Monday, October 20, 2008

New Entries in Downtown Dining

Had the pleasure this weekend of trying out two new restaurants in Watkinsville.

On my rainy day off on Friday, I tried out Miss Gail's for lunch. Unfortunately, Gail was almost out of BBQ chicken and had run out of salmon, which several people had come in for specifically (maybe this is the signature entree?). I went with the veggie plate (good fresh tomatoes, middling mashed potatoes, outstanding squash casserole, good green beans) which was pretty good overall -- about what you would expect for a meat and three. There was a good crowd there, and the service was very friendly.

Of course, anyone who has been in Watkinsville for any amount of time can't go to "Miss Gail's" without recalling the previous denizen of the building -- Aunt Gail's. I never ate there and knew it by reputation only. My most vivid memory is actually of Aunt Gail herself coming to Bell's Food Store when I worked daytime hours during summers in high school and college in the early 1990s. I'm kind of ashamed to admit it now, but bag boys and stockers would all "go on break" as soon as she came near the check out line because she always had huge amounts of food and no one wanted to bag those giant industrial-sized cans, bundles of turnips and giant sides of ham hock, etc. Bagging those groceries and then loading them up was an accident waiting to happen in the days of paper bags. I seem to recall her sometimes even asking us to load up her stuff in boxes because she would buy so much (I think this was pre-Sam's Wholesale days). I ran into Aunt Gail recently at the Oconee Farmer's Market and made my confession about avoiding bagging her groceries -- she was non-plussed.

Anyway, back to our story. Miss Gail's is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday. Owner Gail Wiley also deserves a big pat on the bag for the attractive landscaping and nice outdoor seating area that has been added on.

A more innovative concept is David Weeks' newest entry in the local dining scene, Shishkabobby's. Located in the former Gautreau's space in Town Center on Main Street, the restaurant has a bit of a Barberitos' feel -- same chips, dip station, trash cans, order set up, etc. This isn't surprising as David is the franchisee of several local Barberitos.

The food we had was pretty good, but I definitely didn't feel like I had enough guidance from the staff to maximize the experience. With a new concept, the order taker needs to be ready to offer some suggestions; I also suggested to David that they put some "favorites" together so people can have some guidance on food and side combinations that work well together.

I wound up ordering a melt but my unfamiliarity with the menu made me regret the mix of toppings I chose. Offerings include wraps, melts, salads with salmon, steak, chicken, and veggies, all grilled on skewers and a variety of fresh sides. An interesting concept that I hope catches on in Watkinsville. The more fast casual places, the better. This is a great place for families to go (our kids loved the spacious dining area and laid back atmosphere), and I hope to return and explore the menu a bit more soon.

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