South Georgia Steakhouse Offers River Views, Large Portions and Wild Game

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Benton Lee’s Steakhouse reopened its doors to the public in November 2007, after a grease fire burned the restaurant to the ground one year earlier.

Benton Lee’s Steakhouse
Uvalda, Georgia

There are steakhouses, and then there’s Benton Lee’s. I have discovered the place to eat meat in South Georgia, y’all. If you’re looking for a good steak, stop your search right now and hop in your car for a drive through the country. Known for it’s large portions and family-centered atmosphere, the restaurant, with its wide front porch and back deck, overlooks the Altamaha River. For many reading this though, it won’t be a surprise. The locals of this community have enjoyed Benton Lee’s Steakhouse for 48 years.

My good lookin’ husband, Kurt, and I drove over to the restaurant from Claxton, Georgia on a Friday night, just in time to catch the sunset.

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The child’s portion of Gator Nuggets is $11.

We ordered gator nuggets to start, because that’s what you do when you live in The Fruitcake Capital of the World and no restaurant within a 30-mile radius has it on the menu. Much to my dismay, the gator served at Benton Lee’s is not wrestled and caught from the muddy waters of the Altamaha (ha!), but sourced from a gator farm in Odom, Georgia about 300 miles away. Gator has a tough and chewy consistency, but everyone should try it once. Our server said he liked it better than chicken, but I’ll stick with poultry (spoken like a true resident of Evans County).

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My husband and I ordered the Sirloin for two (individually cooked) for $33. This is ONE portion.

The straightforward menu features steaks of all cuts and sizes, plus seafood–shrimp, oysters and catfish–chicken tenders and wild game like quail, gator and frog legs. Staples including hamburger steak, pork chops and chef salad also are available. We ordered the Sirloin for Two: each serving is individually cooked and is at least 12 ounces. In the causal atmosphere, tea and water are self-serve.

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The beef served at Benton Lee’s is flown in from Utah.

The hand-cut fries are perfectly salted and crunchy. My steak was cooked to a medium temperature, juicy and just right. Tender and warm from the grill, the steak melts in your mouth. Beautiful grill marks make an appetizing presentation, and a standard salad and roll round out the meal. I am told that once upon a time Benton Lee’s Steakhouse hosted a competition where if you ate six pounds worth of beef, you would get it for free. I don’t understand why anyone would want to do this.

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Eating at Benton Lee’s Steakhouse is like visiting your mama and ’em.

The patrons at Benton Lee’s Steakhouse are the same folks you see on the church pew Sunday morning, the moms of the elementary school drop-off line and dads of the community ball field. They’re Southern folks that do life together, that appreciate a good slab of beef when they see it. This is not an audience concerned about locally sourced ingredients, a five star plate presentation, house-made sauces or compound butters. They’re not seeking white tablecloths or organic produce, just a place they can go with the family in tow for a hearty meal and a break from cooking themselves. Down home, friendly and no nonsense. My kind of place!

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Framed photos of celebrity visitors greet guests in the restaurant’s entryway.

Celebrity guests have included country music sensation Travis Tritt, the late actress Donna Douglas (a.k.a Ellie May Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies TV Show), Troy and Jacob Landry from the History Channel’s Swamp People and Duck Dynasty’s Si Robertson. It doesn’t get more country than that, folks!

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The walls contain an eclectic mix of taxidermy and farm equipment familiar to the South Georgia region. An antique hand mixer and some old Coca-Cola bottles decorated the shelf above our table. Every booth and table in the restaurant houses everything you need – paper towels, salt & pepper, ketchup, steak sauces and hot sauce. A well-lit jukebox stands near the doorway. Attentive servers wear bright pink t-shirts displaying the “Don’t Tread On Me” Gadsden Flag.

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A sign posted on the front porch of the property sums up the philosophy of Benton Lee’s well. Come hungry and come as you are.


New to Some Kinda Good?

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Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC’s “The Taste,” she is the former Statesboro Herald food columnist and past host of the television program “Statesboro Cooks.” From 2012 – ’14, she appeared regularly as Celebrity Chef at the Statesboro Main Street Farmers’ Market and wrote as a guest blogger for Visit Savannah and The Local Palate. In addition, her work is published in Moments magazine and Connect Statesboro. Her culinary accomplishments are recognized in two publications: She is a featured alumna in Georgia Southern Magazine (Spring ’14) and the “Go Girl!” in Moments magazine (March 2104), a tabloid for moms and modern women. To learn more, visit RebekahFaulk.wix.com/RebekahFaulk.

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A Christmastime Family Tradition at The Old Home Place

The meat is smoked for 8 - 10 hours in the pit.
The meat is smoked for 8 – 10 hours in the pit.

At the end of a long dirt driveway lined by 26-year-old pine trees in Middle Georgia, sits The Old Home Place, where my family has celebrated “The Cookin’” each Christmas for more than 30 years. Continue reading “A Christmastime Family Tradition at The Old Home Place”

Georgia and Texas Collide at Hottie Hawg’s Smokin’ BBQ

wpid-20130713_202140.jpgHottie Hawg’s Smokin’ BBQ
Atlanta, Georgia

Barbecue restaurants are a dime a dozen in the South, but not all of them shine. A bit off the beaten path, I was recently invited to visit Hottie Hawg’s Smokin’ BBQ in Atlanta, and while the menu did include some typical side dishes, like mac & cheese and potato salad, the real surprise came in the blackened Mahi-mahi fish tacos, the whole fried okra and the chocolate pecan pie. It was a combination of the menu’s unpredictability and the atmosphere’s eclectic, neighborhood vibe, set to the sound of live rhythm and blues that caught my immediate attention. The smell of smoked pig hovering in the parking lot indicated a good time before we even walked through the doors.

I’m Rebekah Faulk and that’s my boyfriend Kurt and I above, along with Katelynne, our server. We visited Hottie Hawg’s on a Saturday night. As soon as we walked in, we heard, “Hey y’all. Welcome to Hottie Hawg’s! Just have a seat wherever you’d like,” followed by another voice from the bar who hollered, “Welcome to Hottie Hawg’s!”

wpid-20130713_203935.jpgWe took our seats close to the small stage just a few tables away from the lively bar, where we were entertained with old school blues all night long by Steve. Jam on, brother.

THE STAFF:

Shortly after sitting down, we were greeted by Chef Charles, better known by the staff as Chuck. Eager and excited to share his creations, Chuck was from Hinesville, Ga. Then later, Kyle, the owner, AKA Boss Hawg, made his way to our table. We told him to pull up a chair, and he grabbed a beer from the bar and joined us. A straight-shooter and native Texan, he was laid back and easygoing. His passion and drive was infectious, and it was apparent that Hottie Hawg’s was his heart. He could tell you every detail about the Stump’s Smokers they use to cook the meat, the local artwork on the walls and the menu items. Boss Hawg was in his element. “There’s Texas. There’s Georgia. We put it all together,” he said. Here, he explains how the magic happens:

THE FOOD: 


Best known for their sliced brisket, ribs and smoked chicken wings, Hottie Hawg’s Smokin’ BBQ is the three-time reigning Taste of Marietta champion, having won the competition consecutively from 2011-2013. Their stand out side dishes include fried okra, collard greens and Brunswick stew. You can expect to pay anywhere from $6-$25, depending on your appetite. We shared two meat combos including sliced brisket, chopped brisket, beer can chicken, pulled pork and andouille sausage. My favorite? Beer can chicken. The smoked flavor of the skin was crispy and slightly charred, and the chicken, perfectly moist. On brisket, my favorite was chopped because I found it easiest to eat. Boss Hawg compared the Texas style brisket to steak, explaining it this way—“If you’re a rib eye fan, you’ll probably like the chopped brisket. Filet mignon fan? You’ll liked the sliced.” The chopped brisket tends to contain more fat. Served on a cutting board, the meat combo came complete with your choice of two different sauces: Carolina-style mustard or Georgia style tomato-onion. Many of the menu items are Southwestern influenced, and the meats and cheeses are as locally sourced as possible.

THE ATMOSPHERE:

From the moment you walk in at Hottie Hawg’s, you feel comfortable. It’s unpretentious. Nothing fancy. It’s down home, local, informal, casual. It’s where the firemen hangout…an atmosphere where everybody knows everybody. Oftentimes folks think Atlanta is all white table cloths and candlelight, but not so. Sports memorabilia, tag plates and ball caps grace the walls. With a sexy pig for a logo, Hottie Hawg’s brings a fun, party vibe to the outskirts of town.

THE BAR:


The restaurant offers some rather “spirited” drinks, like the Rusted Out Muffler and the Adios Mother @%#$&. From the Hawg Balls to the 32 oz. Hawg-a-Rita, Hottie Hawg’s really follows through with the pig theme of things. For instance, the 18-Squeeler:

wpid-20130713_202342.jpgIt’s a 35-foot BBQ rig, fully equipped with grills, refrigeration, an air-conditioned kitchen and flat screen TVs!

wpid-20130713_202356.jpgOpen for just three years, Hottie Hawg’s Smokin’ BBQ, has more than 3,000 Facebook fans. They even offer brunch! Be sure to check them out on Lifetime this Tuesday, July 16 for the premiere of Catering Wars. I’ll be rootin’ for ’em.


Note: I was invited to review Hottie Hawg’s BBQ and our meal was comped.

Hottie Hawg's Smokin' BBQ on Urbanspoon