When Mike and I taught in LaGrange, Georgia, we loved to travel to the pretty little town of Pine Mountain, population 1,216 as of 2020. This special place was a mere 18 miles from us; however, once we arrived at the Pine Mountain Club Chalets to spend a few days, we felt as though we were a world away from the stress of teaching and life in general.
Over the years, Mike and I have had numerous adventures in Pine Mountain. On one of our earliest trips, I was happily feeding bread to some ducks at a nearby pond. When I ran out of bread, the ducks started advancing on me. As I whirled around to make my escape, Mike thoughtfully took my picture. “Run up the steps; ducks can’t climb steps,” Mike said. On the contrary, ducks CAN climb steps, but I finally managed to escape the frenzied, famished fowl
(Remember, I love alliteration).
We also had fun when we took Mama and Daddy to Pine Mountain. Once we went there when the weather was cold. Now, Mike and I are pretty stingy with the heat, preferring to turn it down and burrow under multiple blankets. My parents, however, were cold-natured. When we got up the next morning, Daddy said, “I may climb in the freezer to get warm.” We bumped up the heat a little bit for him.
In addition, we took the Fearsome Foursome (Mama, Daddy, Aunt Jenny and Aunt Betty) to Callaway Gardens, one of Pine Mountain’s most popular attractions. During spring, we enjoyed touring the gardens, admiring the blooming azaleas, Butterfly House and countless other breathtaking flowers. As you know, there’s nothing like spring in the South, even though I sneeze my way through it. We also enjoyed the beautiful Fantasy in Lights display at Christmas with them and smile every time we talk about our trips.
Years ago, Mike and I had twin little brothers from the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of LaGrange. One December, we rode the Jolly Trolley with the boys through Fantasy in Lights. Then we went to the Christmas Pavilion where the boys had their picture taken with Santa Claus. “I think he’s the real one,” one of the boys said in wonder.
One place that Mike and I ALWAYS went to dine was at the Callaway Gardens Country Kitchen Restaurant at 17800 U.S.-27 in Pine Mountain. Recently, we visited this delightful restaurant for dinner (lunch).
We were lead to our table, which looked out over a spectacular view of the mountain. Jess, our waitress, was so sweet, helpful and patient. When she brought us those amazing muscadine preserves with homemade biscuits and sweet cornbread muffins, sparks flew from our spoons and knives. Oh, my three times. We surely had missed this treat. Believe me, the preserves and bread alone are worth the trip. Incidentally, the restaurant also gets bonus points for serving soft, smoothly spreadable butter for the bread. I can’t stand cold butter that’s as hard as a rock.
Mike ordered the hamburger steak, mashed potatoes with gravy and spiced, glazed apples. I chose the golden fried chicken fingers, cream corn and collards. Everything was just as delicious as ever. Also, the Callaway Gardens Country Kitchen Restaurant received more bonus points because my collard greens had plenty of pot liquor in which to dip my cornbread. Years ago, I once asked my students if they knew what pot liquor was, assuring them that it wasn’t anything illegal; I didn’t want parent phone calls. Sadly, most of them hadn’t heard the term, which refers to juice from collard or turnip greens. We really need to educate young Southerners about this part of our food culture, in my opinion.
Besides our delectable dishes, the Callaway Gardens Country Kitchen Restaurant also offers diners fried fish, country fried steak, chicken fried chicken, a vegetable platter and fried pork chops. The restaurant also serves salads and sandwiches. For dessert, diners may choose from fried apple pie, praline bread pudding, strawberry shortcake, Southern pecan pie and ice cream.
Since Mike and I planned to buy two jars of the incredible muscadine preserves, we decided to forego the dessert.
After enjoying our fabulous dinner (lunch), Mike and I browsed the Country Store, which sold candy, fudge, various preserves and every kind of gift idea imaginable. We chatted with two sweet ladies who worked there. They were kind enough to let Mike take their picture. It was so great to visit our old stomping grounds again. Run and do not walk to the Callaway Gardens Country Kitchen Restaurant. Mike and I surely will.
Currently, the Callaway Gardens Country Kitchen Restaurant is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Eastern Time). However, the restaurant will soon expand its hours of operation.
The Callaway Gardens Country Kitchen Restaurant makes the grade with an A+ from this retired English teacher. Remember, “Pooh-sized” people NEVER lie about food. Enjoy!
Stacey Patton Wallace, who retired from teaching language arts for 30 years, is a professional diner. Her column, “Making the Grade,” will appear each week in The Observer. Stacey may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org