To her family, she’s Nana.
To the rest of us, Gretchen Shoemaker is the welcoming and hug-happy hostess at Georgia’s, purveyor of O.C.’s most crave-worthy soul food.
Open since 2014 in Anaheim’s Packing House, Georgia’s is a vibrant, loving tribute to Shoemaker’s late husband, George, her high school sweetheart and catering partner. “I want Georgia’s to be a legacy that represents my true love,” Shoemaker says.
Fans of proper collard greens, gravy-smothered pork chops, and superlative fried chicken were quick to adore the family recipes prepared by the kitchen staff under the direction of daughter Nika and son-in-law Marlon Machado.
Nika says the family’s commitment is all-consuming.
“Our family saying is now ‘Georgia’s is the last thing on our lips before bed and the first word spoken upon waking.’ ” Based on the promise that every guest “leaves 100 percent satisfied with a meal that tastes home-cooked by Nana,” the comforting vibe drew followers.
Chicken and dumplings are a winter staple at Georgia’s, but not on Thanksgiving or Christmas, when the restaurant closes so staffers can spend holiday time with loved ones.
The initial team of a dozen has grown, and today Georgia’s employs 25 people. “I feel enriched by the wonderful staff we’ve built here,” Shoemaker says, “and consider it my great fortune to call them family.”
ONE MORE BITE: Georgia’s is adding to the family in 2019 with a location in Long Beach, further proof the family isn’t slowing down anytime soon. “The entrepreneur spirit runs through this family, and if we didn’t create Georgia’s, we’d be doing something in the food industry,” Nika says.