Georgians enjoy their food. Not a single event is planned or party thrown without a large spread. Any fare is fine, but everything is best enjoyed in the company of family and friends. The Lingo The typical Southern meal includes meat (usually chicken, pork or beef) and several vegetables. In some Southern-style restaurants, this is called a “meat and three”. If the meal comes at a low price as the day’s special, it might be referred to as a “blue plate special”. This term was once used frequently at restaurants, particularly diners. Today you are more likely to hear it as a local expression. Vegetables and Breads In Southern cuisine, the accompaniments are just as important -maybe more important - than the meat. Typical side dishes include coleslaw, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, okra, French beans, sweet corn, and turnip, mustard or collard greens. The bread is also a key ingredient in a successful Southern meal. Cornbread (sometimes sweet, sometimes savoury) and biscuits are staples on Southern tables. In the past, they were always made from scratch, and many of these recipes have been handed down through the generations as treasured family heirlooms. Barbecue A mainstay of Southern cuisine is barbecue (also known as BBQ). Generally made with either pork or beef, barbecue is slowly cooked in a pit and then covered in sauce. The flavour of the sauce varies widely, from spicy to sweet and tangy; some are mustard-based, and others contain vinegar. Since tastes vary widely, some restaurants offer one of each type. If you hear a Georgian refer to a barbecue “place”, they’re talking about a restaurant. The cooking of barbecue was traditionally a special event, one that typically took place outdoors on a weekend or a public holiday. You’ll often find barbecue at summer festivities such as Independence Day celebrations and home cookouts. The “place” was the location where the cooking hole was dug, which might be different for every gathering. Bear in mind that some barbecue places are open only on weekends: this derives from the tradition of only serving the dish on special occasions. Such establishments can also look more like a roadside stand than a restaurant. But don’t be fooled, some of the best barbecue is found in these modest surroundings. Breakfast Today, large breakfasts are often reserved for weekends and consist of eggs, meat (either bacon, ham or sausage), biscuits and grits. Grits are a coarse cornmeal cooked to a porridge-type consistency, similar to polenta. They are usually eaten with butter and salt, sometimes with cheese. If you’re looking for a quick breakfast treat, stop at a Krispy Kreme shop. This doughnut giant has been in business since 1937 and is best known for its Hot Original Glazed Doughnut. Growing Trends While traditional Southern fare is always easy to find, there’s much more on the menu in Georgia. As in all states, national chains are well represented, from fast food to sit-down eateries. The state offers an incredible array of cuisines from across the country and around the globe. Georgia is home to people from every nation, and this is reflected in the range of ethnic foods available state-wide. This cultural influx has also inspired fusion restaurants, which combine tastes from various cuisines in one dish. Some of these restaurants are putting a new twist on traditional Southern dishes to create original gourmet offerings. Many Georgia restaurants have also embraced the growing farm-to-table movement, serving dishes featuring local produce, meat and seafood. Atlanta’s food-hip culture continues to inspire top chefs to open restaurants, some of which have received rave reviews from international dining guides. Dining Tips During the working week, restaurants serving lunch will be busiest between noon and 1:30 p.m. due to the office midday break. Many of the upscale establishments will teem with business people conducting meetings. At the weekend, lunch is served at about the same time of day, but restaurants are usually less crowded, unless they offer brunch. Popular brunch restaurants can be crowded from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., so if you go, be prepared to wait, or telephone ahead and see if you can make a reservation. Most Americans usually eat dinner between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Generally speaking, it is easier to find seats at restaurants during the week than at the weekend, unless the establishment is particularly popular. At weekends, restaurants fill up quickly between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Try telephoning the restaurant to see if they take reservations, or ask about their peak times and avoid the rush. When you dine at a restaurant with table service, remember to leave a tip, amounting to between 15 and 20 per cent of the bill. Fastfood restaurants do not take tips, and places where you pick up your own food often have a countertop jar for optional tipping. Tastes of Georgia Restaurants, diners and cafes aren’t the only places to get a taste of Georgia. Agriculture is the state’s leading industry, and Georgia is renowned for its peaches, pecans, and peanuts, as well as apples, blueberries and worldfamous Vidalia onions. Visitors can sample the fruits of Georgia’s bounty at a number of seasonal festivals, or purchase produce from farms, orchards and roadside stands across the state. Some even offer the option of picking your own fruit and vegetables. Georgia is also home to a robust wine industry. Known for its beautiful mountains and valleys, North Georgia’s temperate climate, long growing season and mineral-rich soil have proven the perfect combination for cultivating wine grapes. Georgia is also home to several muscadine wine producers. Throughout the state, celebrated wineries are turning out award winners, and welcome visitors for tours and tastings. The state is also home to a number of acclaimed craft beer breweries and several small-batch distilleries, offering a range of spirits, from vodka and gin to whisky and rum.
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