Fall, Food, and Fun in Alpine Helen (And Sautee – Nacoochee)

By Jerry Brown

One visit to North Georgia’s Alpine Helen, White County, and the surrounding areas of Sautee and Nacoochee will have you working up an appetite. Never fear – satisfying dining options abound when it comes to authentic bites full of Appalachian and International flavors.

Your first stop should be in Alpine Helen to enjoy the 46th Annual Oktoberfest, Helen’s biggest celebration of the year. Enjoy Waltzes, Polkas and the Chicken dance, German food, and extensive beer choices. Oktoberfest runs through October 30, seven days a week.

While in Alpine Helen, you have to stop at Café International. 2016 marks their 31st year in business with the same great food and great service! Everyone knows the cafe for their signature sandwich – The Best Reuben Ever and, of course, other German and International selections. Entrée’s for children and vegetarians make it easy for everyone to find something to enjoy. It is a treat to be able to sit outdoors overlooking the Chattahoochee River while enjoying a wonderful meal.

In the historic area of Sautee, Chef Monda Dodge may be the daughter of owner Bernie Yates, but she earned helm of the kitchen at Bernie’s Restaurant in Sautee by graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Signature favorites include crispy, roasted duckling finished with orange or raspberry sauce, seared rack of lamb with roasted cherry tomatoes and a balsamic vinegar reduction, chicken piccata and marsala, daily quiche creations, and seasonal homemade desserts.

Stop in Nacoochee for an authentic experience at the Nacoochee Grill, a full-service restaurant with a warm vibe and an eclectic menu. The wood-fire grill is fueled with local hardwoods, most often red and white oak. Popular with locals as well as tourists, the restaurant recently celebrated its 11th anniversary. At its sister restaurant, the Nacoochee Village Tavern & Pizzeria, the brick hearth pizza oven is in near constant use cooking artisanal pizzas. Pizza dough is made daily using flour from Nora Mill Granary, a water-powered grist mill established in 1875, which is located across the street.

When you want to indulge without leaving your cabin, you can find anything needed at Betty’s Country Store to build a memorable meal, including local, homemade and specialty items, groceries, produce, an amazing selection of beverages, delicious baked goods, cheeses, and a well-stocked deli; plus, locally-famous Betty’s Black Bean Salsa. While out and about exploring Helen, refuel at Fred’s Famous Peanuts which began nearly 30 years ago as a roadside stand. Be sure to stop by the Old Sautee Store, in existence since 1872 and famous for the combination of old store museum, gourmet foods, and fine jewelry.

While in Alpine Helen enjoy Hofer’s Bavarian Bakery for breakfast, lunch and daily baked goods. Your visit would not be complete until you walk into one of Hansel and Gretel’s candy kitchens for some handmade Fudge, chocolates, and candies!