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The Galley at Edgar Evins Marina has a whole new look, great menu

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cheri Cairns, right, is shown with Kay Tuggle, owner of Edgar Evins Marina in DeKalb County on Center Hill Lake. (Photo by Nicole W. Little)

You just can’t ignore the fact Sheri Cairns believes she’s landed where she belongs.

“I’m so happy I could jump up and down,” said Cairns, general manager of The Galley at Edgar Evins Marina on Center Hill Lake, which is located west of Silver Point in northern DeKalb County.

The Galley, as a restaurant, has been in business for around 20 years. However, the changes which have taken place in the last few months have transformed the place — from its atmosphere to its food.

Kaye Tuggle, general manager of Edgar Evins Marina, said she wanted to make some major changes to the restaurant. It was through Ruth Dyal, director of the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association, that Tuggle learned about Cairns. One day while the three of them were on a trip to Knoxville, Tuggle and Cairns began talking about the restaurant and eventually the decision was made to bring Cairns in as general manager.

“The more we talked, the more we decided it would be a match made in heaven,” said Cairns.

Cairns said one of the biggest changes which has taken place is on the menu, where a wide variety of food for all tastes is available. She called it “20 percent organic and 80 percent Upper Cumberland southern culture” food. The marina also added a patio section with tables, adding even more to the ambiance of the water-based restaurant.

Jammin’ at Hippie Galley

For Carins, cooking is a passion and she readily admits to being a “hippie before it was popular,” meaning she was into the “whole foods” scene when it was first popular and is now enjoying sharing that philosophy with people who come to the restaurant.

“Everything we serve down here we try to incorporate in the simplest forms,” said Cairns, adding there is always a “southern flair” because that’s what people are “hankering for.”

She said the people who come to the restaurant have a “diverse pallet,” meaning it is a diverse group. The “slip tenants” have certain tastes, she said, as do the locals.

Cairns said they have scaled down the menu, but made it diverse. They also have lunch specials and buffets. The menu includes items like seafood, steaks, burgers, pizza, catfish, vegetarian meals (including a portabella mushroom sandwich which is a big hit), catfish and more. There’s also a deli in the building as well as a pastry case.

Cairns said one of the top priorities of The Galley is to attract people from the surrounding area to come to the restaurant.

“We want people to come from all walks of life,” said Cairns.

She said the restaurant encourages area businesses and groups to have meetings when the restaurant is not open. She said groups of 15 or more are welcome Tuesdays through Thursdays. “We would love to do business lunches,” she said.

Service with a smile

Cairns has an extensive background in the restaurant and resort business. Her training came in the resort industry in Orlando, Fla., and her daughter is the “front of the house” manager of the restaurant. She said working with the wait staff is crucial when it comes to having a successful restaurant.

“I don’t want anyone to feel their needs are insignificant,” said Cairns, adding when people leave, she wants them to “leave as a friend for life.”

Part of making that happen — the biggest part — is customer service. She said guests are the first priority and everyone who works at The Galley knows that is the case. She said staff members, who she called “outstanding,” have their “priorities in order.”

Those priorities are getting the hot food out, getting the cold drinks out and getting the checks in the hands of the customers. She said they also have an “open floor policy,” where all of the wait staff is responsible for all of the customers. They are not just responsible for sections.

One of the things Cairns did before officially opening for business was send out invitations to various members of the Upper Cumberland community and they had a “taste and see” event. She said the reaction was very positive. More than 400 people attended the event.

They also conducted a survey of people in the area and those who have boats at the marina and the top two expectations were quite simple: “Good service and quality food.”

Priorities — in life

One issue which Cairns, and every business owner and manager across the country, has to deal with is how to do business coming out of a recession. For Cairns, the financial aspect of the business is important, but not like it used to be. She is originally from Michigan and said of her life there, “The whole focus was financial.”

Now, she said, the focus is different. Cairns admits she is making much less of a salary than before, but that doesn’t seem to be a big issue.

“Sometimes, we focus on the wrong things in life,” said Cairns, who said being happy in your profession is crucial.

She said her “passion for food” and her “love of people” are what drives her in this business.

Cairns said The Galley is “180 degrees” different that is has been in the past. She feels that everything she has done in the past relating to this industry “has prepared me for this moment. This has been by life destination. It’s the passion.”

That passion certainly paid off recently when The Galley hosted state lawmakers for dinner and a cruise on a houseboat. Cairns said the deputy director of the state’s tourism department was on hand and said, “This is not what I expected.”

That’s the kind of reaction Cairns says makes her new position so rewarding. It’s also probably fair to say it didn’t hurt to let state lawmakers know the kind of opportunities which are available at place like Edgar Evins Marina.

One interesting aspect of the restaurant is they have a beer license. It’s only one of two restaurants statewide inside of a state park which has a beer license. They also serve wine coolers and can “uncork” wine for a small fee. But Cairns said she doesn’t want that to be the focus because they are more focused on a family atmosphere. She called serving the beer, featuring the local brand Calfkiller, as a compliment to the food menu.

“We want to maintain a family atmosphere,” she said.

As for her overall feeling, Cairns couldn’t be more pleased with the new venture and says she hopes the community will be supportive of what they are trying to accomplish.

For more information about The Galley, visit The business is located at 2100 Edgar Evins Park Road in Silver Point. The phone number is 931-858-2424.
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