Bernie’s at Nacoochee Valley Guest House: Helen, Georgia Gem

For an exceptional meal served with elegance, Bernie’s at Nacoochee Valley Guest House near Helen, Georgia, is a perfect choice.

Location: 2220 Highway 17, Sautee-Nacoochee, Georgia

Menu: Chef Monda Dodge has complete creative freedom in the kitchen of Bernie’s at Nacoochee Valley Guest House, a restaurant and bed and breakfast owned by her mother, Bernie Yates. Guests who visit often will always find something new to sample along with anticipated favorites.

Lunch diners can expect daily soup and quiche specials, as well as salads and sandwiches featuring a stuffed portabella or pork tenderloin. There will also be several heartier entrees like Beef Bourguignon and Mountain Trout. I ordered the ham and white cheddar quiche with caramelized onions and creamy tomato basil soup. Both were possibly the best I’d ever eaten. A fellow diner tried the quail dish which was a chef creation of the day. He gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up.

The dinner entree choices are wide-ranging with Crispy Roast Duckling, New Zealand Rack of Lamb and Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon as eye-catching examples.

An “in-between” menu of signature cocktails and small plates is served most afternoons in the Oak Room Bar, where Rachel Martin is the skillful mixologist. If you find the brie and roasted vegetables on the menu, I urge you to try it. The flavors are outstanding.

You will definitely want to sample one of the homemade desserts, too. The day I visited, slices of lemon and chocolate cake were happily devoured by my tablemates and me.

Thoughts: Bernie Yates has been serving overnight visitors in her guest house and diners in her namesake restaurant for 30 years. She is a congenial and popular hostess who works hard to create an elegant experience.

Originally from upstate New York, Bernie was driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains during Labor Day weekend of 1989. Her dream was to find an English cottage style home in a southern setting with space for a garden. She spotted this property for sale, and, within five weeks, she owned it. She still gets emotional remembering: “The first time I drove up this valley, it took my breath away.”

The setting is indeed gorgeous, making the site perfect for parties, rehearsal dinners, luncheons, and even intimate weddings. Chef Monda, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, is on-site to provide the best possible catering for such events.

Diners are treated to white table linens, sterling silver utensils, fresh flowers, and whimsical salt and pepper shakers. The dining room is small but very attractive, and when the weather is suitable, an outside patio provides a view of the garden, the Nacoochee Valley and Sal Mountain. It is, after all, in the heart of Georgia wine country.

I would love to go back for a birthday or anniversary celebration, book one of the two guest rooms for a couple of nights and look forward to several outstanding meals at Bernie’s. There are so many attractions in White County. Bernie’s at Nacoochee Valley Guest House is the perfect place to stay and eat while they are all explored.

Price range: Lunch starters and salads are $4-12. Sandwiches are $10-14, and entrees are $9-17. Signature dinner entrees range from $21-37.

Connie Pearson

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