Thursday, April 11, 2013

RANDOM VAGABOND ALERT - A VERY COOL RESTAURANT IN THE MOST UNLIKELY OF PLACES

I Take Back Everything I Ever Said About Valdosta - Well Almost Everything
 
And the beat goes on. Several days ago, we had to make the thirty minute trip north to Valdosta, GA from the underground bunker here in North Florida for some needed car repair on a vintage automobile that shall remain nameless. I called and made the arrangements with the mechanic and said to my fellow life partner, nomad and very fine southern cook - Hey, why don't we have lunch in Valdosta at someplace other than a Chic-Fil-A or other road warrior haunt on the I-75 corridor? And she, never one to turn down an adventure, no matter how trivial, says sure. So I go on line and find a couple of local places that sound really interesting. This is Valdosta, Georgia after all. A town utterly defined by fast food joints, discount hotel chains and bad barbecue restaurants. Every tourist from Ohio, Michigan and Jersey stops in Valdosta for a little R&R on their way to the big prize - Disney or Universal.

So we drop the beast off for repairs and check out the restaurants on my cell. We land on a place we know nothing about except that it has a name that conjures up visions  of southern cool - Steel Magnolias. I check out the menu and turn to my betrothed and say - OK? She says - OK. And we are off to downtown Valdosta. When we get to Patterson Street, we see several other eateries and I, being the architectural critic of the family, make note of some really fine vintage buildings on this particular street. Nice brickwork, colorful awnings, a few minimalist storefronts here and there. Very un-Valdosty, if you catch my drift. We park on the street - for free. How weird is that? We walk up to the front door to the place and there on the chalk board is the following axiom:

Wine does not make you fat. It makes you lean against
walls, floors, chairs and funny people you don't know!
 
I turn to the Suse and say - I'm in. She rolls her eyes and says - OK! After thirty nine years, she so gets me. We walk into a very hip, minimalist southern chic space. Fifteen foot ceilings, exposed galvanized ducts, old painted ceiling boards, old wood floors, white washed walls replete with ancient relics and mirrors and a facing wall with a very southern print wallpaper render a space perfectly adorned for hungry Nomads. I notice a tray with French Press coffee makers for the dinner and dessert crowd. More evidence that we are not really in Valdosta anymore. We are seated by a very nice staff person and greeted by a nice young lady who appeared to be the owner. This would later be confirmed during our meal.

This Place Says Bon Appetite With A Nice Southern Accent
 
The website for Steel Magnolias proclaims "our food base is urban Southern, taking the roots of classic Southern cuisine and showing a new way of looking at them". Reading the menu, it is clear that these people take their culinary reputation seriously. After checking out the various delicacies on the menus in brown file folders, we place our order. My lovely gets the Oyster Po Boy with slaw, tomato and remoulade  and I order the Chicken Salad Wrap with mixed greens, tomato and cucumber. What happened next hooked me. The chicken wrap was just not to my liking. It wasn't bad - I just didn't like it. So, the owner walks by and asks- "How is everything". Without saying anything, she read my mind or my hesitancy to agree and asks - "You don't like it do you?". I said "Not really". She immediately says "Why don't you take another look at the menu and select something else".   After perusing the menu again, I selected the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with cabbage slaw, tomato and garlic aioli. After two bites - WOW! Great service with classic southern charm and even better food. I am now officially committed to this cool little eatery.
 
As we were finishing up, the owner came over a sat down for a brief chat between servicing other diners. Come to find out, she has been open since October 2011 and has many years in the restaurant business. In the short conversation, I also found out that she has the ONLY Steel Magnolias Restaurant in Georgia. There is nothing quite so impressive as an entrepreneur and restaurateur who is this passionate about serving food this good.  
 
So, fellow Nomads - put this intimate little eatery on your must stops for some cool R & R as you travel down the busiest interstate on earth from parts north or south. It's a short ten minutes from  Exit 16. You will have a great lunch or dinner at very reasonable  prices, run by people who really care about the quality of food they serve and the people that eat it.


From the Hinterland

d.l. stafford
thenomadARCHITECT

6 comments:

  1. From Augusta, Transplanted in Valdosta. We TRULY LOVE Steel Magnolias. You missed out on the grand bar at the top of the stairs, and the rooftop area! Maybe on your next stop:)

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  2. Absolutely will check that roof top out soon. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. This is Ellen from The Beanery Coffee Roasters in Valdosta - roasters of Steel Magnolia's coffee. Yes, Kiera's restaurant is a gem! My husband and I are planning on heading over there tomorrow evening for some of her heirloom tomatoes with a side of dinner! Loved your blog post, by the way.

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  5. Thanks for the feedback. I checked out your web site and I will be ordering some coffee real soon. The holy grail of the food world is the perfect cup of coffee and it sounds like you guys are true to the passion needed for excellence in your products.

    DLS

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  6. Owning an eatery can be a testing undertaking. The opposition is savage and eateries need to remain current with patterns. Eatery proprietors must build up better approaches to associate with and lure potential clients. crcf starbucks

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