Courtesy of Clayton Merchants & Business Association
Travelers to northeast Georgia are often looking to escape civilization, perhaps via a peaceful skim across Lake Rabun or an invigorating hike into Tallulah Gorge. But when the mood strikes to hear the din of a bustling dining room or sidle up to a bar for a quality cocktail, the tiny town of Clayton, Georgia, is an excellent place to explore. Situated just minutes off Highway 441, Clayton’s Main Street feels almost European with its colorful storefronts and soaring mountain backdrop. Add in a Saturday-morning farmers market, First Friday concert series, and even a food truck, and it’s clear this little mountain flower is in bloom.
Here are some of our favorite spots to grab a bite or a drink in downtown Clayton:
Fortify Kitchen & Bar This restaurant’s laid-back-chic atmosphere wouldn’t be out of place in Atlanta’s own food haven, Decatur. Just about every menu item—including heirloom tomato gazpacho and a shrimp-and-grits bowl—contains ingredients sourced from local farms.
Universal Joint If you think it looks familiar, that’s because this restaurant actually is in Decatur. A sister location of the family-friendly pub in Oakhurst Village, Clayton’s own U-Joint draws a crowd to its lively patio.
Fromage and Other Fine Foods Housed in a colorful side-street bungalow, Fromage offers a made-from-scratch, weekly changing lunch menu of soups, sandwiches, and salads, plus a cheese plate curated from a selection of specialty cheeses sold by the pound.
Zeppelin’s Pasta House Billing itself as an “all natural, homemade rock and roll restaurant in the Rabun Mountains,” Zeppelin’s decks its walls with huge framed album covers and serves flatbread pizzas of the same proportions.
The Wicked Pig Currently in the process of opening a brick-and-mortar location in downtown Clayton, this mouthwatering BBQ spot does great business out of a food truck.
Grapes & Beans Nourish your inner mountain boho with a cup of coffee, healthy sandwich (including plenty of vegetarian options), or glass of wine at this friendly cafe.
Noble Wine Cellar & Tasting Room Jabe Hilson, a former Tiger Mountain Vineyards winemaker, pours wines from his own label, Noble, plus other Georgia wineries. He and his wife also curate a selection of Georgia-made goodies and gifts (olive oil, honey, jewelry).
White Birch Inn & Laurel Bar Architect Chuck Patterson and his interior designer wife, Brenda, bought and gutted a 100-year-old building off Main Street and, in 2014, opened a boutique B&B with six visually arresting rooms, each inspired by an indigenous tree. You’ll want to ditch your hiking boots for more stylish footwear for drinks and tapas at Laurel Bar.