What do Gregg Allman, Aaron Paul and Harrison Ford all have in common? They are all self-professed fans of downtown Macon’s Rookery on Cherry Street. The restaurant opened in 1976, but if you haven’t been there since they removed all traces of its smoke-filled past, you need to go again.
The Rookery’s low light, foreboding at first, seems to enable everyone to loosen up and have a good time. When we went, large groups filled half the place, with couples and families filling in the rest. The music is on but not blaring and the food comes out fast -- all ingredients for having a good time.
We started out with a pile of Opening Acts, their music-themed term for appetizers. The fried green tomatoes were some of the best I’ve ever had -- not greasy, slimy or mushy. The spicy pimento cheese dip with applewood smoked bacon was fabulous, but I’d prefer it on toast points or baguette slices over the homemade chips. The chicken tenders are a little over-fried but still juicy and delicious, especially with their honey mustard sauce.
Our entrees, called Main Stage here, were all equally fantastic. The medium-cooked Vidalia steak for $14 consisted of tenderloin medallions of juicy beef, topped with sauteed onions and a balsamic reduction, served with Yukon mashed potatoes and another side. We opted to make our “side” a pineapple upside-down cake milkshake for just $2.50 extra. The fish and chips was served with Rookery chips (not fries), but the fish is served at the perfect temperature and has crunch surrounding tenderness.
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You can’t come to the Rookery without ordering a burger from the entrees called Headliners, so we tried the Johnny Jenkins burger topped with pimento cheese and bread and butter pickles. My favorite aspect of the burger choices here is the fact that you can choose from several options for your patty: Black Angus beef, Rockingchair Ranch local grass-fed beef, turkey, chicken or veggie. I can vouch for the turkey burger as an excellent choice for any of the many burgers available (see their website for all of them). Get the battered fries as your side and you’ll be in burger heaven. Note: come on Wednesdays if you like farm-fresh tomatoes bought at the Mulberry Street Market.
For dessert, we tried all three pies. The Derby is a concoction of chocolate chips and nuts; the key lime was a little dense and needed more tartness; and the apple pie was fresh and piled high. Don’t forget to check out the wide variety of shakes, too.
You don’t have to be famous to love the outdoor patio on a cool summer night, the cozy dark interior that feels like an Irish pub, and the mouth-watering food that comes primarily from local producers.
Address: 543 Cherry St., Macon
Phone: (478) 746-8658
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Sundays
Payment: Cash, credit
Kids Menu: Yes
Noise Level: Medium
Health Rating: 100
Price range: $8-$18
Rating: 3.5 stars