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The original Collegiate returns
Owner sticks to tried-and-true menu
Jeff Worley works the grill at The Collegiate Grill in downtown Gainesville. Worley recently purchased and reopened the landmark eatery. - photo by Tom Reed

The Collegiate Grill

When: Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: 220 Main St. SW, Gainesville
Contact: 678-989-2280

Jeff Worley’s first job was working at The Collegiate Grill at the age of 12. He was so small that the owner placed a wooden Coca-Cola crate on the floor so the youngster could reach the soft drink dispenser.

Earlier this month, Worley returned to his roots as owner of The Collegiate.

Worley had earlier managed the establishment for different owners. He decided to reopen the Gainesville landmark, which had been shuttered for some time.

"After much thought and riding by and seeing it closed, it broke my heart," Worley said. "We decided to make the investment to come in here and own and operate it."

He said that it took a lot of work to bring the diner back to life.

"There is a tremendous amount of sentimental attachment to The Collegiate," Worley said. "There are people in Gainesville and Hall County who came here in high school and college when The Collegiate was a mainstay. They have already started coming in."

Worley said he is returning to the eatery’s roots with a menu strong on burgers, fries and hand-dipped milk shakes.

"Over the last several years, The Collegiate has had several endeavors with good intentions to expand the menu," he said. "We believe the best success lies in simplicity with doing what we do with excellence. We have fresh ground beef every day and fresh potatoes cut and fried. We cook everything to order and nothing is precooked."

Worley is at home behind the grill, shaping balls of ground beef into hamburgers and garnishing them with cheese, lettuce and tomato.

He learned his craft under the tutelage of George Brown, the man who gave him his first job as a preteen.

"We’re trying to do it the way he did," Worley said. "I’m having the time of my life."