This quaint restaurant may well be Stone Mountain's best kept secret. I've lived in the general area for 16 years, this Wells Cargo Cafe has been around for 17 years - and I JUST discovered it!
The restaurant is cozy and romantic, with a lot of antiques and nostalgia around the room, and a fireplace strategically located for ambiance.
As you enter there's a 3-candle candelabra that serves as the "open" sign. If the candles are lit, they're open. The tables are a mis-matched variety of antique dining tables that blend nicely into their surroundings. Each table is candlelit as well.
It's a warm elegance, but not stuffy or uppity. The servers are casual, as is the restaurant. You are provided with a menu that could easily be used in any sandwich shop and burger joint out there, but for dinner there is a small chalkboard for each table that has the evening's entrees listed. There are easily a dozen items with something to appeal to just about everyone.
My wife ordered a Merlot by the glass, which she said was quite good.
I ordered the Chicken Roma, my wife had the beer-battered shrimp, and my 6-year old daughter had the Maple Salmon. Each meal comes with a salad, vegetable medley, and a choice of potatoes.
The staff was extremely accomodating as we made a lot of special requests. Instead of salad with my meal, I opted for the vegetable beef soup, which was excellent - full of carrots, potatoes, celery, tomatoes, and ground beef in a broth that was very full-bodied and thick. It was apparent that the soup had been cooking for hours, as the flavors were throroughly blended - the mark of a properly made soup.
My daughter likes to have sliced carrots and cucumbers with ranch dressing to dip into, rather than a salad. They complied with this request without question.
Bread sticks accompanied the salads and were served as bread is meant to be: warm, with butter pats that are near room temperature, and easily spread. We found that these went too quickly, but our server offered a second batch without our asking for them - she admitted that they were favorites of hers as well.
Instead of the vegetable medley, I asked to double up on the potatoes. With choices of mashed potatoes, twice baked potatoes, and fried sweet potatoes, I opted for both the fried sweet potatoes and twice baked potatoes. My wife also had fried sweet potatoes and my daughter had the mashed potatoes.
The twice baked potatoes were a creamy potato with a cheesy topping. The mashed potatoes were fresh, with bits of skin in them, with just a hint of garlic flavoring. The fried sweet potatoes were wonderful. All came piping hot. The vegetable medly was a mixture of summer squash, broccoli, and another random vegetable or two. These appeared a bit lifeless, but were tasty.
The entrees were all stunning, with generous portions and great, full-plate presentations.
The Maple Salmon was a thick filet, covered in a maple reduction sauce that was neither too sweet nor savory. My daughter, who absolutely LOVES salmon, ate nearly the entire adult portion, which surprised us since it was a sizable portion.
The beer-battered shrimp were jumbo and well-seasoned, cooked to the perfect texture, with crisp breading and tender shemp. They were served with a soy dipping sauce or a seafood sauce that appeared to be homemade. That didn't surprise us, as everything else there is made in the cafe with the exception of the butter.
The Chicken Roma was worthy of it's own review. A nice sized chicken breast was topped with prosciutto and covered with mozarella cheese, then covered in a marsala wine sauce with mushrooms. The plate was covered in this sauce, with a few stray scallions (real, not shaken from a plastic jar) mixed in for decoration. It was cooked to perfection and is the kind of entree that most restaurants would be proud to consider as their signature dish.
But Wells Cargo Cafe is a modest restaurant - I get the sense that most of the items on the menu would qualify as house specialties anywhere else.
I didn't remember all of the other selections, but there were crab cakes, scallops, flounder, pork chops, and other chicken items on the menu. I don't remember seeing any beef items on the menu, but one party that appeared to be regulars came in asking about prime rib and seemed a bit disappointed that it wasn't on tonight's menu, but would be on tomorrow's menu. They said they'd be back for prime rib the next night. It MUST be great.
We had so much food to eat that we took a pass on the dessert tray, but couldn't help asking about them. All of the desserts are also homemade and included Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, a cheesecake, and a couple of other items that had us making a mental note to return sometime for dessert only, when we know we'll have enough room left to enjoy them.
The servers were all very friendly, not hesitant at all to make recommendations and accomodate special requests. I drink tea heavily throughout the meal, and they never let my glass become empty. We were checked on just frequently enough to know that our needs would be taken care of, but not in a way that ever made us feel interrupted. The servers worked well together, with each server lookng out for the other's tables in the event that a beverage refill or other service was needed.
For all of this great food and service, the prices were phenomenal. The chalk board items ranged in price from $12.95 to $16.95, though I'm told the prime rib runs $18.95. I didn't catch the price on the desserts, but I assume that they were all reasonably priced as well.
The restaurant is located right in the heart of the city of Stone Mountain, just outside of the park's East gate. We were able to park on the street just in front of the restaurant, though there's also plenty of additional free parking in a city lot across from the restaurant.
We completely enjoyed our dinner at Wells Cargo Cafe and will recommend it highly to our friends. We are sure that we'll be frequenting this restaurant, as it's unquestionably one of the areas best kept secrets!
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