Whistlin' Dixie

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wanderingjew
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2012/09/04 20:19:25 (permalink)

Whistlin' Dixie

This is my last big trip of the year, hence my last real trip report. This was also probably the most interesting trip of the year.
Interesting, in that I not only got together with a few roadfooders, but that I also got to visit some friends, one of who I haven't seen in nearly a decade and also a reunion with family members, one cousin who I haven't seen in over 3 decades and another (her daughter) that I had never met.  
 
My first leg of the trip, unfortunately doesn't include much roadfood.  Staying with friends and visiting family it was very difficult to do. However I will try to make this leg of the trip short, concluding it in the next chapter.
 
I promised Buffetbuster I will try to get a jump start since I just returned yesterday, so I thought I would begin with the first night. 
 
Friday August 24
 
My flight to Charlotte from TF Green was an easy just under 2 hour journey. Arriving in Charlotte at around 7pm. I got my rental and headed to my first stop not too far from the airport.
 

 
 
Nana's Soul Food Kitchen
 
After visiting Lawan's last year I wanted to compare these popular soul food establishments.
 
I had the option to order the small or large plate, with the large plate you have the choice of ordering two entrees.
I decided to think in Buffetbusterian terms and went with the large plate so I can get 2 entrees. 
Beginning with  square dense, unsweetened  cornbread, I actually preferred this over Lawan's
 


 


For my plate, I went with Fried Chicken, Smothered Pork Chops , Collards and Mac n Cheese 
 
 

 
 
The fried chicken had a nice crisp crust and was juicy, but I thought lacked the pronounced flavor that Lawan's had but that doesn't mean it wasn't good. The Smothered Pork Chops were tender and seemed to fair somewhat better than the fried chicken. The sides were not only absolutely superb, but the portions dished out, were humongous . The overwhelmingly cheesy mac n cheese simply outclassed Lawan's and the slightly sweet collards stood on equal ground to Lawan's.
Can dessert be as promising?
 

 
Unfortunately not. Although the cashier recommended the banana pudding, it was a complete disaster. Akin to Vanilla Jello Pudding, it tasted like someone put in a couple of slices of banana and vanilla wafers at the last minute. A complete disappointment. 
 
I do wholeheartedly recommend Nana's, just don't order dessert.
 
After dinner I drove the 30 some odd miles up to Lincolnton to stay with my friend Julianne and her husband Scott. I had a busy day ahead so a good nights sleep was in order.
 
 
Much more to come....
#1

167 Replies Related Threads

    buffetbuster
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/04 20:26:45 (permalink)
    wanderingjew  
    I decided to think in Buffetbusterian terms and went with the large plate so I can get 2 entrees. 
    I believe the correct term you are looking for is ChiTownDinerish!
     
    Now THAT is what macaroni and cheese is supposed to look like! But that banana pudding looks like it came straight from the grocery store. 
     
    Great start and I'm looking forward to much more.
    #2
    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/04 21:10:15 (permalink)
    Oh boy! You have me on the edge of my seat waiting for more. And I'm with buffetbuster about that macaroni and cheese.
    #3
    ayersian
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/04 21:21:46 (permalink)
    Umm, I hate to throw a wrench in the works, but true Southern mac & cheese should look like this:

     
    This is the crusty-on-top, custardy-in-the-middle, two-types-of-cheese benchmark from Lone Star Barbecue in Santee, SC and is among the best I've ever had.  My two cents...  Chris
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    mr chips
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/04 23:59:55 (permalink)
    Great start.
    #5
    tcrouzer
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/05 07:07:59 (permalink)
    That banana pudding is exactly why I never order it when eating out. Some folks in the South won't eat just any banana pudding, or chicken salad for that matter. Both have to be made and stored correctly - or they're just not worth the calories.
    #6
    wanderingjew
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/05 08:21:52 (permalink)
    Buffetbuster,
    ChiTownDinerish I believe would be to simply order half of the menu, ordering two of something (in my case 2 entrees,  or in your case 2 pies) would be classified as Buffetbusterian
     
    MH
     
    You won't have to remain at the edge ofthe seat  for too long, more to come this evening.
     
    Ayersian
     
    That does look like some mighty fine mac n cheese, what distinguishes "Southern Mac n Cheese" from regular Mac n Cheese?
     
    tcrouzer
     
    It took 3 tries to find some good banana puddng. My second try was just as big of a disaster.
    #7
    kevincad
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/05 09:12:23 (permalink)
    ayersian

    Umm, I hate to throw a wrench in the works, but true Southern mac & cheese should look like this:


    This is the crusty-on-top, custardy-in-the-middle, two-types-of-cheese benchmark from Lone Star Barbecue in Santee, SC and is among the best I've ever had.  My two cents...  Chris

    Yes, indeed!
    #8
    buffetbuster
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/05 09:34:43 (permalink)
    Chris-
    While I certainly wouldn't kick the mac & cheese in your photo off my plate, based soley on looks, I would rather be eating the version from Nana's.  But, I like it extra, extra cheesy.   
     
    WJ-
    Thanks for the clarification.  Now I understand the difference! 
    post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/09/05 09:59:57
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    pnwchef
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/05 13:37:23 (permalink)
    kevincad

    ayersian

    Umm, I hate to throw a wrench in the works, but true Southern mac & cheese should look like this:


    This is the crusty-on-top, custardy-in-the-middle, two-types-of-cheese benchmark from Lone Star Barbecue in Santee, SC and is among the best I've ever had.  My two cents...  Chris

    Yes, indeed!

    I wouldn't say this Mac & cheese looked appetizing if my family owned the Restaurant.
    #10
    crew84row
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/05 15:45:40 (permalink)
    pnwchef

    kevincad

    ayersian

    Umm, I hate to throw a wrench in the works, but true Southern mac & cheese should look like this:


    This is the crusty-on-top, custardy-in-the-middle, two-types-of-cheese benchmark from Lone Star Barbecue in Santee, SC and is among the best I've ever had.  My two cents...  Chris

    Yes, indeed!

    I wouldn't say this Mac & cheese looked appetizing if my family owned the Restaurant.


    I heard what you're saying, but this is very close to what Ina Garten's mac n cheese recipe (hailed as one of the top one for home cooks) comes out like on a plate.  Anytime I see the deep yellow gooey stuff, I typically pass, looks too much like Kraft  outta da box.
     
    And I'd definitely take a pass on that nanner puddin'. 
    post edited by crew84row - 2012/09/05 15:47:12
    #11
    ayersian
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/05 19:56:36 (permalink)
    crew84row
    ...but this is very close to what Ina Garten's mac n cheese recipe (hailed as one of the top one for home cooks) comes out like on a plate.  Anytime I see the deep yellow gooey stuff, I typically pass, looks too much like Kraft  outta da box.

    Crew84row, I couldn't've said it better myself.  Obviously it's personal preference, but the "deep yellow gooey stuff" is definitely a shortcut in making the real thing.  I talked to the owner of Lone Star about it, and she said that hers is quite the labor-intensive recipe -- and expensive to boot -- and some people don't want to take or don't have the time to make it this way.  I've had some very disappointing mac & cheese from lots of places where the recipe was clearly an afterthought.  So sad!  (Hey Crew, I see you're from Tally...ever go to Shingles Fried Chicken while it was still open in the '90s, by chance?)
     
    WJ, I don't know if there's anything specific that makes this truly Southern, but this is the type of mac & cheese that I grew up eating at home, at potluck dinners, and the occasional diner.  Over the years, a large baking dish of this type has been supplanted by the neon yellow kind.  It's just like banana pudding, in my opinion: whereas the baked kind with meringue used to be the standard, now it's packaged poorly (like your photo above) and tastes NOTHING like it really should...again, as if it were an afterthought.  Sounds like a comprehensive nationwide mac & cheese survey would be appropriate!    Chris
    #12
    ann peeples
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/05 20:19:02 (permalink)
    You guys just HAVE to have my mac and cheese.I learned from my southrn cousins!
     
    #13
    wanderingjew
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/05 21:15:03 (permalink)
    Chris and crew84row
     
    I can assure you the Mac N Cheese at Nana's did not come out of a box. I myself am very critical of "powdery" goopy mac n cheese. 
     
    Ann
     
    There will much more mac n cheese to follow in the upcoming chapters
     
     
     
     
    #14
    TJ Jackson
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/05 21:15:35 (permalink)
    What exactly are those whitish bits in the Lone Star pic?
     
    I am not slamming it as I ask this......rather - I'd like to understand the difference a bit better
     
    My initial guess is "some kind of cheese" but I am nowhere near certain, and even if I am right, what kind of cheese is it?  Surely not cottage cheese?
    #15
    wanderingjew
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/05 22:17:19 (permalink)
    Saturday August 25
     
    My friend Julianne and I drove into the whoppingly huge town of Lincolnton  to Fausto's Coffee. A coffee cum bicycle shop. I was expecting the worst but was pleasantly surprised, not only by the  dark roast cuppa joe but also by their huge morning glory muffins. 
     
    Afterwards Juilianne and Scott had to head up north for the for the rest of the day, that's ok, because I had my own plans for the rest of the day.
     
    I was heading to Charlotte to visit my  cousin Lisa who I haven't seen in over 30 years. Last time I saw her was probably when I was in Junior High so we're talking late 1970's. We're first cousins, and like me, she is also from Long Island, she moved with her husband to Charlotte about a year and a half ago to live near her daughter who moved there a year earlier.
     
    But not before my first bbq stop
     

     
    Rock Store BBQ
     
    In suburban stallings
    located right next to a farmers market.
     
    As you can see the place is bustling
     
    I decided to get the chopped pork platter
    I started out with warm moist (but overly sweet cornbread) which unfortunately doesn't come with the meal and had to be ordered
    separately.
     

     
    It almost tasted more like pound cake than corn bread. Not what I was expecting.
     

     
    The chopped pork comes unsauced and  had a very mildly smoked flavor, it reminded me of Bill Spoons. Squirt  bottles of eastern NC vinegar sauce and the more traditional red were available on each table.
     

     
    My sides included red slaw and brunswick stew. The stew was unremarkable and to my surprise had specks of rice in it. After several tries I now realize that I'm not a fan of the lexington  style  vinegary red slaw but actually prefer the eastern NC style mustard slaw.
     
    I would certainly return to Rock Store if just for the Q alone.
     
    Afterwards I headed to my cousin Lisa in Charlotte and spent the afternoon with her and her husband. Later her daughter Lyndsey arrived, I never met Lyndsey, she's a remarkable young lady and was named after the grandmother (my mother's mother) that Lisa and I both share. It was a fantastic reunion. I spent the entire afternoon there, and I look forward to future visits.
     

     
    Here we are  (from l to r)
     
    my (older) cousin Lisa, yours truly and her daughter (my 1st cousin once removed) Lyndsey
     
    After I left it was too late to stop for roadfood, had I left earlier I would have stopped at 521 BBQ in Indianland SC but there was no time for that now.
     
    It was off to
     
     

     
    Knights Castle
    Home of the triple A Charlotte Knights.
     

     
    Located about 10 miles south of Charlotte, just over the border in Ft Mill SC.
     

     

     
    There wasn't anything really outstanding about the ballpark itself. I actually spoke with a few local fans (from SC) and to their dismay  the Knights are going to be building a brand new ballpark in downtown Charlotte. I didn't really find that there was much characther to this ballpark (even though the locals like to tailgate in the parking lot) so I would think the new ballpark would be an improvement.
     
     

     
    Unfortunately I would be relegated to eating at the ballpark so I had to choose wisely.
    And I believe I mad the right decision
     
    I ordered the "southern style burger" at the grill
     

     
    Although the BBQ sauce and slaw were obviously generic, the burger was nicely grilled and the home made potato chips were a nice added touch. That and a couple of local Mecklenburg brewery beers really hit the spot.
     
    The game itself was special, the Knights were playing my home team, the Pawtucket Red Sox (aka the Paw Sox)
     
     

     

     

     
     
    Even the Knights mascot, homer the dragon, got the crowd going.
     

     
     
    Overall, it was a close game, The Paw Sox beat the Knights. 4-3. Afterwards I made the 45 mile drive back to Lincolnton for the evening.
     
    Sunday August 26 & Monday August 27
     
    If there were two days with little to no roadfood activity, then these two days were it.
     
    On Sunday, everything is closed for business in the Lincolnton area, including the coffee houses. As most of you know I'm a serious addict and need to find a good quality coffee house that serves good quality coffee. My research led me to Madalyn's Coffee and Tea 20 miles away in Cornelius. What a mistake, I probably would have been better with maxwell house, truly the worst coffee of the trip, if not the worst of the year. I would have been better off driving that extra 10 miles to Charlotte. On a good note the spiced apple muffin was pretty good.
     
    I spent the afternoon walking the local nature trail behind the gigantic Lincolnton High School located across the street from my friends house.
     
    The big issue on Sunday was what to do for dinner. Julianne wasn't feeling well, everything in the area was closed and I didn't want to drive all the way to Charlotte.
     
    I remembered that several folks here on the board had previously mentioned that the Gastonia area is known for their fish camps. Gastonia is just a little over 20 miles away.   All of a sudden I had a hankering for catfish. I did my research on yelp and urbanspoon, made a phone call (I know Travelin Man is wretching right now) 
     
    And Scott and I ended up here.
     

     
    Long Creek Fish Fry
     
    in Dallas NC
     
    The place was hopping. 
     
    I ordered some unsweetened tea, Scott got his Sweet Tea.
     
    My meal began with some very pedestrian slaw
     

     
    However the rest of the meal was actually quite a pleasant surprise.
     
    I ordered the catfish . You had a choice of ordering, bone in or fillet. I went with the fillet.
     

     
    Not only were the portions unbelievably large, but the fries were fresh cut, the hushpuppies were  hot, fresh and had a nice corny taste, although I was hoping they would be a bit more "oniony" and the fillets (which were smaller than anticipated) also had a clean non gamey flavor. Even the tartar sauce was home made. I could only finish half my meal and brought the rest back as leftovers for the next day.
     
    Scott ordered the fried shrimp, I had a bite that and that too was really good.
     
    Long Creek Fish Fry was truly a home run. And the yelp reviews speak for themselves.
     
    On Monday, I had to leave early to head to downtown charlotte to take care of some personal business. I did enjoy a decent cuppa joe at Dilworth Coffee House, a local chain.
     
    I met my cousin Lisa and her husband for lunch in Charlotte, you're not going to believe this, and I'm sure some of you felt the earth move but we actually went to a (roadfood approved) chain. Original Pancake House. I know, I know but it's close to their home and my cousin doesn't do Southern Food or BBQ and I didn't know where else to go in her neighborhood.
     
    After lunch I returned back to Lincolnton, spent the rest of the day with Julianne and Scott, had the leftovers from Long Creek fish fry for dinner (it still tasted great a day later once it was heated up in the oven) and the fun truly begins in the next chapters.
     
    Much more to come next week.
     
    I leave you all with  a photo of 12 year old Mollie, Julianne and Scott's mutt
     

    post edited by wanderingjew - 2012/09/05 22:19:04
    #16
    crew84row
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/06 07:44:55 (permalink)
    WJ...great review.  I love the minor league parks, so much more character.  I'll take your ballpark pick any day of the week.  And I like the longer hushpuppies over the round ones.
     
    Chris...sorry wasn't in Tally in the 90s.  Lots of the older spots here were dying or have died by the time we got here in the new century.
     
    TJ...most likely that white stuff in the M&C is gruyere.  But it could be any type of hard cheese.  Not all cheese are deep yellow, in fact most aren't.  That's the way cheese cooks, it will curdle in the oven.  Try it sometime, you might like it.
    #17
    buffetbuster
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/06 08:32:44 (permalink)
    Now that I think about it, two of the very best mac and cheeses I have had in the South, PK's Homestyle Cooking in Spartanburg and Isaiah's in Montgomery, looked just like what Chris shows in his photo.  What WJ showed in his photo looks very similar to what they serve at Gray's Cafeteria, a version I still hold in the highest regard.
     
    Never really thought of differences in mac and cheese being regional before.  Maybe a mac and cheese survey would be a good idea!   
    #18
    The Travelin Man
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/06 08:59:14 (permalink)
    wanderingjew
    It took 3 tries to find some good banana puddng. My second try was just as big of a disaster.

    And yet you passed on ordering banana pudding at Mary Mac's? For shame.
    #19
    wanderingjew
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/06 11:27:12 (permalink)
    The Travelin Man

    wanderingjew
    It took 3 tries to find some good banana puddng. My second try was just as big of a disaster.

    And yet you passed on ordering banana pudding at Mary Mac's? For shame.

    TTM

    Due to overindulding in ice cream earlier that afternoon and an anticipated  late night of roadfood of "Buffetbusterian" proportions, I probably would have ended up in the local ER  had I attempted the banana pudding.
    #20
    The Travelin Man
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/06 12:32:30 (permalink)
    Just sayin'....you ate crappy banana pudding and passed up other-worldly banana pudding. 
     
    A guy like you should plan ahead a bit more and you wouldn't find yourself in this kind of predicament.
    #21
    TJ Jackson
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/06 13:05:57 (permalink)
    yeah, what could be worse than not getting a wonderful dessert? 
     
    oh yeah.......showing up and the place not being open at all
     
    we should come up with a verb or something for that particular situation.
    #22
    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/06 14:15:51 (permalink)
    Won't eat Southern food or barbeque? What's she doing in the Carolinas?
     
    Nice stuff WJ. Keep it coming.
    #23
    wanderingjew
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/06 18:25:21 (permalink)
    TTM
     
    You are correct, I should have been more prepared.....Like you...
     
    MH
     
    I think she can get away with that in Charlotte...
    #24
    love2bake
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/07 13:33:54 (permalink)
    I enjoyed this report!  Having lived in NC for several years, the pics and descriptions took me back there. :)  Nice to see someone making unsweetened corn bread.  That's how I learned to make it from my mom who grew up outside Chattanooga.  I enjoy the sweet stuff, too--it's just a different dish.
     
    About the two different mac and cheeses, when I make it, the first step is making a bechamel (aka white) sauce, into which I melt the cheese(s).  If done properly, there wouldn't be that separation unless it's overcooked or maybe the cheese not melted in properly.  I think the color of the sauce may reflect the kinds of cheese used, too, so a yellow cheddar would be much more orange than other types.  Anyway, both of those photos looked really good to me!
     
    Enjoyed the ball park pics.  Not much left of the season. :(
    #25
    3 Olives
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/07 17:49:24 (permalink)
    Mac & Cheese is yellow in NC . Macaroni salad is white. The best way to sample CUE in the Charlotte area is to come in October when churches and volunteer fire departments are having their fundraisers.
    #26
    will_work_4_bbq
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/08 04:52:19 (permalink)
    I think the white in the mac and cheese is simply the "custard" from that type of mac and cheese.  While some mac and cheese is mixed all together and made cheesy through and through, other mac and cheese can be made in more of a layered fashion - with an egg and milk mixture that, when baked, becomes a delicious custard ribbon throughout the dish.  Seems I remember a discussion about these mac and cheese differences from a long time ago on the forums....
    #27
    ann peeples
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/08 14:43:15 (permalink)
    3 Olives-i learned to make mac and cheese from my Greensboro cousins, using hoop cheese( akin to a colby cheddar mixture here in Wisconsin)It is indeed not yellow, and looks pretty much what WJ pictures here....again, whatever one likes.
    #28
    wanderingjew
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/10 11:16:42 (permalink)
    love2bake
     
    Thanks.
    I'm amazed at everyone's input regarding the regional variations of mac n cheese.
    Something I didn't know much about.
     
    I hope to continue with the next chapter this evening.
    #29
    wanderingjew
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    Re:Whistlin' Dixie 2012/09/10 19:30:09 (permalink)
    Tuesday August 28
     
    After one last cuppa joe and another huge morning glory muffin  at Fausto's Coffee in Lincolnton I was ready to leave North Carolina and venture to points south. Since I was no longer spending time with family and friends my roadfood options increased dramatically.
     
    My stop for lunch is a favorite of Ayersian
     

     
    The Wagon Wheel Restaurant
     In Ft Lawn SC, on the way down to Columbia.
     
    Ayersian and Buffetbuster recommended the fried squash and banana pudding.
    I understand that fried squash is a specialty in these parts in the Charlotte Metro area or in this case the surrounding environs so I was looking forward to trying this local specialty.
     
    The meal began with pedestrian cornbread
     

     
    I decided to go with The Chicken and Dumplings as my main course
     

     
    Reminiscent of the Chicken and Dumplings I had at Franke's Cafeteria in Little Rock AR earlier this year, this was a fine hearty dish with soft wide noodles, hunks of shredded chicken in a creamy white sauce.
     

     
    for my sides I had cabbage, which was fine, however the side that stood out was the excellent fried squash. The crispy exterior yielded a soft sweet interior. This was truly the standout of the meal. 

    I asked the waitress about banana pudding, unfortunately I was told they only serve it on Sunday along with their buffet.
     
    I would certainly return if only for their fried squash and to try their banana pudding on a Sunday.
     
    As I left the Wagon Wheel it was starting to rain, and unfortunately it became a steady rain as I was driving to Columbia for evening. I checked into my hotel, which was located just under a mile from the Five Points Neighborhood in Columbia near USC.
     
    Due to the steady rain and lack of an umbrella I decided to drive to Little Five Points to check it out and walk around (after purchasing an umbrella of course) I stopped at Drip, a local coffee house recommended by Nancypalooza for a more than adequate iced coffee. The place was fairly crowded, they appeared to be mostly students from USC.  After my walk around the neighborhood,  dinner time was fast approaching. I joined rush hour traffic and headed on over to Lexington SC approximately 15 miles away to check out a place that was recommended by the "pointy haired one" on D, D & D.
     


     
     
    The Farmer's Shed 

     
    in Lexington SC, is not only a restaurant but is also  produce market as well
     

     
    I perused the menu board and was amazed at the plethora of veggie's most of which is grown right on the premises.
     

     
    My meal once again began with some very ordinary cornbread 
     

     
    I decided on country fried steak, at first I was surprised when they asked what kind of gravy I wanted, white or brown. The waitress told me they usually serve it with white gravy....Hmmm, that's surprising...I asked for brown since I was under the impression that southern country fried steak was traditionally served with brown gravy. I also ordered Hash Brown Casserole and Carrot Raisin Salad for my sides.
     

     
    I was somewhat surprised by what arrived at my table.  No wonder why the waitress told me that white gravy is par for the course. This is Chicken Fried Steak, not Country Fried Steak. There is quite a difference, and honestly, it wasn't anything special. I will end up having "authentic" country fried steak later on in the trip at a Roadfood favorite. The hashbrown casserole was fine, however I really enjoyed the carrot raisin salad.
     
    I asked what they had for dessert. Having been deprived of banana pudding earlier in the day I thought I would make up for it here.
     

     
    WRONG- another banana pudding disaster.
    I was wondering if they actually got the same banana pudding from Nana's in Charlotte which I had a few days earlier.
     
    It is doubtful that I would return to the Farmer's Shed for another visit.
     
    Still raining steadily, I returned to Columbia and stopped by the Hunter Gatherer Brewpub, downtown for a couple of craft brews. Afterwards I returned to my hotel and called it a night
     
    Much more to come....


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