Certainly great food is a highlight of this part of the country — both local offerings and the work of gourmet chefs. And don’t forget Paula Deen — still popular despite her controversy a few years back — who still attracts quite a crowd to her place in Savannah.
By “local fare” I mean fried greed tomatoes, which are on the menu everywhere and which are offered in a multitude of preparations, crab cakes, fried chicken, and catfish. On my first night at a restaurant along the river in Wilmington, the menu offered fried catfish coated in cracker crumbs with red eye gravy, which seemed a bridge too far for my palate.
In Milledgeville there is one really nice restaurant, Aubri Lane’s, housed in an old bank building. The vault is the wine cellar. Our server was a student at Georgia College and State University, and she was friendly and offered lots of tips on how to navigate the town. A group of four at the next table were clearly from Milledgeville, and they held hands and prayed before the meal — something I don’t see often, if ever, where I live.
I had blackened tilapia over risotto, and Phyllis gave me a taste of her collard greens. I don’t usually cook or order tilapia because I don’t think it has much flavor, but this preparation was fantastic. Phyllis had a pork chop from a local provider, and the meat was tasty and juicy and excellently prepared. The collard greens were fine.
The wine list was modest but adequate, and we passed on dessert. This place was a cut way above our lunch haunt at Georgia Barbecue in pricing and decor, but I we enjoyed both ends of the local culinary spectrum.
We were surprised that this seems to be it for really nice restaurants in Milledgeville, which is now a college town and surely has parents come to visit their offspring who want a really nice dinner. But the town doesn’t seem to have much economic force other than the college to support a range of eateries. The Central State Hospital is long closed. The local newspaper says that the Milledgeville Mall is under a lot of stress because the J.C. Penney store is closing. Phyllis and I saw a number of empty storefronts on the streets in town, a block or two from the edge of the college campus.
So Aubri Lane’s it is, and Georgia Barbecue, and after that you’re talking pizza, burgers, and beer.