Diners Worth The Drive

By Matt Brown

Itâ€TMs always easy to go somewhere familiar with mass-produced menu items—these eateries are plastered across our televisions and computer screens. But if you take a chance and stroll along some of the more historic parts of town sometimes you can stumble upon some of the best food that you never knew was there—in local diners, cafes and mom-and-pop shops. Such places are the true heroes of the “dine-out” world and what makes the food so special is that it was made by local people who care enough about their communities to share good food that means something to them. Here are a few local favorites that you might not have heard of:

Foglight Foodhouse

The Foglight Foodhouse was originally opened in 1997 by owner and head chef Edward Philpot. It overlooks the beautiful Caney Fork River and sits on the edge of Rock Island State Park, just a little off the beaten path in Walling, Tennessee, which is north of McMinnville. Itâ€TMs a great place for nature enthusiasts on their way to or from a scenic hike or kayaking trip. Guests can sit inside and enjoy the homey atmosphere or grab a table on the large wraparound porch outside. The menu features a broad range of great foods like stuffed mushrooms, fettuccine alfredo and rib-eye steak. So, itâ€TMs a safe place for someone who is worried about venturing somewhere that only has one type of food. However, the Foglight Foodhouse is particularly well known for its Cajun cuisine and fresh seafood. It is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m.

Burdettâ€TMs Tea Shop

Opened by Sandy Ramsey in 2001, Burdettâ€TMs Tea Shop & Trading Company in downtown Springfield is classy, comfortable and filled with everything a tea lover could want. Inviting wooden floors and ivory tablecloths create a great setting for a brunch or afternoon tea. Burdettâ€TMs Tea Shop is well known for its scones. You can enjoy sweet raisin scones or savory ham and cheese scones. But scones arenâ€TMt the only option. You can try some of their soups, salads or sandwiches like the Red River Reuben. If you canâ€TMt make up your mind, you can always try the tea plate, which features scones with jam, peanut butter balls, brownies, cheese crackers, fruit and other homemade treats, served with a pot of tea. Speaking of tea, they have more than 12 different teas from which to choose.

However, this is not just a place to grab lunch; they also sell loose leaf teas, tea sets and other great things for the tea lover in you. Burdettâ€TMs Tea Shop & Trading Company is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The Bell Buckle Cafe

The Bell Buckle Café, located in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, was opened in 1992 by Jennette Heinike. If you love music, youâ€TMll love this place. Every Thursday and Saturday night, guests can enjoy live music that ranges from classic rock to bluegrass and even smooth jazz. But letâ€TMs talk about the food. Smoked pork chops, Virginia baked ham, macaroni and cheese, fried corn and rib-eye steak are just a few great southern favorites that you can enjoy while you take in the music.

The Bell Buckle Cafe is open seven days a week but be sure to pay attention to the times as they arenâ€TMt the same every day. Theyâ€TMre open Monday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Millerâ€TMs Grocery and Country Cafe

Millerâ€TMs Grocery and Country Cafe in Christiana, Tennessee, was once a proud grocery store owned by Stanley Miller in the early 1900s during a time when Christiana was a busy railroad town with several booming businesses, including a pencil factory and a three-story hotel. In 1995, Millerâ€TMs Grocery was resurrected and re-envisioned as a vintage lunch and dinner spot for happy tourists and locals alike. If you stop in for dinner on a Friday or Saturday night youâ€TMre in for some live folk and bluegrass music.