Milledgeville’s 119 Chops

On a recent trek back to Atlanta from the Georgia Coast, my friend and I pondered what to do about the same old, same old route we always take. This time, we found the perfect antidote: a short overnight hop to Milledgeville.

As long as I’d lived in Georgia, I’d never visited writer Flannery O’Connor’s home (reopened to visitors in 2003). My friend had heard about the town from his mother, who had been posted there as a Navy WAVE during World War II. Always hospitable, Milledgeville had offered the women the best digs in town: The old Governor’s Mansion, then serving as the college president’s home, and once, notoriously, the place Gen. Sherman chose to stay on his own, somewhat less leisurely travels to the coast. It, too, is recently restored; now open to the public, with regular tours.

Staying at the Antebellum Inn, just a few blocks from downtown, we were impressed with Milledgeville’s full-flowered beauty in early spring. Georgia College & State University is an impressive, imposing collection of old brick buildings, verdant stretches of green and massive oaks. Big, vintage houses with columns, porches and turrets surround the campus. We were able to do plenty of sightseeing on foot; but with campus facing downtown, and college students’ music pouring from well-known haunts such as the Brick, could we find a quiet, decent bite in walking distance?

As it happens, yes: 119 Chops, around the corner and downstairs from Milledgeville’s main drag. With its cool, quiet brick environment and big bar, Chops has a bit of a speakeasy feel (but a reservation seems to work better than a password). In fact, after arriving early and deciding to enjoy a cocktail and appetizer at the bar, we decided that that was our favorite part of the meal – surrounded by friendly locals and a low-key barkeep, we were steered to a daily special (“sautéed” mussels) while we sipped martinis so vigorously shaken they were flecked with tiny ice chips. The mussels were divine – tender, briny morsels simmered in tomatoes, wine and bits of bacon, through which we dragged crusty bread. Yum.

The rest of the meal was also good (and the service was stellar), but frankly, this is a steak-and-chops kind of place, and it can be hard to avoid the sweet sauces that crop up in everything else, from the honey butter to the pork chop’s Jim Beam glaze, the fried chicken’s raspberry sauce and the salmon’s “honey-chili” topping.

The New York strip and baked potato were fine (honestly, we couldn’t really grasp the benefit of the boldly advertised “infrared fired” cooking method, which sounds a lot like salamander broiling); the “wasabi-crusted” tuna steak was cooked a bit longer than the medium-rare we ordered, and not really crusted. (The “sweet teryiaki sauce” arrived as requested, on the side.) Still, the garlicky spinach was good, and the rice pilaf. We waved off the big, showy dessert tray and opted for espressos and brandy. (The bar’s stock and wine list are both more interesting and varied than the menu.)

If the food could use a bit more sophistication, it certainly fit our needs – at the end of a full day, Chops’ steak and martini in a friendly, quiet environment can soothe and nourish any invaders.

119 chops

119 South Wayne Street, Milledgeville, 478-452-8119

Hours: Dinner only, Tuesdays-Saturdays.

Credit cards: All major.

Categories: Art of the Meal