Chuckwagon Roundup
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Fill 'er Up

Article and photos by Kathleen Walls


When you have a really big hunger, nothing satisfies like an "all you can eat" buffet. Here are some of the best I have found.

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The front of Blue Willow

Blue Willow is a trip back to the days of Rhett and Scarlett. The owner, Miss Billie a true southern belle herself, will personally welcome guests to the stately Greek revival style mansion housing the restaurant. Built in 1917 by John Upshaw, the house frequently played host to Margaret Mitchell who married Red Upshaw. For those of your GWTW fans, you know that marriage did not last long. Red is said to be the inspiration for Rhett Butler in the famed novel. Tara looked a lot like The Blue Willow.

Blue Willow has been named in the "Top Ten" by so many magazines and shows including, Southern Living, The Food Network, CNN, and countless others. If you haven't eaten any of their ‘To Die For Southern Fried Chicken" or fried green tomatoes, washed down with "Champagne of the South," their special iced tea, run don't walk to Social Circle, Georgia to remedy that unfortunate situation.

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This table is only a part of the meal at Dillard House. They bring many different dishes to your table.

Dillard House  began in 1917 when Grandma Carrie and Arthur Dillard opened their modest six room home in the tiny hamlet of Dillard in Rabun County, Georgia to guests and began serving them delicious home cooked meals. Their descendants still carry on the tradition. The food is served family style and is sooo plentiful you will be groaning when you leave.  Their County Ham was chosen by Chef Alton Brown on the Food Channel's The Best Thing I Ever Ate. 

Aside from the groaning buffet tables, the servers fill your table with so many special dishes there is hardly any room for your plate. You will always eat too much at the Dillard House and enjoy every bite.

Adding to the pleasure of the wonderful food the view is fantastic. Almost anywhere in the restaurant, you have a wonderful view of the scenic Appalachian Mountains.

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The exterior of the Smith House

Smith House in Dahlonega, Georgia, offers an endless supply of home-style food and has been snce 1922 when Henry and Bessie Smith purchased the home and began offering rooms for rent and great home-cooked food in the former basement storage area. While the food is tasty as you will find anywhere, the restaurant offers a little tidbit of ancient gossip about a lost gold mine. You can even look into the shaft of the old mine.

The gold mine legend began with Captain Frank Hall, a Dahlonega businessman and entrepreneur, who built Smith House.  Stories that the old timers told said that Hall struck gold while excavating the cellar and discovered a rich gold bearing vein that was several feet wide and unknown depth.

However, city fathers didn't relish a gold mine right in the middle of town so they refused Hall  the necessary permit to mine his find. Disgusted, Hall closed down the mine, covered over the shaft with a slab of concrete and moved to Atlanta.  He never lived in the barely finished mansion or Dahlonega again.  

From 1922 to 1946 people came to the mansion for food and lodging and only the old timers discussed the lost gold while they played checkers in front of the general store. Then  Smith's sold the home to Bill Fry, a local businessman and mining enthusiast. Fry hired Fred Welch to manage the restaurant. While his dad worked over the ledgers and took care of business, Welch's young son Freddy began to get interested in the old legend.  In 1970 Welch purchased the property from Fry and Freddy eventually became and still is the owner of the business.

In 2006 Freddy Welch began renovating the dining area. In the process, one of his workers accidentally punched a hole in a patch of cement and discovered a shaft under the cellar floor. Welch immediately suspected what he had found, Investigation turned up  a  vertical fall of twenty feet the shaft ended at a spot where two horizontal mine shafts came off - one in the direction of the Gold Museum.

Today, you can view this shaft near the dining room of the Smith House. Do this before you eat because you will be too full afterwards.

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The well filled table at Walnut Hills

Walnut Hills was the original name of Vicksburg, Mississippi before 1819. Walnut Hills the restaurant has only been around since 1995. What it lacks in history, it makes up historic recipes from the heart of Dixie. You will find fried chicken and fried catfish, naturally. However they step out past the traditional with items like an exquisite pork loin with molasses, apple cider and sage.

You can sit at private tables or choose the "round Table" and join fellow travelers in your feast. Either way, the food can't be beat.

Since I visited on  a press trip we sat at the round table and all pigged out. I could not zip up my favorite jeans after that meal.

I blame that on the fried chicken, roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, black eyed peas, cabbage, sausage and a lot of other things I ate that day. Not only was food plentiful,  the quality was great as well. By the time dessert arrived, I made a supreme effort and tried several delicious items, banana pudding, caramel cake, pecan pie and coconut cake to mention a few. That dessert menu rivaled a free trip to Heaven.  To make the "grab it before its gone" experience more convenient, the large round tables are made with a special turntable in the center. That way everything is in easy reach and no one has to stop eating to pass the food.

Our smiling waitress kept the turntable filled with goodies. Our glasses, although not sweet tea, were kept filled. A bit of sweetener remedied that problem. Owner, Joyce Clingam, has maintained the integrity of the 1880 home, originally built by George Rodgers for his family home, while turning it into a crowd pleasing dining spot. When you visit Vicksburg be sure to hike all around the battlefield and work up an appetite. You will have it well satisfied here.


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