What to know:
- The situation: Around 2 p.m. Saturday, 73 degrees, a 7-mph breeze and the natural sun screen provided by the bridge above Church Street.
- The requirement: Outdoor dining (cafe style if you prefer). Plus not looking for a particularly heavy meal at that hour.
- The solution: Another great meal at Appalachian Grill but with a twist.
A few errands took us to Cartersville and a swing through downtown meant a late lunch at an old favorite. That’s not to say Appalachian Grill was the exact same restaurant we last visited more than a year ago as we celebrated a friend’s birthday. Since then, the restaurant had gone through a pandemic, has revamped its bar area (just completed) and has greatly expanded outdoor dining opportunities in perhaps the best cafe environment in Northwest Georgia.
Even at 2 p.m., late for a lunch, there was a slight wait for one of perhaps a dozen outdoor tables (we forgot to count). With easy parking in front of the restaurant, we sat out the wait in our car — and watched closely as we saw the staff expertly clean what would be our table after those guests left. We were seated with menus and water within 10 minutes.
Interior or exterior, the service continued to be the same: Excellent. An attentive waitress shared the specials, asked if we had questions, repeated our menu selections to us to ensure she had it right and then more water.
And then came perhaps a rather simple meal given the restaurant’s exotic menu:
- The grill’s “house salad” which is anything but routine: Mixed greens topped with chopped eggs, tomatoes, cranberries, pecans and gorgonzola dressing. Usually a side for one of the entrees, the salad alone is a perfect lunch choice (and there’s a variety on the menu). Plus you can never go wrong with the accompanying fish-shaped bread.
- The char burger: House ground beef tenderloin topped with mustard, lettuce, onion, pickles (we skipped the mustard and onions but asked for American cheese and medium well). We had options for some specialty burgers but sometimes we just want to taste the quality of the burger itself. That was a great decision as this one was thick, juicy and in need of no add-ons. Just as good: A chance to substitute something for the steak fries (our normal favorite). We went baked potato, butter and sour cream. This spud was hot, large and tasty.
Tax, tag and title was all of $21.83 before the tip. Both the salad and the burger/baked potato were filling enough to skip any ideas of a typical Saturday dinner as well.
What’s important: We’re restrictive when it comes to dining out. We prefer carryout but also have sampled most cafe-style on Broad Street, a few in Armuchee and one in Cave Spring. If we see a sign stating masks are optional, we move to a healthy choice. While at a restaurant, we watch everything: Staff wearing masks, healthy service practices, how thoroughly a table is cleaned before the next guest is seated; and, if possible, a peak inside to see how things are operating there. We’ve found a few winners, especially Moe’s Original Barbecue, thanks to its outside dining and new table-side ordering. We’ve not returned to a few others after they failed our basic requirements, especially proper table cleaning.
And since we started visiting restaurants again in June, the best of the bunch has been Appalachian Grill. It will be interesting to see how they handle this with cooler months on the way. We’ll likely give it an evening test over the next few weeks as another birthday is almost here and the celebrant is a huge fan of the aptly named entree, The Appalachian Grill (Grilled shrimp, sea scallops, bratwurst and kielbasa with fried potato hash and topped with coarse mustard hollandaise sauce and fried spinach). We gladly wear a coat if needed.