Georgia Backroads: Watson Mill Bridge State Park

Audley and I have been making plans for weekend adventures this summer since it’s mostly just the two of us.  Unfortunately there are people who were not blessed with the gift of common sense who insist on bending the rules, so Audley doesn’t always get the days off he is expecting.  The plus side to this is he always has a job when it comes to construction safety which has now run into most of our weekends.

Being ever the spontaneous people that we are, we turned our recent two days of plans into just one as we threw our empty picnic basket and a blanket into the car, made a stop at The Fresh Market, and continued with a road trip heading up Hwy 78 through Athens, Georgia to a sweet little state park.

Now, when most people think of Georgia, the traffic bogged city of Atlanta filled with people that do not know how to savor the simple things, who would rather run over you than accommodate you, mostly ignore you rather than speak, where people seem so angry and bitter and a town that seems to have forgotten its southern graces immediately comes to mind.

Y’all, I spent most of my youth here, and Southern charm and hospitality are not what comes to mind when I think of Atlanta these days!

Truth is, there is so much more to Georgia than Atlanta and it’s metro counties, and you don’t have to venture too far away to discover it! Just hit those Georgia backroads and start exploring!

Just two hours northeast of the city are beautiful farms and quaint little towns.  This is Georgia.  It is here you can escape the hustle and bustle of Atlanta and where you will find Watson Mill Bridge State Park; a 1018 acre park in Comer, Georgia.

Watson-Mill-Bridge-State-Park-Entrance

Watson-Mill-Bridge-State-Park-Historic-Marker

When Audley and I arrived at the park it was so peaceful and quiet, a true break from the craziness of metro-Atlanta!  The park attendant was probably one of the friendliest I’ve ever encountered and was eager to share this historic and picturesque piece of Georgia with us.

{Small towns y’all; that’s where that Southern hospitality thrives!}

Watson-Mill-Bridge-Falls

Watson-Mill-Covered-Bridge

Watson Mill Bridge State Park is home the longest covered bridge in the state of Georgia, a bridge that spans 229 feet across the South Fork of the Broad River in 1885.  It’s one of twenty covered bridges left in Georgia, but unlike the majority of the remainder, this one sits in its original location.  The bridge is well maintained and you can walk or drive across it.  It is truly a beautiful setting!

Watson-Mill-Bridge-established 1885

According to the Georgia State Parks website the bridge was built in 1885 by Washington (W.W.) King, the son of freed slave and famous covered-bridge builder Horace King.  It is supported by a “town lattice truss system held firmly together with wooden pins.”  Originally there was a mill in the area, but there are no signs of it remaining.

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Although the park is small there is plenty to do for a relaxing day away from the city.  If you are into camping, there are sites available for both tent and RV camping.  Hiking is relatively easy as you can walk down to the old power house built in 1905, but long since abandoned.   There are also trails for riding bikes and horseback riding as well.  There is a stable for boarding, but you have to bring your own horses though.

Watson-Mill-Falls

We watched families and adults alike play on the rocks and in the water of the falls.  We even witnessed a baptism!  For the kiddos there is a nice playground, but we stayed away from those areas since the focus of the day was on us without kids. While there are plenty of tables and shelters to picnic,  Audley and I were more than content to throw our blanket down under the trees and enjoy the beauty of the falls and the covered bridge away from the small crowds that were arriving as the morning turned into afternoon.

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Picnic-Basket

Romantic-Picnic

picnicking

There is also the option to rent kayaks and canoes, or you can bring your own and put in above the covered bridge.  Rental for the park owned canoes and kayaks is just $10 for an hour and they do provide life jackets.

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Audley and I rented one of the canoes and had the upper branch of the river to ourselves for paddling.  It was quite lovely, peaceful, and quiet enough to hear so many different sounds of nature the city tends to mask!

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paddling-south-fork-broad-river

Paddling-Watson-Mill-Bridge-State-Park

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We truly enjoyed this piece of Georgia and Audley has already decided a weekend camping here is just what we need …. when this heat and humidity lay off!

Oh my it’s hot down here y’all!

river-life

Sometimes you just have to sit back and let someone else do the paddling!

If you are looking to escape the city or just want to discover some of Georgia’s backroads definitely add Watson Mill Bridge State Park to your agenda.

Watson Mill Bridge State Park

650 Watson Mill Rd, Comer, GA 30629

706-783-5349

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Uncle Jack’s Meat House

There are restaurants you visit where you walk in, eat your food and leave, barely remembering what you ate.

Then, there are restaurants you visit where you walk in with friends, savor your meal as if you are in Cuba (where table time is much valued), linger just a bit longer over coffee and dessert, and then tell everyone you know about the evening out because the entire experience was just THAT spectacular!

It’s rare to find, but it does exist.

Over the weekend I was so fortunate to experience an unforgettable meal out with fabulous company and amazing food. My girl friend, Tammie asked me to accompany her to Uncle Jack’s Meat House in Duluth for an unforgettable tasting experience that will long remain a topic of discussion.

{Seriously, it’s Monday morning and we are still talking about it!}

Uncle Jack's Meat House Duluth

Uncle Jack’s Meat House in Duluth is an unassuming restaurant located on Sugarloaf Parkway  near the Infinite Energy Arena.  Despite being located in such a busy area for  over a year (they opened in late 2016), so many people still have not discovered this hidden gem!

Tammie and I were greeted warmly when we walked in.  We were given the option of indoor or outdoor dining; both of which are fabulous options.

Indoor Dining Uncle Jack's Meat House

Indoor Dining

Uncle Jack's Meat House Outdoor Dining

A glimpse of outdoor seating

 

The manager introduced us to our waiter, Luis, who treated us wonderfully! The decor is laid back and casual with a bit of an industrial vibe.  Guests were dressed as casual as shorts and tee-shirts to suits and dresses!  We dined with parents and their children, couples, groups of friends and even a group of teenagers.  Restaurant patrons were so diverse and everyone was welcomed the same!

Uncle Jack's Meat House Bar

Uncle Jack's Meat House decor

The executive chef, Mitch came out and introduced himself to us and shared a little background of the restaurant.  Uncle Jack’s Meat House is owned by  Restauranteur and Food Network personality Willie Degel, who also owns two other restaurants in NYC.  Together Degel and Chef Mitch came up with a menu and concept for the restaurant.  After a little trial and error the menu and restaurant concept evolved into the fabulous restaurant it is now!

Uncle Jack's Meat House Menu

Chef Mitch is an Atlanta native who has put a decidedly Southern and delightfully Atlantan spin on the restaurant menu.  Everything is prepared fresh and to order here.  There are no prepackaged meals heated up in an oven, only fresh ingredients; as many as possible from local farms and dairies.  All sauces are even prepared on site; you will not find a bottle of A1 here, nor do you need it.  The only freezer is a small chest freezer that holds the ice cream for one of their desserts, which is also made onsite. Chef Mitch said they work hard to accommodate the dietary needs of guests, including those with allergies or gluten intolerance.

With your food cooked made from scratch and made to order, don’t expect your meals in five minutes.  This isn’t a heat your dish in the microwave and bring to the table restaurant.  This is a place for you to socialize over the table as each course is brought out, and to savor each bite you put into your mouth.  If you want to eat in a hurry this is not the place to eat, but if you truly want a memorable experience, make your reservation and plan to stay awhile!

Chef Mitch had several menu items already planned ahead to serve us, then had us also choose an entree.  Everything brought to our table was absolutely fantastic and every bite lovely to experience.

Tammie and Jen at Uncle Jack's Meat House

So what deliciousness did Tammie and I indulge?

Munchies:

Applewood Smoked Bacon with house-made peanut butter (slather it on y’all!) and maple syrup

Uncle Jack's Meat House Chef Mitch

Chef Mitch bringing out the applewood smoked bacon

Uncle Jack's Meat House Applewood Smoked Bacon

Smoked Local Pork Spare Ribs with a sweet and sour BBQ glaze and Apple Cider Coleslaw

Uncle Jack's Meat House Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

Maine Lobster and Avocado Mini Tacos with a shell made of taro root and served with herb mayo and wasabi

Uncle Jack's Meat House Maine Lobster and Avocado Mini Tacos

Maine Lobster Mini Taco Uncle Jack's Meat House

We also enjoyed selections of fresh local cheeses, cured southern meats, pickled onions, cherry jam and whole grain mustard on a Charcuterie board.

Charcuterie Station Uncle Jack's Meat House

Selections from Charcuterie Station

Uncle Jack's Meat House Charcuterie Station Selections

Charred Spanish Octopus with chickpea puree, olives, capers, pickled onion, and drizzled with Spanish olive oil.

Charred Spanish Octopus from Uncle Jack's Meat House

Spanish Octopus

USDA Choice Steak:

For our entrees Tammie and I enjoy selections from the steak menu.  I tried the 35 day dried aged rib chop (this is enough for THREE meals!) cooked medium rare.

Uncle Jack's Meat House Cowboy Ribchop

Served with roasted garlic and shallot

Cowboy Ribchop cooked to perfection

The perfect steak!

Tammie enjoyed the tender center cut filet mignon.

Sharing Sides:

The menu at Uncle Jack’s Meat House is ala cart, but the sides are completely sharable and options are just fabulous! We tried four delicious side dishes with our steaks.  By far the CornGasm Brûlée and collard greens were my favorite!

Organic Cauliflower Gratin with Gruyere cheese

Uncle Jack's Meat House Cauliflower Gratin

5 Cheese Mac and Cheese made with gouda, Parmesan, Cheddar, Jack and Gruyere cheeses

Uncle Jack's Meat House five Cheese Mac and Cheese

Slow Cooked Collard Greens with smoked ham hock and aged sherry vinegarUncle Jack's Meat House Collard Greens

CornGasm Brûlée complete with a crystalized sugar top

Uncle Jack's Meat House CornGasm Brûlée

Sweet Tooth:

And if all of the above wasn’t enough, we had dessert.

The banana Dutch Baby was delicious….

Uncle Jack's Meat House Dutch Baby

But the Fudge Brownie Soufflé served with Salted Caramel Ice Cream was probably the best dessert I have EVER enjoyed!  This dish is prepared when you order it, so it takes around 20 minutes to be out at your table.  Don’t be impatient.  The wait is totally worth it!

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Uncle Jack’s Meat House is open for lunch and supper Monday through Friday and for supper on Saturday and Sunday.  They went from empty to packed within 30 minutes of our 6:30 arrival on a Friday night, so make a reservation!

Uncle Jack’s Meat House

6590 Sugarloaf Pkwy suite 201

Duluth, GA 30097

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Pollo Tropical Reveals New Menu Items

Last night I was invited to Pollo Tropical in Snellville for a tasting of new menu items that are hitting stores now!

If you’re unfamiliar with Pollo Tropical, it is what I call “upscale fast food” with a Caribbean flare.

Bradley described it even better when he said “that’s the place all the guys take their dates because it’s nicer than a burger place and still affordable on our budget.”

Pollo-Tropical-Pollo-Bites | Fiddle Dee Dee

Pollo Tropical is known for it’s marinated, grilled chicken (it’s really grilled) and their crispy pollo bites, but they are expanding their menu this spring with four new citrus marinated shrimp dishes.

Introducing:

The Shrimp Quesadilla Salad features crispy romaine lettuce, black bean & corn salad, multi-colored tortilla chips and shredded cheddar jack cheese, topped off with a 6-inch, hot-pressed cheese quesadilla and served with Chipotle Ranch dressing on the side.

The Shrimp Quesadilla Wrap consists of melted cheddar jack cheese, freshly chopped tomatoes and a tangy Chipotle Ranch dressing.

The Shrimp Caesar Salad with chopped crisp romaine lettuce, croutons and shredded Parmesan cheese tossed in Pollo Tropical’s Caesar dressing.

And the Shrimp Tropichop Bowl featuring the citrus marinated shrimp over yellow rice and vegetables served also topped with onions, peppers and diced tomatoes.

These were so flavorful and filling and quite the change from fried everything.

Pollo Tropical is known for using fresh ingredients and makes all their sauces and marinades in-house.

One of the most tasty dishes side dishes is balsamic marinated tomatoes. The marinade is made and allowed to sit for flavors to mesh, then tomatoes and onions are added and marinated for several hours for a truly flavorful treat!

Other delicious side dishes include green beans, sweet potato casserole, fries, corn casserole (y’all, fresh out of the oven this is sooo good!), Mac & cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy; that’s just a few of their many options.

Fried plantains are the perfect finish to any meal!

Pollo Tropical can be found throughout the Atlanta area and Florida which makes it an ideal stop as you hit the road to the beach for spring break and summer vacations! Check out these delicious options and others on the menu as well!

If you want to check out the menu in advance you can at pollotropical.com.

Athens, GA: Last Resort Grill

Athens-Georgia-Last-Resort-Grill | Fiddle Dee Dee

Don’t judge a book by its cover is often my mantra when choosing restaurants.  We’ve discovered some really awesome places to dine over the years keeping that thought in mind.  Last Resort Grill in Athens is one of those small gems you would never expect such large things from!

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Not to long ago my girl friend Tammie (Talking with Tami) was given the opportunity to test drive a truck for Chevrolet and they suggested a day trip to Athens as part of the literary.  Tammie picked me up along the way and off we went for a lovely girls afternoon!  The Last Resort Grill with its southwestern take on southern comfort food was just one of the local restaurant options Chevy had suggested in their list of things to check out in Athens and after reading some of the reviews we decided this was definitely the place for a late lunch!

We arrived just after the lunch crowd was beginning to leave for the day.  From men in suits to college kids with backpacks this looked to be THE place to dine!  When we walked in we were greeted with a cooler of fresh-baked desserts and I was ready to be bad and just skip lunch; eating dessert instead!

Last-Resort-Grill | Fiddle Dee Dee

Tammie and I were seated immediately and our fabulous waitress shared all of her favorites on the menu.  Choosing what to eat was really hard.  Thankfully our waitress was patient as we poured over the menu for quite a while.

Last-Resort-Grill-Menu | Fiddle Dee Dee

Once we finally decided what to have for lunch, we checked out the restaurant a little.  Originally the building Last Resort Grill calls home was an iconic Athens music club from back before I was even born!  The eclectic decor maintains a lively and vibrant ambience  and is a tribute to the history of the building.  The walls are decorated with art from local artists; pieces you can actually purchase if you desire.

Last-Resort-Grill-Artwork | Fiddle Dee Dee

Athens-Last-Resort-Grill | Fiddle Dee Dee

Once our lunch arrived we quit sightseeing and couldn’t wait to eat!  Tammie and I shared a bowl of scrumptious black bean soup topped with cilantro cream and pico de gallo.

Last-Resort-Grill-Black-Bean-Soup | Fiddle Dee Dee

My Fried Green Tomato sandwich was a fabulous upgrade to a traditional BLT.  My tomatoes were beer-battered & dusted with cornmeal, then pan-fried, topped with crispy bacon, grilled onions and Vidalia bacon dressing.  The salad that accompanied it was simple and refreshing, topped with house made dressing.

Last-Resort-Grill-Bacon-Lettuce-Fried-Green-Tomato-Sandwich | Fiddle Dee Dee

Bacon-Lettuce-Fried-Green-Tomato-Sandwich | Fiddle Dee Dee

Tammie enjoyed a meatloaf patty melt with bacon cooked in the meatloaf, topped with caramelized onions and Monterey jack cheese.

Last-Resort-Grill-Meatloaf-Sandwich | Fiddle Dee Dee

Although we were so full, we had to have a bite of dessert.  Of course I chose the red and black cake… what Bulldog fan wouldn’t?

Last-Resort-Grill-Red-and-Black-Cake | Fiddle Dee Dee

Our cake was so moist and delicious; I promise you I have never had a restaurant cake so rich and delicious!

Last-Resort-Grill-Dessert | Fiddle Dee Dee

The Last Resort Grill prides itself on its commitment to the community by using local growers, farmers and other businesses that make Athens home as much as possible.  That is an initiative I can support!

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If you visit Last Resort Grill, prepare to wait, especially at lunch and on the weekends.  They don’t take reservations as far as I know, but I assure you the wait is totally worth it!

Last Resort Grill

174-184 W Clayton St.

Athens, GA 30601

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