As the city of Atlanta expands in all directions, engulfing small towns in its wake, the city of Cartersville has managed to maintain its own identity, creating a sense of place with a remarkable history, amazing museums, friendly people and a delicious food scene that has made it a dining destination. And with all the growth it’s experienced of the past decade or so, its managed to retain a big serving of small-town charm, says Steven Schumacher, president of the Cartersville-Bartow County CVB.
“It’s been exciting to see downtown continue to develop, especially the dining scene,” he says. “One of the things that makes Cartersville unique is that there’s so much happening in the destination, but it still feels like a small town. A huge part of that is the people and the community here, from family-owned restaurants to the local diners that have been around for generations. As the destination keeps growing and attracting more visitors, it’s nice to see that Cartersville’s charm hasn’t changed.”
Here are some of those local eateries owned by Cartersville restaurateurs where you can get a large helping of that southern hospitality of which Schumacher speaks, along with delicious eats that offer a modern approach to dining. And since the town’s just an hour or so down the road, it makes for a fun day trip — or stay for a night or two if you want to experience all the museums, such as The Booth Museum with the world’s largest collection of Western art; Tellus Science Museum, a fun learning experience for all ages; Savoy Automobile Museum for all you car buffs; and, for an interesting history of the area, the Bartow History Museum or Rose Lawn Museum to see where and how Sam Jones, the Billy Graham of the 1800s, lived. It’s amazing what all the town of Cartersville has to offer.
Allie Bearden opened her popular eatery, Table 20, in the historic section of downtown Cartersville in 2015, and in the past eight years has held to her mission of serving the freshest in-season ingredients possible. As a result, the menu changes as often as every two weeks, says manager Alex Hulsey. That’s what brings folks in where they’ll find the daily specials, as well as some menu mainstays, such as the carrot-ginger soup, lamb chops with crispy potatoes, pan-seared salmon and the Almost-Famous Deviled Eggs with bacon, scallions and a dollop of red pepper jelly.
“If those dishes weren’t on the menu, customers would complain,” Hulsey says.
Table 20’s décor is casual comfort. Booths and gleaming pine tables are situated around the dining area against a backdrop of soft grays and whites. There’s a pleasant outdoor area with tables, too. And the kitchen opens to the dining room so patrons can see executive chef Christian Farrar do his magic.
Table 20 is open at 20 South Wall St., 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are suggested: 470-315-4851 or table-20.com.
This bagelry proves that bagels aren’t just for breakfast with a smear of cream cheese, though if that’s what you want, you can certainly get it. But no, be adventurous and try The Italian, a massive layering of ham, salami, melted cheese and pepperoncini peppers on your choice of more than a dozen bagels. Or, order the pretzel bagel, one that owners Rich and Kelly Nagel have perfected, and now, Rich says, it tastes just like a soft Bavarian pretzel.
The Nagels met in California where Rich worked as a software analyst for clinical trials, a job that took him into bagel country, specifically New York and New Jersey. When he and his wife moved to Cartersville, Kelly opened a café in their church. One thing wrong with that though, her husband said. “There are no bagels.”
“So, she said to me, ‘Then you should make some bagels, Nagel,’” Rich recalls.
So, he did.
The business of bagels started in their basement as a wholesale operation, but soon outgrew the family home. So, in June 2022, the Nagels opened their first brick-and-mortar location serving artisan bagels that are boiled and baked like any bagel, but that’s where the similarities stop.
“We don’t follow any rules,” Rich says.
Somehow, that nonadherence to the rules of bagel-making has produced a bagel that you can sink your teeth into. “Not like those New York bagels that can pull your teeth out when you try to bite into them,” Rich notes.
Nagel’s Bagels is open at 125 West Main St., from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Phone: 470-529-3991. Online:nagelsbagelsandbrews.com.
Although it’s been open for just two years, Largos has already won awards for its farm-to-table cuisine, including Georgia Business Journal’s Best of Georgia American Cuisine in 2021. The menu reflects the California coastal vibe that owner/Chattanooga native David Holt envisioned when he opened his restaurant.
Largos is an interesting name for a restaurant that has more to do with the art of music than the culinary arts. Its meaning translates to keeping a steady pace with a dignified style, something that Largos does very well.
A stone’s throw from the town’s historic center, Largos is located along a road of mixed-use — houses and some other businesses. It’s an older brick building now painted with a fresh coat of white paint with lots of green landscaping surrounding an outdoor dining area at the entrance. The décor inside is sleek and contemporary with teals, grays and whites in keeping with the coastal vibe you’ll find on the menu. The wine list has several lovely vintages that pair nicely with herb-roasted prime rib; seafood, including a tapenade-crusted filet of sea bass; main-dish salads; and a bountiful charcuterie board with local meats and cheeses.
Largos is open at 214 East Cherokee Ave., from 5-9:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Reservations are a good idea: 470-888-4220 or largos214.com.
Maine Street Coastal Cuisine
Cartersville may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about coastal cuisine, but Maine Street Coastal Cuisine changes all that by offering seafood sourced from sustainable fisheries following guidelines set forth by the Marine Stewardship Council. That’s a big thing, with overfishing our waters an important area of consideration in today’s world.
Seafood choices range from shrimp po’ boys, fish and chips and lobster bisque to oysters Rockefeller, Maine Street Trout Dinner and lobster ravioli. There’s also the fresh-fish board update every day according to what fish comes in, but you’ll find salmon, sea bass and catfish most every day.
Meals at Maine Street begin with warm crusty bread and cold butter. Then try a crab cake with big lumps of crab topped with fresh corn salsa. It’s big enough to share, which I would recommend so you’ll have enough room for a filet of sea bass topped with your choice of sauces, in this case, the brown butter-caper sauce is an excellent choice.
There’s more than seafood on the menu, though. Maine Street offers beef and poultry dishes for landlubbers, too.
And the décor? Unexpected elegance as you walk in off the street. All of the woodwork was done by hand, including the long bar, the centerpiece of the dining area. Tables along the wall have a backdrop of handsome dark wood wainscoting, and soft lighting adds to the ambiance.
Maine Street Coastal Cuisine is open at 24 West Main Street from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are a good idea: 770-334-3813 or maineonmain.com.
Under the Bridge
Back in the 1980s, a bridge was built over Church Street to mitigate a traffic problem created when the train going through town would stop, sometimes for hours, and bring cars to a halt. As a result, there are now several restaurants beneath the bridge. It’s a popular spot for locals and tourists, as that’s where you’ll also find The Booth Museum and Bartow History Museum.
Appalachian Grill is a lively place with a fully-stocked bar offering first-come-first-served seating at high tables or at the bar itself. TVs are tuned to GRIT TV, showing Westerns — not really Appalachian, but it works somehow and fits in with the décor found throughout the restaurant. There are two dining rooms, mostly filled with booths, one of which has a lovely brick fireplace.
The menu reflects the name of the restaurant, to a degree, with Kentucky bourbon salmon, southern-style catfish, Smoky Mountain Trout and the Mountain Top BLT with applewood smoked bacon. But it takes an interesting turn with sea scallops Arrabiata and a Monte Cristo sandwich battered, fried, sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and served with blackberry jam. Maybe not your idea of a sandwich, but an interesting offering, nonetheless.
Appalachian Grill is open at 14 East Church St. (beneath the bridge) from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and noon-9 p.m. Saturday. Phone:770-607-5357. Online: appalachiangrill.com.
Located along a row of retail businesses which includes, appropriately, RocknShop, an old-style music store with musical merchandise, instruments and a great collection of vintage records, Ate Track is a rock-and-roll themed restaurant that plays music from the ‘60s, ‘70s and some ‘80s. You baby boomers and kids of boomers who grew up listening to Mom and Dad’s music will love this place and its collection of music memorabilia, as well as a menu of mostly bar-type food — burgers, sandwiches and the like, but also a taco bar and some dinner choices, like shrimp and grits, queso shrimp and lobster, and tequila chicken.
At Track is open at 25 North Wall Street from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and noon-9 p.m. Saturday.
Ross Diner has been a town favorite for generations offering classic American breakfasts — homemade biscuits and gravy; stacks of pancakes; and the best grits in town. Lunch is much like you’d expect in a hometown diner — chili dogs, burgers and a lunchtime favorite: country steak and gravy served with a choice of two vegetables.
The décor probably hasn’t changed since the diner opened in 1945. Advertisements from local businesses decorate the walls, and rather than a single counter with the kitchen behind it — the typical diner layout — there are two counters with the drink station and other necessary equipment in the center. The restaurant is usually filled when mealtime beckons, and both breakfast and lunch/dinner menus are served all day. So go ahead and have those eggs with a chili burger on the side.
There’s not a lot of healthy happening on Ross’s menu – this is a diner, after all. Pancakes, French toast, egg platters with biscuits and gravy, a choice of grits or hashbrowns, a choice of bacon, sausage or bologna; chili dogs; BLTs; and chili burgers are customer favorites.
Ross Diner is open at 17 North Wall St., from 6:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Contact Anne Braly at [email protected] or annebraly.com