Locals in Milton will likely remember Wilbur and Rudys, the cafe-home decor-gift shop in the old Buice General Store at the intersection of Hickory Flat Road and Birmingham Highway.
Upon shuttering in 2017, the historic building — and 7 acres surrounding it — was snatched up by restaurateur Chris Sedgwick (Pure Taqueria, Made Kitchen + Cocktails, the Union) and longtime Sedgwick Restaurant Group operating manager Mix McCrory. The business partners spruced it up while keeping its 1930s country general store charm and rolled out their concept, 7 Acre BarNgrill, in May. McCrory is proud of the down-home touches. For instance, the American Beauty sign decorating the wall by the bar was found underneath the building when they were renovating. Also, McCrory made the jug light fixtures himself from old glass Clorox bottles; they’re hung from clevis hitches, a piece of antique farm equipment used for driving teams of animals.
Since its debut, the casual, farm-to-table spot has attracted residents of this affluent rural-suburban north Fulton city, along with folks from neighboring Alpharetta and Roswell. Weeknights and weekends, the 90-seat place can get packed. Although 7 Acre doesn’t accept reservations, tables turn quickly, giving you just enough time while you wait to check out the vegetable plots out back, sift through the seed packets and merch for sale at the entrance, or mull over your drink order.
Each of my visits, I’d hoped to wrap my fingers around a fall special, Mulled in Milton, a mulled wine drink with citrus peel, local honey and spices. Alas! The warm drink wasn’t available, and I’ll still inquire first next time I stop in, because cocktails here aren’t much to speak of. The bar prides itself on its 77-strong whiskey list — but mixed with crappy ice for the Cooper’s Mule that features Coopers’ Craft Kentucky bourbon or Daly’s Tea made with Mellow Corn, a corn whiskey from Heaven Hill, drinks were a watery waste. Craft beer drinkers will find a dozen local brews on tap and some from afar in bottles or cans. A wine list, which includes basic but affordable ($7) chardonnay and rosé table wine on tap, will be familiar to grocery store shoppers who hit the alcohol aisle.
The upside to average drinks: They come right quick. As does the food.
7 Acre BarNgrill serves approachably contemporary new American fare. You’ll find appetizers like ahi tuna poke, avocado toast and a variation on hummus (here, sweet potato is the chickpea substitute, but the earthy, sweet essence of the root veg is missing) that appear on every new American carte these days.
More interesting than a too loose lump crabcake or the Key Lime Caesar whose citrus spin does little to alter the flavor is an order of meatballs: juicy rounds made from a mix of beef, pork and veal coated in a barbecue sauce of Tennessee whiskey (justice served) and peaches. Reach your daily intake of vegetables with the Shredded Salad. It’s a seasonal red, yellow and green rainbow of finely shaved Brussels sprouts, shredded baby kale, radicchio, apples, dried cranberries, avocado, hard-boiled egg halves, garbanzos and quinoa that only needed more acid and less salt to make the bowl wholly satisfying.
Grilled or fried chicken can be added to any salad for a $5 upcharge. Take ‘em up on the offer. The grilled chicken here is outstanding. Sourced from Wayne Farms in Pendergrass, Georgia, it was divinely juicy. The trick, it turns out, is a cranberry juice-olive oil marinade. The acid in the juice acts as a tenderizer while the sugars help caramelize the meat when it hits the grill.
Chicken also makes appearances among entrees. It would be a better headline in the Chicken Spaghetti Alpharetta if the Alfredo sauce hadn’t been thick to the point of pasty and in the Flame Grilled Chicken if the side of cauliflower mash wasn’t bland as baby food.
Those are among dishes listed under the Dig In section, which notably lacks a vegetarian entree. The dish to dig into at 7 Acre is the Slow Cooker Beef Brisket with a brown sugar-mustard glaze. It’s a massive portion of tenderly braised meat that easily shreds with a fork and practically melts in your mouth. The accompanying Yukon potato puree and roasted heirloom carrots turn it into a sensational, hearty autumn entree.
Burgers are the handheld comfort food option here. Featuring a blend of short rib, brisket and chuck, the patties are made with as much care as the brisket (and trout, although that salsa verde garnish needs some seasoning), but I expected more of a flavor pop from the Smashed Barn Burner Burger with fire-roasted green chiles, pepper jack cheese and chipotle aioli. If slices of pecan-smoked bacon weren’t so tough and chewy, the Hickory Fats burger with white cheddar, grilled Vidalia onions and a house-made take on Big Mac sauce would have been far easier to bite through. That side of fries though? Mm. Those fries.
7 Acre boasts house-made desserts. The crust of an apple pie was crisp and flaky while still being tender, but the filling offered an unappealing applesauce texture. And the lovely aroma of an orange olive oil cake couldn’t correct its dry denseness. Finish Strong, as the dessert menu is dubbed, with a slice of Lemon Goat Cheese Pound Cake. Here, you’ll find not just moistness, but a soft, rounded tartness from the goat cheese that gets a sweet balance from a blueberry brandy compote and a dollop of delicate whipped cream.
7 Acre BarNgrill has plenty of strong spots: a fun, lively atmosphere — especially on the bar side; a casual, efficient service staff glad to offer food order thoughts; and a kitchen crew using notably fresh ingredients from local purveyors and demonstrating prowess with proteins. With a few tweaks to make every dish as terrific as the brisket — and some attention to the cocktails and wine list — this Milton restaurant would be worth the 30-mile drive from downtown Atlanta.
7 ACRE BARNGRILL
Overall rating: 2 of 4 stars (very good)
Food: farm-to-table comfort in a country tavern setting
Service: friendly and streamlined
Best dishes: Slow Cooker Beef Brisket, Shredded Salad, Smashed Barn Burner Burger, Grilled Chicken as addition to salad or in Flame Grilled Chicken, Lemon Goat Cheese Pound Cake
Vegetarian selections: 7 Acre Avocado Toast, Sweet Potato “Hummus,” Garden Salad, Shredded Salad, Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad, and side dishes
Price range: $$$
Credit cards: all major credit cards
Hours: 11 a.m-3:30 p.m. and 4:30-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays
Parking: free parking in adjacent lot
MARTA station: none
Reservations: not accepted
Wheelchair access: yes
Noise level: average
Patio: covered porch
Address, phone: 850 Hickory Flat Road, Milton. 770-777-2273
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