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Blue Willow Inn
By Kathleen Walls - American Roads Travel Magazine

If Scarlett O’Hara were alive today, she wouldn’t be thinking of Rhett at all. Instead, she would be contriving to hire the entire staff at Blue Willow. If you haven’t eaten any of their ‘To Die For Southern Fried Chicken” or fried green tomatoes,    washed down with “Champagne of the South”, their special iced tea, run don’t walk to Social Circle, Georgia to remedy that unfortunate situation. After you have partaken of the vast array of plantation style food, you will not be able to run. A slow walk or a dignified waddle will be the best you can manage.

Oh, such hard choices!

Legendary columnist, Lewis Gizzard gave the Blue Willow his highest accolade. He rated it “5 bowls of turnip greens”. In just ten years this place has achieved worldwide acclaim. It has been featured in many fine magazines such as Southern Living, who awarded it “Best in the South” in their Readers Choice Award from 1996 to 2001. When that category was retired in 2002 and 2003 the restaurant was voted one of the best country restaurants in the south by the readers of Southern Living. In 2006, Southern Living Magazine selected the restaurant as one of the top regional restaurants in the South. CNN Travel Series featured it as one of the best in the South. In 2003 and 2004, the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant made USA Today’s “Top Ten” lists. In 2004 Gourmet Magazine also named it as one of the “Top 100” in America. In 2004 the Food Network “Top 5” program featured the restaurant as one of the top 5 “Bodacious Buffets” in America.

It all began on Thanksgiving 1991. A hundred and fifty guests came to see what this new southern style restaurant was all about. Operating on a shoestring, owners Lewis and Billie Van Dyke had to make do with old broken-down equipment so they faced quite a challenge. But you can’t keep good southern cooking down no matter what so the guest left well fed and happy and told all their friends. They and the friends and eventually friends of the friends and then strangers from all over the country and even the world  began to visit The Blue Willow Inn.

The ambiance rivals the food at Blue Willow Inn

Today, the Van Dykes are justly proud of the inn’s achievements. The days of beat up equipment are long gone. From the moment you step through the door of this historic Greek Revival home, you experience the best of the “Old South”. Built in 1917 by John Upshaw, the house frequently played host to Margaret Mitchell who married Redd Upshaw. Redd is said to be the inspiration for Rhett Butter in Gone with the Wind.

On our first visit, our waitress, Lisa, escorted us to the Walton Room, the repository of this culinary treasure. Resplendent in shades of green and burgundy and highlighted with brilliant white linen, touches of gold and the ever-present Blue Willow plates, this room is suited to the gourmet delights within. Those delights are many and varied.   After pointing out the soups, Chicken and Dumplings (see recipe next page) along with a changing variety of others, salad fixings, bread, muffins, cornbread and biscuits all laid out in their own area, she led us past vast choices of meats and vegetables at the main buffet, heaps of crispy golden chicken, mountains of fluffy mashed potatoes, layers of crunchy fried green tomatoes, and dozens of other ‘items.  She stopped reverently at the dessert table adorned with such gastronomical treasures as pecan pie, peach cobbler, chocolate brownies, and other delicacies designed to be sit heavenly on your lips but fall heavily on your thighs.  (Remember as Scarlett says, “Tomorrow’s another day”) Lisa’s advice for the day was “Life’s uncertain. Start with dessert” All of these culinary delights have one thing in common. A staff who reveres the art of Southern cooking. 

The Blue Willow Inn would be worth visiting even without the food. The classic beauty of the building, the fine art and Blue Willow China displayed on the walls, the pool and gift shop located next door and the inviting rockers placed on the shaded porch, all speak of the hospitality of another era. The Van Dykes have retained that spirit of the Antebellum south where every visitor is treated as an honored guest.


Chicken and Dumplings Recipe courtesy of Blue Willow Inn

Chicken and Dumplings are served at almost every meal at The Blue Willow Inn Restaurant and has become a favorite of our guests.  It takes a few minutes to prepare, but you can't beat this on a winter night. With crackers or toast this is a complete meal.


1 -3/4 pound broiler-fryer chicken
2 quarts water
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup cold water 


In a stockpot combine water and chicken. Cook over medium heat until done (about one hour).    Remove chicken from pot reserving chicken broth.   Cool chicken in cold water, remove bones, skin and fat. Cut chicken into bite size pieces.

In  mixing  bowl combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until batter is coarse. 

Add water and mix well with your hands. Bring chicken broth back to a slow boil.  Do not rapidly boil.

With floured hands pinch quarter size pieces of flour and drop into chicken broth.

Gently stir after adding several pinches. Repeat until you have used all the dumpling mix. Stir gently; allow to simmer 8-10 minutes.

Slowly stir in chicken.

Serve in soup bowls.

For more about the Blue Willow Inn:

294 N. Cherokee Rd. (Ga. Highway 11)
P.O. Box 465
Social Circle, Ga.  30025
(770) 464-2131
Toll Free 1-800-552-8813

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.

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