WHILE THE FOOD scene in hotspots like Blue Ridge and Dahlonega is already well-established, there are still some hidden gems in many of North Georgia’s more modest towns. Such is the case with Old Mulehouse in Downtown Jasper. Situated on the border of Georgia’s Piedmont and Blue Ridge regions, Jasper is the gateway to the North Georgia mountains. Until recently, it was mostly a place to pass through. But Old Mulehouse, with its chef-driven pub menu, historic dining space and breathtaking views of the mountains just beyond, gives you plenty of reasons to stop for a visit.
ROOTED IN HISTORY
“The restaurant began with an idea,” says owner George Koulouris. An Atlanta native, Koulouris drove through downtown Jasper whenever visiting his in-laws, and always passed by a vacant space on the corner of Main Street downtown.
“I kept saying, ‘They should do this, they should do that,” he recalls. “I never realized at that time I was developing the concept for my restaurant.” One day, during one of these drive-bys, a serendipitous sign had appeared—the space was for sale.
“I knew the universe had brought me to this moment,” Koulouris says.
“I had to do this.” He named his restaurant with a nod to the history of the space.
“In my understanding of the lore, Jasper was once a hub for the mule trade,” Koulouris says. In the early 1900s, many small towns had dedicated spaces for visitors to store or sell their mules when they passed through.
Once cars became the common mode of transportation, the building on the corner of Main Street and Highway 53 served the community as a car dealership, and eventually a Napa Auto Parts. When that business closed, it sat vacant for 15 years.
But a few years ago, a new owner saw the potential of the space and began to restore it while still maintaining its original character by refacing the exterior and adding new floors and a striking arched ceiling. Koulouris purchased the revived space in 2019, and by September, Old Mulehouse was open for business.
A BLANK CANVAS
Though his concept for Old Mulehouse was brand new, this wasn’t Koulouris’ first foray into the food industry. In fact, he and his brother, Pano, own and operate Grecian Gyro restaurants throughout metro Atlanta.
“My dad opened the first one near the Atlanta airport in 1982,” Koulouris says. “The joke is I have been working there since I was old enough to hold a spatula.”
The Koulouris brothers began expanding the family business in 2007 but still harbored this long-time dream to create a gastropub that celebrated
Georgia’s local flavors. Old Mulehouse was the blank canvas they needed to bring this vision to life. Today, Pano manages the day-to-day operations of the Grecian Gyro while George focuses his attention on Old Mulehouse and its’ chef-driven tavern menu, which brings something new and exciting to the North Georgia food scene.
“We wanted to take pub staples and elevate them while keeping them approachable,” Koulouris says. Weaving in both European and Southern pub influences, Chef de Cuisine Peter Brandes’ menu features pub favorites with a thoughtful twist, like a house-made pretzel with pimento beer cheese sauce, fish & chips battered in local Eventide Kolsch beer, and a pecan-crusted trout sourced from Bramlett Trout Farm in nearby Suches. Of course, Koulouris’ Greek influence makes appearances, too, with a selection of gyros and a side of Grecian potatoes, perfectly fried potato wedges dusted with the most delicious seasoning.
In the past year, the menu has gone through a bit of a revolution, adding the comfort food people were craving in the upheaval of 2020, like a hearty chicken Parmesan with whipped potatoes. “We currently have a hybrid gastropub/post-Covid menu,” Koulouris quips.
Another new addition last year was the consulting expertise of Chef Hans Rueffert, the former “Next Food Network Star” contestant known widely as “the chef without a stomach” after a battle with stage 3 stomach cancer. As a culinary ambassador for Old Mulehouse, Rueffert helped the restaurant adapt during the 2020 shutdown to make its menu more take-out friendly while also adding his signature stamp of healthy options. One of his best contributions is the Wellness Bowl, a daily special of seasonal vegetables that appeals to gluten-free and other nutrition-conscious guests.
Rounding out the culinary team (and adding a bit of balance to that aforementioned wellness) is Pastry Chef Ashlee Dupree, whose masterpiece cheesecakes are perhaps the restaurant’s best-kept secret, keeping guests guessing with creative and seasonally inspired flavors like coconut caramel rum, caramel apple and pecan pie.
Fainting Goat, Engleheim and Chateau Meichtry. Because of this, visitors can end a day touring local vineyards here in Jasper with a fantastic meal and a glass of a new favorite wine.
WE’LL TOAST TO THAT
When it comes to beverages, Koulouris makes it a priority to bring in as many local offerings as possible. The craft beer list regularly includes options from breweries like Firemaker and Tantrum, and many of the cocktails include local ingredients as well the Georgia Gin & tonic, for instance, with Old 4th Ward Gin and 18.21 old fashioned tonic, both made in Atlanta. The Georgia Peach Mule features fresh local peaches whenever possible and “barmeister” Logan Merrell makes his own fresh syrups for flavored margaritas—a particular hit for diners on the outdoor patio when the weather is just right.
Old Mulehouse’s local wine list is especially unique, as not many other restaurants offer it, even in Georgia wine country. Since most local wineries produce on a small scale, it can be a challenge to maintain inventory, but Koulouris is still committed to making it happen. Though the list changes with availability, you’ll almost always find offerings from nearby
The energy at Old Mulehouse is also a welcome change of pace in these parts, with live music on Friday and Saturday nights and an acoustic set during Sunday brunch. The restaurant hosts open mic night once a month and has even more special events in the pipeline. In December, the space will take on a festive air as the Old Yulehouse, with holiday events planned throughout the month.
A room in the back, which offers sweeping views of the mountains, is available for private events, while a lounge area with arcade games, couches, bookshelves and darts provides entertainment while you wait for a table or enjoy a drink from the bar.
Whether you’re winding your way up or down from your next mountain adventure—or simply setting your sights on your next great meal—make a stop at Old Mulehouse. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
2 North Main Street, Jasper