Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones
AIN’T BROKE: As restaurants come and go, Last Resort Grill has stuck around for 23 years, which basically makes it a senior citizen in this business. Co-owner Melissa Clegg hired Hugh Acheson to cook there in the mid-1990s and later helped him open Five & Ten in Five Points. She still owns the space from which that restaurant moved in 2013, and was a partner in the short-lived Cinco y Diez. All of which explains why LRG Provisions, a pop-up restaurant and catering operation connected to Last Resort, has hung out its shingle at 1653 S. Lumpkin St.
LRG started off mostly to handle Last Resort’s catering, but also offered dinner on Thursday nights from a limited menu, in the kind of mixed-use operation that Mama’s Boy is also pursuing with Goodie Two Shoes. LRG recently expanded to Wednesday nights with the same menu and Tuesday nights with a sort-of upscale meat-and-three, and plans to be open for special events like UGA commencement and home football games.
The interior hasn’t changed much from the previous tenant. It’s still beautiful and sleek, all wood, brick and iron but none in excess. The community table and the great bar have remained. You can make a reservation, should you be the nervous type, but it’s not so busy that you can’t just walk in and grab a primo table. If you want to eat quickly because you have a babysitter waiting back home, you had better opt for the bar. The staff assumes that you are there to enjoy yourself, which is lovely, unless you are in a hurry.
The menu is more distinct from the one at Last Resort in the particulars than in the general feel. For example, there’s a dish called Praline’s Cousin (chicken breast stuffed with cheese and prosciutto, breaded, fried, plated over grits and covered with a tomato sauce) that nods to Last Resort’s Praline (similar but with a walnut-honey sauce). Basically, LRG is in the business of people-pleasing, not of being tremendously ambitious or pushing the envelope too much, culinarily. Organ meats and deconstructed interpretations need not apply.
Some things miss the mark. The bread service is disappointing, considering that Independent Baking Co. is literally next door. The skillet-fired Georgia shrimp is scant and over-spiced. But, for the most part, LRG meets its goals. The corn fritters are a great bar snack, drizzled but not over-sauced with a spicy, smoky remoulade, more of which awaits in a ramekin for dunking. The hanger steak with a paper cone of fries and housemade ketchup is fairly simple and well cooked. The wedge salad that comes standard with entrees is retro without being slavish about it, refreshing and a real pleasure to eat.
Prices are reasonable, as are portions, and the whole experience reads like the project of people who have been in the business for a long time and know how to operate a restaurant smoothly and professionally. LRG Provisions is also available as an event space, does brunch and special monthly dinners and has a full bar.
AIN’T GONNA BE BROKE: Adding to the plethora of family-friendly fast-food or quick-service franchises out in the Epps Bridge area (if you are looking for a single-location business, Catch-22 is your only option), Cheddar’s Casual Cafe (2040 Oconee Connector, 706-353-0217) is a familiar type: big building, big menu, super-friendly staff, a lot of cheese.
It, too, is in the business of people-pleasing, with a giant aquarium and an elaborate fan that moves like the wheel of a paddleboat, not to mention the $5.99 Painkiller, made with Pusser’s Rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice and toasted coconut on the rim, which requires two hands to lift and is limited to two per customer.
As you might expect, the agenda tilts toward fried stuff, some of which is rather tasty. Has it been a while since you have had loaded potato skins? Well, these are topped with cheese, bacon and sour cream, and they do not disappoint. Ditto for the fried Wisconsin cheese bites. The nachos are designed to resemble a seven-layer dip, so that ingredients aren’t constantly falling off.
There are lighter options, but choices for vegetarians are limited, to say the least; there are four large salads on the menu, and they all include chicken as an ingredient. Better to give in to your terrible impulses and order something like the Baked Spasagna (a sort of spaghetti casserole) or the Monte Cristo (a cross between a ham-and-cheese sandwich and a beignet, deep-fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with a side of jam).
The “scratch kitchen” part of the tagline is somewhat undermined by a waiter who says, “We’re out of loaded baked potatoes,” suggesting that they arrive fully assembled, but it’s not as though organic produce and seasonality are tops in the restaurant’s priorities. Cheddar’s is open for lunch and dinner every day, is reliably packed (you can wait 25 minutes for a table, or you can grab one in the bar area immediately) and has a full bar, a patio, a kids’ menu and many a good deal.