Resurrected from the ashes of Gary’s Bistro, the sister restaurant to “Local Republic” has emerged with a pared down menu and a focus on locally sourced meats and produce. Staff tell me it’s been open about two months, and the chef of Georgia Pine, Scott Smith, has Local Republic roots.

I went for lunch on Mike “Gadget Geek” Stock’s suggestion. We met at the bar and moved to a table. He ordered a reuben, I ordered the trout special. As appetizers I ordered a pickle plate and Mike ordered octopus. I added an extra side, some collards.





One of the biggest reubens I've ever seen.

One of the biggest reubens I’ve ever seen.

Trout special. Excellent fish, as good as anything I had in Savannah over the weekend.

Trout special. Excellent fish, as good as anything I had in Savannah over the weekend.

Everything was good, no stinkers in the lot. The pickles were tasty and subtle, the octopus had a hint of spice to it. Collards were tender and hit the spot. My fish was as good as anything I had while near the Atlantic coast, and Mike’s reuben was the king of sandwiches, in terms of size.

I’m told the menu is a work in progress, so expect more changes. But what I’ve seen so far is promising, and gives me hope this restaurant will stand to the big three of this region (Local Republic, Graft, Three Blind Mice) and lose nothing in the comparison.

The Georgia Pine
1250 Scenic Highway, Suite 1240
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
(770) 978-1800

The Georgia Pine on Urbanspoon

Note: Mike’s take on this meal can be seen here.

Oyster Bay Cafe is a restaurant found on Lawrenceville Square, whose focus is fresh sustainable seafood with plenty of oyster and shrimp options. Classed as a gastropub on Urban Spoon, I’m not sure I see that. To me, it evokes an Atlantic Ocean seafood shack, perhaps crossed with a little Vortex style kitsch.


The Inside is bigger than it appears from the outside.

The restaurant is long and thin inside, and bigger than it appears from the outside.

We came for lunch, were feeling a little cautious and not hungry enough to push the dinner offerings, so my daughter went with a bacon shrimp po boy and I got a shrimp and fish fried basket, broccoli instead of fries. We had 6 steamed oysters to start with, tender and good.


Later our plates arrived.

Fish and shrimp basket, with slaw.

Fish and shrimp basket, with slaw.

Bacon shrimp po boy, paired with some excellent fries.

Bacon shrimp po boy, paired with some excellent fries.

The fried fish was well cooked, dry, hot, and tasty. The po boy was good. My daughter leaves food she doesn’t care for, but she took what she couldn’t eat home, including the fries. Fries at Oyster Bay have a light crust (I think I’ve tasted similar at Checkers), and she liked that crust a lot.

Staff here are good, homespun and chatty, a fine complement to the food.

Oyster Bay has a sister restaurant in Loganville, O’Shucks. We’ll be reviewing that restaurant in a later post. But for now, know that a good inexpensive seafood option is available in Lawrenceville, and if you’re close, I suggest you go often.

Complementary review: The 285 Foodies thread on this restaurant.

Oyster Bay Cafe
125 West Crogan Street
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
(770) 910-7521

Oyster Bay Seafood on Urbanspoon

Tip: 60 cent oysters on Tuesdays.

Southern’s Best is pretty outside and inside, and manages to be cute at the same time. In many ways, it would be a good place for a casual first date. The menu is simple and straightforward. Meats tend towards chicken or turkey. One of a fistful of vegetables are made without meat, and retain plenty of flavor.

Roughly at the corner of Five Forks and Sugarloaf Parkway, across from Fronteras and Athens Cafe, and completely opposite the Publix at this corner.

I enjoyed my cornbread roll, but the spices in the roll might not work for everybody. Please don’t mistake this simple menu for plain spicing, because the people here do know how to draw flavor out of their food.

Southern’s Best Cafe
3315 Sugarloaf Parkway
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
(770) 864-9495

Southern's Best Cafe on Urbanspoon

It’s a tiny wings joint near Club Drive and Pleasant Hill, and it has a unique (I’d say very good) wings sauce. The sauce has more in common with a finely ground salsa than the tomato soup consistency of a vinegar based wings sauce. For that reason, I’d suggest trying it out.


You can see black and red pepper specks in their wings sauce.

It’s Asian run, if not Asian owned. I’d guess Korean owners. The iconography is cute, the inside is clean and neat, the tables are nice, and I hope this place makes it. The finely ground nature of the sauce comes though in the specks of pepper you can see on your wings (both black and red). They’re not afraid of spice here, something that leaves me smiling big time.

Crazy Wings
1455 Pleasant Hill Road, Suite 101
Lawrenceville GA 30044

Crazy Wings on Urbanspoon

Step into this eatery, and 5 consecutive years of “Best of Gwinnett” awards pass you on the right. Fini’s is surprisingly good for a pizzeria on the edge of town. It is just to the east of I-85, in a mall centered by a Publix, and almost impossible to spot from Old Peachtree. These days, this is the sole Fini’s in Lawrenceville, as the other fell victim to a rent tripling scheme (*). My daughter and I went for lunch, and after having had a lot of fair to middling pizza, were pleased as punch we chose this location. Crusts here were nicely done.


Crusty and delicious.

The photo doesn’t do the size of this sandwich any justice. The bread and cheese were fantastic, the eggplant merely good.

Another view of the sandwich, showing the insides.

My daughter had a slice of Sicilian, and I had their eggplant sandwich. Her crust was the way a thick slice should be, and size and crusty character of the sandwich bread was totally delightful. The eggplant was wrapped in a batter, and wasn’t bad. Fini’s has an Italian sausage sandwich, and that kind of spicy meat with this kind of bread would be totally over the top.

Fini’s Pizzeria
1032 Old Peachtree Road
Lawrenceville, GA 30043
(678) 205-3872

Fini's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

(*) I know this because Tower Games also left the mall, and my contact in the gaming community, Deep Gamer, let me know all about how the strip mall was seeking to profit from expansion by the nearby hospital.

I have entirely biased feelings towards the chain “Sonic”. When I first arrived in the Atlanta area, I was staying in a weekly hotel on Cobb Parkway, about half way between the Marietta Diner and the Big Chicken. The closest restaurant to that hotel was a Sonic, and especially on days when I had little if any money, I was living on Sonic Jalapeno Double Cheeseburgers, onion rings, and a large fruit slush.

These days I live near Snellville, and the closest Sonic to my house is the one on 820 Oak Road, near the corner of Oak and Dogwood, just across the street from Danthai. A number of my daughter’s friends have worked at this one, on and off, and it tends to gather a teen aged crowd in the afternoons. These days, the Jalapeno Double Cheeseburger, as a menu item, is long gone. You can approximate it, though, by ordering a Double Cheeseburger, add japalenos.

Among other things, Sonic is serving a Chicago Dog these days.

Tater tots, one of a variety of sides offered.

It’s the rich variety of options that sets this restaurant apart. You have all kinds of side items, a crazy-quilt selection of drinks. It has a way of making customers feel like kids all over again.

Double Cheeseburger, add jalapenos. It’s been my Sonic staple for over 17 years.

Some food reviewers from Snellville have tried to make comparisons between 5 Guys and Sonic, as in, which one is better. To me, that’s an apples and oranges comparison. A typical 5 Guys is a small restaurant, compact. A 5 Guys restaurant would live well in a crowded urban downtown, and the menu is focused on doing just a few things well. Sonic, by contrast, is selling a past that never existed – seriously, these burgers are just too big to be 1950s and 1960s authentic – and doing so in expansive fashion, with a big menu. I could imagine sneaking a 5 Guys franchise into San Francisco, but I can’t see it being done easily with Sonic.

Not surprisingly, when we get relatives in from San Francisco, they like going to Sonic, with the caveat that to a San Franciscan, nothing ever beats an In and Out Burger.

But to summarize, Sonic is good greasy fun. It has large burgers with decent options, plenty of sides, and over the top drinks that make this a kid pleasing place to park a family.

Sonic Drive-In
820 Oak Road
Lawrenceville GA 30044
(678) 344-2777

Sonic Drive-In on Urbanspoon

It’s a hole in the wall at the corner of Five Forks and Sugarloaf Parkway, in the same location as the now closed Totori Fresh Grill. It’s pretty, just recently opened, and already police are stopping there, on cycles no less.

Once inside, you order at a countertop from a whiteboard menu above the counter. To the left of the counter is a pastry display.

Athens Grill has a pretty basic menu: gyros and kofta kabobs and souvlaki steaks, very similar to the online menus I can find for the Loganville Athens Grill. Same owners? Perhaps, but there is no mention of any chain on the take out menus.

Souvlaki steak platter, extra salad and no fries. Like a cheese steak in a pita.

Kofta kababs, with fries.

Super gyro platter, extra salad.

#1 (gyro) with fries.

There are sweets as well. Bird’s nests, little roses, baklava.

Bird’s nest upper left and lower right. Little roses, upper middle. Baklava on the upper right.

My family preferred the little roses. Not too sweet, they said.

Athens Grill
1430 Five Forks Trickum Road, Suite 260
Lawrenceville GA 30044

Athens Grill on Urbanspoon

I’ve already reviewed the Local Republic, but I hadn’t gone to the LR for dinner so far. I corrected that. It’s as nice at dinner as it is at lunch, but more crowded and a little louder. If you want parking on the weekends, try to arrive before 7pm. It’s always a bit tough to park around Lawrenceville Square.

Lamb burger

Jerk Chicken

Hummus plate, along with crawfish sliders.

If you’re within a 30-45 minute drive of Lawrenceville Square, just go sometime. This is one of the best, and most ambitious eateries in the area.

Local Republic on Urbanspoon

Samurai Chicken is a brightly colored restaurant at the corner of Oakland Road and Lawrenceville Highway, Highway 29, and at first glance it looks like another Japanese influenced eatery oriented towards inexpensive hibachi style meals. This is, of course, a concept that has been tried in Lawrenceville before, with the now-closed Totori Fresh Grill. But a careful perusal of the Samurai Chicken menu shows some interesting quirks, things that push this restaurant up into the “worth discussing” range, perhaps even to the “culinarily interesting” point.

For one, the staff is clearly aware of the Chinese heritage of various Japanese noodle dishes. Their yakisoba is also labeled Lo Mein. For another, if the magazines the staff were reading are any indication, they are fluent in Vietnamese (I asked afterwards; the staffer who spoke with me had both Korean and Vietnamese heritage).

That makes Samurai Chicken’s soups and their sandwiches yet another deal entirely, as I don’t recall a single Vietnamese restaurant in Snellville or Lawrenceville.

Samurai Sandwich or banh mi? When it looks like a duck..

So, after having had hibachi, I went ahead and ordered their grilled chicken Samurai Sandwich.

Yep, it has the good banh mi bread. it has the nice banh mi spicing. The sandwich is nicely wrapped, and large, substantially larger than other banh mi I’ve had. In retrospect, maybe more mayo than I would have preferred, but the chicken was nicely done.

I haven’t had their pho yet, but I’d be interested in trying it.

To note, there is no pork here. The proteins du jour are chicken, steak, fish, and shrimp. Outside of hibachi, sandwiches, pho, they also serve Samurai Wings (buffalo wings), spring rolls, cooked sushi. So, this is an easy place to get a fast meal. But for the Snellville/Lawrenceville foodie, the first appearance of a convenient source of pho or banh mi is of perhaps more interest, as Japanese (i.e. Sushi Avenue, Sushi Gallery, Kanpai) is not hard to come by in these parts.

Samurai Chicken
2346-A Lawrenceville Highway
Lawrenceville, GA 30044
(770) 559-0672

Samurai Chicken on Urbanspoon

From the Five Forks – Oak Road intersection, the easiest way to get to Samurai Chicken is to head down Oak Road towards Lawrenceville. It will turn into Huff Road after the railroad tracks (if you take the right turn) and Huff will intersect Lawrenceville Highway. Head north one block. Samurai Chicken will be on your right.

Otherwise, from Snellville head down Ronald Reagan towards Duluth and exit at Bethesda Church Road. Follow the road until you intersect Lawrenceville Highway. Head north to the intersection of Oakland and Highway 29.

Local Republic was a chef’s recommendation, a bar, and on Urbanspoon, it’s classed as a gastropub. On a bright spring day, I was able to head up Highway 29 and into Lawrenceville and try it out recently.

To note, ‘gastropub’ is a moniker that is controversial in this town, because of Meridith Ford Goldman’s negative use of the term in her review of Salt Factory Pub (named Red Salt at the time). And of course this represents a problem, because her review really never bothered to say what a gastropub was.

So what is a gastropub? If only a name chef is required, then HD1 is a gastropub. If only great food is required, then Ria’s Bluebird is a gastropub. And since no one has bothered to tell Meridith Ford that an absence can’t define, we’re more or less left with a critical status quo that has Holeman and Finch as a gastropub, perhaps Leon’s Full Service as well (but maybe Leon’s is just too 2010 to count anymore), and that Red Salt isn’t (because, of course, burgers disqualify you as a gastropub, unless you’re Holeman and Finch and only sell them when vampires are afoot).

What is clear is that Local Republic is an ambitious eatery for its place and location, that serving escargot in a bar is not typical fare, and that putting a nice little proto-gastro-eatery right across the street from McCray’s is also quite gutsy. The owner isn’t afraid to take risks; witness his excellent looking Johnny’s in Grayson. The location is cute, has its own parking (important for an eatery close to the square in Lawrenceville), and some good outdoor seating.

In terms of beer selection, Local Republic has ten craft beers on tap. The selection varies, and they don’t print a beer list. On a blackboard, they keep a list handy.

So, the question: is Local Republic a gastropub? Let’s talk about the food we had and get back to that.

Local Republic has some very attractive small plates, and that’s what we focused on. Yes, the signature dish here is supposed to be shrimp and grits, but that’s dinner fare and we had been nibbling before lunch began.

My daughter had their escargot. That was the most successful dish of the night. She liked it, and my sample was flavorful, buttery, earthy at times.

Escargot. Our favorite dish when we ate.

The salad was a delight, tender leafy greens, but not in any sense ambitious.

Chicken and sausage gumbo.

The gumbo was something of a quandry. Yes, it was good tasting, smoky, some complexity in the broth, but really didn’t “hit the mark” as a gumbo, and there was no spice, or heat, to speak of. I’d had a good gumbo recently at the Froghead Bar and Grill in Mississippi, with on point flavor and spicing. Local Republic’s fare isn’t anything like the gumbos I grew up on in Lousiana. Nevertheless, it was interesting.

Huge serving of mussels.

The mussels were an enormous serving, and the size of the serving presented a problem. The mussels were better when dipped in the broth that came with the seafood (milky, with bits of garlic in it), but there were so many mussels, you really needed 3 bowls, one for the mussels, one for the shells, and a third for the broth. Dry, the mussels weren’t as delicious as they were when dipped.

So, is it a gastropub? Personally, there weren’t enough “wow” moments to class this eatery in the same strata as H&F or Leon’s. A more appropriate comparison would be Salt Factory Pub. That said, any eatery with this level of ambition and execution automatically becomes a factor on the northeast side. Any foodie from Tucker to Suwanee to Lithonia would be well served by the trek to Lawrenceville Square to try this eatery out.

Local Republic
225 W Crogan St
Lawrenceville, GA 30046
(678) 205-4782

Local Republic on Urbanspoon