up sampling a variety of items, including cheeseburgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings and the Varsity Orange, the shop’s signature drink (along with the Frosted Orange shake).

The food is good and exactly what you’d expect of a drive-in style diner in the South. I’d venture to say the food’s also less greasy than some spots you’ll visit, and that significantly improves the experience.

You can’t miss The Varsity if you’re driving on Interstate 85 right through downtown Atlanta. When you spot it, remember there are plenty of reasons to stop in for a meal.

The Varsity gets $ on the price scale.

Online: 61 North Avenue, Atlanta, Ga.



Daddy D’z: The Bar-B-Que Joint

We Ain’t Pretty But We’re Good.

Remember what your mama told ya. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’

Those are among the statements on Daddy D’z website. And once you see this iconic Atlanta barbecue joint, you’ll understand why.

On a Sunday afternoon, we decided to make this restaurant our lunch stop. We planned to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. historical sites nearby, so we took advantage of free parking at the MLK center, about a mile away, and walked to the eatery.

That would be a fine choice if it’s not a 95-degree June day in Atlanta, Ga. I don’t suggest our route unless it’s a cooler time of year.

As we neared the restaurant, sweating profusely and tired from the heat-bathed trek, it looked almost like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. Seemingly abandoned buildings were all we saw. It appeared plants were growing out of the structure that seemed on the map like it should be the location of this “famed” barbecue restaurant.

As we rounded the corner from the back, we saw the “Daddy D’z” sign and a full parking lot of cars. The inside was full of people, too, and that meant we had to sit on the outside porch, with fans and no central air-conditioning to cool us.

But we persevered through the heat and my insistence that I needed more drink and my lunch as soon as possible. And we’re glad we did. I had a plate of the best ribs I’ve had in my travels through the South.

I’m not the only proponent of the ribs either. They’ve been praised via the Food Network, among some of the best ribs celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez has ever eaten.

All of the Deep South barbecue favorites are here, and they come with sides of macaroni and cheese and some of the best soul food Atlanta or anywhere can dish up.

If you judge by appearances, you may not want to stop your car and walk inside. That would be a major mistake in foodie judgement on your part. If Daddy D’z fits into your travel plans, you should give it a try and let me know your verdict.

Daddy D’z gets $$ on the price scale.

Online: 264 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta, Ga.

Foodie Travels: Eating Through a Weekend in Savannah, Ga.

We recently traveled to Savannah for a long-weekend-style summer vacation. As much as we were excited to explore the city’s history, culture and natural beauty, we anticipated its extensive and varied culinary offerings. When we arrived and started to sample food at a wide range of different restaurants throughout the area, we were even more pleased with our plates than we expected.

Savannah sits in what I’d call the Deep South, right on the border of South Carolina’s Lowcountry and Georgia’s short-and-sweet coastline. So it’s reasonable to expect a delicious lineup of stellar Southern cooking. We found that, but we also discovered so much more.

The following is a breakdown of our #FoodieScore journey through the restaurants we chose in Savannah, including when we visited and a variety of other thoughts. Keep in mind that we were in town for a total of about 72 hours over four days, that we ate a small breakfast early each morning at our hotel and there is a lengthy list of other eateries that we must try when we return, perhaps most notably the famed Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, a legendary spot that offers a variety of Southern comfort foods in dishes that you pass around tables with other guests. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what Savannah offered us everywhere we turned our stomachs, and here’s the play-by-play of where we picked up our forks.

Each bit of information includes a dollar sign to denote the relative price, with one dollar sign meaning most affordable and three dollar signs meaning most expensive.


Friday night


After a four-hour drive and a few hours exploring the Savannah riverfront in the Georgia summer heat (mid-to-upper 90s), the ice cream spot seemed to be our best source of refreshment. It was the right choice.
LOCATION: Broughton Street, known as Savannah’s Main Street
FOOD TYPE: Ice Cream and American Deli
WHAT’S UNIQUE: This place is all about the fabulous ice cream, and the constant line out the door proves that Leopold’s has achieved high satisfaction since 1919.
SEATING: Expect a crowd, so you may have to take your ice cream to one of several tables out front or on a walk through town. The option of getting a milkshake makes the walk possibility much better.
PARKING: We parked in the Drayton Street garage nearby and lucked out on a $2 total charge for the evening. That was much simpler than feeding a meter and it kept us from parking on the street.
LASTING IMPRESSION: This was the smoothest and most flavorful ice cream I’ve ever had in a milkshake (and I had the lemon custard). They even delivered the extra milkshake that wouldn’t fit in my glass and offered complimentary water.



Saturday morning

The Collins Quarter
Everything about this place beckoned us to try it, but we decided on brunch to sample a delicious menu alongside a cup of coffee from the coffee bar during weekend breakfast time.
LOCATION: Bull Street, along a fabulous walking tour route for checking out the city’s beautiful park squares.
FOOD TYPE: American
WHAT’S UNIQUE: Don’t let the “American food” fool you. The owners have ties to Australia (hence the name, Collins Quarter, which references a cafe district in Melbourne) and the menu gets Aussie and other global infusions.
SEATING: Arrive ahead of the typical meal times. This place fills up quickly.
PARKING: I would again recommend the inexpensive Drayton Street garage, but be aware that the prices for parking in the city’s garages vary on the weekends.
LASTING IMPRESSION: I tried eggs benedict for the first time and the balanced flavors blew me away, as did the surprising potato bites as a side item unlisted on the menu. Molly had the smashed avocado, billed as the house specialty. It was heavy on the avocado, but she also enjoyed it. The atmosphere in this place was also incredible. It felt like we were dining in another country, save for the music. I counted four Michael Jackson songs in the playlist during our brunch, but that didn’t bother me because all of the music was upbeat and added to the ambiance. The modern decor and use of natural light also really made this place shine.

Saturday afternoon

Pie Society

After a filling brunch, we took a self-guided tour of the public squares along Bull Street and then headed to the market portion of the city to browse a few shops. We had seen the words “British Bakery” the night before and knew we wanted to return to the spot. It was the perfect time, too, as we decided to have a savory item (sausage roll) and a sweet item (vanilla custard tart), along with a water, all for $8. That combo provided a nice small meal in the afternoon to supplement our morning feast.
LOCATION: Just a few blocks from the riverwalk in the city’s North Historic District
WHAT’S UNIQUE: Its British ownership offered more of an English-style taste, with different savory foods than you see in American bakeries, as well as treats that are less sweet (but not less satisfying) than American bakery goods.
SEATING: Not much room, but many patrons get their baked goods to go.
PARKING: We would suggest parking elsewhere and walking to Pie Society. The parking garages closer to the riverfront are more expensive (more on that later) and the meters are less plentiful in this area.
LASTING IMPRESSION: We enjoy pies and other goodies that aren’t quite as sweet as the typical American chocolate-based desserts, and we greatly enjoyed the savory choices that allowed us to share a light meal. There are cake, doughnut, candy, cupcake and other treat shops galore in Savannah. This was a unique option.

Sunday lunch

Lady and Sons

Paula Deen is revered among women in the South as one of the greatest cooks, if for no other reason that she encourages the use of butter to make foods even better. Lady and Sons receives its share of criticism through reviews online, but most restaurants with a high profile do. The restaurant offers only a buffet on Sundays, so we decided that would be an appropriate time to sample as many items from their Southern comfort menu as possible, even if the choices varied from the everyday menu.
LOCATION: Congress Street in the North Historic District
FOOD TYPE: Southern, American
WHAT’S UNIQUE: Paula Deen is the owner, of course. That and the special accents on parts of the meal. Sweet tea comes with refreshing mint garnish. You get cornbread and a cheddar biscuit with each Sunday buffet. You can eat as much of the meat and sides as you can hold, all for $16 per adult. And you get your choice of dessert (we had peach cobbler and gooey butter cake) that comes to your table straight from the kitchen.
SEATING: Make a reservation. Priority is given to those who reserve a spot in advance. You’re thankful for that pecking order when you arrive.
PARKING: Again, I’d recommend parking at a garage or a meter farther from the riverfront section of the city to avoid higher costs. We parked at the closest garage, had to get our bearings of where we were when we emerged because we parked underground, and we paid $10 to park on a Sunday when downtown was busier.
LASTING IMPRESSION: Despite the scathing comments from some diners online, we were incredibly pleased. The hostess and waiter offered Southern hospitality you’d expect from a restaurant owned by Paula Deen, and all of the food was incredibly tasty. Molly raved about the fried catfish, and I greatly enjoyed everything from the breads to the tea to the dessert. The venue in a historic city building with multiple floors of seating also offered nice views out the windows and a slightly different perspective than a normal restaurant setting.

Sunday dinner


We wore our swimsuits underneath our clothes to dine at Paula Deen’s restaurant, and we traveled to Tybee Island for an afternoon exploring and relaxing on the beach after a filling lunch. (By the way, we recommend the north end of the island for the ocean breeze and the view of the lighthouse and the Savannah River channel.) After the beach, I was in the mood for seafood, and Molly searched online for a place to have dinner. Her find, Desposito’s, was completely unexpected. We plan much of our stops on our travels, even to new places, but this one of those times when we ended up glad that we diverted from our course.
LOCATION: 15 minutes east of Savannah, on the way to Tybee Island, along the Intracoastal Waterway
FOOD TYPE: Seafood
WHAT’S UNIQUE: The basic menu without the frills, its low profile and its high praise make it a gem of a find. We drove down a road that looked like it couldn’t possibly lead to a restaurant. But this place has been recommended by Southern Living magazine, and its guests include actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
SEATING: Small but ample
PARKING: It has its own parking lot.
LASTING IMPRESSION: We ordered deviled crab and a half pound of boiled shrimp. The deviled crab was the most flavorful we’ve ever eaten, and the boiled shrimp boasted a fresh, natural flavor without unnecessary seasoning. The food tasted like a place you’d find right beside the water. When I asked where the shrimp came from, the response was “two doors down, at Nelson’s.” Now that’s local eating! Our server was friendly and attentive. This place is all about simplicity, and it was a relaxing, quiet dinner after a few hours in the sun.

ONLINE: Desposito’s on Facebook
Monday lunch

Betty Bombers
On our final morning in Savannah, we visited a bookstore and then decided to have lunch on the way out of town before returning to North Carolina. I had heard about Betty Bombers in searches for burger restaurants in Savannah, and it attracted me with both its menu and its setting.
LOCATION: Bull Street, near the massive Forsyth Park (also the first stop on our walking tour of the city’s delightfully tree-shaded squares)
FOOD TYPE: American
WHAT’S UNIQUE: This place is located within an American Legion building, and the whole restaurant is decked out in gear that pays homage to American efforts in World War II. Even the server at the counter was dressed as Betty Bomber herself. The menu also offers touches of food from other types of restaurants, such as chips and salsa as a replacement for fries.
SEATING: Plenty of space
PARKING: We parked at a meter along Bull Street. We arrived early at 11 a.m., so there were plenty available. If you plan to spend the day in the city and walk to eat at Betty Bombers, you might try the Drayton Street garage.
LASTING IMPRESSION: The food was incredible, and the portions were substantial when you consider we paid $21 to both have a nice sit-down lunch and beverages. Molly enjoyed perhaps her favorite Philly Cheesesteak (with a queso cheese) outside of Philadelphia, and I had the basic Bomber burger with fries. It was a nice American dining experience to end our weekend in Savannah and send us home wanting to return and eat more.


Simple Caramelized Peaches


Fresh peaches are a sign of summer in the South, particularly in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina.

Roadside stands are the resource of choice when possible, and those baskets of fruit can yield the most delicious cobblers, pies and baked goods you can imagine.

But you often get more peaches in a cheap bin than you can use in those oven-baked treats. So what do you do with the rest?

One of Matthew’s favorite things to do with fresh fruit that contains some natural juices is to caramelize it. The process draws out the natural sugars in the fruit and creates almost a sweet sauce that is delicious by itself, on top of another dessert element or with plain ole vanilla ice cream.

This recipe is a bit unconventional because there’s no need to really list ingredients or a process. Many recipes for caramelized fruits will suggest adding white or brown sugar to the pan. Some guides even suggest putting a little bit of olive oil in the pan to keep your fruit from sticking. Matthew doesn’t prefer the oil because it doesn’t benefit a sweet dish, and he doesn’t prefer adding sugar to the pan because it defeats the purpose of relying on and enjoying the natural sugars.

For fresh peaches that you have peeled yourself, it’s likely you have some juices in addition to the solid fruit, especially if your leftover fruit has had time to sit in the fridge for a few days.

How we made it:

Put your frying pan or skillet on your burner and give it medium-high to high heat.

Take a cup or two of fresh fruit, depending on how much you want to eat, and spread it out in your pan, being sure to include some of the juice. The key to having the juice is that it will help keep your fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Still, like many things you cook in a stovetop pan, you’re less likely to deal with sticking if you’re using a newer, non-stick pan.

You have to achieve the right balance of letting your peaches sit to heat and caramelize and moving them around so they don’t stick. That balance can only be determined by your pan and your burner, along with how much juice you add to the pan. I would suggest a quarter cup of juice per cup of fruit.

Your fruit will almost become a light jelly or sauce, with the chunks of peach or fruit of choice still visible in good supply. That’s when you will know that your caramelization process is done.

As we said above, you can do many things with caramelized peaches and other fruits.

Matthew chose to use the fruit he made to top a graham cracker square in a bowl. Then he added a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Molly’s Take: I love this recipe because it does encourage creativity. Caramelizing the fruit, then topping it with whatever you like (ice cream, whipped cream, cookies, etc.) can be completely different every time, for whatever your taste buds desire. And when you use fresh South Carolina peaches, the juice, the consistency and the taste is just delicious. Mouth-watering, even. I love fruit with ice cream, and caramelizing it with vanilla bean ice cream is a delightful pairing.

Matthew’s Take: I’ve caramelized fruit many times, but peaches may be my favorite. They retain so much of their juice after peeling that they are perfect for cooking in a pan on the stove. They pair perfectly with a slightly sweet cookie and/or vanilla ice cream. I give this one an A+ for taste, an A for presentation, depending on your topping, an A for cost if peaches are readily available, and a B for ease. It takes some creativity to caramelize fruit because you can’t just follow an exact recipe and expect the same results every time.