The small town of Locust Grove, GA has a little gem of a restaurant with a bit of history. Originally the town’s hardware store since 1906, in 2011 it was purchased and converted into a restaurant with Southern and New Orleans cuisine. Parking is easy to find, whether on the street in front of the restaurant, across the street in a dirt parking lot, or on the paralleling street that runs behind the building.
A recent renovation added a new outdoor eating area to the right of the main building.
It is enclosed by a metal fence, embedded with The French Market’s initials, and supported by wide brick columns. The entryway from the sidewalk is constructed of massive, beautifully antique looking wooden doors, making you feel as if you’re entering a castle.
Inside the gates, you’ll find a gas fed fire inside it’s own brick hearth. The fireplace is surrounded by colorful flower gardens with tall candle holders placed throughout. The corners of the building are decorated with long curtains, and gas lanterns, completing the mood that you’re eating on the gardened patio of someone’s home.
The other side has a mural of The French Market’s logo painted on the brick wall. The flower garden continues around the base of the wall.
A fountain provides ambient sounds of water.
All five senses are exercised while eating your meal; From the smell of the flowers, to the warmth of the fire, and the calming views of the patio combined with the resonance from the flowing fountain.
Stepping inside the front door, you first see the retail portion of the restaurant.
As one of the two owners has a passion for home and garden themes, they wanted to recreate the look of the French Market in New Orleans. Looking straight ahead towards the back, you see the bakery case with their popular cakes, pies, and cupcakes.
The building’s setup is similar to Cracker Barrel, with half the area being used for retail items, and the other for dining.
The items that can be purchased here are geared towards the home and garden theme, but with a more rustic feel. You won’t find the common items that are in most home and garden retailers, rather the more unique items.
Even if you’re just here to eat, it’s tough to walk through without stopping to look at a few of the not so common items that can be found here.
Walking straight to the back, you come upon the bakery/bar section.
To the right is where you see the previously mentioned bakery case. The window to the kitchen gives you a peek at the action happening behind the scenes. Even the lighting over the bar has that home and garden touch, with the bulbs inside glass canning jars.
The bakery case changes daily, but always includes some truly delectable desserts.
The items are a bit pricy, but I generally find them to be extraordinary tasting and worth the price.
To the left of the bar, you step into the dining area.
Using reclaimed wood and brick throughout the restaurant, the owners wanted to preserve much of the old hardware store that had been here for over a century. The hardware store look still shines through, albeit instead of aisles of hardware, there is an open room with tables and chairs spaced comfortably.
One interesting table at the front window puts diners on display. It sits right at the front window, on an elevated floor.
The French Market uses a rotating seasonal menu.
My wife started with The Country Caesar salad, an add-on to her entrée for $3.95.
It was a typical Caesar salad with crumbled bacon on top.
She enjoyed the Caesar, and thought the crispy bacon really added a uniquely improved taste to an otherwise common salad.
I started with the Escargot, also for $9.95.
More common in France, this savory appetizer of snails soaking in garlic butter is not often seen in the States. I have tried it once before and decided to give it a comparison taste test while the opportunity was available. I did not find the snails had a strong taste by themselves, but of course the garlic butter (which would be great with just about anything) gave them the pick-up they needed. Served with a side of French bread, I made sure that the garlic butter had a quick demise.
My wife and I were indecisive of two dishes that both sounded great. We decided to each get one of the two and we could try a bite or two of the one we didn’t chose. She picked the Stuffed Pork Chop.
This “pan-seared center cut pork chop [was] stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and goat cheese. [It was] served with creamy mashed potatoes and [the] vegetable of the day,” which this day were collard greens.
The $17.95 pork chop was well cooked and moist.
The vegetable and cheese filling had an interesting taste, but didn’t blow me away. The spinach was the dominant flavor, but the hint of sun-dried tomato peeked through on a few bites. Pork chops can be quite boring by themselves, but it can also be tough to find the right toppings that really make it pop. This was a valiant attempt, and definitely improved the dish . While it wasn’t spectacular, it’s something I would consider ordering myself on another visit.
My pick was Country Cordon Bleu.
As claimed on the menu, one of their signature dishes for $18.95. “Boneless chicken breast stuffed with Swiss cheese and ham, topped with Mornay sauce. Served with creamy mashed potatoes and braised Brussels sprouts cooked with shallots and bacon.”
Funny thing, it wasn’t until writing this review that I realized I didn’t get the advertized side. I apparently got the same side as my wife, the collard greens. Realizing what I should have received, I’m disappointed that my order wasn’t correct.
The French Market is not fine dining, but in my book their pricing puts them within that realm. Unfortunately, there are several things lacking that keep them out of that fine dining category. While it may be minor, food presentation is one of them. To start, the sides at times come out in a separate dish that is placed directly on the main plate.
Other than the minor presentation flaw, I’ll admit that this chicken with the Mornay sauce draped over the top made my mouth water.
Cutting through the crispy outer breading, the cheese oozed out from the crevasses.
Being fried, the meat was very moist on the inside and had a crunchy outside. The ham and cheese (a combination that have always gone together comfortably) were also cooked to perfection. For such a common dish that I’ve had so many times in my life, it really was quite delightful.
I was also a little surprised with the mashed potatoes. The menu lists just “mashed potatoes” as a side, but my wife and I noticed that our two individual servings seemed different from each other.
Mine had little red bits of what I believe was bacon sprinkled on top, and hers didn’t. Hers had a more garlic taste, where as mine didn’t. Regardless, we both liked the potatoes very much. They were creamy, and each had a lot of flavor, much of which I couldn’t identify but sill enjoyed. Like the chicken, it was really quite good for something as basic as mashed potatoes.
Rating for chicken and my potato side: 6/10
Normally we’d browse the dessert menus to see what amazing cakes and pies they had available that day.
While this was not a very favorable dessert, it is not the norm for The French Market. Usually their desserts are fantastic, although the servings seem to get smaller on each visit and thus have become pricy. I have stopped there in the past for the sole purpose of picking up a dessert only, since they usually are that good.
Be aware that the most common complaint from reviewers is usually service related. This being my third visit, it was the first time I experienced a service problem. My building issue is that I feel the prices are slightly high for what you get. The food quality may match the price for the most part, but the atmosphere, food presentation, and service do not.