"The Blue Willow Inn Story"
The property housing the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant was purchased by Louis and Billie Van Dyke in January, 1991.
During 1991, the property underwent extensive renovations including additions for a commercial kitchen and a dining room. New wiring, plumbing and heating and air conditioning systems were installed. The first floor and the outside underwent complete renovations prior to opening in November, 1991.
In March, 1992, columnist and author Lewis Grizzard dined at the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant. He wrote an article about the restaurant indicating that he had finally found southern cooking he had been searching for all of his life. The column syndicated in some 280 newspapers throughout the United States.
In late 1992, one of the side porches was extended and enclosed for an additional dining room. Also, renovations to the second floor were completed. This gave the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant a total of 264 seats. In 1993, the pool area was renovated and the pool house was expanded and remodeled for a gift shop. In 1993, the Blue Willow Inn Gift Shop opened. In the mid 90’s the Van Dykes purchased the property behind the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant housing a church and block building.
During the Olympics in Atlanta, the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant was one of the few attractions outside of Atlanta that experienced significant increases in tour and travel traffic. Before, during and after the Olympics, the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant hosted numerous athletes from around the world. As part of the Olympic experience, the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant sponsored several members of the Estonia Olympic Team. Both royalty and international politicians experienced the South at the Blue Willow Inn.
From 1996 to 2001, the Blue Willow Inn was awarded Southern Living Magazine Readers’ Choice Award for “Best Small Town Restaurant” in the South. After 2001, the category was retired. In 2002 and 2003 the restaurant was voted one of the best country restaurants in the south by the readers of Southern Living.
In 2003 and 2004, the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant was listed on USA Today’s “Top Ten” lists. In 2004 Gourmet Magazine included the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant as one of the “Top 100” in America. In 2004 the Food Network “Top 5” program featured the restaurant as one of the top 5 “Bodacious Buffets” in America. In 2006, Southern Living Magazine selected the restaurant as one of the top regional restaurants in the South.
It is not an understatement to say that the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant in Social Circle, Georgia, is truly one of the South’s top restaurants and possibly the best restaurant in the South featuring traditional southern cooking.
Guests from all 50 states and 180 countries have visited the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant. Of the 200,000 plus visitors annually, such guests as Helmut Kohl, former chancellor of Germany, the military leadership of the Republic of Georgia (hosted by the Georgia National Guard), ambassadors and ordinary people have experienced the true hospitality, grace and cooking of the Old South.