Vidalia, Downtown

There are two Vidalias: the one that everyone goes to, and the one that nobody knows about – with off-menu preparations that can be simply incredible.

Interestingly, I went to the former last week, and had a fantastic meal.

Wines have gotten expensive here, with a couple glasses barely scraping down below $10, and the majority heading up to the mid-teens or higher (although they do have two-ounce tasting pours which are more affordable). Despite the prices, Vidalia has an excellent beverage program, and you’re going to get thoughtful wines, liquors, and beers, all served at the correct temperature and in proper stemware (thanks in no small part to sommelier Ed Jenks).

The order was simple: a burger, and anything the chef wanted to make. Polar opposites (or were they?)

Let me tell you, my friends, just when I was sure that the Chef’s Choice PS7’s Burger was the Usain Bolt of hamburgers, along comes the Shenandoah Angus Burger ($14.75, available on the bar menu only) which is neck-and-neck at the finish line. Innocently described as being served with bacon cheddar, and fried onions, it also comes with homemade potato chips on a buttery, homemade brioche bun that’s worth the calories. Meat-wise, I don’t think I’ve had a hamburger that tasted any better than this – they must, must, inject it, or twirl it in pork fat, or something, because native beef simply does not taste this good. An outstanding hamburger that’s worth every penny, despite the dish being surprisingly carb-heavy (the bun, the batter-dipped fried onions, the potato chips).

And the chef’s choice? Stuffed Plantation Quail ($33.50), a stunning dish that’s served with foie gras mousseline, mustard greens, fantastic black pepper gnocchi, and apple cider jus. The only possible criticism I can come up with is that it’s a “soft” dish texturally that could have use a bit more chew, but let me tell you, that’s really pushing it.

An outstanding meal at Vidalia. Hamilton Johnson has taken the baton quite nicely from R J Cooper, and let me also give a special mention to one of our city’s truly great GMs, Mike Nevarez, who has pretty much been at Vidalia since it opened. Think about that – Vidalia has been open for almost twenty years.

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