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Track Kitchen

420 Mead Ave., Aiken, SC - (803) 641-9628
Posted By Michael Stern on 3/3/2013 4:22:00 AM
The Track Kitchen is so laid-back and friendly that the first day I ate there, I finished breakfast, brought my dishes back into the kitchen (as all customers do), and walked out … forgetting to pay! When I returned the next day and confessed my crime to Carol Carter, who runs the place with her husband, Pockets, she joked, "I've got my eye on you!" I did remember to pay that day – for both meals – but I get the feeling that a lot of customers just pay weekly, or whenever they remember to do so. It's that casual.

Named because it adjoins the dirt track where thoroughbred horses are exercised, this little breakfast-only joint is more like a friendly company dining room than a regular restaurant. The same people come in every morning and usually sit in the same seats and table-hop throughout the meal. They are the trainers, owners, and riders of the sport horses around which much of Aiken's life revolves. They range from billionaires to hourly wage earners, from Arabian sheiks to southern rednecks.

What do they eat? Good old southern home cooking. Nothing on the menu is exotic or audacious, but it all is prepared with care. You know this because every meal takes a good while to cook; every plate is doted over by the one and only one person who does the cooking: Carol. Her pancakes are handsome fluffies; her grits are rich and buttery; her eggs are always cooked exactly as requested. Country ham is pretty good, although not ringing with cured-meat savor like the best of them, but Track Kitchen bacon is fabulous. It is baked rather than fried, and the pieces are put close enough together in the oven that several might stick together, resulting in deliciously unctuous bacon clusters that are crisp but barely bendable – just the way bacon ought to be.

Note that the Track Kitchen closes in the summer; and note also that it can get very crowded on weekends when races, steeplechase, or other equestrian events are going on.

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Scorecard

4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Bacon
Home Fries
Grits
Western Omelet
Country Ham
Pancakes
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

Baked bacon often arrives in clumps of stuck-together strips.
"Baked bacon often arrives in clumps of stuck-together strips."
Michael Stern





No matter how you get your eggs -- scrambled, fried, or, shown here, as a western omelet -- they always seem to be rich and buttery. Probably because they are cooked with lots of butter!
"No matter how you get your eggs -- scrambled, fried, or, shown here, as a western omelet -- they always seem to be rich and buttery. Probably because they are cooked with lots of butter!"
Michael Stern


Streets around the Track Kitchen are unpaved out of concern for the well-being of hooves of horses who trod them.
"Streets around the Track Kitchen are unpaved out of concern for the well-being of hooves of horses who trod them. "
Michael Stern


A sharp knife is required to sever a forkful of country ham. It is only moderately salty, and while full-flavored, does not pack the punch of more expensive ham.
"A sharp knife is required to sever a forkful of country ham. It is only moderately salty, and while full-flavored, does not pack the punch of more expensive ham."
Michael Stern


Grab a mug and help yourself to coffee in the kitchen.
"Grab a mug and help yourself to coffee in the kitchen."
Michael Stern


While these are not formal 'creamy grits,' neither are they watery. They are dense and satisfying, and all that butter on top doesn't hurt a bit.
"While these are not formal 'creamy grits,' neither are they watery. They are dense and satisfying, and all that butter on top doesn't hurt a bit."
Michael Stern


Remarkably grease-free, home fries are nice sops for running egg yolks.
"Remarkably grease-free, home fries are nice sops for running egg yolks."
Michael Stern


Nearly everyone who eats at the Track Kitchen is somehow involved in horses. And nearly everyone who eats here knows everyone else.
"Nearly everyone who eats at the Track Kitchen is somehow involved in horses. And nearly everyone who eats here knows everyone else."
Michael Stern


Hot cakes are easy-to-eat lightweights.
"Hot cakes are easy-to-eat lightweights."
Michael Stern


Yes, the elite do meet here, as do grooms and stable boys.
"Yes, the elite do meet here, as do grooms and stable boys."
Michael Stern


7am: the Track Kitchen parking lot is not full. By 8am, it will be, and all seats in the house will be occupied.
"7am: the Track Kitchen parking lot is not full. By 8am, it will be, and all seats in the house will be occupied."
Michael Stern


A stack of newspapers is available for those who want to read, but most people who come for breakfast are too busy socializing to read.
"A stack of newspapers is available for those who want to read, but most people who come for breakfast are too busy socializing to read."
Michael Stern


A sign above the stove in Carol's kitchen.
"A sign above the stove in Carol's kitchen."
Michael Stern



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