Off the Beaten Path: Ball Ground, GA
What's occurring in Ball Ground, GA can be described as a small town renaissance. Or maybe we should call it a small town revolution? It's definitively not the return of the small town. Gone are the days of an isolated town where everyone knows everyone because they all grew up together and never left. The larger globalization of our world isn't limited to cities like Atlanta. In Ball Ground, you can simply look to a stretch of Main Street to see that even America's small towns are growing in their diversity. As people from other countries and heritages move in, so do their cuisines.
There's a stretch of Main Street in Ball Ground that has three very different culinary establishments next door to each other. Starting off, there's an Italian restaurant and market owned by an older couple from Italy. Go one door down and you'll find an authentic German butcher shop. Go one more door down and you'll encounter a Cajun restaurant (they buy their sausage from the German shop and bread from the Italian market). Mayberry didn't have quite that range of culinary offerings.
Ball Ground has revitalized its downtown area by fixing up old general stores and sidewalks, putting on concerts, organizing fireworks displays, and more. The town has taken advantage of a booming tourism economy in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, particularly the affluence of the nearby Big Canoe community. Ball Ground is part of the “Georgia Main Street Program” which focuses on revitalizing the business district and economic development for new and existing businesses. This includes training, design assistance, and low interest loans. Since the beginning of this program, they’ve assisted over 20 new businesses. In a town of only 2,000 people that’s quite a statistic.
Okay, back to the food. On a Saturday trip to Ball Ground we popped into the Italian Market and German Butcher Shop but ultimately dined at Les Bon Temps Louisiana Kitchen for lunch. Our family has visited New Orleans multiple times and based the entire trip around food, so we've tried plenty of authentic (and sadly imposter) Cajun food. This meal was pretty darn good, some of the best you can get outside of The Big Easy. The trio of Gumbo, Red Beans & Rice, and Crawfish Etoufee was a solid indication that this was an authentic location with a good Roux to boot. The shrimp po’boy was excellent, and the Muffuletta salad was chock full of meat…causing one to wonder if it really qualifies as a “salad.” For purely journalistic reasons we felt obligated to order the beignets. Yes, this is our burden and we must bear it.
After feeling satisfied from lunch we walked around the downtown area. A few yards beyond the row of gastronomical variety is the Burger Bus. An establishment that is part restaurant part refurbished bus, its kitsch and quirkiness look like it belongs in Austin, TX or Asheville, NC. When we stopped to take pictures exiting patrons told us that pictures weren’t enough and we needed to try it for ourselves. Perhaps when we aren’t full on Bayou delicacies filled with German sausage accompanied by Italian bread, we said.