DILLARD, Ga. — Rayline Corwin figures it's been 30 years since her last visit to The Dillard House. She lives in southern California. But on a recent trip back to Georgia to visit her mother, they went on a drive to take in the scenery and that's when the memory hit her: The Dillard House was nearby.
"I remember less about what the place looked like and more about the food was so good," Corwin told wsbtv.com's Nelson Hicks. "The fried chicken and all the vegetables just impressed me."
The city of Dillard is about a 1 1/2-hour drive north of the Atlanta area, on the North Carolina state line. Dillard is home to The Dillard House, a hotel and restaurant that's been boarding and feeding folks for over a 100 years.
"(The Dillard House was) founded in 1917 by my husband's grandmother whose name was Carrie Edwards Dillard," owner Louise Dillard said. "She started a boardinghouse. She had her own garden. She grew all of her vegetables. She (raised) chickens. She had a cow for milk. She raised pigs and made her own sausage and bacon. And (she) started taking in boarders. And that's how The Dillard House began in 1917."
More than 100 years later, that original vision remains. The Dillard House still welcomes guests to its breathtaking home in the north Georgia mountains. And although it's grown too large to grow all the food it serves, the food is harvested from local farms.
"I remembered all these wonderful vegetables, all this good food," Corwin said. "It was so yummy. And they just bring it and bring it."
Mention The Dillard House to anyone and a conversation about the food is sure to follow. It's not a meal. The Dillard House describes it as a southern culinary event. A typical lunch consists of seven vegetables, two meats, three types of bread and dessert. All of it is served family style and all of it is homemade.
Southern Living named The Dillard House the best breakfast and brunch restaurant and the best southern restaurant.
"We started off with whatever recipes we could gather from my husband's grandmother Carrie and we've had good Southern cooks here in years past who had their own recipes," Dillard said. "They contributed to the recipes. I've given The Dillard House a couple of my recipes. So, it's just a combination of gathering recipes for (more than) 50 years."
"I have not had cream corn that tasted delicious and sweet like that since I was little," Corwin said.
Corwin's story is one the staff at the Dillard House hears often. So is Charlie Pruette's.
"I've been coming here since I was a little kid with my family," Pruette said.
Pruette and his wife made the drive over from Greenville, South Carolina. Combine the food with the surrounding scenery and it's a chance for him and his family to take a break from the realities of day-to-day living.
"It's fun to pass along a tradition that I experienced with my family growing up. Now, to bring our children here, let them see some of the same things, it's a little like (stepping back in time). It's a chance for them to put their smartphones down for a little while."
And those traditions don't end with the food.
When the day's activities and a full stomach signal it's time to call it a day, guests can make the drive back home or experience another dose of Southern hospitality by staying at The Dillard House. The hotel features 92 rooms and several cottages. Forget the TV and the laptop; enjoy the peace, quiet and landscape for the night.
"I think a lot of people like to come here just to diffuse and relax and enjoy just existing without having a lot of traffic, crime (and) work schedules," Dillard said. "It's just a great place to totally relax."
And for the guests who spend the night, another meal awaits. Breakfast includes grits, pancakes, sausage, biscuits, gravy and more.
The resort hosts many church retreats, corporate outings and other groups throughout the year.
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