It’s pumpkin spice season, y’all! I mean, fall. Bring on the granny smith apples, the bright orange pumpkins and multi-colored gourds, the cooler weather, football season and pumpkin spice everything. Lattes, coffee creamer, candles…oh my.
Tucked away inside Holiday Inn Statesboro, located just off the Highway 301 Bypass, sits an unassuming and pleasant surprise, a dining experience most travel outside of town to achieve. This secluded piece of Statesboro paradise known as Emma’s Restaurant and Lounge boasts understated elegance, a local head chef with humble beginnings whose food packs a flavorful punch and a skilled bartender unafraid to experiment.
Not long ago, I was invited to sample the new dinner menu developed by 23-year-old Executive Chef Patrick White and his team. Our meal began with a well thought out cheese board, or “Fromage Plate” featuring Grand Cru Reserve, Finley Blue Cheese and Fontina paired with dried apricots, fresh fruit, walnuts and large water crackers. Accouterments also included house made three berry jam and local truffle honey. My fiance, Kurt, joined me for the meal, and we ordered the Cajun fried oysters served with spicy aioli and a roasted garlic and herb creme fraiche too, because I was intrigued. Crispy on the outside with a subtle kick, one bite expanded my palate and left me wanting more.
As we waited to taste the next course, I sipped on a signature cocktail from the bar…this electric Pink Lemonade. It was bright and refreshing made with freshly squeezed lemon and Van Gogh pomegranate vodka.
Before White wore the coveted and hard-earned white chef’s coat he sports proudly today, he gained appreciation for the industry by working as a Waffle House line cook while attending the Culinary Arts Program at Ogeechee Technical College. Born and raised in Statesboro, he graduated from Southeast Bulloch High School. He later got a job at Emma’s as a dishwasher, and in less than two years, climbed his way up the ladder all the while training under former Emma’s Chef Jason Scarboro. Ain’t that America? I have mad respect for his ambition, dedication and will to succeed. Amazing what working hard and dreaming big will do for you!
The soup and salad course didn’t disappoint. Emma’s sources many of their ingredients locally and prides themselves on good relationships with area farmers and purveyors.
Kurt ordered the Local Shrimp & Grits. This $17 entree is made with andouille sausage, red onion, red bell pepper, madeira wine cream sauce and spicy onion tangles. The edible orchid was a fun touch! Beautiful presentation.
I ordered the $23 Grilled Angus Ribeye served with an Idaho and sweet potato hash with exotic mushrooms, topped with a cherry tomato and herb reduction. That was one really big steak, and I was extremely thankful for to-go boxes.
At Emma’s you can order sides for sharing. We opted for the garlic and herb sautéed Bacon Braised Brussel Sprouts and the Herb Encrusted Bleu Cheese Mac & Cheese.
Throughout the evening, White checked in frequently to see how we were doing and if we were enjoying the meal. He circulated around the restaurant taking care of his guests and thanking them for coming. I overheard a couple in the booth behind us say they’d driven from Richmond Hill, a community near Savannah, Georgia about 57 miles away, to try out the new menu. What a testament to the quality of service, food and reputation of Emma’s!
Because we couldn’t hold another thing, we ordered one dessert to-go and split it the next day. The chocolate cake was moist and decadent, served with fresh whipped cream and strawberries.
Thank you Chef White for an exquisite meal and for your undeniable attention to detail and eye-catching presentation with each plate you served. But mostly, thank you for serving us a meal with passion from your heart. You made a lasting impression, and your food was only the beginning.
Grape jelly combined with apple hickory BBQ sauce and hot pepper jelly is an unlikely combination, but when paired together with perfectly seasoned meatballs, they make the most decadent and savory bite. Continue reading “Georgia Cocktail Meatballs Make a Perfect Party Appetizer”
I’m very excited to share with you our new episode of Statesboro Cooks, highlighting my Holiday Inspired Menu Featuring Pastured Pork Tenderloin. In the 30-minute program, I host and serve as an executive producer with my friend, Tyson Davis. If you’re in the Statesboro area, you can catch the show on local cable, Channel 99, at 7:30 p.m. 7-days-a-week throughout the holidays. If not, check it out on YouTube at the link below! I hope you’ll make these recipes, and thank you for watching.
Statesboro Cooks is a Georgia Southern University multimedia communications team production. To see the previous episode I hosted, watch here.
In a little brick building on the side of West Jones Ave. in Statesboro, Georgia sits Lee’s Restaurant, a slice of soul food heaven off the beaten path and a point of pride for those seasoned Statesborians in-the-know. In the same location since 1967, the Lee family has been satisfying hungry palates with their down home, Southern cooking for centuries, serving up what they describe as “soul food made with a lot of love and care.”
When you walk into Lee’s, you pass through the dining room to get to the buffet line. There, you wait your turn to place an order. There is no hostess stand or lobby area, but the employees greet you with kindhearted sincerity and genuine Southern hospitality. If you choose to dine in, you simply take your plate and find a seat.
Blue and white checkered flooring and an eclectic mix of tables and chairs make up the open dining room. Ceiling fans, a mix of silk and live plants and a quaint fire-place add character to the atmosphere. The chairs may have a few rips in their cushions and the tablecloths may not match, but what the restaurant lacks in decor, they more than suffice for in flavor of food.
Hot sauce, pepper sauce and mustard condiments sit on each table, along with a handy roll of paper towels.
The buffet includes a wide variety of mouth-watering dishes, timeless food that to those of us blessed enough to be from the South, tastes like home. The sheer smell takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen and transports me to Dinner on the Grounds during Homecoming at my Baptist church. There are pork chops, liver, neck bones, fried fish, stew beef, meat loaf, macaroni & cheese, rice and gravy, green beans with potatoes and ham-hock, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and fried okra. Dinner is served with your choice of roll or corn bread, sweet tea or lemonade. Here you won’t find a soft drink machine or even a vegan or vegetarian-friendly menu offering tofu and gluten-free options. What you see is what you get, and what you get is pure, Southern gold.
My meat and three with a dinner roll and sweet tea hit the spot. This is the kind of meal that is indigenous to a place, the kind you long for when traveling outside the boundaries of Dixie. It is a delicacy–a plate most Northerners envy and can only aspire to duplicate. It is a flavor and taste many cooks never quite master, one that requires no culinary education, but yet a deep-rooted connection to the foodways of a land. This is a meal that should never be taken for granted. The price for this plate was $6.92 including the tea. Priceless.
Lee’s Restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday – Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. I sure love the “Go Big Blue” shout out on their outdoor sign. Any business who supports my Georgia Southern Eagles and serves up fine food such as this, is a place I’ll return to again and again. With Google reviews like “Best southern cooking around!” and “Don’t let the decor fool you,” take a little detour and see for yourself. Lee’s Restaurant is Some Kinda Good!
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Thanks for stopping by! If you like this post, you may also be interested to read about a few of the other local restaurants and bakeries I’ve reviewed. As the Statesboro Herald food columnist and a Georgia Southern University alumna, the ‘Boro is a second home to me. Be sure to like Some Kinda Good on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Instagram, to keep up with all my latest, local food discoveries.
Shrimp and Grits: The Lowcountry staple has been around for more than 100 years and you can hardly visit a restaurant these days without seeing it on the menu. In 2011, Shrimp & Grits was the most popular dish served at weddings across the United States. Continue reading “Shop Local for Wild Georgia Shrimp & Grits”
Wild Georgia Shrimp & Summer Corn Chowder
All summer I’ve been wanting to make Shrimp and Corn Chowder, and today, I did it. Aside from peeling the potatoes and shucking the corn, the recipe requires little to no effort other than stirring and simmering. Continue reading “Wild Georgia Shrimp & Summer Corn Chowder”