PHOTOS BY DEREK BELL
On the quiet downtown strip of Blue Ridge, Ga., lies a hidden gem of the culinary variety. Built on a foundation of love and experience, Harvest on Main has provided locals and countless tourists with a delightful atmosphere, excellent service and mouth-watering cuisine for five-plus years.
With a focus on the finest, local ingredients available, the selections made available to patrons of Harvest on Main are intelligently crafted to amaze the pallets of the casual diner or self-proclaimed “foodie.” Executive Chef Danny Mellman possesses the ability that sets great chefs apart from good chefs; his flavor profiles are immaculate, each ingredient enriching the others for an explosion of flavor that leaves one licking the plate and craving more.
The vessel for this wizardry is a building that serves as the centerpiece of a revitalized main street, filled with shops and art galleries that provide a wonderful pre- and post-meal experience. It’s apropos interior and exterior complement the region in which it sits, providing a ski lodge feel that is casual but elegant and without the stuffiness of some of your standard fine-dining establishments.
“We wanted to maintain the Mayberry look and feel,” says Mellman. “It was important to both Michelle and I that people were comfortable walking in here wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and sandals, and I think restaurateurs all over are realizing that having a laid-back atmosphere doesn’t force the quality of the food and service to suffer.”
Food is the foundation for Mellman’s marriage, family and childhood.
“My family loved food and they loved to go out to eat,” he says. “My mom and dad would pack us in the car on any given day of the week and drive for an hour to some remote dockside café in search of a great hamburger. Those adventures are some of my fondest memories of growing up and certainly the foundation for my love of cooking.
“For the longest time, I thought I wanted to be a vet,” he continues. “My dad was a vet so I thought I was going to follow in his footsteps. I ended up getting a job in a kitchen and knew right away that’s where I belonged.”
Mellman is a self-made chef. His experience and mastery of the culinary arts was learned through experience working under great chefs around the world. From Philadelphia, Penn., to Canterbury England, he seized every opportunity to earn his stripes and learn from the best. With stops in France, Italy and the Caribbean, he became a diverse and well-versed chef before returning to the states. After a stint as executive chef at The Mad Batter in Cape May, N.J., he headed south to open The Greenhouse Grill on Captiva Island in Fla., where he remained for the next 25 years.
It was in this phase of his life that his future wife and partner, Michelle Moran, came into the picture.
Moran just happened to be an acclaimed food-writer/critic, working for such esteemed publications as “Progressive Grocer,” The New York Timesand USA Today. During her 30-plus years of eating other people’s food for a living, it would be fair to say that she developed an attuned palate. So when fate intervened and put her in front of one of Mellman’s dishes, his skills in the kitchen delivered.
“I first met Danny when I was dining at his restaurant in Florida, where I was working at the time,” says Moran. “I was eating at the bar with a friend and he served us panko-crusted oysters on the half shell with a mango slaw that just blew me away. It’s fair to say I fell in love with his food before I fell in love with him.”
They loved food, they loved each other and they both fell in love with Blue Ridge on their first visit there. So much so, in fact, that they decided to say goodbye to Florida and make the North Georgia Mountains their new home.
They fully intended to start a food truck that would serve gourmet sandwiches but, while exploring that option, they were presented with the opportunity to open a restaurant on Main Street. The rest is history.
With a clear focus on using local farms for produce and proteins, relationships were established with mainstays such as Brasstown Beef and Riverview Farms. Danny and Michelle’s children help maintain the family farm, from which they harvest honey, eggs, hot peppers, tomatoes and potatoes that are used daily in the restaurant. Their daughter works in the restaurant, while their son has mastered the art of foraging for wild mushrooms such as chanterelles. The multiple contributions of siblings and parents truly make Harvest on Main a family affair.
This family atmosphere extends far beyond the typical meaning of the word as the staff fills the roles of adopted brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. It’s a pleasure to watch them work, functioning as a team and treating the dining room as one entity instead of focusing on personal blocks of tables. This selfless effort makes the dining experience fluid, while the food overwhelms the taste buds of each and every customer that walks through the doors.
Special event space is available on site and there are even three overnight suites for guests wishing to make the most out of their trip. With a new Mediterranean-themed restaurant already in the works called Masseria, those who do choose to spend the night can enjoy another Mellman-inspired menu in the not-so-distant future.
Just a short and scenic drive from Rome that clocks in at a little over an hour,
Harvest on Main offers Northwest Georgians an adventure in cuisine that is well worth the drive. Mellman’s passion in the kitchen mixed with Moran’s front-of-the-house management and the charm of downtown Blue Ridge make for a wonderful date night or family dinner you are sure to remember. VVV
For reservations, call 706.946.6164 or visit at 576 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, Georgia.