May 1, 2012 11:12 PM
I was with a group of about 25 people. Reservations were made a month in advance. When we arrived, no one had any idea of our reservation. Later, they did find the reservation, but no one apparently looked on the calendar. People were already seated in the meeting area and they were moved to another area. Reservations were for 6:30 PM. Drinks were brought at 7:30. One other person at our table and I ordered the country ham. When it arrived with biscuits and red eye gravy, the biscuits were so hard and tasted like they were two or three days old. Service was VERY slow. There was one server working the entire area most of the time. They definately were not prepared for our group. It was VERY apparent from the food and service that they do not want my business!
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If you're looking for real home cooking, Southern style, it doesn't get any better than this one. When you step inside Stan's, which looks like the model for Cracker Barrel, you'll immediately feel comfortable. It's totally down-home; there's none of that chain restaurant lack of character. The walls are covered with country-type signs and photos, including autographed photos of all the country musicians who've stopped in over the years.
But it's the food: really good, solid food. I'm pretty basic and can't get enough of their white beans, corn bread, and onion. On Fridays they have all-you-can-eat catfish and everyone I've ever taken there has gone on a binge with that. Never had one bad meal here, never had bad service. In fact a couple of the old gals that work there are really spry and sassy.
If you're a trucker, they have parking in the back for your rig, and diesel fuel too. They sell gifts inside, as well as snacks, pop, and beer, too. This place is one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. You'll be pleased. Well worth going out of your way for.
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Generally speaking, the interstate system has not been kind to mom-and-pop places. But just to the west of I-65 near the southern middle Tennessee town of Columbia, Stan’s has beaten the odds. In what appears to be an Old West-style storefront, Stan's not only offers fine country eats, but also provides the weary traveler a chance to fill up the tank and restock needed supplies. Above all, Stan’s is a curious yet comfortable mixture of the old-fashioned and up-to-date: both Goo Goo Clusters and lottery tickets can be purchased here.
Still, most folks come to sit a spell and munch on some top-rate country cooking. Of prime interest to them is the specialty of the house, country ham. The high saline delicacy often repels as much as it attracts, not only because mold actually grows on the hocks during the aging and smoke curing process, but because even one bite of some hams can send blood pressures through the roof, if cooked improperly. Stan’s does their hams right, boiling most of the salt out and putting it (apparently) on the charcoal for grilling. The result is probably the best way to introduce your Yankee friends to this fine upper South tradition.
And it was the centerpiece of my Sunday dinner, along with helpings of finely-chopped turnip greens seasoned with the ham, fairly standard fried okra, and another great Tennessee taste, white beans. Stan’s even offers them as a bowl, which many old-timers go for. Some may find them salty, but onions and even ketchup (yes, that’s right) help counter that. Stan’s has an extensive menu that goes beyond local fare, but when you go for things like country fried steak, ham biscuits, pork chops and eggs, bacon, catfish, and so forth, you can’t go wrong.
When finished with your meal, browse the gift shop for souvenirs including mugs, shot glasses, t-shirts, and vehicle tags, the themes of which are either Tennessee (the state or the university), Elvis, truck driving, or the South. However, the most famous retail item is the one you probably just ate: Stan’s ham and bacon are for sale in the store for take-home.
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I remember stopping off at Stan's with my parents when I was growing up. Stan's would be one of the highlights of the trip from Illinois to Alabama. Mom and Dad would always get a vegetable platter with a pone of cracklin' bread and a cold glass of buttermilk while my brother and I would feast on that tender and juicy BBQ.
On a trip back to Alabama a few years ago I got the chance to introduce my husband to Stan's. He fell in love with that little place and all the stories I told him of it. He even had a good time browsing thru the country store.
Stan's has been a part of my life since the late 60's and I hope it is around for many, many more years. To this day it is still one of the highlights on the trip from up here in Illinois back home to Decatur, Alabama.
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