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Figuring out where to eat trips up many trip-taking families. Happens to you, right? A city in middle Georgia named Macon with lots of music energy, and arts too, provides a new equation: Women-owned restaurants! That’s more fun than standing on the sidewalk reading menus in the window. And it’s a formula far more interesting than relying on reviews. A SheBuysTravel tried out the concept.
The writer was hosted.
Walking to brunch or to dinner every night, not driving, feels like a gift on a vacation in Macon, Georgia. Or even a one-night stopover en route elsewhere. That’s highly possible since this middle Georgia city touches the north/south I-75 Atlanta/Orlando route and also I-16 to Savannah and the Georgia coast. Macon GA restaurants are fun to find.
Delicious Downtown Macon
Macon’s on the way to somewhere. And it’s solidly clear about itself, declaring the energy of abundant music, art, neighborhoods and architecture.
In fact, nearby Buena Vista GA with the art community Pasaquan is inspiring a Macon startup called Triangle Arts.
That walking to restaurants is no solo act. Everybody’s walking downtown, and dining al fresco, and playing music in pocket parks or wide boulevards. Live music is a given.
With two downtown hotels and enough eateries for a full week stay, my quest for the best restaurants women-owned really worked. Safe to say a two-mile radius embraces many things to do in Macon plus the eating and drinking.
And, the downtown Macon streets have pleasant names like Mulberry and Plum, Cherry St, Poplar St. and Cotton.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Toy with the notion of taking daughters and granddaughters and their girlfriends to Macon to experience women-in-business excellence.
Yollah Social Kitchen + Garden
Expect to notice daily deliveries of fresh and local ingredients at Yollah Social Kitchen + Garden. Friends since college, the owners Dawn McCullar and Brook McNeill conduct business with the passion they have long given to also entertaining friends and family at home.
“Women pay attention to detail,” Dawn says and Brook echoes with “We are compassionate about people. Yollah is about the experience, not just the food.”
But, oh my the food. Latin fusion they call this fine dining. Maybe that’s why I ordered a Cuban cigar, or giggled when they said yollah means fun, gregarious Latin woman.
A Yollah cigar is shredded pork butt with collards in a wonton and a side of ancho chili sauce, served in a wooden cigar box.
Red snapper – the entire fish – was an entree to share.
Eat in where the buzz is cheerful and the owners and wait staff mingle like friends. Eat on the patio, nestled among big greenery. Eat in the courtyard garden where there’s also a taco food truck and playing space for the kids.
Weekend brunch is a completely different menu. Patatas Bravas is one brunch fave: diced Idaho potatoes, balsamic glaze, ancho chipotle and catija cheese.
Kinjo Kitchen + Cocktails
Erase any anxiety about what Asian fusion means or how sake tastes or why ramen noodles are to die for.
New flavors need not be daunting. Chelsea Hughes proves that and invites even more learning in Kinjo Kitchen + Cocktails.
This is a friendly downtown place introducing Asian flavors with what the owner considers soul-comforting ingredients. Southern flair fits in too, Chelsea insists and so does the presentation, the look of every plate, bowl and cocktail glass.
Kinjo means neighborhood in Japanese so that sets the tone. Wait staff was welcoming, friendly and never put out with my questions. Like, what’s a six-minute soy marinated egg?
It looked pretty on top of my veggie ramen bowl with tofu, shitake mushrooms, artichokes and kimchi. Chelsea speaks decisively about the role of that egg in helping blend all the flavors in every fine dining ramen bowl.
Chelsea started in the restaurant business at age 17, and applied her naturally creative spirit to craft cocktails. Taylor Covey holds that position of cocktail flavor artistry at Kinjo, saying, “We taste first with our eyes.”
Kids don’t get a pre-set menu at Kinjo. They do get to say what they know they like to eat and the kitchen shapes something Asian/southern to match their tastes.
The Chef’s Table in the kitchen is one of many indications that interactive dining with fun ways to learn more Asian fusion is in the near future. Flights of sake already happen.
Hotel Forty Five
A walkable dining scene calls for hotels in the city center. That hasn’t always been the case in middle Georgia’s Macon but it is now with two memorable properties.
Hotel Forty Five is a Marriott Tribute property with 94 rooms and 11 floors. The lobby is teeny tiny, yet robust with artifacts and art telling the stories of Macon.
Instead of vast space, this compact lobby shows the visitor what’s important in Macon, and fills the main wall with the biggest, clearest street map ever to get oriented each coming and going.
Forty Five as the name evokes the deep music history here, and 45 rpm records are just the start. Forty Five is also the angle of the lot on Cotton Street.
Look for angles all over Macon. Street corners are different here, and the architecture on those angles is interesting too.
It’s in the Details
Captivating design is the hotel’s claim on its website, a fun challenge to seek the proof in the many charming touches at Hotel Forty Five. Retro and modern merged well with the curved, retro SMEG fridge and the device charger as the top of the alarm clock. Benches at the foot of each bed made suitcase opening efficient and orderly and swivel reading lights built in to the headboard made books as important as TVs.
The phone declares it’s bacteria-free fabric, and the bathroom mirror embedded with lights that kindly illuminated my face—bright but not harsh.
Reckon is the name of the Hotel Forty Five coffee shop. My breakfast burrito one day was toasted, juicy and delicious. Day two the carrot muffin served in parchment paper with a side of fresh berries was equally superb.
Loom is the main dining room, a nod to the cotton industry but I was too busy with women-owned restaurants to try Loom.
The locally owned Woodward Hotel downtown on Mulberry Street Lane at 2nd St. opened in September of 2022.
Tie this property to the dining scene because those local owners call themselves the Moonhanger Group and their restaurants include The Rookery, Dovetail, Natalia’s, Grant’s Lounge and H&H Soul Food.
Quill is the name of the Woodward craft cocktail bar, with literary themed drinks. Writers with Georgia- and Macon-ties set the tone throughout the Woodward. That means Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, Alice Walker, Sidney Lanier and the much beloved Mercer University professor John Oliver Killen.
Grow Fresh Local Food
Grow is a weekday lunch place, a short drive out of the city center on Riverside Drive. Expect fresh flowers on the table; no need to look for a freezer because everything’s fresh.
Owner-chef Saralynn Collins delights in all the ways she gathers ingredients for seasonal lunch menus: local farmers, kids with little backyard gardens and aspiring young chefs with new ideas.
“I had to wait for market availability to catch up with my visions,” she says. Might consider that a 30-year wait since she started waiting tables in Macon’s Ingleside neighborhood, believing she could do more than her bosses.
Or even longer because Saralynn considers growing up on a farm and cooking with her grandmother her real beginning.
:”It really impacted me a lot, growing up with everything fresh, and eating that way.”
Menu Highlights at Grow
Georgia Trend magazine awarded Grow a Silver Spoon in 2020 for lots of reasons: good fresh food, of course, but also resilience for surviving pandemic woes and kindness for making meals available to people struggling with food insecurity.
Pumpkin bread with local honey butter slips in for the autumn menu but Soul Bowl shows up all four seasons.
Soul Bowl is Georgia-made smoked sausage, collards, field peas, rice, pico de gallo and cornbread.
Choose from 16 sides every lunch. Maybe plan for Peach Chicken—a breast with goat cheese, peach salsa and basil.
“We’re not fast food,” Saralynn said, but we’re fast.”
SheBuysTravel Tip: Casserole cooking was a mainstay for food-to-go during peak Covid times. Order one for a road trip or hotel eat-in night. Tip # 2: Watch the Grow web site because a pop-up chef just might be cooking dinner.
Pearl Passionate Cuisine & Cocktails
I definitely traveled to eat at Pearl Passionate Cuisine & Cocktails in downtown Macon, but Pearl’s took me further away.
Travel is the theme of this restaurant which opened in June of 2022 and owner-chef Ashley Doolin decorated with nostalgic suitcases and cameras. She likes the flavors of the Caribbean, and of Italy, France and Cuba.
My cocktail’s name – Amalfi Coast – reminded me I have not yet been there. The vodka, limoncello, blue agave syrup, egg white, lemon and basil underscored the urgency to go.
My appetizer course started in Sicily: shaved fennel bulbs with mint, orange sections, thin slices of red onion, olives, lemon and olive oil.
Served on a rectangular plate, it looked beautiful on the shabby-chic whitewashed table. I sat at the front window, enjoying the bustle on First Street.
Oliver’s Corner Bistro
Oliver is the baby whose name inspired the Macon restaurant local folks call “elevated casual.” Oliver’s parents are Nikki and Matthew Hammock and you might think of the whole experience at Oliver’s Corner Bistro as romantic since they met in a restaurant!
Matt’s the chef and Nikki’s the front of the house; expect to encounter her.
Macon patrons also praise the pasta at Oliver’s — and the abundance of fresh, local and creative dishes. That creative, my server said, is the reason local folks order the nightly specials more than a previous favorite.
As a first timer, I chose risotto with salmon, a special that night. Superb. Ravioli suited my dining partner exquisitely.
The Brew’s the Thing
Brewing beer is an art which involves chemistry and apparently social science too. Consider the psychology and sociology degrees Kaitlynn Kressin earned at Mercer University in 2015 – and then started opening brewpubs.
Three of them so far with distinct missions.
“People kept wanting local brews,” Kaitlynn said and at Just Tap’d they were serving a lot — 64 craft beers and 40 on tap — and they were good, but they were the beers of others.”
So in 2016 she opened Ocmulgee Brewpub. “Really good food where we just happened to make our own beer” was the launch, she said.
“My husband and I traveled to research places and determined we’d do a few foods really well. Burgers and brisket topped their list, “cooking from scratch and using meat from local farms.”
Best burgers, she says, are ground daily.
Ocmulgee Brewpub is directly across the street from Kinjo Kitchen + Cocktails. And Kaitlyn appreciates the homage to local heritage, the Ocmulgee Mounds National Monument poised to become a National Park, and the Ocmulgee River and Heritage Trail in downtown Macon.
Fall Line Brewing Co.
Fall Line Brewing Co. became the third of what she describes as “family owned and argued over businesses” in March of 2020. Plum is the cheerful street name, close to 2nd Street.
The fall line name reflects Georgia’s prehistoric shoreline, a division between the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain—-places, Kaitlynn muses, everybody has experienced in some way.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Take the kids to Fall Line and enjoy the big outdoor beer garden running the full length of the building. A wide variety of seating arrangements accommodate family needs, and play spaces for kids are all within view of parents.
H & H Soul Food
Mama Louise is the name and the face of this restaurant since 1959, and so is Mama Hill. They fed the Allman Brothers when the whole group of musicians could only afford two plates.
If you can buy breakfast, consider ordering Red Dog. That’s an open face biscuit with fried chicken, collard greens, a poached egg and sawmill and red-eye gravy.
Breakfast, lunch and brunch happen at H & H named for Louise Hudson and Inez Hill, icons in Macon and the music world. Hill died in 2007.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Hang out a while in the H & H parking lot to gaze at the intricacies of the mural covering a full wall. February of 2022 was its launch, but the music and culinary history it tells are enduring. Artist Steven Teller: large-scale public art is his specialty.
Felicia’s Cake Factory
It’s one thing to love a luscious cupcake. And especially delightful when the baker declares, “I created a life I love!”
That’s how it is with Felicia Howard who swapped a successful 12-year career as a respiratory therapist to open Felicia’s Cake Factory in 2017 on Third Street downtown Macon.
“Yes it was inspiring to help people recover,” she says, “but baking is so relaxing!”
Red velvet strawberry shortcake is among her creations for relaxing, as are key lime cupcakes with almond cream cheese frosting and frosted pretzels of various shapes.
Felicia also noted that De’Lani Delights is another bakery owned by a Black woman. Kanesha Taylor creates her confections in Ingleside Village, a district of food, art and personal-sized shops in Macon.
Oh Honey Baking Co.
Oh Honey’s a cafe to take your computer and hang out at a table or take your book and lounge on a long sofa with lots of pillows. Window seat too.
I ate a delicious caprese sandwich—mozzarella, fresh tomato, basil, balsamic — but I also wanted the sourdough with pimiento cheese. This is a great breads, enormous cookies and fancy cupcakes kind of a place too.
Adriana Horton opened Oh Honey Baking Co. in June of 2022 in the walkable and interesting Ingleside Village.
Ingleside Village Pizza, another woman owned eatery, has been in the district for 28 years with Tina Dickson at the helm.
Other Macon GA Restaurants for Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Among the other best restaurants outside the circle of women-owned dining places are The Rookery famous for best burgers, many with historical context like the Allman Brothers with Swiss cheese and sauteed mushrooms or the Ray Charles burger with pepperjack, applewood smoked bacon and guacamole.
A Jimmy Carter milkshake at The Rookery is made of banana ice cream, peanut butter and a slice of bacon. The Billy Carter adult milkshake adds Jack Daniels.
Kudzu Seafood Company is a seafood restaurant both traditional and creative. My lobster grilled cheese was memorable with smokey provolone, mascarpone, diced tomato, green onion and generous chunks of lobster.
Also, Natalia’s with strong Italian roots and Dovetail reflecting the seasons through local and regional farmers.
Downtown Grill is a steakhouse on Mulberry Street Lane with seafood and a cigar bar too.
Best Things To Do in Macon GA
In between eating, Macon’s a place for music and art, music and history, music and cocktails, music and museums.
Record players are important here, and bands are as likely to be jamming or set up in full performance mode.
That’s all another story longer stays in middle Georgia, and then maybe a road trip in the state.