Steeplechase Grill & Tavern
306 E. 2nd. St.
All the evidence I need to prove America’s love affair with mediocrity can be found in Vidalia, Georgia.
From Arby’s to Zaxby’s, every single fast-food concept America has ever conceived can be found on a two mile strip in downtown Vidalia.
Honestly. I do not think they are missing a single one.
And it’s not even that big of a town. Not to sound too judgmental, considering I’m a fast-food connoisseur (only by necessity) myself, but these folks have got to consume more high fructose corn syrup and monosodium glutamate than any other town in America per capita.
The entire stretch of Highway 280, as far as the eye can see, are dozens and dozens of fast-food signs high in the sky.
A crazy thought came to my mind as I scanned this neon bright landscape – why not capitalize on an original restaurant concept right here in Vidalia?
I can’t imagine that would be so hard. After all, the town is named after a local food product, the Vidalia Onion, is it not?
Or maybe the onion is named after the town.
Yes, years ago, local farmers got the federal government to certify that no onion can claim the title “Vidalia Onion” unless it is grown in the sandy soil of South Georgia, which consists of 20 counties.
You’d think with federally blessed local produce like that, it wouldn’t be too hard to find a local diner or joint specializing in serving up this sweet delicacy, right?
Maybe some sweet Vidalia onion soup, steaks and burgers topped with grilled Vidalias, or at the very least, some hand-dipped gourmet Vidalia onion rings? Yeah, I could definitely go for that.
No such luck.
The only non-corporate chain I could find in the entire town was the Steeplechase Grill and Tavern, the kind of small town place where the natives can splurge on a decent steak dinner or meet up with friends for a casual lunch.
Gossipy Southern housewives, businessmen in polo-shirts, and families alike were out enjoying lunch at what appeared to be a favorite local gathering spot.
Unfortunately, my quest for an innovative take on the town’s most famous export died the moment I opened the menu. Standard steaks, sandwiches, and burgers. The only Vidalia onion mention was the option of “Vidalia Onion Rings” with a burger.
So that’s what I ordered.
And the onion rings were some of the least inspiring I’ve ever had.
But just how inspiring can an onion ring be, you might ask?
Well, I’ve been inspired by specially seasoned onion rings, fancy dipping sauces for onion rings, and even onion rings that were hand-dipped in a gourmet batter. Best of all are those super thick onion rings that come stacked in a tower.
Heck, speaking of big corporate chain restaurants, onions don’t get much better than Outback’s Bloomin’ Onion.
But sadly, these were thin and over-fried with virtually no taste of onion. I’ve had onion rings at Burger King that tasted better.
The burger on the other hand wasn’t that bad. I mean, I wasn’t about to go dance in a Vidalia onion patch or anything, but it was an above-average burger. And the avalanche of three kinds of melted cheese helped immensely.
But overall, the lack of a Vidalia onion tribute put a damper on my lunch.
As I drove out of town, I noticed that Outback Steakhouse had somehow overlooked Vidalia.
And as much as I hate to admit it, those corporate boys down in Tampa could teach the good folks in Vidalia a thing or two about onions.
Rating: Wouldn’t Wear Shirt If They Paid Me.