CARTERSVILLE, GEORGIA–May 2019–Looking for the ultimate quirky retro diner or a new romantic date-night experience? Perhaps it’s time to roam farther afield. For a true change of venue, head to Cartersville, Georgia, a small city with a big food scene, world-class museums and distinctive shopping. Located 45 miles north of downtown Atlanta via I-75, Cartersville is a dining destination, with convenient parking and a walkable historic downtown footprint. In the surrounding historic towns, including Adairsville, specialty and unique restaurants and dives can also be found, including lakeside decks with sunset views and formal ambiance in a four-star resort.
Choosing between 14 chef-owned restaurants, plus family-owned meat and threes, tea rooms and other hidden gems, makes for delicious dilemmas. Solve them by staying overnight or for several days to take in all the sights and shopping, sandwiched between memorable meals.
The Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau has arranged its dining directory into categories that make it easy to find everything from barbecue to pet-friendly patios. Here are only a teaspoon-full of favorites, including critic, foodie and family picks.
In homage to its culinary creds, Cartersville restaurants are consistently rated as favorites on Georgia Eats as “100 Plates Locals Love,” submitted by locals and vetted by experts (check menus for seasonal rotations):
- After earning his chops at noted Atlanta restaurants, Chef Chris Lyons opened Table 20 in 2016. This modern-American, farm-to-table restaurant gets rave reviews from locals and visitors alike for the Georgia Trout, paired with Parmesan asparagus risotto. Or try the Fancy Cowboy Burger, Angus beef topped with bacon onion jam, melted cheddar, a crispy onion ring, fried egg and arugula, with a side of hand-cut fries. The signature drinks are on point, including the Limoncello Basil Martini with fresh juice and herbs, and the Mezcal-Rita with fresh lemon and lime juices and passion fruit liqueur.
- With andouille sausage and Tasso ham in a white wine tomato sauce, the Shrimp & Scallop Grits at Maine Street Coastal Cuisine is a savory standout version of the South’s treasured dish. After a 15-year career with east coast Whole Foods Markets from Florida to Boston, owner John Pettinati brought serious seafood to North Georgia, including raw oysters, lobster and much more, along with carefully prepared steaks and prime rib. Locally-sourced produce is a priority, as well as sourcing from sustainable fisheries.
- It’s difficult to choose among all the Greek, Italian and Spanish menu options at Taverna Mediterranean Grill, but the Italian Pot Roast is a favorite, slow-cooked in red wine and porcini mushrooms and served over rosemary garlic mashed potatoes. Owner Chris Allen is dedicated to using surrounding area products in such specialties as Greek braised pork stew, Chicken Morocco and Fettuccini di Mare.
Stylishly housed in a restored brick industrial loft space, the downstairs City Cellar serves Southern cuisine with a cultural twist. Along with sandwiches, burgers and steaks, a signature dish with rave reviews is the peach glazed Atlantic Salmon served with sun-dried tomato brown rice and a squash medley. Be sure to save room for the OMG! Pie, a buttermilk custard that tastes similar to crème brulee.
Tucked under the bridge around the corner from the Bartow History Museum, Appalachian Grill offers a North Georgia mountain chalet ambiance with an extensive menu of inventive pork, poultry, steaks, fish and seafood dishes. Favorites include a smoked bacon and pecan sage crusted Smoky Mountain Trout, and fried grouper topped with a crab cake and orange hollandaise sauce. The lunch menu features most of the dinner choices, sure to please those with high ambitions but only a few days to sample Cartersville’s culinary diversity. Next door is sister concept Bridge House Café, with brick and industrial design details and inventive gourmet takes on soups, salads, sandwiches and flat breads. Try the Shrimp and Crab Louie Salad, with jumbo lump crab and shrimp over house greens with egg, tomato and spicy special Louie dressing.
Situated on the storybook site of an 1840s estate, Barnsley Resort magically entwines history, outdoor adventure and Southern luxury. This 3,000-acre, dog-friendly resort-meets-village playground offers cottage accommodations with fine dining for a romantic overnight date. With its English hunting lodge atmosphere and golf course views, The Woodlands Grill offers Southern regional comfort food. The formal Rice House was originally a 19th-century home on Rice Plantation in nearby Rome, Georgia. The culinary team serves modern farmhouse cuisine, with an ever-changing menu.
At the opposite end of the culinary spectrum are standout tea rooms, barbecues, meat and threes, diners and dives, all noted on the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau website. One can’t-drive-through-town-without-passing restaurant is the 4-Way Lunch, a mainstay since 1931. Since this iconic diner has never installed a telephone, a U-turn is mandatory for placing an order for chili or “gravy-covered” burgers, hot dogs and fried peach pies. Ross’ Diner (circa 1945) serves family-recipe dishes, including chili burgers and chili dogs. Try a One & One-Half Fry and sweet tea or the country cubed steak and gravy plate with Southern vegetables.
Rounding out Cartersville-Bartow County’s culinary smorgasbord are a new winery and craft brewery. Opened in September 2018, Big Door Vineyard in White, Georgia, is a farm winery that has been nurturing its vineyard since 2014. With a light menu and live music on the weekends, the winery has a romantic, high-beamed ceiling tasting room and a wraparound porch for sipping and viewing the vineyards. Drowned Valley Brewing Company, opening October 2019, will be Cartersville’s first craft brewery and tap room. Designed for a family- and pet-friendly experience, the owners and team have a passion that has garnered accolades, including medals at this year’s Peach State Brew Off. Located on the “south to the beach, north to the mountains” corridor, Cartersville is a great stopover with a beautifully restored and renovated downtown filled with antiques, galleries and boutiques. Jewelry, home decor, specialty food and outdoor gear can all be found at VisitCartersvilleGA.org/shop. Love interactive history, art and science? Museum mavens will find eight options, from downtown to off-the-beaten-path, including two outstanding Smithsonian-affiliated museums.