Posted By Betsey Snodgrass
4/17/2009 1:13:00 PM
Miss Mary Bobo's restaurant is located in the heart of tiny Lynchburg, Tennessee, population 601, near the world famous Jack Daniel's distillery. To reach it, "Go to the town square. Turn right at the gazebo. Miss Mary's is the third house on the left. Look for the white picket fence." And there it is; a lovely two-story white Federal house shaded by ancient trees.
Miss Mary's was founded in 1908 by Miss Mary Bobo (who else?), who created her boardinghouse from the Salmon Hotel. Her food became widely known over the years, and the restaurant she opened has been in continuous operation since then. Today it is managed by Lynne Tolley, great grandniece of Mr. Jack Daniel, and it is known far and wide as a mecca for those who love traditional Southern family-style meals, though it is no longer a boardinghouse.
You are greeted by the ringing of a dinner bell, then a tune from the hand-cranked music box. You are escorted to your table, and seated with a hostess who is familiar with the restaurant history, the furnishings, and the food you will be served. Your meal will include two entrees and six or so side dishes, with a hot bread, a dessert, and coffee. Glasses of iced tea are at each place setting.
The menus are at the whim of the cooks. Entrees may include heaping platters of beef or pork roast, fried chicken, "chicken with pastry" (a chicken pie), fried catfish, or meatloaf. In summer, all the vegetables are fresh. You may choose among butter beans, fried okra, corn, or perhaps a creamy rice casserole with a golden blanket of cheese that is enlivened by subtle chilis. During tomato season, there is a fresh and vibrant tomato relish. One day, a dish of translucent amber apples, nearly candied, flavored with Jack Daniel's famous sour mash whiskey, was one of the favorites. Dessert might be a wedge of fruit cocktail cake, topped with a lavish pecan and coconut glaze. Their latest cookbook is for sale in the hall.
The restaurant seats 60 people in various rooms throughout the house, in a setting filled with country antiques. Reservations are essential and may be made far in advance. They ask that you do not call between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. when they are busy serving their guests. The restaurant is a Middle Tennessee gem, and worth your advance planning.
A midday meal is served each day, Monday through Saturday, at 1 p.m. The restaurant is open year-round. During "traveling season," another seating is added at 11 o'clock. Expect extraordinary hospitality. Menus vary and depend on the season, but if fried chicken is your favorite, your best bet is Monday!