The USA is not simply one destination to visit – each state has its own identify and there is so much to see and do. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the US several times – I’ve now been to 21 of the 50 states – and recently took another holiday with my fiancé and his mum which began in Atlanta and ended in Chicago, by way of Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans.
I love to talk about (and photograph!) the food that I ate and the places I stayed, so this is a part restaurant review, part travelogue with hopefully a few nice photos as well – though the emphasis is mainly on the restaurants and hotels/B&Bs rather than a “what I did on my holidays” post. I hope you enjoy reading!
We flew into Atlanta in time for DragonCon, the world’s largest sci-fi and fantasy convention. That wasn’t our intention but I ended up wishing we did have tickets for the event! We stayed in a lovely B&B called the Social Goat (they did indeed have goats, and more) and found that all the other guests were there for DragonCon, which made for a very interesting conversation over breakfast one day and then an opportunity to see their impressive handmade costumes and take some photos.
The B&B is just on the outskirts of Atlanta, near Grant Park and the Zoo; it only took about 15 minutes to get into the centre of town by car (if you are on holiday in America I highly recommend using Uber taxis!). Surprisingly for being so close to the centre of a big city, on this B&B you feel like you are in the countryside. You can sit on the front porch of the house and watch the animals in the yard – there were goats, chickens, ducks, and cats.
Our room was very comfortable (once we’d shifted one of the cats, Monkey, who wanted to sleep on our bed – and he’s huge, so took up most of the bed!) I did notice the bed was quite high, something I found in most of the B&Bs we stayed across the South – one owner told me that it stems from the days when windows had to be higher off the ground and so the beds were higher so you could see out. I also find these sort of rooms very dark – the dark wood and lack of an overhead light (there are lamps instead, but never enough for my liking) means I often feel like I’m straining my eyes.
The Social Goat was lovely though – there are two living rooms near the open-plan kitchen where we could sit on the sofas and read and the owner, Christy, was lovely – she insisted on driving us to a restaurant on our first night so we wouldn’t have to get a taxi.
Breakfast was very good – though it is served between set times and one day we had the brightest yellow eggs - they have chickens as you can see, who wandered into the kitchen one morning when they wanted their breakfast! We had to leave too early on our second and final day so missed breakfast. Christy was roasting peach slices in the oven and let me try one even though breakfast wasn’t quite ready – it was lovely! But we had to get to Nashville via the Jack Daniels distillery in time for a show at the Grand Ole Opry that evening.
Pretty jet lagged after a fairly long flight, we just about managed to stay awake until dinner time (local time that is) and after looking at a few menus provided by our B&B settled on the nearby Dakota Blue. It’s in a nice neighbourhood by Grant Park near the zoo and is an informal place popular with families with fairly basic décor, but friendly service - I forgot how you get refills on soft drinks before you have even finished them in the US!
I wanted food that was relatively plain and wasn’t hugely hungry because my body clock was telling me I should be asleep. I spotted a Cuban sandwich on the menu, which I’d never had other than the one I made myself after seeing the movie Chef, which also came in a smaller size (a half Cuban) so I ordered that with a side of Tater Tots – not realising the side dish would be huge. The Tater Tots were very bland and a bit greasy and would have been much nicer with some sort of sauce (I don’t like ketchup so I mean something like a cheese sauce). The Cuban sandwich was good but I didn’t think it was all that special though it was huge so only order the full size sandwich if you are really, really hungry! The bill was pretty cheap and came in at 40 dollars including a 20pc tip for the three of us!
Just a few lines to say this is well worth a visit, with some impressive exhibits (if it’s right to call the fish and mammals an exhibit) and the dolphin show is excellent.
We had lunch here having arrived much later at the aquarium than expected (as we were taking photos of DragonCon costumes in the morning!). There were a couple of places to eat but as we were passing the main cafeteria and it didn’t look too busy we went there. There wasn’t a huge choice of food but there were some hot dishes which were probably designed to appeal more to children but I really fancied the chicken goujons and a side of macaroni cheese; it was very good but that’s probably because I love American mac and cheese so even if this was mass produced I would have liked it! It wasn’t cheap though and we spent another 30 dollars on lunch on top of the 38 dollars each for our entry. Still, for the best part of a day sightseeing it wasn’t bad.
Right next door to the aquarium and a chance to see the vault where the secret recipe is kept (though my fiancé was highly doubtful it was really in there, as he said surely someone would have done an Oceans 11 style heist by now!). It’s interesting to see the collections of memorabilia and advertising and a bottling plant in action, and you can try Coke products from around the world.
My mother-in-law-to-be had been shopping instead of visiting the aquarium and Coca-Cola World with us, and we were due to meet her in the town centre to have dinner and do some people-watching as DragonCon takes over pretty much the whole city. We saw some amazing costumes just walking down the street.
It had started to rain heavily so she ducked into the nearest restaurant, which turned out to be a steakhouse called Cuts – where my fiancé had one of the best steaks he’d ever eaten.
|fried green tomatoes|
It was a fairly posh restaurant – stiff linen napkins, low lighting, that kind of thing – so it was pretty funny when we looked up and saw a man in a full-body parrot costume casually walk past to his table. In fact I don’t think I’ve seen my husband-to-be laugh so hard! The incongruity and completely blasé attitude of the staff, who must be used to this sort of thing, was amazing.
He (my fiancé, not the parrot) ordered a steak and said it was one of the best he’d ever had – on a par with Hawksmoor in London which is probably his favourite restaurant. The fillet steak was $39 for 8 oz – quite expensive and among the most expensive we saw on our trip around the US but Hawksmoor charges about that in sterling, meaning for us this didn’t seem too pricey.
I wasn’t as hungry so I had the Pecan Salmon – charred salmon served with garlic mashed potatoes topped with a roasted pecan butter sauce for $23. It was very good but after trying a little of my fiancé’s steak I did wish I’d ordered that!
His mum who is vegetarian was trying to decide between a salad and the fried green tomatoes, with a side of fries, but the waiter misunderstood and brought her both, so there was too much for us all to eat but she said it was very good, the tomatoes in particular.
In fact the food was so good that we wanted to try the desserts. They were all priced $7, which again is less than in the UK – in an equivalent restaurant you would pay £7 (so more like $10 or $11 – though I realise that the food is cheaper in the US but the tips we left were larger than if we were at home. As an aside, a waiter in a different restaurant told us he was only paid $2 an hour and expected to make the rest in tips – wow!).
My other half had the warm chocolate walnut fudge brownie which he said was very good; I wanted to try Georgia peaches while we were in the state but was told they were out of season; instead I had cheesecake with peach coulis which was amazing. We were very pleased considering we had gone into the restaurant by chance so I highly recommend it if you are in Atlanta.