Georgia Boy Cafe

July 14, 2010

By Anne Chovey

The outside of Georgia Boy Cafe at Park Circle is painted a distinctive gray-green with a peach stripe. The restaurant building had once housed the Grille at Park Circle at its Virginia Avenue location and I was curious to see if the interior of the restaurant had changed much.

Inside, the place looked much the same. Fresh paint and lots of chickens and roosters updated the d├ęcor.

We were immediately greeted upon entering the foyer and given our choice of eating in the dining room or the lounge. We chose the dining room and were seated along the wall -- I on a padded banquette and my companion, Pap Ricka, in a chair at the table. Our waitress came promptly and took our drink orders.

A quick look at the menu confirmed that while the inside of the restaurant may be familiar, the food comes from somewhere else entirely. We had landed in the deep South -- Georgia to be precise -- and the food looked great.

The appetizers included many old familiars such as wings and mozzarella sticks, but a couple of entries stood out: Hot crab dip, fried pickles and a fried shrimp basket with Old Bay fries were tempting.

Then my eye landed on "loaded waffle crab fries." I had to have them.

Pap is always watching his weight and sighed when I told him what I was getting.

I convinced him that as a restaurant critic and as my companion, we had a duty to eat those fries. The waitress took our order and told us that the crab fries were a very popular menu item.

I assumed that the appetizer would put a pretty good dent in my appetite so I looked at lighter fare. Georgia Boy has lots of sandwiches and salads to choose from.

The sandwiches include burgers, roast beef and Swiss cheese, pulled pork and whiting fish among others. I was interested in a chicken salad and there were five to choose from: grilled, fried; honey garlic glazed fried, spicy and barbecue fried. I decided on the honey garlic glazed fried. Pap, despite his claim of dieting, turned straight to the "Down Home Dinners." These include fried chicken, roast beef and whiting fish. The cost ranges from about $7 to $14.95 for two crab cakes.

"Down Home Specialities" are a bit more expensive (most are $15.95)  and include barbecued ribs, a fried seafood platter and a couple of chicken dishes

"Oh, my gosh!" Pap said, "They have fried catfish!"

Two side items come with the Down Home dishes and along with the usual potatoes, corn and green beans, are fried cabbage and mac and cheese. Pap was thrilled to be able to order collard greens and black-eyed peas to complete his dinner.

A short time later, our waitress put down a massive plate of potatoes cut in a waffle pattern. (I think the shape maximizes the crispness of the fry.)  They were smothered in melted cheese and sprinkled with Old Bay and bits of red onion. A couple of tablespoons of crab were sprinkled over the top.

"Let me know when you need a box," our waitress told us.

We started in.

The fries were crispy and hot, and the flavors of the onion, cheese, crab and Old Bay were great. Sometimes, dishes smothered in cheese, like fries or nachos, become soggy after they sit for a bit. These fries remained crunchy.  They were served with a remoulade sauce that was unusual -- it seemed to have a good bit of whole grain mustard in it -- and it really enhanced the flavors.

When we could eat no more, we called for the box and took home nearly half the order. Yum.

Our dinners arrived promptly. My salad came on a dinner plate-sized dish and was topped by three large chicken filets which had been cut into long strips.

The salad underneath was primarily a sturdy iceberg lettuce, with grape tomatoes, cucumber and cheddar cheese. Our waitress provided plenty of dressing, served on the side. The chicken was really good, crisp with a tangy and sweet glaze on it.

I appreciated the fact it had been sliced, which made eating it much easier. The salad unfortunately did nothing to enhance the dish. The lettuce was a bit limp and overall it seemed uninspired. What could have been outstanding, was rendered merely good.

Pap, on the other hand, was jumping for joy. A huge piece of catfish dominated his plate. The coating was a very thick, deep golden brown cornmeal breading. The fish inside was very moist and flaky.

I asked Pap if he thought the breading was too thick, but he thought it was just right. The contrast between the crunchy shell and the tender fish was delicious.

Pap raved about the collard greens, which were cooked until tender, but not dead. They still retained a bit of crispness and the flavor was great. The black-eyed peas were disappointing. They tasted bland and lacked seasoning--either from salt or a splash of hot sauce. The waitress said they were cooked with pork, but the meat was not in evidence.  Pap's dinner came with a corn muffin, which was so light and fluffy I wanted to snatch it off his plate.

Sadly, once again, we were too stuffed for dessert and from the look of them, it would have been good. Georgia Boy advertises that the desserts are made fresh each day and include "a few chocolate varieties and awesome cheese cakes."

Next time, we will bypass the crab fries and go straight for dessert ... or maybe bypass dinner and just have crab fries and dessert.

Other than a few appetizers and some side dishes, there were no vegetarian options on the menu and nothing much that would really do for someone watching his weight.

If you love old-fashioned southern cooking, you will love Georgia Boy Cafe.

And your kids will like it, too.

Restaurant review

Georgia Boy Cafe

at Park Circle

3 1/2 (out of 5 stars)

Food: 3 stars

Service: 4 stars

Ambiance: 3 stars

Value: 4 stars

Address: 325 Virginia Ave., Hagerstown

Phone: 240-329-2232

Hours:  Monday through Thursday noon to 10 p.m. Friday noon to midnight. Saturday 1 to midnight. Sunday to 1 to 9 p.m.

Food: Southern homestyle cooking

Bathrooms: The bathrooms were clean, but inaccessible for someone in a wheelchair. Perhaps there was another restroom available, but I did not see it.

Parking and handicap accessibility: The parking lot, which I remember as being very rough, has been paved and has a number of spaces right near the door designated for handicapped parking. There are two long ramps leading to the doors. Once inside, the floor has a slope, which might make it difficult for the mobility impaired.

Reservations: Visit was on a weeknight so no reservations were necessary

Website: but it is under construction. There are also Facebook and MySpace pages.

The Herald-Mail Articles