The restaurant scene of the ‘Boro: “It’s good enough for Statesboro…” or “…it’s not bad for Statesboro”

William Price

If you’ve been on campus for more than a week it’s fair to say you’ve heard this phrase a few times. It’s peculiar, right? Since, our university houses students from all across the United States and over 80 countries around the world, you’d think all of that diversity (and money) would drive a robust, local, fresh restaurant and food scene.

But it doesn’t.

Of course there are exceptions but the majority of major food establishments are national chains or commercial operations. Now, is that really a problem? Maybe not. One thing is clear about a food selection dominated by massive chain spots, and that is little support of local proprietors and businesspeople.

Since I scuttled down to good ole Statesboro, Ga., I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a splurge of new restaurants come up. Here are a few spots that have opened up since the start of my college career:

  • 40 East Grill
  • South & Vine Public House
  • Orchid Asian Restaurant
  • Cookout
  • Eagle Creek Brewery
  • Southern Growlers
  • South City Tavern
  • Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Wild Wing Cafe
  • Fuzzy’s Taco Shop
  • El Jalapeno
  • Groucho’s Deli
  • Big Show’s Burgers

This ragtag list is by no means exhaustive but it does show that Statesboro is getting some attention from both large commercial chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and from local entrepreneurs.

So what does this mean? Our humble town is growing, in large part due to the university’s growth. With more people comes more money and with more money comes more businesses.

With all this growth we, the eaters, are gaining more and more power to determine the fate of our town’s food scene. Your power flies like a rocket from federal government offices in the form of small, green paper bills.

So flex a little bit. If you don’t like the food on the plate in front of you, don’t support that restaurant but if you love it, make yourself a regular. And for heaven’s sake next time you mumble “I mean, it’s good for Statesboro,” or “It’s not bad for Statesboro,” remember that good food should not be exclusive to people who drive Audi’s and live in Buckhead.

Will Price is a senior multimedia journalism major from Atlanta, Ga. He eats copious amounts of Barbecue and pretty much every other genre of food there is.

Seni Alaba-Isama: Owner of South & Vine Public House

What do you think about Statesboro’s food scene?

“The food scene in this town for the longest time I felt like there was sort of a lack of quality and imagination as far as what was presented, a lot of sameness going on.”

“It became a source of frustration for myself when I would go out and want to have a decent meal and some good drinks, that my options were limited. There were some people doing some good work in town but there wasn’t enough. So I felt like maybe I should throw my hat in the ring and see what I could do. I tried to create a place that I would want to hang out in, even if it wasn’t mine.”

What do you think Statesboro’s food scene is missing?

“Passion. A drive to want to do fun and new things. Pushing the envelope. There’s this sort of rhetoric that you get around town that says ‘it’s good enough for Statesboro,’ or ‘it’s not bad for Statesboro,’ and I reject that entirely.”

“Because we’re in Statesboro, Ga, we can’t have good, fresh, creative food? Is that relegated to people in urban areas and trendy cities? That makes no sense. Yeah, this is small town south Georgia but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people here who don’t love fresh food with a lot of options.”

Do you think Statesboro is a city that can support a more local, less commercial restaurant scene?

“I think when you’re looking at the restaurant scene in any city or town, it is the responsibility of the proprietors and presenters of that food to be the taste maker. I don’t think the town isn’t capable of enjoying those flavors at all. We’ve offered food from all over the world and people have come in in droves.”

“There will always be a set of people who really don’t have an interest in how we do things. They’re sort of OK with the status quo, we are not.”

“The way I look at it, with Statesboro being a college town, it means we attract people from all over the southeast, county and the world so there’s quite a bit of diversity brought by the college and I think those people would like to have options as well. Luckily the local community and university has come out in droves to support us as well.”

Heath Robinson: Owner of 40 East Grill, Big Shows Burgers and The Hall

What do you think about Statesboro’s food scene?

“I think that it’s evolving and progressing. I think that we’ve got a mix between your chain restaurants and your locally owned, unique places. And I really think the local push over the last couple years has increased a lot. We’ll always have places like Buffalo Wild Wings and other commercial spots but our hometown stuff is growing,”

What do you think Statesboro’s food scene is missing?

“I think we’re missing a downtown district. A district where alcohol and other ordinances that support the downtown area. Take East Main for example, I’d like to see a restaurant or bar every other building with loft apartments on top of them. I think if we had that, Georgia Southern might even provide transportation down here. More of a focus on downtown.”

“We don’t have any open container laws and that’s an issue for downtown. So people could come in here, get a drink and maybe an appetizer with us, then walk across the street and grab a couple more drinks without getting hit right when they hit the sidewalk. I can’t even serve alcohol on the tables out front.”

Do you think Statesboro is a city that can support a more local, less commercial restaurant scene?

“I think Statesboro is like every other city or town that there is a time and a period where commercial restaurants rule. They have brand recognition and consistency but, like every community, they get to a certain level when they start embracing the local, farm-to-table type places. Right now we’re at the peak of the commercial side of things and over the next few years I think we’ll see more and more local places opening up.”

“I think the university has a humongous part in our growth. The culture and diversity the university brings as far as people is a huge plus for places like this. I would say that if the university wasn’t here, Longhorn Steakhouse would be the number one restaurant in Statesboro for the next twenty years.”