Antebellum: A Southern Gem in Flowery Branch
Written by Carl Danbury
Historic Flowery Branch is as Southern as Southern can be.
Downtown buildings trace back to the late 1800s. A preserved Southern Railroad depot still plays sentinel to the quaint town founded in 1874, when it was the flourishing cotton market of northeast Georgia. The First Baptist Church was established here in 1872, and nearly 50 years later, Flowery Branch residents Grace Buice and Harry Bagwell (former president of Georgia Chair Co.) were married with the ceremony broadcast on nine-month-old WSB Radio.
The very brief history lesson provides a whimsical backdrop for a new restaurant that was recently opened here. Antebellum is located in a turn-of-the-20th-century home with a sweeping, wraparound porch that is essentially Southern. Inside, soft lighting, hardwood floors, wrought iron decorations and a certain familiarity hearken diners back to the good ‘ole days, and if that doesn’t do it, a lonely train whistle and Nick St. Clair’s menu certainly will.
St. Clair is as antithetical to Flowery Branch as they come. He was raised in southern California, was trained in Napa Valley (Los Olivos Cafe), and cut his culinary and management teeth in Spokane, Wash., while wife Alison studied for her masters degree in Special Education at Gonzaga University. Upon moving to the Atlanta area a few years back, St. Clair worked with Top Chef Kevin Gillespie and took a post at Aspens Signature Steaks in West Cobb, but he longed to put a different sizzle on his cuisine apart from grilling steaks.
The couple looked for a venue that boasted a hometown feel, and the former Flowery Branch Yacht Club was exactly what they had in mind. Not only are there few restaurants nearby, but none that feature Southern cuisine offer more than a plastic plate, meat-and-three type of ambiance. Antebellum is indulgently graceful and in a short time, St. Clair has already proven to be a worthy student of the culinary South.
Our party of four sampled a number of St. Clair’s signature dishes during a recent visit. We were awestruck with his version of fried green tomatoes, which are served with bacon jam, a fried egg, brioche, hot sauce and shaved mimosa ice. His sweet potato soup with apple cider cream and fried collared greens was sensational. But, on our next visit, the grilled bread with pimento cheese, country ham, horseradish cream and pickled red onions will be the first words we utter. It just sounds too good to pass up! For salad lovers, try the baby greens with strawberries, brie, candied walnuts and champagne vinaigrette. Appetizers and salads are just $6 to $11.
St. Clair’s entrée offerings are conceptually intriguing and
executed with a flair reminiscent of a longtime favorite Poogan’s Porch of Charleston. The show stopper on this evening was St. Clair’s blackened Springer Mountain Farms bone-in chicken breast, served with fried green tomatoes, creamed corn, melon-basil salad and buttermilk dressing. Simply outstanding! For fish lovers, the grilled wild salmon served with crispy cheddar grit cake, smoked tomato vinaigrette, jalapeno jam, country ham chip and local greens should suit your fancy. Or, try the fried catfish with pimento dumplings, mustard greens, green tomato relish adorned with Alabama white barbecue sauce.
The thyme-roasted Niman Ranch pork chop, served with Fig-Vidalia onion jam, poached cherries, pecan butter and baby greens is another great dish. St. Clair’s wild shrimp with Logan Turnpike cheddar cheese grits, country ham, peppers, onions and lemon butter sauce is extraordinary. Entrée prices range from $15 to $24. Side dishes offered are creamed corn, mashed potatoes, cheddar grits, sweet potato wedges and collard greens.
While dessert may sound a bit superfluous at this point, Antebellum’s Jack Daniels chocolate bread pudding with house made vanilla ice cream and caramel is a real treat. However, while it might not be for everyone, the Southern float with popcorn ice cream, Coca Cola®, house made caramel corn, whipped cream and cherries was slurped and chomped enthusiastically.
A great measuring stick for Antebellum’s Southern cuisine is provided every Thursday evening, when St. Clair serves fried chicken, cornbread, a choice of two sides, unlimited sweet tea and banana pudding for just $15 per person. If that ain’t Southern…
The St. Clairs are young, energetic and focused on providing a great experience for all guests. Both the town of Flowery Branch and the venue itself lend itself to a bonafide Southern experience. You can “set a spell,” sip on a beer or toast your good fortune with an excellent vintage from their well conceived wine list (future wine dinners are planned). We can’t wait until our next visit.
Antebellum is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday at 5 p.m., and serves brunch on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
5510 Church Street