Top 5 Restaurateurs - 2016
They work long hours, nights, holidays and weekends. They deal with razor thin profit margins. They have to deal with high employee turnover. They have to cope with fickle customers and irate individuals. They are Macon’s most successful restaurateurs and we are forever grateful for all the blood, sweat and tears they put into making sure we are well fed.
Introducing the 2016 Top Macon Restaurateurs
1. Wes Griffith and Chad Evans - Moonhanger Group
Chad Evans and Wes Griffith have possibly been some of the most impactful restaurateurs on the Downtown eating scene. In 2009 they took over the Rookery and brought a local dive back from obscurity. These days, the 500 block of Cherry street has never been so busy between the laid back style of the rookery and the farm fresh country cooking of Dovetail. The Moonhanger guys also hung a new star in their sky last year when they reopened H&H Soul Food, home of the Allman Brothers Icon Mama Louise.
2. Mama Louise Hudson - H&H Restaurant
The story of H&H restaurant will forever be woven into the history of Macon, GA. Louise Hudson, better known as “Mama Louise,” opened her soul food eatery in 1959 with Inez Hill, or “Mama Hill,” and together they brought grits and gravy, barbecue ribs, pork chops, collard greens, peach cobbler, and other delicacies to the watering mouths and empty stomachs of all who entered the Cotton Avenue establishment. Even in the turbulent times of segregation, everyone in Macon was welcomed at the H&H. Mama Louise was nearly 40 years old when she was introduced to Gregg Allman and his merry band of hippies and Mama Louise became especially close to ABB founding members Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley. Mama Louise felt sorry for the hungry musicians and brought them their own individual meals and told them to pay her when they had the money. The Allman Brothers got so hooked on Mama Louise’s cooking that they even brought her on the road with them for several of their tours. Mama Louise ended up never cooking a thing; just enjoying a well-deserved vacation; or so the story goes. There is even a brick that has been placed in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame walkway, declaring Mama Louise the “Mother of Southern Rock.”
3. Jim Cacavias & Spyros Dermatas - Nu-Way Weiners
The owners of Nu-Way, Jim Cacavias and Spyros Dermatas, are no strangers to hot-dog fame. Their restaurant first came to national attention in the June 1999 P-B-S television documentary ``A Hot Dog Story." 14 years ago, Money magazine called the restaurant ``the definitive downtown hot dog lunch venue." Southern Living and Gourmet Magazine also have paid tribute to Nu-Way's all the way with cole slaw and hot dogs. Nu-Way has seven outlets in Macon, three in Warner Robins and one in Fort Valley.
4. Natalia Del Basso Orsini - Natalia's
“Natalia’s” it is a name every local knows well and most equate with excellence. Running the most highly regarded locally owned restaurant in Macon is no easy task and to do so since 1984 clearly makes the owner of Natalia’s, Natalia Del Basso Orsini, worthy of our TOP 5 List for the Best restaurateurs. No doubt, Natalia has single handedly set the bar for dinning quality and professional operation of a local establishment in Macon, Georgia. We hope to enjoy the fruits of her labor for years to come.
5. Richie Jones - Downtown Grill
Richie Jones purchased the restaurant in April of 2008 from the founder of the restaurant, Tom Noelke. Jones is a Macon native and graduate of First Presbyterian Day School. After leaving Macon, Richie attended the University of Georgia in Athens and obtained two Bachelor degrees from the Terry College of Business. Athens is where Richie became interested in the restaurant industry. He worked his way up in different restaurants and taverns. After college he continued his dream as he moved to Breckenridge, CO where he skied and worked at the resort in two of their food and beverage establishments. After a year in the mountains, he decided to move to the beach and obtained a job as a bartender at the Sea Island Beach Club. When the summer ended, Richie was ready for bigger and better things and was hired as a manager for a restaurant just across the causeway, called Spanky's. Richie continued to manage this restaurant for the next 5 and a half years, before moving back to Macon. He is excited to be back in Macon and loves seeing all of the great things that Macon is doing downtown.
Honorable Mention (TIE)
Cesare Mammarella - Hotplates Restaurant Group
John McCord - Satterfield's