Georgia Dining: Watershed

Watershed Restaurant
406 W Ponce De Leon Ave
Decatur, GA 30030

Web Site:

Unlike other many other food bloggers out there in foodiespace, I’m not in the practice of doing negative write ups of the restaurants I visit. If I have a particularly negative experience or if I feel a restaurant just isn’t good, I simply would prefer not to write it up at all. That’s because I don’t consider myself to be a food critic — and I don’t pretend to follow the journalistic practices of a real newspaper food columnist. I’m a food writer who likes to try to reproduce the dining experience for the people who read my blog so they can make their own decisions about whether or not they want to visit a restaurant or order a particular dish. However, I also like to think I have a relationship with the chefs and restaurateurs who’s restaurants I write about, and I share my likes and dislikes with them when it comes to service issues, particular dish preparations, and so on — so sometimes, it’s necessary to play tough love in a particular writeup, especially if I know that a restaurant can do better.

It is said that a fine dining restaurant should be able to function well and replicate the experience of the Executive Chef or Chef de Cuisine even if the chef happens to be elsewhere that night. For the most part, I agree — I’ve had particularly good meals in many restaurants of well-known chefs, where the Sous or even the line cooks did a really great job in representing the dishes and paid close attention to quality. In the case of the very popular Watershed modern New American and Southern-style restaurant in Decatur, Georgia (bankrolled by singing duo Indigo Girls) they really dropped the ball in terms of attention to quality and preparation during my most recent visit, when partner and Executive Chef Scott Peacock was away in New York (presumably for the most recent James Beard event). I will now explain this in detail.

The Watershed Restaurant in Decatur, Georgia.

Watershed Dining Room.

Chef out of town that evening? No problem, right? Wrong. Click on “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Watershed main dining room. The restaurant used to be a old gas and service station, and the dining room resides in the garage space where the cars used to be serviced. It’s definitely a cool space with a great vibe. It’s unfortunate this evening that for the most part, the food did not live up to the space.

Watershed bar area.

Rachel ordered the Sauté of Wild Mushrooms with Cheese and Country Ham on Toast. Of the appetizers we tried I thought it was the most successful, although like everything else that evening, it was completely over seasoned.

Creamy Stone Ground Shrimp Grits and Pullman Plank. This is a re-invention of the classic Southern Shrimp and Grits dish, in that the shrimp itself is pureed into the grits, which was not to my liking and was not what I expected. I read the menu with the word “Shrimp” next to “Grits” and thought I was going to get Shrimp and Grits. I can’t fault the restaurant for my inability to read in dark lighting, but be it as it may, it was over salted and had way too much butter and cheese in it. I did like the Pullman loaf plank, and it was fun to dip pieces of it into the grits. I just wish there were actual visible shrimp in the grits. I see what they are trying to do, but the execution just didn’t work.

Spinach, Bacon, Egg and Mushroom salad. Nice bacon, egg was cooked properly, dressing was simple. I liked it, but then again, it’s tough to screw this one up.

Iceberg Lettuce with Bacon and Blue Cheese Dressing. Again, very simple salad, difficult to screw up, executed properly.

Grilled All-Natural Pork Chop with Mac-n-Cheese and Summer Salad. Here is a wonderful piece of meat that was completely destroyed by letting it over brine. Although it was cooked properly, it was way, way too salty. This insult to injury was compounded by the fact that the mac and cheese had way too much cheese in it and it broke into an oily mess. The summer salad tasted way too sweet, as if too much sugar was added to it.

Rachel’s Vegetable plate. Everything had way too much butter in it and again, completely over salted. I also would like to point out that in the end of August this restaurant was serving unripe tomatoes with white cores inside them, which is unforgivable, especially for a place attracting an upscale crowd such as this and in a metropolitan area with good farmers markets and local producers that sell good locally grown tomatoes.

Pecan Tart. We liked it. But then again, its a simple dessert, presumably prepared by a pastry chef in advance.

“Very Good” dark and moist chocolate cake. I agree, it was very good. I just wish the rest of our meal was too.

Fresh Fruit Buckle. Another simple dessert winner. Maybe we just should have came for dessert and coffee.

If Scott Peacock is reading, first and foremost I’m sorry we didn’t get the chance to meet and that I did not get the chance to eat the food prepared as you likely would have wanted to be represented from kitchen that evening. However, your Sous and your line should be able to do a respectable job on a Thursday night, when the restaurant was completely packed. I’m thinking you need to spend less time in New York at celebrity cheffing events and spend more time educating your staff and focusing their attention on executing the dishes properly.

Now, it could be said that I just don’t like the regular style of the food at this restaurant and that the food is aways over seasoned and improperly executed regardless whether or not the Executive Chef is present. This could certainly be, as a few cursory web searches seem to indicate this might be true. I will note however our dining companion that evening who had been to the restaurant several times indicated to me that she felt that the attention to preparation was off and it was even saltier than normal.

That being said, I’d be willing to try this restaurant’s food again, if Chef Peacock was in attendance. I hear he makes a killer pan fried chicken on Tuesdays.

11 Responses to Georgia Dining: Watershed

  1. That is a real shame. I just recommended this restaurant to a colleague of mine who is coming to Atlanta next week. I think I will tell her not to go.

  2. Please tell Melissa, that David and I send her a big hello.

  3. maliha11 says:

    oh my gosh, my friend is on a exchange program in Atlanta :P I’ll tell her to check it out if the food is that bad then that would be a very good American cultural experience :)

  4. Melissa says:

    I have to say that I was really rather surprised at some of the food we had at Watershed … I have been there before with another group and the food was much better … the desserts did make me smile though .. and I still want to do a Tuesday fried chicken dinner … Jason has said basically everything I would have …

  5. Christine says:

    wow. Jason, one of the things I appreciate about your blog is you are not there to be a critic. You are a guy that likes to check out food. It must have been way off if you’re dissing something on the site.

  6. LizAtl says:

    Interestingly, as both are highly regarded ATL chefs, both Scott and Kevin Rathbun can have a very heavy hand with the salt. Scott even mentons the need to properly use enough salt in the cookbook. Maybe when he is away this gets translated into dishes that are way too salty. I recall some salty edge last time we were there. But that was a while ago…

    Doesn’t seem that Ms Edna’s cookbooks have the same emphasis on salt, but I’ll look again.

  7. […] a disappointing meal at Watershed, Melissa suggested we take a look at JCT Kitchen, a similar modern Southern-style casual dining […]

  8. Jamie Cate says:

    You should be educated. The food served at Watershed follows a long history and tradition of Southern food, which is usually brined and/or well-seasoned(we southerners love it salty). There is no cheese in the Shrimp Grits with a Pullman Plank. It is the smoothness of natural grits, which you may not be accustomed to. The desserts are fabulous, and made by them (according to Scott’s recipes). I can understand why you liked them. This restaurant is an ATL favorite, and I think your representation of it is short-sighted and ignorant. I think it’s laughable that you choose to support another establishment that strivew to copy what Watershed has been doing well for years.

  9. Jamie, I meant no disrespect to your traditions, to your city or to Chef Peacock. However I can tell you that I’ve eaten a great deal of food in the South, including Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, West Virginia, and Florida. I’ve certainly eaten my share of grits and I’ve had enough exposure to the various styles that I can recognize when something is poorly prepared or not. Watershed simply did not deliver on the experience that it promised at the price level they are marketing the restaurant at.

    As to my “support” of another establishment, I “support” nobody. I either like a restaurant and its food or I don’t, its that simple. I felt JCT Kitchen prepared much better food for the money that was being spent, and that has nothing to with my depth of experience with the cuisine. I really don’t care who’s been doing it first.

  10. tiffany says:

    Shame, shame, shame……I just visited that restaurant last month and they were AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!! Pretty harsh review for only being there one time. One man’s palette is not the same as everyone’s. I say way to go WATERSHED!

  11. Jeff says:

    I totally agree with the writer’s observations that the pork chop was overbrined and the mac and cheese overly salty. The food was really good (in fact, I want the mac and cheese recipe) but things were WAY too salty.

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