Graft is a rarity, an ambitious farm to table restaurant in the northeast OTP. It’s located on Grayson Parkway, part of a triangle of roads that also house other interesting Grayson eateries, just as this Johnny’s on steroids. It’s in a converted wood frame house and not all that easy to see. A sign alone gets you there. Parking is in the back of the house and extends some distance away from the house. The first bit of parking you see isn’t the only place to park.

Inside, the tables are of wood and heavy, reassuring. The menu is small and rotates frequently. There is a good wine list and a usable selection of American industrial and craft beers, both regional and national. There is a ‘C’ shaped bar that takes up a fair amount of space, but given the crowd they had the night we went, it’s surprising how many people they can seat in that space.

I apologize for the picture quality, but Graft uses very low light.

smoked salmon appetizer. Excellent.

smoked salmon appetizer. Excellent.

Graft's pork chop.

Graft’s pork chop, along with some broccolini.

Flank steak, topped with kale and on top of some root vegetables.

Flank steak, topped with kale and on top of some root vegetables.

We loved their smoked salmon appetizer. There was a hint of heat that lingers on your tongue, a reminder the salmon just didn’t come out of a refrigerator and onto your table. I had a flank steak, richly marinated, and my daughter had a pork chop, which also was quite good.

The sides were good enough we took extra servings home, for later. The creative sides led to the following exchange with my daughter:

“Does this restaurant remind you a little of Top Flr?”

“Yes, but it’s not as claustrophobic. You don’t feel like you have to join some members only club to eat here.”

We both agreed it would be a good date restaurant.

Take home? For those in this neck of the woods, I’m saying this restaurant should be on your short list. If you’re a northeast foodie, then run, don’t walk, to this place.

Graft on Urbanspoon

I’ve spoken about Johnny’s NY Style Pizza before, and really didn’t expect to be talking about one of these restaurants again. But Terrapin Beer Company (@TerrapinBeerCo) sponsored what they called a Tap at the Grayson Johnny’s, and as it was just a drive down Webb Ginn Road and turn right for 1.3 miles, yes I went.

The Johnny’s is a little past the Kroger on Grayson Highway, and is impressively built. Plenty of glass and nice brick make this one of the best looking Johnny’s I’ve ever seen. As I was there to drink and eat, I spent most of my time at the bar. The bar top is three sides of a square, seats perhaps 15-20. There are tables clustered around the bar, where you can also eat and drink.

I liked this bar, as it’s friendly, very Cheers-like. They have 24 beers on tap (8 were devoted to Terrapin product this night), plenty of them quality beers, and the bartenders (there were a pair of them this day) were engaging. Terrapin staff were in the mix as well, talking with customers, handing out swag.

Terrapin's Wake N Bake Coffee Oatmeal Stout, in a tulip glass. A richly flavored beer with significant bitterness from the coffee.

Terrapin is a local brewery, headquartered in Athens, GA. Terrapin’s product, aimed at the craft beer crowd, is very American in character, tending to higher ABVs, plenty of hops, plenty of flavor. Beers such as their Hopsecutioner are very well received, and accessible. I can find Hopsecutioner at my local Kroger.

At times, though, their enthusiasm leaves people like me a little concerned. It wasn’t that long ago selling most of Terrapin’s product in Georgia would have been illegal. Being sessionable is something you see a lot of experienced beer heads concerned about.

I spoke a bit with Justin Gwin late in the day, a manager with Terrapin, about a lot of things. To some extent, I asked about Terrapin’s philosophy, a bit about their site, whether they give tours (they do, on Wednesdays through Saturdays). He tells me that they’re considering a beer with 4.5% ABV. That’s not DING’s definition of a sessionable beer, but certainly one closer to the mark.

In terms of food, I had Johnny’s meatball sub and some wings. The sub was up to standard, cheesy, meaty, with a good marinara. The wings were good, the hot buffalo sauce a milder hot. I’d show a photo but all the food photos ran bad this day, just my luck.

It was an interesting crowd overall. I got a food tip from a chef who works at Bonefish Grill, I saw the owner of this Johnny’s in the distance, the Terrapin staff were friendly  and talked knowingly of their product.

Verdict: One of the prettiest Johnny’s I’ve seen. One of the best local bars I’ve seen, in terms of how they treat customers. The food otherwise is up to Johnny’s standards.

Johnny’s New York Style Pizza
2023 Grayson Highway
Grayson, GA 30017
(770) 962-9181

Johnny's New York Style Pizza on Urbanspoon

Ionie’s Caribbean Kitchen is on the right as you head from Snellville towards Athens on 78, and it’s pretty darned close actually: perhaps 3-4 minutes past the Mellow Mushroom. This was one of those nights where my wife had to work late and I was tasked with feeding my daughter. I wanted something different so the idea was to travel east down 78 until we saw something new and interesting.

Once we arrived we were greeted by two football player sized patrons in Atlanta Falcons and Georgia Bulldogs gear and asked, “Is this your first time here?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Well, you’re going to enjoy this place. This is our third time here this week.”

This was a Tuesday, mind you. And their table was heaped with oversized plates.

Ionies is half buffet line, half kitchen-in-back. There was a small display case for patties and the like but by the time we arrived the case was empty. The place is neat, on the end of a strip mall and reasonably easy to get to. The tables all have placemats with maps of Jamaica, and along with salt and pepper, two bottles of Ocho Rios hot sauce grace the tables.

We ordered the curried chicken and I eventually ordered the jerk chicken. I was going to order the roti, but I was told it’s the same as the curry chicken, just layered on a different substrate. I wanted something that tasted different than what my daughter was ordering.

We sat, got drinks from a stand-up refrigerator and watched as the place filled with people, largely ordering take out. I’m sure that had an effect on our order as it took a bit to get our food, but my plate, at least, arrived hot and steaming. It was a large plate of food, too. My daughter’s curry arrived soon after.

Jerk chicken

Curried chicken.

Ionie’s jerk chicken is a wet jerk, with a substantial amount of heat that builds as you eat. I liked it a lot. The curry is considerably milder, but I thought it was tasty as well. Service was good when they weren’t overwhelmed with to-go patrons. Most of the patrons here pick up food to take home. And serving size is large enough that you may end up taking home food too.

Verdict: Good Jamaican favorites, neat and clean. Highly recommended.

Ionie’s Caribbean Kitchen
1142 Athens Highway (US 78)
Grayson, GA 30017
(678) 344-5864

Ionies Caribbean Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Jovalto’s is a smallish cafe in a Kroger shopping center on Grayson Highway. I ran into it while doing business with Comcast, which has a brick and mortar store in the same strip mall. From Webb Ginn Road, simply head north until it ends. Turn right and continue until you see the Kroger strip mall on your right. Couldn’t be simpler to get there.

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Jovaltos’ calls itself an American/Caribbean fusion restaurant. They have some island favorites, but also hot dogs and hamburgers, and varieties of wings, in jerk spice or hot sauce.  They also have $3.99 lunch specials and savings available during lunch hours during the day.

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Steaming hot jerk chicken plate.

I tried their jerk chicken plate, which was steaming hot when it arrived. It’s a wet jerk, and with a very nice level of spicing. Hard to notice when you start, the jerk builds to a decent level of heat as you eat. Jovalto’s uses chicken breasts, and you can see them being grilled when you enter, as their grill is visible to the eye.

The plate leaves you with a salad, a bit of dessert, and the jerk plate, which had the chicken, some fried plantains, and peas and rice. It was a good deal, I thought, given the amount of food on your plate. And it’s a cleaner place than many, with decent service.

Verdict: Nice little Caribbean restaurant, nice wet jerk chicken. Highly recommended.

Jovalto’s Cafe
1911 Grayson Highway
Grayson, GA 30017
(770) 559-1405

Jovaltos Cafe on Urbanspoon