Make Unicoi State Park & Lodge your next foodie destination
Experiencing adventure after adventure works up an appetite. But that wasn’t a problem during my recent stay at Unicoi State Park & Lodge. It is more than an adventure lodge that gets your heart pumping and your adrenaline flowing. Unicoi is also home to some of the best dining in the North Georgia town of Alpine Helen thanks to fresh, seasonal favorites at Unicoi Restaurant and Smith Creek Tavern. Both have become family-friendly local favorites for folks living in Helen and want to eat out, and I quickly learned why. Both restaurants serve local grains from Georgia’s Nora Mills Granary and antibiotic-free, non-GMO, free-range chicken from nearby Springer Mountain Farms and always prepare everything from the freshest available ingredients.
Before my family and I started zipping through the trees on the Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventure, catching fish, and throwing axes, we needed hearty breakfasts for fuel. Southern classics like biscuits and gravy, breakfast sandwiches or eggs, home fries, and bacon or sausage were always prepared fresh to order and provided plenty of energy for the many activities at this treasured Georgia mountain state park. My son loved the special Georgia peach pancakes – two jumbo pancakes served with peaches, brown sugar and a warm maple peach compote – and the savory Southern skillet – diced bacon, onions, and scrambled eggs atop a bed of grits. My favorite was the campfire skillet – country ham, peppers, onions, crispy diced potatoes, and cheddar cheese topped with two sunny side up eggs. No one wants a growling stomach when they soar above Unicoi Lake during their zip line experience.
By the time lunch rolled around, we knew it was time to head back to the lodge for options galore. At Unicoi Restaurant, starters like onion strings with chipotle aioli, jumbo Bavarian pretzels with whole grain mustard and beer cheese, and pickle fries got our lunch started properly. My wife adored the fresh garden and Caesar salads. I indulged with everything from pizza to fish and chips and a classic burger with all the fixings during our three-night stay. The one-of-a-kind Unicoi power skillet was also a favorite, featuring quinoa sauteed with shredded carrots, zucchini, squash, onions, peppers, and baby spinach topped with fresh tomatoes and green onions, all compiled with the freshest ingredients.
Over at Smith Creek Tavern, we caught the game and had a couple cold beers while munching on Smith Creek drums – five chicken legs fried to perfection and drizzled with the best sauces like hot honey, Buffalo, zesty barbecue, or teriyaki. Think chicken wings, but bigger. We also had Appalachian nachos with house-made tortilla chips topped with white queso and cheddar cheese and all the toppings. We added pulled pork for the complete package.
Fish and chips, chicken fingers, barbecue sandwiches and grilled chicken sandwiches are also Helen locals’ favorites, but the Heidel burger – a double-smash burger with muenster cheese, peppered bacon, onion rings and barbecue sauce on a sourdough bun – and the fried green tomato grilled cheese, with house pimento cheese and applewood smoked bacon on sourdough, both have us pining for a return visit.
We topped off dinner with a caramel apple cookie sundae. Top tip: You may want to plan an extra 30 minutes before you get back to the archery range to let that feast settle in. We went back to our comfortable lodge rooms and took a short nap. It was a vacation after all.
Unicoi State Park & Lodge, located in Alpine Helen, GA, solidified itself as the best family-friendly destination in North Georgia when we learned the chefs didn’t stop when they planned their menus for the restaurants. If you’re staying in one of the beautifully appointed cabin rentals, at the campground, or live in Helen or the surrounding area and you feel like staying in for the night, you can call at least three hours in advance to order a Unicoi Grill & Family Pack. This genius idea includes pre-prepared meals for the family with options like North Georgia smoked baby back ribs, Smoky Mountain pulled pork, mom’s homemade meatloaf, or Southern fried chicken. Each comes ready to eat with your choice of two sides including potato salad, baked beans, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese or a tossed green salad. It’s plenty to please the whole family. Or, if you feel like grilling out yourself, the restaurants offer grill packs that are the easiest way to have a cookout for the ages. Burger and chicken breast packs come with buns or rolls and your choice of two sides so you can enjoy the evening grilling out.
This North Georgia Mountain lodge also features special culinary events throughout the year including decadent creations to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the new year.
With so many options, we will be coming back to Unicoi State Park & Lodge, near Alpine Helen, GA, soon to enjoy the adventure, the beauty, and of course, the food. Click here to learn more about Unicoi’s dining options or call 800-573-9659 to book your stay today.