The central Georgia small town of Macon is steeped in history and southern charm. The restaurant scene in Macon is dominated by decades-old, locally owned venues. It seems that the locals know a great thing when they see it and aren’t willing to let it go. With an attention to local cuisine and flavors, history and a heaped dose of southern hospitality, we explore 10 restaurants that are definitely worth visiting.
Dishes such as fried chicken, black eyed peas, collard greens and candied sweet potatoes are innate to the region and The Bear’s Den does them exactly as locals prefer. This is soul food that sings to your soul and warms you from the inside out. The portions are large and the staff unflappably polite and helpful. Stopping by The Bear’s Den is often locally likened to stopping by your grandmother’s house; plentiful supplies of delicious food in a comforting atmosphere. The staff and owners want you to feel like family and share with you their family’s favorite home-cooked goodness.
Located in the heart of Macon, Downtown Grill is committed to high-quality meats and only serves prime cut, Black Angus beef. Guests not interested in beef dishes can select from tempting pastas, lamb, duck and seafood dishes. In addition to the stellar restaurant, Downtown Grill also houses a cigar bar, complete with an oak humidor. If you’re looking for a relaxing, low-key evening, this is the place to dine well, before ending the evening like a sophisticated southern gentlemen, with astogie and bourbon in hand.
Located above The Rookery, Dovetail is refreshingly modern for this southern small town. The chefs follow a farm-to-table model, buying as much of their ingredients from local sources as possible. The menu is focused on fresh and seasonal ingredients and changes often. Dovetail plays with flavors that are familiar to southern cuisine, but presents them in wonderfully elegant ways. Southern classics like boiled peanuts, pork and beans and blackened catfish are offered on the menu alongside dishes that would be at home in a fine-dining setting, like seared foie gras and filet mignon.
A short drive from downtown Macon will land you at a fine restaurant on the bank of Lake Tobesofkee. Precisely as the name implies, Fish N’ Pig proudly serves multiple varieties and preparations of seafood and pork products. A seat on the deck offers diners a stunning view over the lake from where you can enjoy favorites like crayfish and smoked BBQ pulled pork. For a truly southern experience, take a few friends and order the Low Country Boil: a huge pot of shrimp, corn, potatoes, and sausage, boiled with traditional herbs and spices.
Ingleside Village Pizza is the simply the best Italian in town. Dough is made daily in-house and toppings are freshly and locally sourced. If you don’t feel like selecting your own toppings for a custom made pie, try the White Pizza, with ricotta cheese, spinach, mushrooms and garlic. The garlic knots are a firm local favorite with their warm twisted dough baked to perfection and slathered in garlic butter sauce. For great pizza without any fuss, Ingleside is the place to go in Macon.
Jim Shaw’s Seafood Grill is often considered to be the best seafood in town. The owners are passionate about fishing and wax lyrical about the bounty that can be plucked from local waters and prepared for eager diners. The menu at Jim Shaw’s is southern through-and-through, with selections such as alligator, gumbo, catfish and voodoo shrimp. The restaurant is unassuming and focused on providing great food and a memorable experience. The servers and staff are friendly and welcoming, making this a must visit.
Natalia’s has been elegantly serving Macon for over 30 years and locals still consider it the city’s premier restaurant for special occasion dining. The atmosphere is romantic and upscale, with warm lighting and several smaller rooms that allow for a private and quiet dining experience if desired. Natalia’s offers an impressively extensive wine list and Italian fare with complementary French and local Georgian influences. Customers love the seabass cooked in parchment and the Gamberi con Polenta, made up of locally-sourced shrimp on a bed of Charleston grits with pecan wood smoked bacon. Don’t leave without dessert. The classic creme brulee rises above others with its silky texture and perfect crunch on top.
With a rich history that spans nearly 40 years, The Rookery is dripping with nostalgia and charm. Menu items pay homage to famous musicians that hail from Macon, such as the Allman brothers and Otis Redding. Inside the restaurant, diners can enjoy live music by local bands or laze a warm Georgia day away on the outdoor patio. Sunday brunch is especially popular, where they serve exactly 100 biscuits with additions such as fried catfish, chicken with bacon marmalade or the predictable bacon, egg, and cheese. They really only make 100 biscuits every Sunday however, so if you want one, you’d better hurry.
Yet another restaurant with a history imbued in southern music legends, The Tic Toc Room combines fine dining with an unexpected nod of respect to rock-and-roll and soul music. Open for dinner only, this restaurant woos guests with its lobster bisque, cheese grits and high quality steaks. Set in an aged brick building with wonderful ambiance, this restaurant has a magical quality to it that is worth experiencing.