I am not a big fan of so-called “family style” restaurants. The “family style” moniker is misused, intentionally or otherwise, to give an impression of “just-like-home-cooking-around-a-big-table” setting.
Home cooking can be interpreted as anything from “fresh from the garden” to “fresh from the can opener.” The “big table” business may be the restaurant’s attempt to create a folksy atmosphere. It could also be due to the restaurant’s owner deciding to use larger trestle tables by which a greater number of people can be served family style by his scaled-back wait staff.
Fortunately, there is a restaurant that handles home cooking served family style the proper way. I’m talking about The Farmer’s Daughter, located in Chuckey, and worth 20 minutes drive time through some very pretty country to get there.
The dine-around bunch, partially recovered from our July Fourth bash of good food with a fireworks chaser, were looking for some homestyle cooking minus any effort on our part. Obviously the Farmer’s Daughter was the only choice we could make.
Our arrival at their parking lot coincided with that of a tour bus of some size, so there was a bit of a wait for our table. Twenty minutes later, we were seated
around a table that was a dead ringer for the one in Mom’s kitchen, while our server Brittany walked us through the day’s menu.
The four of us could choose two meats for our table from a total of nine, additional meat choices incurring a charge. Along with the meats come the meal’s side orders. Being an all–you-can-eat restaurant, we could order as much of our choices as we wanted until we were either full or collapsed from over-consumption.
I favored the fried chicken livers, my dining partner wanted the catfish, and the Dieter was thinking about baked buttermilk chicken. However, the Carnivore’s decision that we’d get the daily special of barbecued pork ribs trumped everyone else’s. That left the rest of us to reach a consensus on the fried Alaskan whitefish as our second choice.
After a 10-minute wait, Brittany brought our meal along with a basket of dinner rolls and cornbread and a saucer of very fresh, very real butter. The pork ribs were excellent, slow-smoked and mopped with a tangy sauce that was slightly sweet, but did not hide each rib’s smoky flavor. The Alaskan whitefish was wrapped in some of the lightest, most flavorful breading I’ve ever tasted, deep-fried in very hot oil, and served up with a side of tangy tarter sauce.
Our side orders reminded me of a sit-down at Mamaw’s (You remember Mamaw, don’t you?) where the soup beans and coleslaw were augmented with selections drawn from Mamaw’s seemingly inexhaustible refrigerator and larder.
Out came the carrot soufflé, fluffy and delicious, a truly Southern dish I’d only recently learned about during a trip to the South Carolina Low Country. The cooked cabbage was done the right way, cooked tender but not overly so, and the green beans, properly steamed, retained their crunch.
The cornbread salad was layered with onions, red beans, corn kernels, pimento, and bacon bits with a creamy fresh-made ranch dressing holding it all together.
Lastly, there was cucumber salad, probably the simplest dish ever to grace a table, and a real favorite of mine ever since Mamaw introduced it to me. Take thin-sliced cucumbers, add some onion crescents freshly cut from a sweet Vidalia, some diced red bell pepper for color, a few whole black peppercorns for zip, jug the concoction with some sweet pickling juice that’s light on the sweet, then into the fridge to chill a spell. Just the thing to have when the weather’s hot and you want something light to help cool off.
The dinner rolls, while good, could not compare with their marvelous hot-from-the-skillet cornbread, especially when accompanying the soup beans or spread with fresh butter.
The Farmer’s Daughter’s soup beans, cornbread and cucumber salad alone can make a very good meal. With the rest of our entrees and sides added, it was outstanding.
Finally, it was time for dessert, and I nearly said I wasn’t interested. That is, until I saw Peach Cobbler served my way, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. The Carnivore chose Peanut Butter Pie, the Dieter picked Hot Fudge Cake (bye-bye diet?) and my partner asked for Key Lime Pie. We were all pleased with our choices, though I’d give the edge to the cobbler.
The Farmer’s Daughter prices their lunch and supper meals at $13.67 plus tax for adults and $7.29 for kids. Saturday’s breakfast is $8.95 and handled the same way. They take reservations for parties of 15 or more, and everyone else is first-come first-served.
Their website helpfully advises their patrons to call a week ahead for reservations to reduce the wait time, not a bad idea given their popularity. At The Farmer’s Daughter the drive is pleasant, the food is outstanding and the price is right. Maybe I’ll see you there the next time I stop in.
The Farmer’s Daughter
770 Erwin Highway, Chuckey
Fri - Sat 11:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Sat 8 a.m.-11 a.m. (Breakfast)
Sun 11:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Cash or checks only