“We have girls who come in at four in the morning to make the cole slaw and macaroni salad!” our waitress boasted when we asked if the side dishes were good. Oh, yes, these side dishes are good! The macaroni salad is creamy with a pickle zip, dotted with pieces of hard-cooked egg and a few shreds of carrot, each noodle a toothsome bite. Scalloped corn is enriched with breadcrumbs; the cole slaw is sprightly-sweet, and the pickled beets are well-nigh perfect.
There is nothing deluxe about the Liberty Gathering Place; you dine at oilcloth-covered tables outfitted with flatware that comes wrapped in paper napkins. Humble though it may be, everything we tasted off this menu was exemplary. You can feast on lusciously moist ham loaf, deep-flavored smoked pork chops, or grilled pork tenderloin, sided by a choice of potatoes that are mashed, French fried, home-fried, ranch-cut, baked (after 5pm), or made into potato salad.
We were astounded by the fried tenderloin sandwich – totally unlike the brittle-crisp, foot-wide ‘loins typical of this area. Here, the tenderloin is a thick pork steak, meaty and moist with only a hint of thin crust. It is a big slab of meat, but rather than extending far beyond the bun, it is folded over so you get a double layer of pork that is unbelievably flavorful.
Pies are not to be missed. Coconut cream is ultra creamy, cool, thick, and smooth as velvet; peach crunch is veined with butter and served hot.
"Unlike the fried-crisp ribbon of pork that is served as a tenderloin sandwich farther West, this Southern Ohio version is thick and moist with only a veil of crust ... and so large it must be doubled over to fit inside the bun."
"The best macaroni salad we've had since attending a church homecoming pot-luck supper in Decorah, Iowa, in 1993"
"Heaped with sweet crumbles, this is one glorious peach crisp. It is served warm. Ice cream is optional."
"The Liberty Gathering Place looks like an ordinary town cafe, and in a sense it is. The food served inside is the best possible version of town-cafe fare."