Woodstock, Georgia, part of Metro Atlanta located about 30 minutes from downtown, is tagged as The City Unexpected. This small, revitalized community lives true to its name. Once a sleepy train town, Woodstock now boasts a diverse restaurant scene set in a walkable downtown district where you’ll find craft breweries, boutiques and shops, and more than 20 innovative restaurants.
I was invited to Woodstock to partake in a walking food tour. I sampled organic fare, chef-driven pairings, a few unique cocktails and brews, plus a shrimp dish that left me declaring the trip should be taken if for no other reason than to try this dish!
You’ll want to come hungry so you can try a variety of authentic Italian dishes at Vingenzo’s. Start with the Antipasto Rustico Per Due, an assortment of salumi, Italian cheeses, seasonal fruit, and olives for $9 per person for a minimum of two people.
Your next course should include the pizza; it’s some of the best I’ve tasted anywhere. A thin crust, slightly charred by the wood-burning oven, is the base for a light sauce and abundant fresh toppings like house-made sausage and crispy basil. I sampled the La Margherita 1796 and the Salsiccia E Cipolle. The margherita pizza was light and savory with a traditional red sauce, mozzarella, pomodori freschi (fresh tomatoes), and basil. The Salsiccia E Cipolle showcased delicious house-made sausage along with roasted onions, mozzarella, and basil. The pizzas range from $13 to $18.
You’ll probably be full at this point, but it’s worth ordering a takeout box so you can sample one of chef Michael Bologna’s main dishes. The pasta is light and so delicate it nearly melts in your mouth. Pasta dishes range from $12 for the spaghetti pomodoro to $19 for the seafood linguini, Linguini Alla Frutti Di Mare.
For an authentic Italian cocktail, try the Aperol spritz -- Aperol and prosecco with a splash of soda.
2. Rootstock And Vine
I posted on social media after tasting the bacon-wrapped shrimp at Rootstock and Vine: “If for no other reason, you need to visit Woodstock to sample this shrimp dish. Bacon-wrapped shrimp on top of a pecan blue cheese spread with black pepper honey. Seriously good stuff.”
I still think about that perfect combination of flavors. First you taste the salt of the bacon enhanced and sweetened slightly by the black pepper honey, the crunch of the shrimp is followed by a flavor explosion of creamy blue cheese and pecans. My suggestion: Spread it on a slice of their house-made bread.
Whether you sit inside the repurposed 1900s Woodstock post office with its modern industrial decor or take a glass of wine and sit on the rooftop area and look over downtown Woodstock, you’re in for a treat at this wine and tapas bar. In addition to great food and drinks, Rootstock and Vine hosts wine classes, wine and bourbon pairing dinners, plus live music and more.
The bar focuses on offering wines from family-owned and mostly organic vineyards. My dinner at Rootstock and Vine marked my first time mixing wine with spirits, and my favorite cocktail was the True to Our Roots cocktail, made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, red wine, lime, and an orange garnish.
3. Century House Tavern
Located inside the Hubbard House, originally built in 1894 by George Fowler, then occupied by the Hubbards from the 1940s until 2004, Century House Tavern is a destination location with a modern feel. Sit outside in the gardens or enjoy the historical interior for a farm-fresh, chef-inspired meal.
From the small plates menu, executive chef Stoney Morris served us the Jack and Coke-glazed pork belly served on Buckeye Creek Farm heirloom grits, the fire-roasted jalapeno Pimento Cheese with Tillamook cheddar, cream cheese, chives, and crostini, and the arancini risotto balls with a sweet pepper sauce, parmesan, and basil.
For a cocktail, try the Cherry Mule, made with local 229 vodka, Lazzaroni cherry liqueur, filthy cherries, and 18.21 ginger beer.
4. Pure Taqueria
At Pure Taqueria, a fun taqueria concept that serves authentic Mexican fare, you can enjoy the bright decor downstairs or take your cocktail to the rooftop. This chain restaurant with six Georgia locations has found the key to vibrant foods, unique drinks, and a venue with lots of light and plenty of scenery.
Try the Fritangas de Jaiba -- crab fritters, habanero-avocado mayo, chipotle mayo, queso fresco, and sweet and sour chili sauce. Then sample one of Pure Taqueria’s specialties, such as the Carne a la Parrilla -- all-natural grilled hanger steak, corn, jalapeno, red onions, chimichurri, and jalapeno mac and cheese.
For under $12 you can enjoy the PURE Double Barrel Margarita, made with Herradura Double Barrel Reposado, lime, agave nectar, and Combier orange liqueur.
5. Reformation Brewery And Queenie’s Southern Restaurant And Bar
Founded by a former pastor and a missionary, Reformation Brewery is a “values-based company,” that’s grown into its second Woodstock location. The new space inhabits 6,000 square feet in downtown Woodstock. The new location is home to the brewery’s research and development facility, plus a taproom, beer garden, two bars, and a deck for sampling different craft brews.
For something different, try Alani, Reformation’s rose ale. This hybrid ale combines the flavors of grape, cranberry, and hibiscus, soft wine tannins, and floral hues in a “playful blend of grape must and traditional pilsner malts.” This hybrid of wine and beer creates a unique taste.
Good news if you want a bite with your brews: Queenie’s Southern Restaurant and Bar is a new co-tenant at Reformation. Queenie’s serves Southern comfort food snacks, lunches, and dinners, and the menu includes offerings designed to pair well with Reformation beers. Sample smoked meats including pork, beef brisket, ribs, and chicken, or one of Queenie’s snack items like poutine or pork pies.
6. Truck And Tap
A food and taproom concept, Truck and Tap serves craft brews indoors, and each day a different food truck pulls up out back to deliver interesting food combos. Visit the website to see which brews are currently on tap, plus a weekly listing of food truck vendors. If the 6PackSubs Vietnamese food truck is on site, try one of the bahn mi Vietnamese sandwiches with pork, chicken, ribeye, or ribeye and egg. Pair it with TrimTab’s Imperial Euphoria Now, a passionfruit and guava imperial kettle sour.
7. Woodstock Farm Fresh Market
It’s not a restaurant, but you’ll find artisanal, wholesome, and local foods at this weekly farmers market. There are plenty of fruits and vegetables, and even foraged mushrooms and other delicacies like lamb’s quarters and sheep’s sorrel, at the Woodstock Farm Fresh Market.
Prepare to savor some unique finds. Bettie’s Blueberry Jams and Jellies offers more than 70 varieties of hand-canned jellies and jams. You can taste one of Frik and Frak’s artisanal sauces. Pick up some essential oil beauty products (I brought home a spray bottle of magnesium oil that works wonders) from Margie Beth Botanicals. If you’re on the keto craze or seeking lighter indulgences during your trip, Loco Lattes sells a variety of baked goods and salad jars; the chocolate chip cookies made with monk fruit are fantastic.
While at the market, you’ll also find fresh meats, goat cheese, handmade lye soaps, handcrafted chocolates, wheatgrass shots, and, of course (it is the South, you know), boiled peanuts.
To keep the market local, all fresh produce vendors are required to grow at least 85 percent of the products they sell at the market. The Woodstock Farm Fresh Market is open from mid-April through December on Saturday mornings.
8. Pie Bar
For dessert -- or breakfast, in my case -- handcrafted pies with Southern flavors wait for you at Pie Bar. You won’t find frills here, just a clean, crisp interior and succulent homemade pies. Husband-and-wife team Cody and Lauren Bolden started selling their pies at local farmers markets. After a few seasons and winning a slew of loyal customers, they took their cooking indoors and opened Pie Bar on September 1, 2015. Their team now consists of a group of dedicated individuals who are all passionate about baking delicious pies.
Buy it by the slice, get a whole pie, or order your pie half and half. Try a traditional sweet pie such as coconut cream or bourbon chocolate pecan, or a savory rosemary chicken pot pie or the spinach and red pepper quiche. Peaches were in season during my Woodstock trip, so I tasted the warm Peach Crumble (fresh Georgia peaches, all-butter crust, brown sugar, and cinnamon crumble) with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Slices run $3.75 to $4.25 plus another $1.50 for a scoop of ice cream.