We continue to say this over and over again, but the thing we love most about North Georgia is not the waterfalls, or the mountain vistas, or the rivers and streams. It is the people. It sounds so trite to say it, but they are the literal “glue” that hold these communities together.
Whereas in the “big city” it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, in most North Georgia towns, it is true that “everyone knows your name”. Nowhere is this more beautifully reflected than at Clarks’ on Main in downtown Clayton, Georgia.
Burt and Erin Clark are like a lot of us who ended up in North Georgia. They come from somewhere else but after visiting on the weekends and taking vacations here for years, they gave into the urge and moved their family and life to North Georgia. They decided to open Clarks’ On Main and haven’t looked back.
If I’m being honest, I should have given this profile over to someone else who isn’t as passionate about Burt and Erin as I am. Because I am terribly yet unapologetically biased. They are our favorite people in town.
They have a great restaurant with good food, dozens of craft beer taps, and a fun local vibe with 15 televisions, pool tables, darts, and live music. And because they are the next door neighbors of our brick and mortar shop, not only does every bartender know my drink and have it waiting on me before I can even cross through the front door, I’m pretty sure all the servers, kitchen staff, and employees know it as well.
Like I said, I’m biased.
In a town full of great people who are passionate about this community we call home, Burt and Erin are the top of the list. They encourage other businesses. They look out for their team and do their best to do right by them on and off the clock. And they are our biggest cheerleaders.
Clarks’ is a place that both visitor’s and locals hang out. They have taco specials on Taco Tuesday and wing specials on Wing Wednesday and during Falcons game they pour free shots every time the Falcons score. You’ll find Georgia fans and Tech fans and Auburn fans (War Eagle) on Saturdays rooting their team onto victory. And you’ll find a who’s who of Rabun County enjoying a cold beer at the bar most evenings.
Most importantly you’ll find good people who know your name when you walk in the door and shake your hand when you leave. Since I don’t quite know how to tell the story of Clarks’ without continuing to gush over the people who made it great, I decided to do a little Q&A with Burt and Erin. Read along below and then stop in and tell them hello and that we sent you in.
Wander North Georgia: Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to call North Georgia home?
Burt & Erin: Erin’s parents introduced us to the area; they bought a condo close to downtown – we couldn’t believe they sold their condo in Hilton Head and bought one somewhere Erin had never heard of. However, when we visited the first time, we fell in love. Our kids were on their own (Madeleine was heading to college that year) and we were ready to make a move. We sold our house in Peachtree City, and headed to the mountains. Not one regret since.
WNG: Why did you guys decide to open Clarks’ on Main?
Burt & Erin: The stars collided. Burt had always wanted to own a sports bar. Cappy Taylor (owner of Zeppelin’s and the former restaurant in this spot) had approached us a couple of times. The final time she asked, we were driving back from Buffalo, New York where Erin had just learned some disheartening news about her job. The timing was perfect. We decided to open Clarks’ driving back on the interstate somewhere in West Virginia.
WNG: What is it like running a business with your spouse?
Erin: It’s interesting! Burt and I (typically) get along really well. We went from my traveling 2-4 days a week to seeing each other every day and every night – which has been a great thing. Being able to watch him handle issues is inspiring. We each have our strengths and they play off each other well.
Burt: Yes it is Interesting! I have been the GM of several restaurants and usually only deal with the owner or owners, but with running a restaurant as an equal with a spouse creates an interesting dynamic! I typically would fight for the way I want to do things with the owners but that is a little more difficult when its my wife!
WNG: Your place has become known as one of the “local” spots although you still see a ton of visitors every day. What are your thoughts on the local/visitor dynamic?
Burt & Erin: We truly love this town and all of its people. We always knew we wanted to cater to the locals and by doing this the weekend visitors would follow. When visitors come into town they want to hang out with the locals and that makes our crowd interesting and fun.
WNG: You guys seem to know the name of every person that comes in the door and I know that comes from a genuine place with y’all. You’re always there and take immense pride in the customer experience. Why are you so passionate about this and owning your own small business in North Georgia?
Burt & Erin: Clayton is such a cool town. The people are diverse, dynamic and super interesting. We were amazed to find so many young people here. It’s also a growing town and we are very interested in helping it grow in a positive direction. We believe the more businesses and restaurants in town, the better we all will be. It’s been fun becoming part of the community. It’s been one of our goals to greet everyone and get to know as many people as we can.
WNG: Clarks’ is an interesting mix. At first glance, it looks like an amazing bar with live music, pool tables, tons of tvs, football on game days, 36 beers on taps, a full cocktail list. But you also have a great restaurant and food menu. Why did you decide to do both instead of just being a bar?
Burt & Erin: We wanted to create somewhere that we would want to hang out. We wanted a fun atmosphere with amazing food. We wanted a sports bar that men and women – and children – would want to come back to. We also want our team to love their jobs. We try to make it fun! Burt came up with the 40’ bar and Erin wanted to create an environment that was not like a typical sports bar. We’re not finished – it’s still a work in progress, but it will only get better . . .
WNG: What is your favorite thing on the menu? Favorite cocktail?
Erin: It’s hard to choose, but I love our tacos and I love our pizza. And I’m a beer drinker! Miller Lite is my favorite, but I’ve started trying more things – I love the Summer Shandy, for example. I’ve also started to drink Bloody Mary’s (the spicier, the better!).
Burt: I think our wings with the assortment of flavors are the best I have ever had. My favorite drink on out cocktail list is the Fig Me Happy but favorite cocktail is the classic Old Fashion, I also love the assortment of beers and seem to work my way thru all of them but my favorite is the Dirty Bastard.
WNG: I know you guys like to stay active and hike, when you’re not working, where can we find you?
Burt & Erin: We love Tallulah Falls and the Gorge! We try to “hike” the gorge at least three times a week. It is such a beautiful area – and to combine exercise with the views is amazing. We also enjoy the other restaurants and bars in town.
WNG: If a visitor asked you what to do while they were in Clayton, what are some of your “local recommendations”?
Burt & Erin: Definitely Tallulah Falls. We also love Rabun Bald and Minnehaha Falls! You also can’t go wrong renting a boat on either Lake Rabun or Burton.