By Doug Deal
Macon Community News
If you don’t know already know where it is, it can be challenging to spot this month’s featured local restaurant. Even if you have GPS running, you may easily overlook it. Since the restaurant is nestled between an electrical power sub-station and a chiropractor’s office, your first instinct might be to move along and not notice what has been growing in between–but stopping in for a bite is well worth your time and effort. After you’ve found it, you’ll certainly be back.
Grow is a restaurant that follows the trend of cooking locally sourced produce and meat that go straight from the farm to your table. Whenever possible and feasible, ingredients are sourced to local growers instead of gargantuan foodservice suppliers.
Once you are past the gruff exterior and off the beaten path, you are greeted with friendly customer service and a quaint dining room that seats just enough people comfortably. Cheerful art brightens the walls. There is a steady stream of independent meal delivery drivers coming in an out, but this is by no means distracting. Instead, it is a testament to the tenaciousness of their regulars to get their forks into Grow’s food.
I vaguely knew the restaurant existed, but never gave it a chance due to its location, and I suspect many people are in the same boat. One day, a co-worker was talking about the restaurant in such fond terms, I knew that I had to give it a try.
During my first visit, my co-worker and I discussed splitting an order of deviled eggs for an appetizer. Unfortunately, both of us forgot, so it was a missed opportunity, but the sampling of boiled peanuts that comes standard filled in nicely. This uniquely southern snack was a refreshing way to begin a meal, and it sets Grow apart as being a bit different.
My entree selection was the One Love Bowl. By the name, it could have been just about anything, but at Grow, it is jerk chicken breast, black-eyed peas, braised cabbage, pineapple salsa, and yellow rice. If you prefer quinoa, that can be substituted in for the rice.
Frankly, it is not what you would get or expect from a Jamaican restaurant, but Grow’s artistic license was well-used to create their own take on the Carribean classic. All of the flavors of Jamaica were present in each bite of moist, flavorful cuts of chicken, but it was mild in heat and therefore inviting to the flavor palate of the spice-phobic.
The black-eyed peas were well seasoned, needing little help save for some hot sauce to tailor them to my preference. Braised cabbage was my second side item, and it rounded out the entree, which was corraled by a sour-sweet pineapple salsa. Each flavor combined well to carry a bit more weight as a group than they might have individually. It was a delicious variation on the Carribean theme.
Although I did not try any, my companion ordered Grow’s Mom’s Chicken Salad with chicken breast, mayo, relish, celery, pecans, and grapes served over greens with cucumbers and tomatoes. It looked absolutely delicious, and I made a note to order it on a future visit.
For dessert, I had berry shortcake, which is a selection that swaps in and out with other desserts on the chalkboard. Grow’s version of shortcake was as moist as I have ever had it and the tart-sweet berries rounded off a delicious meal.
As usually happens with a “new” restaurant discovery, I went back almost immediately with my wife. We made sure we put our appetizer order of deviled eggs in first thing, and they were fabulous. It was the classic recipe with three eggs halved and served as a group of six. It was a good value and a nice light appetizer to start a meal, but perhaps not one you’d order each visit. Though, you won’t be disappointed if you did.
For my main entree, I ordered the Italian Chicken, which is a chicken breast, peppers, onions, mushrooms, marinara, and shaved parmesan. The dish reminds me of one I make at home, only with Italian sausage instead of chicken. The meat, veggies, and cheese with marinara conspire together to create a genuinely Italian-inspired dish without the need for a single noodle of pasta.
This was served with toast and a choice of two sides. My selections were the black-eyed peas mentioned above, as well as mashed potatoes for carbohydrate overload. The black-eyed-peas were as already described, and the mashed potatoes were homestyle, with the occasional small boulder of potato in an otherwise creamy terrain. They were not salted as much as I prefer, but a single shake and they were as I like them. Salt is among the most personal of flavor preferences, and I can imagine they would be perfect for other patrons.
My wife chose the pimento cheese sandwich, which like all of their sandwiches, comes with a side. The pimento cheese featured a thick, creamy texture, owing to the choice of cream cheese as one of the binding elements. The end result is a rich filling with a fresh, balanced flavor. Her side choice was rutabaga fries, which are somewhat of a legend at Grow. They have a light, flaking coating on the outside with a nice bit of spice added.
There are so many more items on the menu that I would like to try on a third or fourth visit. Those include the Monte Cristo Sandwich, Pasta Primavera Bowl, Goat Cheese Bites, and others.
So if you are looking for a place to go to experience the farm to table craze, this restaurant is an excellent place to start. The selection is varied enough to be interesting, but not so large as to be unwieldy. The service is helpful and friendly, though not intrusive or pushy. All in all, it is a place that will Grow on you.
Grow is located at 1019 Riverside Drive in Macon near the corner of Spring Street where you find Zaxby’s and Checkers. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 11 AM – 3 PM. They also offer catering, and their phone number is (478) 743-4663.