This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Blue Willow Inn Restaurant Combines Flavors of History & Today

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

This weekend I was blessed to be part of a great teaching faculty at the East Metro Christian Writers Conference in Covington, GA, about 40 miles east of Atlanta. EMCWC was more  hospitable than one can imagine and they took us to the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant for dinner Friday evening. It's located in the historic district of Social Circle. The restaurant's tagline is "Coming Home to Southern Elegance" and they mean it--from the architecture, decoration, outside gardens, the gift shop, and most importantly--their delicious southern food. 

The restaurant itself is in a refurbished turn-of-the-century Greek Revival mansion. With the four white pillars on the outside porch, it screams southern culture and brings back images of Gone With the Wind, though it does have a real connection to the author, Margaret Mitchell. The mansion is formerly known as the Bertha Upshaw House, where Margaret Mitchell was a frequent visitor during her courtship with Redd Upshaw, her first husband, the man who was the basis for the character Rett Butler in her famous novel.

The mansion was built in 1917 by John Upshaw for his wife, Bertha. She gave the house and property in the early 1950's as a club house and community center for Social Circle. The local clubs added a swimming pool where it was the hub of social activity through the late 1960's. In 1984, the property was purchased by Homer Harvey to establish the Social Circle Church of God. 

In 1991, Louis and Billie Van Dyke purchased the main house and front two acres to establish the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant. They later purchased the entire tract in 1996. (Here's a photo of me with Mrs. Billie Van Dyke)

After her husband passed, Billie made the decision to continue operating the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant, which features an elegant Southern Buffet with a variety of meats, vegetables, and desserts. The Blue Willow Inn was voted as the "Best in the South" by Southern Living magazine, not once, not twice, nor three or four times--but five times

As a taste-testing patron, I can attest to how much I enjoyed their food. Their fried green tomatoes were wonderful! I'm allergic to beef and pork, but there were plenty of seafood and chicken for me to choose from. Their barbecue salmon melted on my tongue. Their assortment of desserts were even better. The restaurant was also listed in USA Today's Top Ten as one of the ten best in America. 

The historical atmosphere is beautiful with gorgeous gardens with a bubbling water fountain, rocking chairs on the front porch where people sit and chat, a white painted bridge over a nestling pond with a majestic weeping willow tree, and a gift shop to bring home a souvenir. To share some of their vast knowledge, Louis and Billie Van Dyke have released a recipe book entitled, Bible of Southern Cooking, containing over 600 essential recipes southerners have enjoyed for generations. I'm pleased to have my very own autographed copy thanks to EMCWC!

Visit and "like" them on Facebook!

Below is a photo of Author Edie Melson on the left, part of the EMCWC faculty, and Cindy L. Reynolds on the right, a member of EMCWC.