Delightful dining on Lake Rabun

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1920s hotel the perfect spot for weekend brunch

STORY & PHOTOS BY

KATIE VanBRACKLE

katie@northsidewoman.com

On a particularly lovely spring day back in May, my family felt the need for some fresh mountain air, so we hopped in the car and headed northeast toward Clayton, Ga., and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Our destination: Tallulah Gorge State Park, where we planned to hike down to the Hurricane Falls suspension bridge for a gently swaying, bird’s eye view of multiple breathtaking waterfalls.

Feeling the need to fortify ourselves before the steep trek down the gorge (531 steps down, 568 back up again, but who’s counting?), we searched online for restaurants in the area.

One in particular caught my eye – Lake Rabun Hotel and Restaurant, recipient of multiple awards from National Geographic Traveler, Atlanta Magazine, Open Table and Trip Advisor.

Online reviewers raved about “the best food in North Georgia,” so we decided to give it a try. I’m glad we did.

Lake Rabun Hotel and Restaurant has been welcoming guests since 1922 and still retains the simple, unrushed feel of a bygone era. To get there, you must follow a slow, winding road halfway around the lake, catching glimpses of sparkling green water through the trees. It’s easy to miss the hotel, as its wood and stone exterior blends in perfectly with the native flora.

After greeting Chloe, a fluffy, peach-colored cat who spends her days sunbathing by a small koi pond on the shady patio, we took a quick tour of the cozy downstairs parlors and second-floor bedrooms – some with fireplaces, some with private balconies and all with thick, downy comforters for those cool mountain nights.

But we were there to dine, not sleep, so we headed back downstairs to join the locals filling the tables for Sunday brunch.

Executive Chef Jamie Allred honed his craft at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island and the Eseeola Lodge in Linville, N.C., and his specialty dishes showcase his talent for creating simple fare with fantastic flavor.

A strong supporter of the local food movement, Chef Allred’s menu features a wide variety of locally produced meats and produce, changing with the seasons.

Local farmers themselves take center stage on “Featured Farmer Thursdays” to interact with diners and answer questions.

Carl Fackler of Stonewall Creek Vineyards in Tiger, Ga., will visit on June 20, as Allred prepares recipes using 100 percent Georgia-grown wine.

I was sold on Allred’s culinary talents after one bite of his pimento cheese fritters –golden balls of warm, cheesy goodness dipped in a hot pepper jelly mustard sauce. Surprise ingredient? Bleu cheese.

It was hard to choose an entrée with so many tempting brunch choices such as Southern Style Crab Oscar – two poached eggs served atop a buttermilk biscuit with sherry-sautéed blue crab, Hollandaise and local asparagus.

My youngest son was delighted to find chicken and waffles on the menu, while my eldest dove into a shrimp and andouille sausage grit bowl.

The prices were very reasonable, portions were ample and the service was prompt and courteous.

We were happily stuffed after our meal, but couldn’t leave without sampling Chef Allred’s desserts. The banana peanut butter custard was light and tasty, but the super rich chocolate pecan cobbler inspired a fork battle of epic proportions, each of us stabbing for the last scrumptious bite.

It’s easy to see why the Lake Rabun Hotel and Restaurant received Open Table’s 2012 Diner’s Choice Awards for best food, best ambiance and “great place for brunch.”

Less than two hours from North Fulton, it is well worth the drive, whether for brunch and an afternoon on Lake Rabun with the family, or as a destination for a cozy couple’s retreat.

The next time you hear the mountains calling, you’ll know where to go.

 

Lake Rabun Hotel and Restaurant

35 Andrea Lane, Lakemont, Ga.

www.lakerabunhotel.com

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