This weekend’s batch of Worst of Walker losers winners are the county’s worst places to eat, sleep, and play. (Again, rules for how this all works are available here.)

Dirtiest Restaurant:
In 2008 Warren and Cindy Calhoun purchased and reopened a Chevron station on the corner of North Main and Hendrix St. in LaFayette. The following year, feeling their fledgling convenience store should be accompanied by a 24-hour eatery, they purchased the lot next door where LaFayette’s Huddle House had been. Huddle House was a small run-down facility which closed some time earlier after failing several health inspections, but the Calhouns elected not to knock it down and start over, but to instead renovate the building with all work “handled by local friends of the Chevron on a volunteer basis”.

That was the first major mistake made by the Calhouns during their journey to create what became known as Rednecks Home Style Restaurant, Walker County’s dirtiest eatery in 2009. Another major mistake was hiring only fifteen people to staff the store; after figuring for weekends and vacations that realistically leaves about three employees per shift which isn’t enough to take care of customers and prepare food to any kind of safe standard. On top of that, employees with experience in other restaurants were actually reprimanded for encouraging coworkers and managers to use healthy practices.

Those mistakes, a combination of the owners’ lack of restaurant experience and unwillingness to spend money to bring the store up to speed, resulted in a restaurant that not only stands as the dirtiest of 2009 but as one of the filthiest of all time. Several failed health inspections in a row (all below 50, and one where the inspector commented that no employee washed their hands in the time he was there) forced Rednecks to close in September, less than six months after it opened. The Chevron station folded shortly after but has since reopened under new ownership.

Dishonorable mention goes out to the LaFayette Kentucky Fried Chicken, which never has seemed quite right and often fails its own health inspections, and the LaFayette Arby’s with its multiple-year roach issues. Both stores are owned by out-of-state franchisees (North Carolina and Ohio, respectively) which reduces their oversight and management accountability. Comparing those stores to locally owned (and relatively well-run) Sonic, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s franchises makes a good argument advocating competent, experienced local ownership of any business.

Worst Restaurant Service:
Success often leads to complacency, complacency leads to laziness, and laziness usually ends whatever caused success in the first place. For that reason, two of the area’s most successful restaurants, at least from a business perspective, tie for ownership of the “worst service” award.

For many years Don Lolo has been one of LaFayette’s most popular places to eat. Low prices, nice atmosphere, and excellent mexican food combine to provide a good experience for many guests, as long as they have patience with the restaurant’s overrun and disorganized wait staff. Experienced spanish-speaking servers who know the menu inside and out provide excellent order-taking to each table, but there aren’t enough of them to run food, provide refills, and do regular table checks. Those chores are left to inexperienced and inattentive teenagers who seem unsure as to exactly what they’re expected to do. All this is complicated by a large restaurant with multiple dining areas that can’t been watched from a central vantage point.

Don Lolo is big enough to invest in better training for its younger servers, giving them the same consistency and professionalism displayed by experienced employees. The store might also consider a few remodeling changes to its layout that would expedite food delivery and allow managers to keep up with how well customers are being treated.

Twin’s Pizza and Steaks isn’t just top notch for LaFayette, they’re one of the best restaurants in the tri-state area – IF you only look at the menu. When service is also considered, Twins comes up short – dragged to the bottom of the local heap by inconsistent, inattentive, and inexperienced servers. The “key” problem with Twins is that it’s set up as a personality cult, an operation that fully depends on the presence of owner Key Koukous. Key’s high standards produce incredible food, but his high demands and short temper produce a high level of staff turnover. Twin’s is so closely tied to Key’s presence that the wheels fall off any time he’s not in the store even for a short while, which is why the restaurant closes several weeks every summer when he heads home to Greece. Twins’ business (and its customers) would be well served by having a store that could function better without its owner present.

Honorable mention goes out to Susie’s Sunset Cafe for most discriminatory service. There are few complaints about the service given and the food ranges from adequate to excellent, but Susie’s has developed a horrible reputation for refusing to serve certain people. The list of individuals kicked out or banned from the establishment is quite long – and mostly unjustified. Hopefully the eatery’s new owners (the former owners of Dari-Dip) will rectify this and take a different attitude towards its paying customers.

A special WoW award for creepiest service goes out to Yan Yesica and Janiria, Don Lolo’s last surviving mexican competitor now that El Cancun has given up the ghost. Yan Yadi Yadi’s few employees seem to react with amazement at every customer who comes in the door and practically stand by the table and watch guests eat. Needy and (dare we say) almost too-attentive table service combined with the 1980’s decor, and Christmas decorations left up into April (the photo here was take mid-month) make for an uncomfortable atmosphere that doesn’t encourage repeat visits.

The owners of Don Lolo, Twins, and Yan Yesica have all lobbied the city council to legalize beer sales within city limits, blaming economic woes and customer losses on the availability of alcohol at restaurants in Rock Spring and Ft. Oglethorpe. Not being allowed to sell drinks with a meal might be one factor, but that’s less of an issue than poor customer service. All three stores have a lot of potential, but that potential will never be fully realized until they can provide fast, attentive, and appropriate service to every customer coming through their respective doors.

Blandest Restaurant Menu:
Cleanliness and quality service are important factors for making any restaurant a success, but beyond those basics a restaurant must also have a menu compelling enough to bring in customers again and again. In a town filled with “country cooking,” simply serving up meatloaf, green beans, and Ore-Ida fries isn’t enough to differentiate from the competition – but that’s exactly what Dari-Dip attempts to do. While all the home cooking restaurants in town offer the same basics, others like Susie’s and (especially) CJ’s also offer some variety and specialties that make their menus stand out. Dari-Dip’s one unusual offering, Quail, falls far short of excitement unless you consider a small dried-out chicken filled with tiny, sharp bones exciting. The blandness there has grown worse under the new owners who are apparently content to coast along on sales generated from their ice cream menu (which is great but not what it used to be) and customers with no tastebuds.

Hotel You’d Least Like to Stay In:
Of all the poorly-run or outright embarrassing businesses in Walker County, the most shameful and disreputable operation is the Morgan Hotel in downtown LaFayette. The Morgan has existed in some form or another in LaFayette for about a century, over the years hosting any number of dignitaries, special guests, and business professionals – but in the last few years its primary function has been to host drug deals, prostitutes, and recently (or soon-to-be) homeless families. The clientele isn’t an issue so much as the low rates and low standards that attract that kind of customer base. Limited cleaning and a decor dating back to the 60’s or 70’s works out to low overhead and cheap rates, but also becomes a blight on the community.

Undergroundlings report having run-ins with owners of the LaFayette Key West and Day’s Inn, with management threatening to call the police on people using their parking lot. But the Morgan’s owners are worst of all, with an LU photographer hassled for taking photos of the hotel while standing in the street – an activity that is, despite management claims to the contrary, perfectly legal. Visitors to Walker County may be disappointed in the area’s hospitality once they’ve been greeted by a hunch-backed indian woman screaming threats to call the police on them for walking through the square with a camera.

Most Disappointing Public Event:
Votes for the lamest event went almost unanimously to the Chamber of Commerce’s Balloons & Tunes Festival, held last fall at the Rock Spring industrial park. Most of the votes were unspecific as to exactly why Balloons & Tunes should win (or lose such as it is), but we’ll give them a benefit of the doubt and assume most people were disappointed because the first annual festival was held during last September’s record-setting floods.

Balloons & Tunes was also disappointing because it seemed like little more than a retread of Chickamauga’s Down Home Days, complete with country music acts, Chickamauga church sponsorships, and overpriced concessions. Hopefully the 2010 festival (already scheduled for September 24-26) will branch out to feature different types of music and free parking even for those who don’t attend an Oakwood Baptist worship service at way-too-early-in-the-morning on a Sunday. The whole point of the festival is to bring in out-of-county guests and help local businesses; adding more musical variety, maybe some rides or attractions beside $10 tethered balloon trips, and lowering (or ending) parking fees would result in an event that could make that happen.

Runner-up for disappointing public event is LaFayette’s Amazing Christmas in Joe Stock Park. Voters were unsure if this counts as an event or a tourist attraction, but we’ll count is as the former since it’s only in place during the holidays (or, accurately, mid-October through late January). This also received several votes under the “biggest waste of government money” category, and while it was a huge waste of money it was unfortunately far from the biggest.

Amazing Christmas is, in theory, a beautiful one-of-a-kind light show with over 200,000 lights synchronized with music, a holiday attraction appealing to both young and old. In reality it looks like Santa Claus threw up in downtown LaFayette. Tacky plastic figures, fake greenery, and artificial trees that look like the neon palm in front of Hooters all flash at random, occasionally synchronized with music that includes traditional Christmas ballads, tacky modern songs, and several pieces with inappropriate lyrics – all mixed with announcements from city council members in need of free election advertising. In daylight hours the display is inactive but even tackier, with the plastic fakery taking away any historical character or appeal Joe Stock Park, Chattooga Academy, and the Marsh House next door might have ever possessed.

LaFayette paid $29,500 for the light show in 2008, dipping into SPLOST funds intended for road and infrastructure repairs. That cost was justified by estimating thousands of people would come into LaFayette from out of town (and even out of state) to see the show. The city prepared for a crush of visitors by reserving extra parking spots for Amazing Christmas across the street at First Baptist, Bi-Lo, and even two blocks away at LaFayette Academy. As usual, predicted out of town guests stayed away in droves and the extra parking never came into play, so expectations for the show were scaled down quite a bit in 2009. Even the scaled-down version costs money; setup and disassembly costs, storage, and a monster electric bill, all to enable a display that cheapens the character of an area being promoted for its history. A 2010 show is already planned and scheduled, but residents of LaFayette would be best served by scrapping the entire mess.

Lamest Tourist Attraction:
To qualify as a tourist attraction, something must be a permanent structure or exhibit and must be promoted as a tourism draw. There are several well-kept secrets within the county (including Pocket recreational area in Villanow and many natural attractions in Kensington) that would lure in a good number of tourists if they were properly promoted, but the county’s advertising dollars are generally wasted on undeserving tourist traps and tackiness. The most promoted (and arguably least-deserving) tourist attraction in Walker County is the Marsh-Warthen-Clements House.

Even by the historical commission’s own admission, the Marsh House had fewer than 500 visitors in all of 2009. That low attendance can partially be credited to the House’s inconvenient hours, opening a short time on Thursday and Sunday afternoons when volunteers are available. But even with better hours, its value as a historical landmark or tourist draw is limited.

The Marsh House was built in the 1830’s by a prominent citizen whose descendants still live in the area, occupied and damaged by Union soldiers during the Civil War, and survived into the present even as other nearby structures were knocked down to build the Bi-Lo and other modern buildings – but that’s essentially all that makes it notable. Many of the house’s original details have been replaced (it was lived in until the early 1990’s), and the one notable Civil War-related feature – hoofprints left by union soldier’s horses – is probably an invention of the home’s later occupants and not particularly impressive even if it is true.

Despite its negligible impact on the local economy and complete failure as a tourist draw, the Marsh House receives thousands and thousands of dollars each year in corporate and government support. LaFayette’s leaders and powers-that-be, suffering from Chickamauga-envy, see the house as a mecca for Civil War tourism, the only structure in town that can come close to matching Chickamauga’s Gordon-Lee Mansion. However, Civil War tourism at its best isn’t much of a draw, and the Gordon-Lee Mansion can support itself as a reception hall, fully-staffed restaurant, and war museum while the Marsh House is merely an old building that costs $10 to get inside.

We completely believe in protecting history and don’t take any issue with the Marsh House being preserved, but don’t think the city should be placing all (or many) of its economic eggs into a Marsh House-lined Civil War Tourism basket. Restoring infrastructure, enticing businesses to move into the area (or at least not move away), and providing services and activities for at-risk youth should take priority over the Marsh House, because the past doesn’t matter to a city that has no future.

Thanks to everyone who voted or commented for this year’s Worst of Walker competition. More results will be posted soon

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23 comments so far

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  1. Here is a link to LaFayette’s ’08 Christmas light display http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVVCEtuVR8Y

  2. It’s no secret, if you’re a La Fayette resident, that our electric bills go up immediately after the Christmas season to help pay for the “festive” atmosphere. That should be an elective choice because I’ve been a La Fayette resident most of my life and I’m sick of paying for something I don’t care about or enjoy in the least.

  3. Regarding the Balloons and Tunes Festival Comment:

    The Festival featured three types of music each of the three nights the festival happened. Friday was Rock/80’s, Saturday was Country, and Sunday was Gospel. There were plenty of Kids’ activities as far as inflatables are concerned – slides, moonwalks, etc. I don’t remember paying for parking, but I do remember paying $20 for the balloons rides on Friday. It sounds like however wrote that review only went on Saturday or didn’t go at all. Way to represent LaFayette Underground…

  4. Joe:

    Admittedly I wasn’t there every night. The only music I heard anything about was country, and the only act being promoted currently on the Balloons & Tunes Web site is a country singer. It doesn’t matter what kind of music they have if the acts aren’t promoted in places where interested parties can hear or read about them. Inflatables are fine for kids, but that doesn’t draw in adults (except for parents) – something more like what you’d find at a fair is what I was thinking. Parking wasn’t free, at least on-site parking.

    Appreciate your readership and kind correction.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  5. I love the Christmas lights. I have 2 small children and it’s nice to have somewhere to take them to see lights that doesn’t crush my pocketbook.

    Other than that I agree 100%! For the record though, while Yan Yada Yadi (lol) is kinda creepy, and quite dead, the food is SOO much better!!! (than Don Lolo I mean) and it’s nice to have a quite place to eat.

    http://www.ymexican.com check out the menu. lol

  6. Michelle, you are right. The lights do offer some excitement for the kiddos. I agree with that, but it is pretty limited also. Everybody should not have to have their ultility bills go up because of it and it was probably not a good use of the SPLOST funds either.

    I have only eaten at YYY once. The food I had was average, but the last time I ate at Don Lolo, I would have to say the same. El Cancun was far better than either. Could one of those resturants please find the recipe for the Suizas please! That was, by far, the best Mexican food I’ve ever had. I don’t mind a quite resturant either, and I would not complain about YYY for that reason. Don Lolo does need better customer service though, and not just until the food is served, the whole time. Either resturant is adequate in my book, but going out to eat is expensive, and if I am going to get adequate “mexican” food, Taco Bell is cheaper….once it opens back up after the smoke damage. Until either of the Mexican restuarants get the Suzias recipe from El Cancun, they will continue to only be adequate in my book!

  7. If you really live in Lafayette and you have nothing good to say about any thing around you and you are not doing anything to change the things you don’t like then why are you still here???

  8. Well if you look at what the point of the site is, you’ll see it is not about pointing out the good stuff, because there are plenty of people that only do that and ignore the things that are wrong with the city. Here are some nice things: LaFayette has a “cute” square downtown, and the Scare on the Square is also “cute”. The one children’s park is decent and they do have some sports for kids at the Rec. There is a Walmart. It only takes a couple of minutes to drive from one end to the other. The area surrounding city is pretty. There. Some nice things. However, those nice things don’t really make it a nice place to live, in general, for people under 60 years old. Its mediocre, so for those who love mediocre, then it is the place to life, and if you are over 60, it is also okay to live in because you have your clubs, your churches, etc. and you don’t have to worry about having things for kids to do, cleaning up the bad parts of town, the roads you never drive on with the potholes, the kids dying in the drug houses in Linwood, the schools that really aren’t that great, limited recreation opportunities, and a city council and other leaders in town who don’t care about any of those things either. If I could leave town, I would, but I’m stuck here for awhile longer and then, like most other halfway intelligent middle-class families, will also leave town and all that will be left is a skeleton crew to work at the remaining employers and all the old people who think the Marsh House is the greatest thing since Jesus and that the golf course is the answer to everyone’s problems.

  9. You assume I’m not doing anything (like this blog isn’t anything) and assume that this is all I do… There are many things being done, or being attempted anyway, and this blog is intended to motivate people to do more.

    This was overall a pretty positive posting, we made some suggestions of how to improve some things. I’d love to see Don Lolo improve it’s service and made suggestions for ways to improve Balloons & Tunes. What am I supposed to do, echo cheery (untruthful) press releases from the mayor’s office and chamber of commerce ? If that’s what you’re after then just stick with reading the Messenger.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  10. You know what I heard? If you go to the Messenger’s office and give the secret handshake, you will be taken down into an underground, no pun intended, bunker that has bars, liquor by the drink, all kinds of rides and free inflatables for children, a gambling room, ancient Egyptian gold for everyone, free healthcare that doesn’t end up with long lines and rationing of med’s, waterfalls that run with chocolate and the blissful rain of Liberal Lou’s Kissy Kiss Gum Gum Drops. Everyone with money and the secret local illuminated identification can get in. But, no poor people, no educators, no one who rides motorbikes and no one that doesn’t swear by golf.
    This must be true, cause I mean, have you seen that office?
    I bet we can really find out. I was watching Glen Beck and he got me fired up and I say it is time to ask questions. We are only asking questions!
    And it doesn’t end there…. Oh, no sir! The good ole’ boy system runs even further! After you go through the underground bunker, past the giant Owl memorial, across the Bridge of the Light Workers, between the secret alien antigravity propulsion facility and round the Shrine of Ahmund Ra…mbler, there are tunnels all over the under infrastructure of the town. Apparently, all the town leaders and rich people meet there and scheme about ways to make sure that all the folks who choose not to work and live off the gubment, never get any of the distribution of wealth, which Goldman Sachs deserves anyway and can I get a “yes, we can” on that? Well, I want my stuff! Where’s my stuff? Everybody else has their stuff, what about my stuff? Who all and who doesn’t have stuff? Do you have stuff? Where’s my stuff then?
    I mean, sure, the paper’s in on it and try to fly by as if they are around the below middle class level types, but once night falls, they are dressed in tuxedo’s and riding in Escalades on tax payer money at that, doth sayeth the source, I imagine! It must be true, because it is printed here and anything that is printed or said on TV, we should believe as fact, right?
    I have never seen it, but I am sure my source, that I am not going to name to confirm this information because it would probably out them and me and even though it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out, I would rather be safe and not out my source that I meet at the checkout line at Wal-Mart. Yeah, I am all about local shopping, but Wal-Mart has a hold on me, a hold!
    Them press releases are confirmed 100%, I bet. They make ‘um them big paychecks and are all in on it! Like, I hate it when they put out one of them press releases that don’t name names! I need to know names, so I can get mad about it and have someone to talk about!
    And you know what, I bet it has to do with the alien agenda! Yep, yep!
    I bet that aliens are controlling our local leaders, only to later harvest our body parts.
    I mean the area has nothing for young people. Why won’t these here leaders provide that? Who wouldn’t want to invest in something and strike while the iron is hot? I am sitting here, waiting on something to happen. I gripe and I gripe and blog and I blog, but nothing changes! How long do I have to sit here, pointing this finger, waiting on something to change? How long do I have to wait to see someone else decide to run for office that cares about what I want to be done here? Seriously, I am waiting on someone to do this for me. How long must I sit here in front of this computer screen, waiting on someone to fix it for me. I tell you, I am ready for the gubment to come here and make sure I am taken care of. I would give up my bill o’ rights to just have someone do this work for me!
    The LU should be praised for pointing out all of these facts that are proven and guaranteed, I would figure. Like, who is a drunk, who is crooked (sssh! it’s everybody. wink wink nudge nudge. say no more). We don’t need to get involved too much though, right LU? Because to take on these big, rich, well connected leaders, we need someone, as you said, with money and connections…. Wait a sec….Huh?….. Well, um, anyway, as for leaving the area. Are you kidding? I have more fun sitting here grinding my axe than ever getting out of town, lest getting outta this recliner. Anyway, I gotta go right now. Me and my friend here are going to sit in front of the courthouse and wait on someone to pay us to do so.
    Aside from that, nice little story.

  11. ^—great!

  12. bold ‘n zesty is the smartest person in lafayette, georgia

  13. Cute Bold n’ Zesty. Guess you know everything there is to know. Guess the rest of us should just stay at home and be quiet because you’ve got it all figured out. Phew! Was getting worried that no one would be able to handle it, but you’ve got it. We should all just give up, be quiet, and let you tell us what to think because you seem to have everybody and every thing figured out. I can sleep better tonight that my time left in LaFayette will be good and that nothing else will be wrong or bad in the city because you’ve got the watch.

  14. They are just trying to bait you KTB.

    Do not let them. It is nothing more than another attempt to disorganise & disrupt the purpose of this site (amaturest @ best…)

    Ignore. They are not worth the waste of electrons.

  15. If you really read LaFayette Underground and you have nothing good to say about any thing they say and you are not doing anything to change the things you don’t like then why are you still here???

  16. Since when is Don Lolo’s food adequate? If you ever do leave La Fayette try to get some real Mexican food. I also heard that Pie Slingers may eventually open a place in La Fayette. I hope so, they have great food and actually know how to run a restaurant.

  17. Don Lolo isn’t the best, I’d say it IS adequate – but just that, adequate. I was trying to be nice, since everybody says we’re not, and don’t really eat in there enough to critique the entire menu. They’re no El Cancun, that’s for sure.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  18. Bold ‘n Zesty – that is the funniest dang thing I have ever read. “The Shrine of Ahmund Ra….mbler”….I actually laughed out loud!

  19. Bold ‘n Zesty: That was a humorous rant. Any chance of spies or double agents that might procure for us poor people the secret handshake of admittance?

    LaFayette Mexican Restaurants: Don Lolo would do well to revisit their roots of the little house on main street when food and service were both above average. In the meantime, YYY as the owner has suggested to call it, has an excellent menu and the only authentic tamale i have been able to find in the entire greater North Georgia Area. The staff, while i will admit can come across creepy, is actually very personable and makes a point to remember you after just a visit or two. As for the Christmas scene still on the window in April, maybe they are trying to lure the hundreds of local residents who still have their Christmas lights up?

    Today is my first time to discover The LaFayette underground as well as to post here. It excites me to know that people are openly expressing themselves and actively pursuing solutions to our communities seemingly endless list of problems and unfulfilled potential.

    I have only recently become a resident of LaFayette, although i grew up in Burning Bush with a Rock Spring mailing address and often my family would visit LaFayette for recreation and shopping.

    I look forward to reading more comments and becoming an active participant on this webpage.

  20. As of Monday the Christmas scene has finally been scraped off the windows at YYY.

    Reipan: check out the archives; reading back through older posts will help put the new posts into context. A lot of misguided comments about my supposed political positions and the intentions of this site could be avoided if people would read through the archives (or at least read an entire post) before commenting.

    Thanks for reading.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  21. Anonymous and unidentifiable sources , close to the toilet, in the East-Wing of The City of La Fayette’s City Hall, have alluded to the possibility of our esteemed and illustrious City Manager, Bozo, may be retiring soon.

    Like rats deserting a sinking ship, after they have knawed so many holes in it, it looks like a pea-sifter………self-preservation overcomes even the simplest of creatures.

    Due to the nature of the beast, this information (or mis-information) cannot be verified of course, but one thing is fairly certain. Should this come to pass, it is not an absolute that we will have seen the last of the contamination of Bozo and his ilk.

    Point being, Bozo has managed to ferret his way into all levels of government, up to and including, the county level (see Walker County Chamber of Commerce/Board Members).

    In closing, the views and opinons of this contributor DOES reflect those of this site, for the most part. In short, if you do not like it, DON’T READ IT, and PLEASE, do not address me personally, because the only response you will recieve is open-air STATIC………..

  22. Don Lolo’s is one of the nastiest behind-the-scene places I have ever been in my life. I’ve worked in the kitchen doing maintenance/repair while the place was shut down and it was so nasty we eventually left before finishing the job due to the filth. The owner is a Puerto Rican who hires the Mexicans to run the place, and they are absolute pigs when it comes to cleanliness. I don’t know how they pass health inspections unless there’s money being slid under the greasy tables. I guarantee people would not eat there if they knew the truth. It’s easy to fool Americans with a nice atmosphere, while the cucarachas are crawling up the chef’s leg while he rolls your burrito.

  23. Now I am scared to eat anywhere in Lafayette thank you all for your honesty on the matter, lets just run everyone out of business! Heck who cares if we now have beer and dining in our town. Has it not always been available at gas stations and now Wal mart among others? Heck if you really think about it most of our so called “higher end citizens” enjoy it with a round of golf on sunday!!! We should not be bashing our town instead try to improve it. I love my little town, but lets face it we need change…