Monday, October 28, 2013

A visit to the Dillard House

You know how you hear about the New Yorker who's never been to the Statue of Liberty? That's a bit how I felt about never having been to the Dillard House, a legendary restaurant and lodge in the small town of Dillard in the north Georgia mountains. My husband and I enjoyed a few days there last week, and it certainly made for a lovely getaway. In fact, I think this needs to be a new fall tradition at our house!

The Dillard House tradition of hospitality dates to 1916, when Carrie Dillard first opened a boarding house called Oaklawn on the property. Today this stone house next to the current Dillard House dining room has a wooden sign with "Oaklawn" carved into it, a reminder of how it all started. We stayed in one of the hotel rooms at back of the property, and we loved the peace and quiet as well as the great mountain view from the rocking chairs on our back deck. We marveled that the housekeepers swept leaves off the deck every morning. In the mountains. In October. But then the whole place was just immaculate, and they obviously work hard to make it so!

When you drive up the winding mountain road, one of the first things you see is the dining room where you take your meals.

The Dillard House is rightly famous for its delicious all-you-can-eat meals, but these were a bit different from the sort of meals I was expecting. I had assumed we'd be seated at a large table with several other families, but no. They brought all the bowls of food directly to our table for two, about 20 different bowls and plates at dinnertime, as I recall, part of what you see here (the other dishes were in front of the DH, but I was trying to show the mountains in the background). In addition to my sweet tea (made perfectly!), I had fried okra, fried chicken, country ham, cabbage casserole, dressing, rice and gravy, green beans, a cheddar biscuit and a corn muffin. The stuff I didn't get to included baked pears, butterbeans, porkchops and lots more. They box up the leftovers for you, which is nice because you aren't gorging yourself in fear of leaving all this good food. We had country ham biscuits from our leftovers the next morning, and they were great! We waited until the day we left to enjoy their breakfast, which also lived up to its reputation. First was a fruit and pastry bar with the biggest blackberries and raspberries I've ever seen. Then, to our table came grits, scrambled eggs, more country ham, link sausage, sausage patties, pancakes, biscuits, muffins, sausage gravy, hash browns, baked apples and, happily, we had lots of leftovers to take home with us, including homemade doughnuts that were wonderful warmed in the microwave. At breakfast, we had just received our food when a large church group came in and gathered around four huge tables. The leader of the group asked everyone to join him in the blessing, and he suggested they *sing* it, so the group raised lovely voices in singing the Doxology. A heavenly sound indeed!

I naturally had to have a copy of "The Dillard House Cookbook," and the recipes and history it includes are delightful. Southern cooking has a reputation for being overly breaded and fried, and I've often thought about how that's not the sort of "country cooking" I grew up on. I love what John Dillard, chairman, says in the foreword to the book: "Southern cooking—true Southern cooking as we like to think it is experienced at the Dillard House—is some of the most honest cooking in the world. It relies on the freshness and true tastes of the foods themselves. It is simple, open, and wholesome." Right on, brother! I pored through my cookbook on the way home and was surprised to find several tea recipes in the book (Sassafras Tea, Catnip Tea, Rose Hip Tea, Sweet Birch Tea) as well as lots of great main dishes, salads, and sweets such as Grandma's Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce and their famous shortcakes, cobblers and pies. The trivia was fun to read, too, such as the fact the Dillard House provided catering for the movie "Deliverance." (Go ahead and hum the banjo music. You know you want to!)

And I just know I would have loved Carrie Dillard. According to the book, "Just across the old road on the slope leading down to the valley is a large flower garden with dahlias, sunflowers, mountain hydrangeas and roses. Carrie Dillard laid out this garden, and it is cared for today with the same attention she gave it. A guest, fresh from his mammoth breakfast, walks through it snapping photographs." And that is exactly what I did!

So today I'll leave you with a few photos of the dahlias just like those that graced the table during our meals at the Dillard House. What a lovely place this was—and I can't wait to go back!


  1. I have enjoyed several meals at the Dillard House in the past, but haven't been there lately. You have made me want to go back. It is a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing these photo's.

  2. I have heard of the Dillard House but never gone.I think I will plan a trip soon!

  3. I have eaten there (several times) but never stayed there, since I don't live too far away! (30-40 minutes, I think) Next time you visit the Dillard House, maybe I can come over and meet you. I'm glad you had a good time there.

  4. The photos depict the fun get-away you had. So glad you could go, and thanks for taking us along vicariously!

  5. What a WONDERFUL get-away!

    I think it sounds absolutely awesome and I would so love to visit there.

    Thanks for the heads up, Angela!!


  6. The Dillard House and the dining! I ate there several times when I lived in the Atlanta area. It is a wonderful, wonderful place. Now I wish I was back there again. Thanks for the beautiful pictures and bringing back some wonderful memories of my own. Blessings

  7. The dahlia's are gorgeous!
    What a lovely place to getaway to and just heal and relax. I am so glad you could do that. The food, oh my! I don't think you would want to be dieting if your traveled there.

  8. What a lovely get away. I think many of us have things in our backyard that we have never visited.

  9. This looks like a great place for a nice fall getaway.

  10. I just love your review and the photos, how nice! I have never been to the Dillard House - your review makes me want to go this weekend. So good you and Alex had a good time, Joanie


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