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WHAT'S NEW: Acworth restaurant emphasizes steak, seafood

or the Journal-Constitution

Talk about growing pains. Here's a restaurant that has morphed three times in as many years and, each time, come up with a format that's proved popular with diners in Acworth and beyond.  The place is Cotton's, tucked a block off Main Street in the downtown district. When owner Tamra Erisman and her husband, Alan, took over the place, it was half its size, sharing its historic building with antiques dealers. Lunch service was limited to sandwiches, soups and salads, but it wasn't long before Erisman added a weekend dinner theater. The comedic murder mystery meals have developed a following that regularly fills the house. A year ago, Erisman doubled the restaurant's size by taking over the entire building, with its picture windows and hardwood floors. Earlier this year, a 14-foot bar with seating area was added and a full liquor license obtained.

This month marks another change in Cotton's history. Erisman has wrapped up her studies at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Tucker and turned her restaurant into a full-service lunch and dinner operation specializing in steak and seafood.  "I noticed that whenever we had seafood specials, it was the shrimp and scallops that sold out first," Erisman said. "I'm surrounded in town by ethnic places - Italian, Cajun and Southern - so we decided to carve our niche with steak and seafood."  Erisman's goal also is to give area diners an option from the meat and seafood "chain gangs" in the area. "There are places where you get chain-gang food, atmosphere and service," she said. "Here, it's personal. We are passionate about what we put out there."

Start with fried ravioli with a red pepper aioli, coconut shrimp with an orange balsamic glaze, or crab cakes with a roasted corn salsa. Ocean options include scallops in a cherry port sauce, and pan-seared tuna filets or grouper with an orange beurre blanc. Meat lovers will go for the 16-ounce bone-in rib-eye, the sirloin stuffed with blue cheese, or the pork tenderloin or pork chop with roasted apples. Chicken and pasta dishes also are served, along with a kids' menu of favorites such as grilled cheese and hot dogs.  The full bar has four brews on tap and nine in the bottle. The wine list, largely from the West Coast, pours by the glass or bottle. Erisman has created a menu of specialty drinks playing off the cotton connection: the Cotton Blossom and Eli Whitney are two. A martini menu stars the Creamy Cotton martini.

The next dinner theater shows are Sunday and Oct. 31. The humorous mystery shows invite audience participation, but it's not required. The show unfolds between four courses for $49.95. On the first Friday of each month, the restaurant rocks to the sounds of Flyer, a classic rock and dance band. Other bands are featured Friday evenings.

Where: 4381 Senator Russell Ave., Acworth, 678-574-6300
Signature dishes: tuna filets and grouper in an orange beurre blanc sauce
Entree prices: $14-$25
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; 5:30-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 5:30-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays
Reservations: yes
Credit cards: yes
Web site: www.cottns.com