Good for the Soul: A Review of Georgia Reese's

Former Colts linebacker Gary Brackett is back in the game with a Southern-chic charmer.
The grainy black-and-white photo, blown up to poster size and elegantly framed on a back wall of newcomer Georgia Reese’s, stands out amid the crisp, Pottery Barndance decor. It’s an old backyard snapshot of co-owner Gary Brackett with his four rambunctious siblings, all in yanked-up tube socks and matching track shorts, looking like quite a handful. You can’t help but smile at the happy chaos—the pixels of rowdy little kids and ’80s fashion. But more than just a fun throwback image, this is a cue to folks who dine here: Brackett, the former Colts linebacker who earned an MBA from George Washington University and embarked on a restaurant career after retiring from the NFL in 2011, touts this  four-month-old venture as a place where “the whole family can sit around the table for some soul.” In other words, the sit-down supper is coming back for seconds.
Homespun dishes like blackened-catfish po’ boys and slow-smoked barbecued wings with just a hint of crackle—as if someone just pulled them off a picnic grill—honor the tradition of comfort food. And the meatloaf, that humble no-brainer, is presented here in neat, thick slices cut from the cooled loaf and warmed over a flame, distinctly smoky and decorated with char marks like a good steak.
You can start with an order of assorted deviled eggs or a plate of charbroiled rib tips basted in homemade Coca-Cola sauce with a tinge of citrus that gives the meat a sweet Asian tang as it falls off the bone. Under sandwiches, fried bologna and a BLT made with fried green tomatoes have enough Southern flair to give a person the vapors. But if you, too, grew up in a house where a scrim of flour dusted the kitchen counters on Sunday afternoons and a tub of Crisco held vigil next to the electric skillet, nothing on the menu should distract you from the madeleine moment of chomping down on a piece of Georgia Reese’s fried chicken, its deep-tan skin thick and crisp but light as a peppery wafer, the moist meat cooked in its own steam. The best time to devour a plate of it is during the weekend brunch, when fresh pieces are in constant rotation on the buffet table, and nobody will judge you for circling the chafer.

Under sandwiches, fried bologna and a BLT made with fried green tomatoes have enough Southern flair to give a person the vapors.

It took the kitchen a couple of tries to perfect the art of fried poultry, though. On an early visit, the trio of wings included in the chicken-and-waffles entree languished under a heavy, caked-on coating as flavorless as it was leaden. Meanwhile, a side of greens sat untouched across the table, too salted-down to eat, and the only flavor detected in a trimmed-up, two-bone pork chop came from the cloying peach barbecue sauce slathered on top. Brackett believes the secret to good comfort food is in the seasoning, but he knows it’s a slippery slope. “We had a challenging time in the beginning, because everyone’s palate is different,” he says. “With some people, you can’t get enough seasoning on the chicken. With other people, it’s too bland. We had to find that happy medium.”
Brackett already owns six Stacked Pickle sports bar locations in Indiana, and his business partner, Jeff Smith, most recently served as the operating partner at Harry & Izzy’s. The duo wanted to give diners at Georgia Reese’s a few surprises—inventive dishes that build on the standards rather than adhere to them. That’s why the pork and beans simmer in the pot with pig’s feet and pork belly, the salmon croquettes sit on a plate squiggled with lemon-chive aioli, and the cornbread is served with bourbon-molasses butter.
Opinions vary on the correct serving temperature of a slice of chunky sweet-potato pie (brought out here slightly cooled with a dollop of whipped cream) or whether Georgia Reese’s smashed potatoes qualify as comfort food if they still have their skins. Even with those quibbles, Brackett’s formula seems to be working. In his interpretation of “Honest. Goodness. Soul.” (a mantra spelled out on the staff T-shirts), well-heeled ladies nibbling smoked-salmon salad can share the dining room with a tableful of girlfriends sipping Grilled Peach Old Fashioneds and a guy lounging at the bar, under a canopy of mismatched chandeliers, wearing his Colts jersey. Just like one big family sitting around the table.
3454 W. 86th St., 317-876-3454,
Hours Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 10:30 a.m.–10 p.m.