Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

February 20, 2012

Breaking bread

New business does it fresh, homemade

AMERICUS — By now many Americus residents have spent a lunch hour or two intoxicated by the aroma of freshly baked bread, and have treated themselves to other culinary concoctions from Lee Harris’ Sweet Georgia Baking Co., located on the corner of Church and South Lee streets.

Sweet Georgia Baking Co. is not Harris’ first restaurant in Americus. Some will recall that he has set up shop in at least two other downtown locations over the years. Last summer, Harris started Sweet Georgia in The Maze. Steady business quickly demanded that he find more space.

“The Maze was a great place to get started on a small scale,” he explained Tuesday after a lingering lunch service.

“Business was going good and I’ve always thought of this space,” he said, referring to the restaurant’s new home in the building many long-time residents refer to as “the old Texaco.”

“I think every little town needs a place to get from scratch, fresh baked bread,” Harris says.

Only recently, Harris had the urge to get back into cooking after taking a long break. He opened a high-end restaurant in Tallahassee, Fla., with a friend and spent over two years there until his brother Bill convinced him to come back to Americus and roast coffee. He worked in the family business for a while and finally the “timing was right” to return to what he enjoys.

Harris says the concept of Sweet Georgia Baking Co. is simple — making everything from scratch and making it fresh every day.

“No soup in a can,” he says.

He keeps the menu small but says it offers something for all tastes.

The pot roast sandwich with “blue horsey sauce” — “It began as an experiment, but it’s taken off,” he says.

Roasted vegetables with cous cous and feta cheese — “one of my mom’s favorites. She talked me into bringing it back.”

Other lunch items include his signature rosemary chicken salad with pecans and grapes, and pimento cheese. Harris says the menu is representative of things he’s enjoyed eating at other places and other typical regional dishes.

All the dishes and sandwiches are served on or with freshly baked bread, white, wheat and foccacia, which he mixes in the afternoon, lets proof overnight and bakes in the morning. He says the extended setting process allows for fermentation, giving the bread more flavor and helps extend its shelf life, as it is preservative free.

Soups are paired with fresh foccacia as well. They are alternating, regional vegetable soups using seasonable vegetables. Roasted tomato, black-eyed pea and collard, and butternut squash have been featured.

Specials are added to the menu periodically. He points out that the hot ham sandwich with curry mayonnaise is his father’s favorite. The pork tenderloin Cuban is another well-liked special.

Of course as the restaurant’s name suggests, there is a sweeter side of the menu to compliment Harris’ savory creations. Sweet lemon cookies and bittersweet chocolate chip are additions on the menu as well as flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream.

Along with keeping it simple, good and from scratch, sourcing products locally is important at Sweet Georgia Baking Co. Harris says that during the winter, the selection is limited but he maintains the commitment as much as he can. Baby portabello mushrooms from Kat Mournighan’s Picky Eaters market are one local item that he has right now as well as some salad greens from Jamie McCallum. He shops at Lenny’s Market as much as possible and buys restaurant supplies from local vendors like Glover Food and other local businesses.

Since opening, Harris says he and his small staff, serve about 35-40 people each day at lunch. He outsources some of his baked goods — scones, cookies and granola to Cafe Campesino, Tommy’s Market in Albany and Sweet Auburn Market in Atlanta.

“Part of the thinking is to get some wholesale business to supplement lunch,” Harris explains.

He employs four people who help prep food and serve customers — Maci Hutcheson, Amy Tyson, Mason Love and Hien Tran.

Having only been at its new location for a few months, Harris notes that he will add some decor to the dining area, but he appreciates the simplicity and has a few items that he is particularly proud of  — an old packing table from Glover Wholesale that is used as a front counter and a dining table built from reclaimed wood from Glover, built by a friend, George Ellis.

A proper sign is in the works — homegrown artist Jeff Williams is working on a sign that should be in place soon and Harris has plans for some additional seating outside and possibly getting some more equipment.

“A boy and his oven,” Harris jokes, explaining that he is working with what he has right now, doing all of the cooking in an oven for lack of a stove. He says being limited in that way gives way to creativity in the kitchen.

“If my oven ever goes down, I’m in trouble.”

Sweet Georgia Baking Company is located at 142 S. Lee St. Hours are 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. Saturday. Like Sweet Georgia Baking Company on Facebook and get updates on specials.

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