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Grits Cafe dining review, Forsyth

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“Where is this place?”

I grin a bit and explain as our group ducks into a borrowed minivan. We are going to Grits Cafe in Forsyth — near Macon. Friends often ask me to select our dining destination, but this time, my selection is met with sideways glances.

Review by Jenny Turknett

Review by Jenny Turknett

As we exit I-75 in Forsyth, I scan the landscape for a back-up plan if the restaurant fails to please. Not much — save a Dairy Queen. I wonder whether a stellar restaurant could lie here in this little town. I silently beg Grits Cafe to surprise us.

Located in one of the original buildings on the town square, Grits Cafe is charming. We sit beneath grapevines entwined with tiny lights as we sip swoon-worthy Porch Swing cocktails — Maker’s Mark bourbon with chunky-sweet-peach puree — and peruse the menu of Southern dishes with touches of Cajun, Southwestern and Asian influence.

Our road-trip snacks long gone, we dive into our appetizers. We can’t resist ordering the fish-stick-shaped Asiago grits fritters ($7.25) and fried-green-tomato Napoleon ($9.25) with jumbo shrimp carefully layered in a former-era plating style and drizzled with a not-so-spicy remoulade. Though all are tasty, the hands-down winner of the appetizer round is the ginger-soy ahi tuna. Grilled medium-rare tuna is complemented by tangy wasabi aioli and crunchy-sweet teriyaki relish of cucumber, carrot and sweet red peppers. Crafted with skill, this is the dish that delivered the first surprise — the kind for which I had silently begged.

House-smoked pork chop (photo courtesy of Grits Cafe)

House-smoked pork chop (photo courtesy of Grits Cafe)

Though we intend to share, the person ordering the mustard marinated lamb tenderloin ($28.75) resists doing so. When I spear a bite, I understand why. The lamb exudes a striking grilled flavor and is anchored by a mixture of mushrooms in a swirl of demi-glace. Also bold in flavor, the double-cut pork chop ($21.75) — the day’s blue plate special — provokes a closed-eye inhale as the waitress sets the smoky and aromatic plate before us. The ensuing bite doesn’t disappoint.

The winter-spiced short ribs ($24.75) surprise us in a different way. As the flavor unfolds, we take turns identifying the spices — cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, fenugreek and cardamom — which are bold and unexpected when paired with the rich beef.

The sides paired with entrees are those of cheese-laden starchy goodness. Smoked Gouda soft grits from Carolina Plantation, herb baked macaroni-and-cheese and goat cheese potato croquettes fill bellies in the style of a grandmother who wouldn’t want you to leave hungry.

After my first meal at Grits Cafe, I did not mind the drive on two subsequent visits. Though it is frequented by Macon residents and “snowbirds” who make it a regular stop on trips to warmer locales, I don’t hesitate to recommend it as a dining destination for Atlantans — especially for dinner. While Grits Cafe serves lunch and an assortment of desserts, my money is on the dinner entrees — both the lamb and pork chop top contenders on my best of 2011 list.

Surprise. No Dairy Queen required.

GRITS CAFE
17 W. Johnston St., Forsyth, 478-994-8325
3stars5Food: Upscale Southern with Cajun, Southwestern and Asian influence
Service: Unhurried but friendly, knowledgeable and eager to help
Best dishes: Ginger-soy ahi tuna, mustard-marinated lamb tenderloin, house-smoked pork chops
Vegetarian selections: Spring rolls and salad
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 5:30-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 5:30-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays
Children: Best to bring them at lunch; children’s menu and high chairs available
Parking: Spaces on the square
Reservations: For groups of five or more only
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: Low
Patio: No
Takeout: Yes
RatingsKey_3

18 comments Add your comment

[...] Grits Cafe dining review, Forsyth [...]

PJ

February 11th, 2011
9:59 am

I can’t wait to try this place. We drive back & forth to Hilton Head and regularly cruise right past the Forsyth exit – not far enough from either home or beach, so not our go-to exit. The photo of the pork chop alone has me changing our travel strategy for the next trip. I’m a sucker for a good grit fritter or anything involving good cheese & grits.

Anna

February 11th, 2011
10:18 am

After reading this review, I am kicking myself for not joining you. Great review. Reading it made me hungry.

[...] tafengange wrote an interesting post today Here’s a quick excerpt Review by Jenny Turknett. As we exit I-75 in Forsyth, I scan the landscape for a back-up plan if the restaurant fails to please. Not much — save a Dairy Queen. I wonder whether a stellar restaurant could lie here in this little town. … [...]

Rodney

February 11th, 2011
10:44 am

I’m all for any dish that puts a strip of bacon as a garnish! Garnish should always be edible and I can’t think of anything better than bacon :)

[...] unknown wrote an interesting post today Here’s a quick excerpt Review by Jenny Turknett. As we exit I-75 in Forsyth, I scan the landscape for a back-up plan if the restaurant fails to please. Not much — save a Dairy Queen. I wonder whether a stellar restaurant could lie here in this little town. … [...]

1164mgc

February 11th, 2011
11:40 am

Seems to me that after reading your review it should have gotten 3 stars.

allan bass

February 11th, 2011
11:45 am

Enter your comments here

John Kessler

February 11th, 2011
11:45 am

1164mgc: You’re absolutely right! I mis-coded the star rating when I built this page. The mistake has been corrected. Apologies to Jenny Turknett and the owners of Grits Cafe on their well deserved 3 star review.

[...] this link: The AJC reviews Grits Cafe, Forsyth | Food and More with John Kessler Uncategorized atlanta, both-the-lamb, dairy-queen, dinner, forsyth, grits, kessler, [...]

allan bass

February 11th, 2011
1:34 pm

It’s worth the trip from anywhere and the staff and owners will make you feel like family. Don’t miss it!

Jenn P.

February 11th, 2011
2:08 pm

I never finish reading reviews that are written in the present tense. It’s awkward and unnecessary. It’s clear the review of this restaurant happened in the past. You’re not on the scene, reporting as you’re tasting the food.

Dennis

February 11th, 2011
3:10 pm

Dined there several times and wish it were closer for more visits…

Grammar Girl

February 11th, 2011
4:29 pm

@Jenn P – Evidently, you are not a good story teller. Jenny is. She tells the story of the experience in this review. It is grammatically correct on every point.

bobbyd

February 11th, 2011
5:36 pm

Jenn P, funny, I felt the same way about your post. I stopped at the first sentence as well.

I’m just disappointed that it’s in Forsyth, not Forsyth County! Y’all got my hopes up for a minute there!

Oh well, know where we’re getting lunch the next time we go to Macon. Might even make the drive for dinner sometime.

charlie harper

February 11th, 2011
5:42 pm

Go there as often as possible. Have taken several clients from out of town there and comments such as great food and best wine list on the east coast (cant believe reviewer miss this). Lots of raves for food and service.

Jenny Turknett

February 11th, 2011
6:05 pm

Charlie Harper, you’re right they do have an extensive wine list and we found the servers to be very knowledgeable about the wines. Too bad there isn’t space to mention everything we want to say about the restaurants we visit. In fact, that’s a great function of the comments section here. Thanks for mentioning the wine list!

James Palmer

February 13th, 2011
7:36 am

It’s a great restaurant, with a very inventive menu. My wife and I eat there as often as possible. The other great thing about Grits is the owners are two of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. This is a well-deserved review and, yes, it’s worth the drive aaaallllll the way from Atlanta.