Story and photography for HOME Magazine
From the fishing decor on the walls to the beach music and fresh seafood, it would be easy to forget Back Porch Oyster Bar is nestled among the mountains on the square in Dahlonega. And that is exactly what restaurant owners Lee and Trish Creef want.
Their goal is to make customers feel like they’re eating at a beachside fish bar without having to travel to the beach.
Since 2002, they’ve gained recognition for their coastal-inspired dishes. Their Gorgonzola shrimp linguine was featured recently on Explore Georgia’s list of “100 Plates Locals Love.”
“The Gorgonzola shrimp is awesome,” said Paul Hoffman, owner of Paul Thomas Chocolates on the square in Dahlonega. “The combination of the shrimp and the pasta works great for me. You get a lot of shrimp, the Gorgonzola is really excellent. It’s very unique. ”
Hoffman said he has been dining at Back Porch Oyster for eight years and gets the Gorgonzola shrimp often, sometimes substituting penne pasta for the linguine. The dish is one of the most popular items on the menu, according to restaurant bar owner Lee Creef.
“It’s a really flavorful dish,” chef Gil Yazzie said. “I like it a lot, because the Gorgonzola gives it this nutty flavor and aroma that’s really nice.”
The shrimp is served over linguine with a savory sauce of Gorgonzola cheese, Marsala wine, lobster broth and rosemary with tomato and spinach. Yazzie said the dish is simple, but requires precision in preparation to ensure the cream sauce doesn’t separate.
Lee and Trish Creef opened the restaurant after their search for a fresh fish eatery ended in disappointment. They said they could only find catfish in area restaurants.
The couple moved to Dahlonega from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to be near Trish’s sister. They worked in real estate and housing and had no previous experience in the restaurant industry, but wanted to bring their family recipes from the coast to Dahlonega.
“We came here 14 years ago and there wasn’t any place to eat seafood,” Lee said. “So we decided to play with this idea and we just keep expanding. We get people in this restaurant from all over the world.”
Lee said the restaurant quickly became a success and continues to grow by 20 percent each year. He said he has served guests from as far away as Alaska and China and even has a regular diner from Australia. In fact, he said he has more tourists as customers than locals. He said diners discover the place through travel blogs or by word of mouth.
And the proof of this adorns the restaurant. The walls are lined with photographs of customers wearing Back Porch T-shirts all over the world. Trish can name almost every location where people have sent photos from, including Indonesia and Antarctica.
“It’s all word of mouth,” she said. “Everybody that comes in loves what we do.”
Trish and Lee said the menu reflects the flavors they grew up with in North Carolina when they lived off seafood from their offshore fishing boat.
“My wife and I grew up on the coast,” Lee said. “All these dishes are real, lowcountry seafood dishes that we’ve had in our family for years.”
Trish devised the dishes along with their son, Jason Davenport, who once worked as the restaurant’s chef.
In addition to the Gorgonzola Shrimp Linguine, Lee said other popular dishes include their Chilean sea bass, shrimp and grits and surf and turf combos. He said his goal with the menu is to do something no one else in town is doing.
“When people eat here, I want them to feel like they’re someplace else, like they’re on vacation at the beach,” Lee said. “We just try to make sure that people have an experience here that they can’t find anywhere else.”
Back Porch Oyster Bar
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Address: 19 N. Chestatee St., Dahlonega
Phone number: 706 864-8623