Southern Restaurant: Southern comfort from Southern cooking

Mystery Diner • Mar 16, 2018 at 8:15 AM

I count myself fortunate in marrying a Southern lady whose mother was known as Mamaw by her family, neighbors and church members. Right from the start, Mamaw treated me as one of her own sons and was very patient in helping me in realigning my Yankee palate, switching me from canned Del Monte Blue Lake green beans to a pot of fresh-picked half-runners cooked with a healthy cut of fatback. Mamaw taught me much about Southern “comfort” food, its origins and how incredibly diverse its flavors and bouquets are.

Outside: If you are not fortunate to have access to a Mamaw of your own, a decent substitute can be found at Elizabethton’s Southern Restaurant. I was introduced to the Southern Restaurant when I was courting my dining partner. In business for longer than I can remember, the Southern is still tucked in snugly on East Elk Avenue in Elizabethton. Parking is available on the street with overflow available out the restaurant’s back door.

Inside: The Southern Restaurant has seating for some 60 patrons inside, with six more patio tables dotting the sidewalk out front. Décor is a homestyle mix of local sports team memorabilia and what appears to be someone’s extensive salt and pepper shaker collection.

Our recent sojourn at the Southern was for supper, this time in the company of our friend the Retiree.

Meat Loaf Dinner

After a busy workday fueled mostly by vending machine-sourced nourishment, I was looking for comfort food in its purest form. The Southern Restaurant’s Meat Loaf dinner ($8.99) did not disappoint. Their meat loaf is the closest thing to Mamaw’s meat loaf, giving you a fresh-baked biscuit plus two side orders. I chose the cornbread salad and their fried okra. The meat loaf was a good mix of lean beef and tasty pork that was oven-baked, not fried, then covered with the Southern’s barbecue sauce and baked some more until the sauce had caramelized a bit. The cornbread salad was a good mix of fresh cornmeal, chopped celery, bell pepper and red onion, with some homemade ranch dressing stirred in. Served in a soup cup, the cornbread dressing partnered well with the meat loaf’s tangy sauce. The fried okra was very good, being sliced fresh, dipped in a cornmeal batter and then deep-fried until golden brown. As mentioned earlier, the biscuit was freshly- baked and tasted great with a dollop of grape jelly on it. You could not ask for a better dessert than a Southern Restaurant biscuit with your favorite fruit jam or jelly on it.

Club Sandwich with Fries

Though my dining partner had gotten her proper daily nutrition from both breakfast and lunch, her workday had burned up most of it by supper time. As a result, my partner ordered the Southern’s triple-decker club sandwich ($6.99) with a side order of french fries. The sandwich was a true three-decker, being four slices of toasted white bread, loaded with sliced “city” ham, sliced turkey breast, fried bologna, a good pile of smoked bacon strips, then lettuce, tomato, onion and dill pickles. The french fries were fresh-cut and deep-fried in very hot oil to get an added crispiness on the surface, contrasting with the moist, fluffy potato interior. All that was needed was a squirt of ketchup and my dining partner was in business.

Farmer’s Market Omelet w/Fruit

Our friend the Retiree had been craving breakfast all day. The Farmer’s Market omelet ($6.99) from the Southern Restaurant was just what was needed. Here, three whisked eggs are stuffed with chopped ham, locally-grown tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and mushrooms, then fried, folded and plated with a fresh, hot biscuit and bowl of fruit. This last was to have been fruit cocktail but turned out to be pineapple chunks. No matter, the Retiree just had the pineapple as dessert along with her biscuit.

The bottom line: Becoming a Southerner has been a long process for this Yankee transplant. Learning Southern food-ways and recipes is basic to being Southern. Thanks to my dining partner, Mamaw and the Southern Restaurant, I am never far away from Southern cooking and Southern hospitality.

Next week, the Mystery Diner discovers more Southern hospitality in a whole new place.

Southern Restaurant

408 E. Elk Ave.



Mon-Fri 6 a.m.-8 p.m.

Sat - Sun 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

Available on Facebook

Credit cards accepted

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