Often during my drives through Fayetteville, GA on highway 54, I would see a lone restaurant sitting at the end of a small lake. The name, Frank’s at the Old Mill.
It looked like a quaint little place that had great potential for a quiet, tucked away feel.
Last year, after moving about 5 minutes away from where this restaurant is located, I quickly had it in my sights as a prime review-worthy eatery. Rated as Tripadvisor’s #1 restaurant out of 109 in Fayetteville, they have a well established reputation in the community.
The parking lot is large, and probably has little problem accommodating the busier dinner crowds. The pavement wraps around the lake’s edge, offering peaceful views even as you park.
You enter the restaurant from the side, after walking past the mini-water wheel, complete with its own miniature koi pond.
As you make your way along the side of the building, you pass widely spaced tables under the canopy, and a lower seating area with much more tightly spaced tables. Even on this cooler January afternoon there were geese swimming close by, creating a tranquil atmosphere before you’ve even stepped in the door.
This is the view from that lower area.
There was a huge storm that dumped plenty of rain in the area that morning, so the lake was very full and muddy looking. It typically isn’t so brown.
As you reach the door, a free-standing sign informs you of the day’s specials.
Again, this was an unusually higher concentration of water compared to most days when it’s just a trickle. Either way, the exterior views are something along the lines of Canoe, with great views and a quiet, mellow atmosphere. On that note, I don’t think the atmosphere is what actually sustains this business. The unique atmosphere is definitely a draw to the restaurant, however for me it’s just an added perk to what’s inside.
Literally after taking your first step through the door, this dessert case greets you immediately inside.
I normally would wait until dessert to show this to you, but since every customer sees it first, you’ll experience the same here.
Just past the dessert case is… another, uh, dessert case?
This one holds many different types of turnovers.
Moving straight ahead past the turnover case the room opens up into the waiting area and the bar.
The interior design keeps with the old mill, which was built in 1837. Padded bar stools surround the counter, which had a fantastic stamped copper top covered in plexiglass. You can see this copper design carries over into the drop down lights overhead. Almost everything else is made of wood, from furniture to shelving, walls and ceiling. A wooden canoe even hangs above the wine racks.
Opposite the bar is a sitting area.
A few chairs and end tables face a stone fireplace, which often times has a gas fire lit inside. At this time of the year, the holiday decorations were still up, keeping the festive feel alive into the new year.
From the sitting area, you will find a couple tables across the room, tucked along the glass wall that separates the main seating sections.
On the other side of that wall is a long hallway that contains many of the restaurant’s tables. The old mill was expanded to become a restaurant, and in doing so, the seating became a little out of the ordinary, but also interesting. The seating appears to stick mostly with the outer edges of the building.
The upside is that most of the tables will have great views of the scenery outside. You can see how every table in this section is a window seat. Due to the number of diners in such an intimate space, I avoided any more photos of the other dining sections.
To start, the lunch menu includes a “Business Express” section. These are for the business folks that want to stop in for a quick lunch.
Between the hours of 11:00am and 4:00pm every day (except Sunday when they are closed), diners ordering from this section of the menu are guaranteed their food in fifteen minutes or less, otherwise their meal is free.
The regular lunch menu has two sections that contain their specialties, and regular grill items.
As the page informs, you can add a salad or soup to any of these meals for $1.50 extra.
They appeared to have a decent sprinkling of seasoning.
Unfortunately, the flavor fell flat for me and I tasted mostly bread, and little zest. Whatever seasoning was used, it didn’t seem to have enough or it just wasn’t the right type to bring out the best of the flavors.
The bread itself also was not what I hoped for. To me they had the firmness of day old breadsticks, and not something made fresh that day. They weren’t to the point of stale, but certainly not very soft either.
I personally expect a very soft, fluffy breadstick that flattens when you bite into it. This is of course assuming you aren’t in an establishment that is purposely serving crispy breadsticks.
I got myself an Italian salad with thousand island dressing for that reasonable $1.50 upcharge.
The salad was mostly your basic ingredients with fresh, crisp romaine lettuce, cucumber, tomato, raw red onion, olives, croutons, and cheese.
What got my attention were the croutons. The best way I can explain it is that they felt like they were soaked in some type of cooking oil. I say this as a good thing. They weren’t soggy, but certainly not crispy. They had a mix of a slight crunch with a very soft texture overall. Something about that texture, it’s about as perfect as a crouton can get in my opinion. The taste put them over the top, as they had a real flavorful, buttery taste.
On the negative side, I have a slight complaint about the olives. They weren’t pitted, so every few bites I almost cracked a tooth when I got one in my mouth. After trying to pit a couple while eating them, I eventually gave up and took the olives out of the salad.
Eating a salad with soft ingredients, one may not be prepared for an unchewable object. It can be painful to catch one by surprise, and then it requires work to solve the issue by removing the pits. I’d prefer if they use pitted olives or just left them off all together. Other than that small issue, I was very satisfied with the salad.
Remember that sign at the front door with the specials? My dining partner ordered the $11.95 Blackened Chicken Alfredo after asking about it.
It contained grilled chicken served over fettuccine noodles and topped with Alfredo sauce.
This wasn’t my meal, so I can’t give any details other than being told that this was a very cheesy dish.
On the way home he was still raving about how much cheese flavor there was in a meal that normally has more of a buttery taste. He was impressed that it not only had cheese as a prime ingredient (as Alfredo is supposed to), but there was quite a layer of shredded cheese spread across the top also, just adding to the cheesy punch. This gave the plate a very unique flavor that obviously made an impression.
Small pieces of blackened chicken surrounded the circumference of the plate, adding the protein and contrasting firmer texture to the otherwise silky Alfredo covered pasta.
We were told by our server that the chef spends seven hours creating this meal. Granted, he’s not standing over a large pot and stirring it for that long, but the total process of creating and simmering the final product is not quick. It’s just one detail that shows the pride he has for producing quality meals for his customers.
For my first entrée, I wanted to try one of their specialties. Since Ms. Robyn’s (I’m guessing she’s one of the owners?) favorite happens to be the $8.50 Country Fried Pork Chops, I figured I ought to try it.
The plate consisted of two somewhat large pork chops, breaded and fried, and a smaller side of mashed potatoes with gravy. A sprig of rosemary garnished added to the sprinkling of green already present from the addition of various herbs.
The potatoes were flavored well with plenty of spices.
They would have stood well on their own, but included a healthy pouring of gravy to compliment them. The gravy had a very basic taste, although I have limited experience with gravies, so my opinion shouldn’t be taken to heart. Regardless, the gravy helped improve the side by adding yet another flavor to the already tasty potatoes.
The pork chops were large in size, but very thin. The fried breading that coated them was also minimal. The flavor however, was not.
There was a lot to savor in those thin protein slices. Outside the breading, they were additionally seasoned with fennel, green onion, and paprika. There was also additional paprika dusted near the corners of the plate, perhaps just for presentation. When I ordered this dish I expected a little more substance from both the meat and the breading. Though I ended up being happy that there was more than enough flavor in that little space.
The pork chop meal as a whole was really good. The chef certainly knows how to properly season the food. Everything had good flavor and blended well with the other ingredients. This may be Ms. Robyn’s favorite, but I won’t know if it’s mine until I try everything else.
Next up, the French Dip.
A medium sized helping of roast beef and cheese on a “French Mini Baguette,” served with Au Jus, fries, and a pickle.
The sandwich had an ample amount of roast beef.
The meat was well cooked, and stayed juicy before even dipping it. A spread of butter on the bread helped to keep it that way. Flavor wise I didn’t notice anything unique. It tasted of normal roast beef, which in my book is perfectly acceptable.
The cheese was also plentiful. Fully melted, it gave a solid cover, and even mixed into the different layers of roast beef.
Unlike most sandwiches, this cheese didn’t get lost in the sandwich. I could clearly taste it with every bite. As a cheese lover, this really improved the sandwich for me.
For those that may not know, Au Jus is the leftover natural juices that flow from meat when it is cooked. Many restaurants will keep these savory liquids and use them for gravies or serve them unaltered for dipping sandwiches.
This Au Jus came out warmed in a cup on the side. Dipping the sandwich allowed the juices to soak up into the bread. The bread was soft to begin with (it was placed briefly on a griddle to just begin toasting the inside), but those retained juices were there when enjoying the beef and cheese as well, keeping the original flavors of beef intact. Very delicious.
The french fries were served with crispy outer edges which I’ve stated before how much I like.
The insides remained softer, allowing them to be slightly flexible and more edible with utensils. I of course dipped mine in ketchup, and found no complaints with them.
The roast beef sandwich was great. It’s only the second time I’ve had Au Jus in which to dip, and I liked the added moisture and fresh, natural flavor it added back to the meat. I was happy to have enough substance in the sandwich that it wasn’t overrun by bread. The fries were cooked well also, and the whole meal at $8.95 seemed like a good value.
For dessert, we walked back over to those fabulous looking dessert cases to make our choice.
The various turnovers arethe typical size of most desserts here. They don’t skimp on your dessert.
Here is a closeup of the key lime pie.
At least, I believe there is a key lime pie beneath all that whipped topping.
I was closely eying that carrot cake, as I’ve been having cravings for carrot cake lately. It all looked so good, it was going to be a tough decision.
I decided on a slice of Turtle Cheesecake based on the server’s recommendation.
As opposed to the regular cakes, this was actually a small slice compared to their normal standards. Generally when you order dessert here, you should expect to fill yourself up.
This cheesecake didn’t have the typical Oreo® cookie bottom, but rather a brownie base. It tasted practically the same as the cookie bases do, except that it was dense and thick, making it stand out much more. It had an unusually high crunch to it, which I really liked.
The cheesecake itself was a wonderful consistency. It was creamy, but had an added crunch from the chunks of chocolate chips and walnuts mixed in.
I could have been happier with the turtle top however. It was lacking in quantity, which made it hard to taste with the amount of cheesecake it was sitting on top of.
It contained the common ingredients of liquid caramel and chocolate chunks, along with chopped walnuts.
This was my second meal at Frank’s. I had previously had dinner here and was blown away by the experience. Don’t let my dessert today influence your decision to eat here. During the last meal, my wife and I shared two desserts, and both were amazing. I still talk today about Frank’s being one of two places locally that give such large portions of fantastic dessert cakes, pies, turnovers, and baklava.
The rest of my lunch today was great, and I feel that their lunch menu offers a great value. The food as a whole has been consistently good, as well as the service. Include the old mill atmosphere and the harmonious views outside, and you’ve got yourself a very relaxing, enjoyable meal. I will be returning to try more of their offerings, and I recommend you do the same.