About an hour drive south east of Nashville is the small artist community of Bell Buckle, Tennessee. The old railroad town, listed in the National Register of Historic Places was once left for dead but has been resurrected. Restored into a beautiful and quaint little burg numbering less than 500 residents. It's also the home of the RC Cola and Moon Pie Festival.
Celebrating the quintessential southern staples, RC Cola and Moon Pies. For those not from the south, a Moon Pie is a layered graham cracker and marshmallow treat that's (originally) covered in chocolate. They come in over a half dozen flavours now.
Arriving in town from the west, Railroad Square is somewhat obscured. You're almost on the tracks before you get a good view. One good look though will let you know that you're in for something special. Among the single story store fronts sits Bell Buckle Cafe. A good ole down home "Meat and 3" with live country music on Friday and Saturday night.
While not the only restaurant in town, Bell Buckle Cafe is certainly the busiest. The parking lot was full to over flowing when we arrived on Sunday just before noon. We were lucky we only had a 10 minute wait. Church lets out at noon and it quickly became obvious that for locals, the Sunday morning ritual is church then lunch at the Cafe.
Waiting in line Mrs. Sippi interrogated a local on the food options. Asked to pick a favourite he couldn't. He did suggest the smothered chops that were one of the specials of the day. He went on to offer about a half dozen more things before declaring everything "Great." Seated beside us were two older couples. "Every Sunday" one told me of how often they patronize the Cafe. In her pantheon of Meat and 3's Mrs. Sippi has declared Bell Buckle Cafe one of the triumvirate. Along with Stan's and Dixie Freeze. Pretty select company. I'll go one further. It's the best I've been to.
A Meat and Three for the uninitiated is a restaurant offering a meat option with a choice of three sides. Most places give you your choice of anywhere from 3 to 6 main options. Bell Buckle has over a dozen on their menu and another half dozen on the specials board. Your sides choices number between 6 and 10. Bell Buckle has at least a dozen. There's also a half dozen desert options. More if you consider that I'm counting "Pie" and "Cobbler" as one item each. They have several options in both category.
So it's about time we got to the food.
Smothered chops with turnip greens, mac and cheese and squash casserole for me and chicken fried steak with white beans, fried corn and fried okra for Mrs. Sippi. Both came with a johnny cake.
Smothered chops are pork chops that are simmered in gravy. They were fall apart tender and very tasty. They gravy was very good and not too salty. I'd actually have liked just a bit more on mine.
The turnip greens were quite good. Not the best I've had but there was the exact right amount of pot likker. It was the perfect amount for sopping with the corn cake.
The squash casserole was fantastic although not as good as Puckett's. Not "Squashy" at all if you know what I mean. It had a nice balance of flavours.
I really liked the mac and cheese. This was a great "Side" mac and cheese. It didn't have a stand out personality but a nice creamy, cheesy taste that would play well in the sandbox with anything.
Mrs. Sippi's chicken fried steak was unbelievable. It had a well seasoned breading that the Colonel and his 11 herbs and spices would be impressed with. Again, the gravy wasn't too salty which can be a problem. This milk or sawmill gravy was excellent.
Fried corn is corn that's cut from the cob and fried in butter (or bacon grease) until it has the consistency of cream corn. I hadn't had it done right before. Now I have. Mrs. Sippi proclaimed it perfect.
The white beans had all the earmarks of being southern style. Slow simmered with hunks of pig for hours. So good.
The fried okra was also spectacular. Very crispy and delicious. Their breading is fantastic.
The desert menu is on the napkin dispenser and it says "Save room for desert." Who am I to argue??
Since I was in Bell Buckle I had to have a moon pie. One of the desert offerings was a moon pie sundae. So why not? A banana moon pie with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce. It was very good however predictable.
Mrs. Sippi couldn't get her mind off the peach cobbler. It was excellent. A nice buttery crust and warm sweet peach filling with the ice cream melting all over it. It was a text book southern cobbler.
With all the desert options we just couldn't narrow it down to two. I polled the people around our table and kept coming up with one thing. It was calling me. It was fate. I had to have it. I'd never heard of it. It sounded interesting. It said "Covered in caramel sauce." I like caramel sauce. I give you, the oatmeal cake.
It's rare that I order a desert that doesn't have chocolate in it. If I do, I generally try to figure out where to add chocolate. This desert is more proof that god wants us to be happy. It was like a moist 2" thick oatmeal cookie smothered in caramel sauce. It's impossible for me to impress upon you how much this desert impressed me. I was almost reduced to tears.
I also couldn't pass up the opportunity to have and RC Cola as well.
You can find Bell Buckle Cafe on Railroad Square in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
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You can find them on the web or become a Facebook fan.
Well that's all for now. 'Til next time.