Georgia’s is a breath of fresh air for LA’s food scene. In an age where global fusion, hyper-seasonal menus and quickly revolving food trends have gotten chefs and owners so entrenched in trying to catch ‘the next big thing’ that their restaurants lost their identity in the process, Georgia’s is a place that stays true to its roots. This steadfastness has secured the restaurant’s authentic dedication to Southern comfort and soul food, unaffected by the ever-shifting food tides on the surface. Now with two locations across Long Beach and Anaheim, Gerogia’s has made its name in family recipes served in generous portions at fair prices, paired with some of that amazing Southern hospitality.
Co-Owner Nika Shoemaker-Machado is the type of restaurateur you might see more of in the movies than in real life. What a rare treat to have the owner not just walk the dining room floor, but actually sit down at virtually every table and strike up a conversation with Georgia’s regulars and newcomers alike. Her warmth is contagious and the pride she takes in serving her mother’s recipes should be the envy of anyone in the business. Everyone on staff is much the same, providing unparalleled service for a fast-casual restaurant, and tending more to guest needs than you’ll even find at most full-service restaurants. She must take after her mother, Gretchen, who despite approaching 80 is known to be a hoot and a holler at the table, and of course a mastermind in the kitchen.
Gretchen inspired a broad and delectable menu with the recipes she learned to make with her grandmother. I grew up visiting my grandparents in Atlanta, with soul food becoming a childhood staple and a source of deep nostalgia. So upon biting into Gerogia’s signature fried chicken, where powerfully rich, juicy meat melds with a perfectly light and crunchy cornmeal crust, time stopped. I found myself in a simpler time, a better time, where carbs weren’t a crime and fried wasn’t an F-word. Then, as the clock began to turn again and I reopened to the contemporary world around me, I sought deep relief in knowing that a place like this provides that kind respite 2,000 miles away from where it typically exists.
Nika admitted that while she and her sister did get to grow up with her mom’s recipes served at home, they were only reserved for special occasions and sadly not every-day occurrences. And with dishes like Gretchen’s special jambalaya, red beans and rice with andouille sausage, pulled pork and of course that fried chicken, such a reality seems to be both a crime (for missed opportunity) and a blessing (for arteries’ sake). Dishes like these escalated Gretchen to culinary fame within her social circle, bringing her to cater weddings, business lunches and other events for many years. To this day, Gretchen comes into the kitchen from time to time and cooks almost entirely from memory. Actually getting her recipes written down to execute at scale was a challenge.
It’s safe to say, however, that Nika and team got those recipes down pat. Biting into that heavenly cornbread with a generous slathering of honey butter is the perfect segue into a meal where nutrition just needs to take a back seat. Because after a few of those BBQ pork ribs, velvety mac ‘n’ cheese and thick mashed potatoes, you’ll agree it’s worth it. Yes, you can pair it with beer, wine or even hard lemonade, but I prefer a sweet tea: t’s made quite properly here.
Save room for some sweet potato pie at the end, and maybe another round of cornbread.
Georgia’s Long Beach is located at 4101 McGowen St. Suite 155, Long Beach, CA 92630. Open 11a – 9p Mon – Thu, 11a – 10p Fri, 9a – 10p Sat, 9a – 9p Sun. Avg. out-the-door price for split appetizer, entrée and drink is ~$25/person. For more information call (562) 420-5637 or visit Georgias-Restaurant.com.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.