By Stacey Patton Wallace
Recently, Mike and I met our friends Jack, William and Thomas for supper at the Mason Jar at 1036 S. College St. in Auburn. Before I report about what we ate for supper, let me say that I love the restaurant’s name because it makes me nostalgic. The older I get, the more thinking back to the past makes me happy, especially after the last nearly 21 pandemic-filled months.
In my youth, I remember the older generation talking about “the good old days” and about how much better they were than the present. However, I refuse to be “old,” so I am instead being “nostalgic” when I talk about back in the day.
That said, the Mason Jar makes me think back to when my Mama, grandmothers and aunts used to can vegetables in, you guessed it, Mason jars. As I’ve probably mentioned before, Daddy had a wonderful garden in which he grew string beans (or pole beans), tomatoes (the ripest, reddest, most delicious ones I’ve ever eaten), zucchini, yellow squash, green onions and peppers. (I stayed away from those dark, lethal green peppers. They were so hot, eating them could cause your face to melt.) Again, I’m a wimp when it comes to hot and spicy foods. When I’m in pain, I’m not enjoying the food, so what’s the point?
Anyway, after Daddy picked the wonderful, fresh vegetables, the female members of the family would start the canning process. Mama mostly canned string beans and tomatoes, which my family happily devoured throughout the fall and winter months. As Mama said, those string beans were so good that they almost had a sweet taste. Also, those canned tomatoes were delectable in Mama’s unmatchable vegetable soup, spaghetti and chili.
I remember sometimes watching Mama can those vegetables. The process took a long time and looked like hard work. Therefore, I didn’t have any desire to learn to do this time-honored, Southern tradition. I’m afraid that it will end with Mama’s generation.
The last part of the canning process could be a little unnerving. As a youth, I thought that staying up late over the summer until 2 or 3 a.m. to watch old movies was really cool. No, it was really stupid. Also, occasionally those Mason jars of vegetables would seal, making a weird, popping sound. That can make you jump at 2 or 3 a.m. Now that I’m older, I get sleepy at 10:30 p.m., and I couldn’t move if I tried sleeping until noon. But again, I’m “nostalgic” and not “old.”
But back to supper at the Mason Jar. I really love the restaurant’s rustic décor. Also, Katie, our waitress, was very sweet, kind and helpful. We’re blessed in Lee County to have so many service staff members who fit that description.
Mike chose steak tips with sweet potato fries and a side salad. I ordered steak tips with fried okra, mac ‘n cheese and a side salad. Jack chose the tossed chicken tenders with collards and mac ‘n cheese. Thomas ordered the chopped steak with green beans and sweet potato fries. Last, William selected the southern nutty salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Everything was really delicious.
Besides our terrific entrees, the Mason Jar also offers diners a wide selection of choices, some of which include: ribeye steak, the fried pork chop dinner, chicken and dumplings, shrimp and grits, Southern fried catfish and jumbo fried shrimp. The restaurant also has wonderful sandwiches, salads, wraps and wings to enjoy.
And desserts? Oh, my two times. Homemade pies, cakes and cobblers are baked daily. Also, their Extreme Milkshakes have to be seen to be believed. I’m proud to say that as a diabetic, I managed to resist them this time, but it wasn’t easy. Also, according to Katie, our terrific waitress, the Extreme Milkshakes are so popular that there’s an hour wait for them. Therefore, you might want to call ahead and order yours before you leave the house. Also, you’d better invite a friend or two to help you finish this milkshake because it will be garnished with amazing toppings such as: candy bars, fruit, cupcakes, popsicles, cheesecake, cotton candy, donuts, pop tarts and a lot more. It’s entertaining just watching waitresses deliver the Extreme Milkshakes to tables with children, although, adults get excited, too.
The Mason Jar has recently started serving breakfast on Monday through Friday from 7:30 to 10 a.m. Also, the restaurant is open on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; on Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The Mason Jar 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 email@example.com