Late in January of 1951 the Greater Nashville Area was pounded by snow and freezing rain for 4 days. In it’s wake, the storm left middle Tennessee under 8” of snow and ice, grinding it to a stand still. Roads were closed or otherwise impassable. Trees were downed taking power lines with them. Thousands were without power, heat, telephones and ultimately food for days.
One of the few businesses to remain open during the storm, Dotson’s Restaurant in Franklin became an oasis. The little restaurant kept the locals fed with the “Stick to your ribs” food that keeps you warm on a winter’s day. They also went above and beyond the call, making home deliveries to those unable to get out. For many of Franklin’s old timers, the “Great Blizzard of ‘51” and Dotson’s are forever linked in their memories.
Opened by Clara and Chester Dotson in 1949 serving home cooked meals (They’ve since relocated to the banks of the Harpeth River; 1978) the now 63 year old restaurant is an institution for the locals. The building and it’s wood paneling and creaky floors is pretty typical of a meat n 3 place in appearance. In other words, with most of them, the money is in the steak, not the sizzle. Decorated with autographed pictures (mostly country music stars) and memorabilia it’s almost a hall of fame. Perhaps the biggest stamp of approval is the framed face of Martha Stewart.
Rumour is, another move is in the works as the city tries to redevelop around the river.
So let’s get to the food.
I had the meatloaf, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes with gravy and cream corn. Mrs. Sippi went with chicken and dumplin’s with white beans and sweet potato casserole. We also sampled a piece for fried chicken.
The meatloaf, oft thought of as the best in Franklin was excellent. Nicely dense yet tender covered with a tomato sauce that tasted very much like salsa. A bit of an odd choice that seemed to compliment very well. The mashed potatoes were very good, simply seasoned and the gravy was excellent. I like my gravy a little on the salty side and this was perfect. I opted for the dinner roll to sop up any gravy or other goodness that may have been left on the plate.
The fried chicken was very tasty but not the earth moving experience I’d convinced myself it would be. Supposedly a perennial winner of best fried chicken it was simply seasoned and fried crispy but not VERY juicy. The cream corn is cut fresh off the cob in the kitchen and it shows. It had a nice bright, fresh corn taste and was easily the best part of my meal.
Mrs. Sippi’s chicken and dumplin’s hit the spot as she said. A rich chicken broth with dumplin’s, topped with shredded chicken. As down home southern as it gets. The casserole was tasty and not as cloyingly sweet as I’d expected with marshmallows as part of the recipe. The white beans were very nice with a simple seasoning to highlight the earthy flavour of the beans. She also very much liked the corn bread. Straight ahead southern.
The famous cream pies were fantastic. The meringue was nice and thick and the fillings were very creamy. The crust also had a very nice flavour.
Mrs. Sippi had the coconut.
I had the chocolate.
All in all, Dotson's doesn't measure up to the standards set by Stan's and Bell Buckle Cafe but it's still good solid food, worthy of praise.
You can find Dotson’s beside the Harpeth River in at 99 E. Main St. in Franklin, Tn.
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Well that’s all for now. See you again in the food court.