The rack of New Zealand lamb at Clarkesville’s Glen-Ella Springs Inn has kept people coming back for years.
Mike Ciochetti is one of those customers — he’s been going to the restaurant for 28 years.
“The rack of lamb, New Zealand lamb chops — the way they cook it and the combination that comes with it — it’s spectacular,” he said.
The dish has been a staple on the menu for years, and most recently it’s been featured on ExploreGeorgia.org’s list of “100 Plates Locals Love.”
Luci Kivett and her husband, Ed, have owned and operated Glen-Ella Springs Inn for the past eight years, but the rack of New Zealand lamb was on the menu long before they took over.
“It’s actually a really, really well-loved dish,” Luci said. “We have some customers who are regulars that pretty much order that every time they come.”
The dish starts with high-quality lamb seasoned with salt and pepper and fresh herbs. It’s then seared and rubbed with a mixture of Dijon mustard and bread crumbs and baked to temperature ordered. It’s served with demi-glace and maple-and-brown-sugar sweet potatoes and a seasonal vegetable.
And the food used in the restaurant tends to be local produce.
“We work with a couple of farmers and we really feel like our restaurant is a classic restaurant,” Luci said.
She considers the rack of lamb a classic for the restaurant at 1789 Bear Gap Road in Clarkesville. She also credits her cook for its constant success on the menu.
“Our lead chef is a master with the lamb,” Luci said of sous chef Kyle “Rocky” Ardisson.
His mastery on the rack of lamb, as well as other dishes, keep customers coming back for more.
Ciochetti and his wife, Holly, travel about a half hour from Clayton to Clarkesville to dine at least once a week, or sometimes more, at Glen-Ella Springs.
“We go there more frequently than any other restaurants in the area,” he said. “It’s a nice, peaceful atmosphere and we can converse with guests or clients.”
While the rack of lamb is Ciochetti’s favorite, he maintains he’s never had a bad meal there. He also said the portion size is generous.
“Over the years, we’ve probably eaten everything on the menu and there are no weak points,” he said.
The Ciochettis have also gotten to know Ed and Luci while visiting the restaurant.
“We really love Ed and Luci. They’re spectacular people,” he said. “It’s the feeling you get there that you almost feel like you’re at home, but you’re getting pampered. They treat you like family.”
Ciochetti said Glen-Ella Springs is a hidden gem with its friendliness, hospitality and ambiance.
“The restaurant is as good as Ed and Luci are nice,” he said. “They are first-class people and they run a first-class establishment and everything is perfect.”
Glen-Ella Springs was nominated for “100 Plates Locals Love” recognition along with more than 600 others. The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Tourism Division started the “100 Plates Locals Love” in 2015 as a way to inspire culinary travel.
“We are so honored to receive the recognition,” Luci said of being named to the list.
She said, to her, the recognition speaks to the consistency of their classic dishes.
“Most of our guests (who) are regulars often come because they like to entertain and bring family and friends, but they love a certain dish at the end,” she said.
Ed and Luci and their two teenage sons, Edward and Andrew, live at the inn, which is on 17 acres in Clarkesville. According to Luci, Glen-Ella Springs Inn was built in the late 1800s as a stage coach inn. The lobby, restaurant and all guest rooms are the original building.
“We are a historic property in the National Register of Historic Places,” she said.
A creek borders the property, which is in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
“It’s a very pastoral, very peaceful setting,” Luci said, adding no televisions are in the guest rooms.
“One goal that Ed and I really had when we purchased the property was that it would be a place where people connect and reconnect,” she said.
Luci said the team at Glen-Ella Springs excels in hospitality.
“It’s really special to read reviews online because our staff does simply an amazing job with our guests,” Luci said. “I feel like they have the spirit of excellence in all areas whether it’s guest services, housekeeping or our culinary team. Everybody really implements a spirit of excellence and that means a lot to us.”