A couple of years ago, the children and I took a Saturday trip to the small city of Rome, and left very impressed with the look of a very old restaurant on Broad Street, the city’s major thoroughfare. John Jacobs opened the Partridge Restaurant in 1933. This very popular place remained in family hands for more than seventy years, and, in mid-2015, the family resumed ownership and brought back many employees who had worked here many years back. When we paid our bill, Marie and I met a nice woman named Gaynelle who has worked here on and off since 1972.
But I’m getting ahead of myself a little. One Friday in late March, Marie had the day off and the two of us drove the hour and a bit to Rome to enjoy some time together without children in tow. We arrived at the Partridge right at 11 am, and the day’s menus were not off the printer yet. They print a new menu page every day and leave pencils on the tables for guests to circle their choices.
Marie picked the beef tips over rice, with squash casserole, cabbage, and pickled beets. They were pretty good; the beets were the standout. I had a sliced turkey sandwich with rice and gravy, as I’d be eating again a little later. It wasn’t at all bad. I had another meal to look forward to in a short while, so I didn’t finish either, but I certainly could have. They do very nice work here, and the service is just fabulous.
I must report, for the minority of us who are wild about design, that the interior is nowhere as glorious as the incredibly cool storefront and outside signage. Outside, it’s a lovely and promising work of art deco, which must have cost a mint in any age, but especially in the Depression of the 1930s. Perhaps the signage came later? Regardless of when the exterior was built; inside it’s only simple-utility tables and chairs with dark walls. The booths are raised a little higher than you see in most restaurants, and they don’t sit flush on the floor like you usually see. Anybody with an interest in antique furniture may find these worth examining. Also, the interior walls are given over to some wonderful old photos of Rome and the family. After you finish a nice, leisurely meal here – catfish and chicken livers are said to be very, very popular – it would be worth your while to ask one of the employees to tell you about the photos.
We learned from our server and and from Gaynelle that the restaurant was owned by the Jacobs family until 2009, when Karemy Jacobs, then in her eighties, sold it to the first of two different owners. Neither apparently seemed to click with the community, and in the summer of 2015, the second of these owners returned it to the family. John and Karemy Jacobs’ daughter, Angelle Jacobs Thornton, now runs the business, and it’s said that Karemy, now 95, often visits and spends time with her guests.
(Incidentally, with all respect to the family, I dispute the claim on their website that theirs is the third oldest restaurant in Georgia. Make no mistake, any business that makes it for 83 years is downright amazing and they should be applauded and celebrated, but I can name more than two in Georgia that are older than the Partridge: Leopold’s, the Majestic, Sprayberry’s, Atkins Park Tavern, Fresh Air, Vandy’s, and a couple more.)
After we finished eating, we enjoyed a nice, long stroll. Broad Street in Rome, where parking is free for two hours, turns out to be a very interesting little walk for anybody who enjoys old buildings. There’s a Masonic temple that was built in 1877 and an old theater, along with several places where the ugly edifices of later decades are in the process of being pulled down to restore the original brick and steelwork underneath. The DeSoto Theatre was built in 1929, and, according to a plaque outside, was the “first movie house in the South designed specifically for talking pictures,” but it hosts live productions these days.
As for the businesses, they seem to be thriving. There are more than a dozen restaurants on the strip along with the Partridge, including the place we’ll introduce you in the next chapter, along with two different used bookstores, several clothing shops, and at least three new age / crystal healing places.
On the east side of the street, the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers meet to form the Coosa River, and there’s a nice pedestrian bridge where local couples declare their devotion with padlocks. Beneath the bridge is a plaza which is no longer open to the public; whenever the rivers last rose, it left the plaza a complete mess and it’s all fenced off now. Still, the main thoroughfare and bridge make for a lovely background for a long walk on a nice afternoon.
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