Southern comfort classics meet upscale craft cocktails at a thriving restaurant in beautiful Blue Ridge, Georgia. Located on the first floor of the historic Gartrell Building, Chester Brunnemeyer’s Bar & Grill serves up American favorites in a rustic-chic atmosphere. Locals come from all over the north Georgia mountains to mingle with friendly faces, watch the big game, or toss back some well-mixed drinks in cozy leather booths. On any given night, the crowd is buzzing and every seat is taken.
In a town that already boasts an impressive restaurant scene, Chester Brunnemeyer’s Bar & Grill
(or just plain old Chester’s, as the locals call it) stands out with sophisticated takes on Southern favorites like pimento cheese, trout, fried chicken, and pecan pie. Those who are in a more imbibing mood can mosey on up to the bar, where smiling bartenders are always waiting. As one of the few places open past five on Blue Ridge’s main drag, East Main Street, Chester’s is a dinner staple for locals and tourists alike, offering big city flair in a small town setting. When planning your next trip to the mountains, this is one to add to the must-do list.
When John and Lena Brunnenmeyer opened their small town saloon in Washington, IL in 1896, they had no way of knowing the impact they would have on their descendants. Their saloon operated until the town went “dry” in 1906, after which the sale of alcohol was banned. The enterprising couple then converted the saloon into a grocery store and their son, Chester, delivered groceries for them. Chester eventually inherited the building in 1944. He turned it back into a saloon, called The Spot, which he ran for nearly a decade.
Many years later, Chester’s grandson and his wife decided to revive a piece of family history and open Chester Brunnenemeyer’s Bar and Grill, in Blue Ridge, GA. The circle complete, the Brunnenmeyer family are once again serving food and drinks to eager patrons, only this time in the ruggedly beautiful North Georgia mountains. Stuart Arp, whose grandfather is the namesake at Chester’s, and his wife, Stacy Heath, opened Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar and Grill in 2015. Just a year earlier, Mike and Sherry Triebert bought and restored the Gartrell Building, the brick structure on East Main Street in Downtown Blue Ridge that was once a bustling hotel. Like so many properties in Blue Ridge, the Gartrell Building has been lovingly restored to its former glory, with many original details carefully preserved even as the overall appearance and functionality were given a chic, modern flair. The Gartrell Building’s modernity is apparent in its other tenant, Gartrell Gallery, a fine art gallery that will offer workshops and classes as well as art for sale, and which, according to its website, is slated to open in spring of 2016.
The Blue Ridge area is known for its natural beauty, charming streets and architecture, scenic railway, art festivals, live entertainment, historic significance, and sophisticated food scene. With the addition of Chester Brunnenmeyer’s, the city now also boasts a restaurant that offers such traditional fare as Southern pecan pie, shrimp and grits, fire roasted pimento cheese (widely considered to be “the caviar of the South”), and North Georgia trout. These Southern dishes are served up alongside classic comfort food options like a fried chicken sandwich, four-cheese grilled cheese sandwich, and New York strip steak.
And the food is only half of it. On any given night, Chester’s also has a thriving bar scene. Locals and tourists alike swarm inside to sample impeccably shaken and stirred cocktails, flights of local beers, and a superb wine selection. Large flat screens above the bar always showcase the big game, and while the bar is usually crowded, booths and high top tables allow for more intimate conversations if desired.
One of Chester Brunnenmeyer’s most striking features is its decor. As if the food and drinks weren’t enough to draw customers inside, the interior design is appealingly warm without missing a beat of sophistication. Rustic chic throughout, the restaurant showcases such charming details as vintage inspired barn wood paneling, exposed brick walls, gleaming wood floors, a room-length wooden bar, supple leather upholstery, and glass jar light fixtures with Edison bulbs. The result is at once cozy and spacious, and the casual visitor will feel instantly at ease despite the constant roar of chatty customers throughout the space.
Chester’s, as the locals call it, doesn’t take reservations, and they don’t need to. If you want a big table, get there early. Seats fill up fast and by 8:00 PM it can be standing room only, especially on the weekends. Solo diners can belly up to the bar for dinner, while larger groups may have to wait. But with smiling, experienced servers who never seem far away, even the longest wait times aren’t as onerous as they might be elsewhere. And besides, you can always order a drink (or two) until they can clear you a table.
With craft cocktails like the Wrapsody in Blue, named after another Blue Ridge icon, an eclectic home furnishings store located in an antique craftsman home just down the street, and a host of beers from local breweries such as Grumpy Old Men, Chester Brunnenmeyer’s clearly has a vested interest in keeping up with local Blue Ridge flavors and traditions. Offering upscale Southern cuisine alongside a rotating menu of seasonally inspired, classic comfort foods, it’s likely that this place will feed Blue Ridge locals, tourists, and their descendants for another hundred years to come. Chester Brunnenmeyer himself would surely be proud of this fine North Georgia legacy.
Chester Brunnemeyer’s Bar & Grill
733 East Main Street
Blue Ridge, GA 30513
706. 258. 2539
Executive Chef: Christopher Adgate, CEC
Reservations not accepted