Countryside Café is a very popular Southern cooking restaurant in Ooltewah, Tennessee. They serve all of your Southern favorites!
I am a bit of a Type A. I have no idea if any of that comes through in my blog, but I am a classic overachieving first born Type A. Exhibit A: I haven’t missed a single day of work this year…I have managed not to get sick (no noses to wipe this year) and, as I almost always do, I have saved my personal days to the very end. This week was the week of the dreaded TCAP (state-mandated testing, for any of you who don’t live in Tennessee) and I couldn’t do very many school visits, so I decided to take a couple of days off. That gave us a chance to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville (and a jaunt to Wish You Were Beer), finish painting our kitchen (except the trim…almost done!), and go to Countryside Café in Ooltewah.
Actually, we probably would have gone to Countryside Café this weekend even if I hadn’t taken the time off. I had excellent food catered from there years ago and have been meaning to get back since the inception of this blog…but Ooltewah is kind of a drive so I have to plan to go out there or I won’t think about it. This was a perfect opportunity! After sleeping in a little, eating breakfast, and doing the first coat of paint, it was almost 2:00 by the time we go out there. You’d imagine that on a weekday a place so far out would be dead at 2 p.m., but you’d be wrong. While we were seated immediately, there were plenty of other diners in the place. Plenty.
There are several dry erase boards stationed in different areas around the restaurant announcing the specials (meatloaf, wood-roasted chicken wings, wood-roasted chicken breast) and the desserts (too many to name, but the highlights included strawberry shortcake, Reese’s peanut butter cup cake, and chocolate chip walnut (ahem, not Derby) pie). A chalkboard on the hostess stand alerts you that the servers work as a team and that you can ask any one of them for anything that you need, and indeed this turned out to be true. Different people took our orders, filled our drinks, cleared our plates, checked up on us. It seemed to be a very efficient way of handling things!
I decided that in order to truly judge a country cooking type restaurant I needed to order sweet tea. It was quite good, pretty sweet but not cloying and just the right strength. I love sweet tea…I used to drink it all day long but somewhere in my late twenties realized I needed to replace my sweet tea with water and I’m sure my kidneys thank me for it. I decided to get the fried chicken filet with white gravy. Each meat is served with three vegetables and cornbread or a Sister Schubert’s roll unless otherwise noted. I ordered cornbread, mashed potatoes, green beans, and fried okra. The chicken was a gigantic boneless breast, breaded and fried and served smothered with peppery white gravy. It was deliciously seasoned and perfectly cooked and-this is important-there was no skin on the gravy. Gah, I hate being served gravy with a skin on it. The potatoes had a good flavor but were a little bit thicker than I prefer. The green beans were cooked until soft (true Southern style) and well-seasoned, and the okra…well, when I saw the okra the heavens opened and the angels sang. It was cornmeal dredged and pan fried, just like your momma or your granny (or I!) would cook in her Lodge skillet. Perfect.
Philip decided on the country-fried steak with white gravy (brown gravy was also a choice), mashed potatoes, white beans, and okra. The steak was well-breaded, nicely seasoned, and cooked just right and he liked the gravy as well. He agreed with me about the potatoes…good flavor but a little thick. He also did a little jig (not really) over the fried okra (it’s just so rare to find okra in a restaurant that isn’t fried!). He thought that the white beans were cooked well but a little under salted.
The cornbread muffins were also delicious. They were soft and moist and, like Southern cornbread should be, 100% savory and 0% sweet. And they were served with real butter. Amen and amen. Real butter and non-frozen fried okra alone are just about enough to make me declare this one of the best Southern cooking restaurants in which I’ve ever eaten.
We were stuffed to the gills by the time we finished our meals (not cleaned our plates…there was not way) but we couldn’t possibly leave without dessert, so we decided to get it to go. Buttermilk pie and Italian cream cake were our Friday night, um, dinner (we were nowhere near hungry enough for me to make the King Ranch casserole I’d planned to make for dinner). The Italian cream cake was a delicious, buttery yellow cake with a rich cream cheese frosting, coconut, and pecans. It was wonderful and didn’t have so much icing that it was overwhelming or caused me tooth pain (darn those sensitive teeth!). The buttermilk pie was creamy and custardy and had a beautifully crimped crust. Both were fantastic!
If you are willing to go a few minutes outside of Chattanooga to get amazing Southern food, you will not regret going to Countryside Café. The prices are reasonable (ours was $30 and some change pre-tip for 2 meat and three plates, two desserts, and a drink). They serve a wide variety of food with rotating specials and much of it is made from scratch. The desserts are out of this world! The people were friendly and the service was amazingly fast and efficient.
Countryside Café is obviously a local favorite for good reason-they’ve been around for 25 years so they must be doing something right!
Countryside Café is located at 8223 Mahan Gap Road, Ooltewah, TN 37363. You can call them at 423-344-8646. They are open Monday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m., and Sunday 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. You can check out their full menu on their website, www.countrysidecafe.net. You can also like Countryside Café on Facebook.