Sunday, December 2, 2012

Last Resort Grill

My favorite restaurant in Athens for a sit-down meal is Last Resort Grill.  The food is great, the prices are reasonable, and their menu reflects the Athens' food culture.  It is my recommended restaurant for out-of-town visitors to get a feel for Athens' adventurous take on southern cuisine.

Every year, on the weekend following Thanksgiving, we spend the day together to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season.  We go to the tree farm and cut down our Christmas tree, eat dinner at Last Resort, and then walk around downtown to look at the newly put up Christmas lights.

After we found our perfect Christmas tree at 7 G's Farm, we headed downtown to Last Resort.  Even though it was only 5 o' clock, the place was packed, and we got one of the last tables.  This is my only issue with Last Resort: they are always busy and they do not accept reservations.  Which means we only attempt to eat there during off-peak times. Another tip: if you aren't an expert at parking and reversing your car, avoid parking in their small lot. It is a nightmare to get out of.  Park on the street instead.

One of the great things about Last Resort is that you automatically get freshly baked bread and a salad served before your meal.  This use to be standard at most restaurants, but it's actually pretty rare to see these days. The bread was hot and perfectly chewy, and it was hard not to fill up on it before our entree arrived.

Let me talk to you about their salads.  May I be so bold as to tell you exactly what dressing you should ask for?  Vidalia Bacon.  No question.  It's out of this world.  If, for some crazy reason, you ignore that suggestion, go with the Gorgonzola.  Trust me on this.

For our entrees, the husband and I both ordered the Pork Belly, which is glazed with an ancho chile sauce and topped with a pineapple-jalapeno salsa, and served with mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed greens.

It was fantastic.  The pork belly was cooked perfectly: crispy on the bottom, tender every where else. The sweet potatoes were tasty too, and paired well with the pork.  The au jus served with it, however, seemed an unnecessary addition that didn't quite jibe with the rest of the flavors.  That's just a small quibble though.  Everything else was great! I even loved the greens, which usually are not my favorite vegetable. I do, however, want to mention that we ordered the same dish a few months ago, and were greatly disappointed with the pork belly. It had been gristly and overcooked. This time, it was none of those things.

Our other dinner companions ordered the Last Resort's Praline and the Cafe Strip.  The Last Resort's Praline is my usual go-to dish.  It is chicken breasts stuffed with cheese and topped with a walnut-honey sauce, served with grits and veggies.

The chicken was moist, and the flavors of the sauce and cheese mixed beautifully.  The grits served on the side were creamy and delicious.  I did notice that the portion size had shrunk since our last visit. Where there used to be 3 pieces of stuffed chicken, there were now only 2, and the grit portion was substantially smaller.  Now that I think about it, all of our plates looked smaller than usual.

Our other dining companion ordered the Cafe Strip, which is served with a compound bacon butter and  a side of new potatoes and charred tomatoes.

I have never ordered that particular dish before, so I cannot give my own take on it, and our dining companion is a man of few words. When asked how it was, he said it was "okay", and when further probed, he elaborated with a "it was fine."

One of the best things about Last Resort is their dessert.  Although, technically, Last Resort doesn't make their desserts.  It's Cecilia's Cakes!  Cecilia's Cakes are famous in Athens.  They are, by far, the best cakes in town; maybe even the whole state.  They are gorgeous, moist, and delicious.  They taste like your great grandma spent the entire day in the kitchen making it.  We order them for all our birthdays, and have never been disappointed.  If you are at a restaurant that serves Cecilia's Cakes, do not miss the opportunity to order a slice!  Last Resort offers up a ton of Cecelia's Cakes to choose from, from Red Velvet to Caramel to German Chocolate to Carrot Cake.....mmmmm...

This evening I ordered one of my favorites: Tres Leches.  It was fantastic, of course.

Overall, our dinner was excellent as (almost) always at Last Resort Grill.  I was a little disappointed about the reduced portion size, but mainly because it meant I had no leftovers to take home and enjoy later.  If you are the type of person who can put away a lot of food, you may want to consider ordering an appetizer and a dessert to ensure that you get enough to eat. I was also sad to realize that one of my favorite dishes at Last Resort was no longer on the menu: their Grilled Hanger Steak, which was in a decadent sauce that I suspect was a honey tomatillo sauce. It was crazy good, and I hope they bring it back.  There was also a pot roast dish that was one of my favorite winter comfort foods that is now missing off the menu too.  Last Resort, if you are reading this, you should consider putting those two items back on the menu. There are at least two people out there who miss them greatly!

 Finally, you should definitely check out Last Resort's Lunch and Brunch offerings.  My favorite meal served at Last Resort is actually their Sunday brunch. The Spinach Feta Grill makes my heart (and stomach) happy, and is probably my favorite overall dish in Athens. Hmmm... I just realized today is Sunday!  I know where I'm going for breakfast this morning!

Last Resort Grill on Urbanspoon

Cecilia Villaveces Cakes on Urbanspoon

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