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Neighborhood-fresh New Orleans cuisine reaches Henry

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Elaine Rackley

erackley@henryherald.com

A patron at the French Market Restaurant & Tavern, located in Locust Grove, remarked this week how the tomatoes he was served tasted as if they had been freshly picked from the vine.

Rick Weaver, who co-owns the eatery with his wife, Lauren, said he was quick to acknowledge that the vegetables were, indeed, fresh. Lauren was born in Riverdale, and grew up in McDonough. Rick Weaver is from New Orleans.

"My wife and I had driven about seven miles away to the Hayden Grove Farm, in south Henry County, and picked some green tomatoes," said Weaver. While they are in season, fried green tomatoes will be on the menu, he said Wednesday.

Freshness is on the minds of staffers at the eatery, too. "Anytime I am allowed to use fresh, local ingredients, it makes cooking more exciting," said Executive Chef Jeffrey Bell.

"The cuisine, here, is French Quarter with a Cajun flair," said Bell. Its offerings include Gulf shrimp and andouille sausage, sauteed and tossed with Cajun cream sauce; Gulf shrimp sauteed in a Creole broth; pan-seared scallops with vanilla buttercream sauce, and French bread stuffed with crawfish tails and cheese sauce. It all seems a powerful lure for one of Henry County's newest restaurants.

"We do offer American dishes, too, but, I like to think outside the box," said Bell, 29. The restaurant offers chicken-and-andouille gumbo. The gumbo is one its biggest sellers, added Bell, of McDonough.

The executive chef said he learned his craft by watching his grandmother, Eva Liner, now 94. "She makes the best biscuits and gravy," Bell beamed. The French Market & Tavern features the ones Bell has learned to make, during the restaurant's Sunday brunch.

Another of the restaurant's specialties is peach-smoked duck breast. "We actually use Gardner Farm peaches, and their peach wood, to create the dish with a local flair," said Bell. The dish is served with roasted peaches from the farm, located about two miles from the restaurant, said the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts graduate, a two-time winner of the "Taste of Henry People's Choice Award."

Jailhouse beer also is served in the tavern portion of the eatery, and it comes from another nearby supplier, Jailhouse Brewery, in Hampton.

The restaurant, which opened in June, at 3840 Ga. Highway 42, is billed as upscale-casual, and seats about 130 people. Reservations are suggested for parties of six or more. They can be made by calling (770) 914-9312.

Service is offered Tuesdays through Thursdays, from 11 a.m., to 9 p.m.; from 11 a.m., to 10 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays; and 11 a.m., to 3 p.m., on Sundays. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.

The French Market Restaurant & Tavern is housed in a building that dates back to 1902. The Weavers finished renovating it in May. They used the original wood from the building as flooring, table legs, and shelving.

"The way we restored it, was to keep as much of its history as we could," said Lauren Weaver, who operates a boutique at the front entrance. She also bakes some desserts. Her specialty is cupcakes.

Patrons are giving the place good reviews. Lynne and Greg Dreyer, along with Lizzie Mundy, were dining at the restaurant recently. Lynne Deyer expressed satisfaction with the mahi mahi fish she had with a wedge salad.

"We started with baby-fried spinach," said Dreyer, of Griffin. "That was the first time I ever had fried spinach. It melted in my mouth."

Greg Dreyer added, "Everything here was very well-done."

"People come back because of the food," said co-owner, Weaver. "That's why we will continue to offer great food."