As I’ve said a gazillion and seven times (maybe more), we have a wild obsession with locally owned and operated restaurants. These small diners, cafes, and… dare I even say it… dives!.. aren’t just a great way to support your neighbors, they’re also a lot of fun. Some of the servers and fellow diners are downright entertaining. Best of all, often the food is outstanding.
Good, old-fashioned, down-home country cooking that takes you back to simpler days.
If you’re lucky enough to live within reach of one of these restaurants, be sure to pay them a visit as often as possible. These restaurants are a dying breed and that’s nothing if not heartbreaking.
When you DO go to one of these small diners, be sure to check your fancy shmancy expectations at the door. They aren’t backed by a huge conglomeration and the owner more likely than not doesn’t have pockets any deeper than the rest of us. As a matter of fact, very often the owner is in the kitchen doing the cooking!
You also have to keep in mind that, just like your favorite aunt, your mom, or your grandmother, these restaurants make certain foods better than others. Their cornbread may be the stuff dreams are made of while their roll obviously was pulled out of a grocery-bought bag as the server made their way to your table! Again, like Aunt Sue (or whatever your aunt’s name is!), some foods are better than others.
And you can’t tell me Aunt Sue bakes all her own bread. She just doesn’t have time for that!
It’s all part of the charm of these small restaurants. You often have to go several times to discover which are their very best menu items.
The North South Cafe in Robards, Kentucky (also known locally as the Truck Stop) is a wonderful example of this type of restaurant. There’s a laid back, everyone here is family type of atmosphere that is “genuine Kentucky.” We went about a week ago and I look forward to making a second trip very soon.
Our server was great. He was uncommonly friendly and knew the menu so well I thought maybe he wrote it. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a more likeable, friendly server ever.
The restaurant, which was established in 1956, reminds me of restaurants I visited with my parents as a child. The outside of the restaurant, the dining room, and even the food took me back to another time. Nostalgic trips are always cool, aren’t they?
My husband (Michael) and I both ordered fried catfish, fried potatoes, and coleslaw. He chose fried cornbread and I chose a roll. The fried cornbread was excellent.
He went on and on about his fried potatoes and I had to agree, they were really good. The catfish was good, too. I liked it much better than some yellow, floppy catfish I had recently. When I saw it, I thought, “Yes! Brown like it should be.”
After we’d almost finished our meal, Michael remembered seeing white beans on the menu and asked our server for a bowl.
The white beans were fantastic. If only he’d ordered them before eating all the fried cornbread – they’d have been an unbeatable combination. These beans were full of flavor and cooked for just the right amount of time. I normally throw some salt and pepper on restaurant beans, after taking a taste to see how they are without them. I didn’t even bother with these beans – they didn’t need anything in them except for a spoon. Dang good beans.
Speaking of unbeatable, we ordered a slice of Coconut Meringue Pie for dessert and it was amazing. Absolutely amazing! It was big, beautiful, and couldn’t be more delicious.
I hope you’ll go to the North South Cafe (“Truck Stop”) when you get a chance. It’s a fun, enjoyable experience, the food is ridiculously inexpensive, and downright tasty! I will say this (with all due respect and love for North South), the coleslaw wasn’t my favorite. If it comes with something you order, fine, but if you have a choice of another side, go with another side.
Say you’re allergic to coleslaw, it’s against your religion, or that coleslaw brings back ugly memories of an ex – whatever.
Unless we caught it on a bad night, it’s just not that fantastic. It’s beautiful… I mean just look at the pictures! Did you ever see prettier coleslaw?
I actually kind of like it when a restaurant has an item that’s a weak link. It gives the place character. One of our favorite catfish restaurants (years ago, before it went to the dogs) had coleslaw that was horrific. We’d go about once a week and, even though coleslaw came with our catfish dinner, we’d tell them to just not bring any. One time we were there and a server we’d never had before brought coleslaw out anyway. When she put it in front of me, I asked her, “What’d I ever do to you??!” She laughed and said, “It’s bad, isn’t it?”
One of our two favorite present-day catfish restaurants happens to have (in my opinion) ridiculously bad hush puppies. I just substitute with a roll. Bottom line – every restaurant has an item that’s not on par with the rest. In the case of the North South Cafe, the coleslaw is pretty, but she’s doesn’t have the personality the other sides have.
The beans, cornbread, and potatoes are “lookers” AND have killer personalities. Date them instead.
[Review continued beneath the Heavenly picture of Coconut Cream Pie.]
Doesn’t the picture of Coconut Cream Pie above make your mouth water?!All that delicious, tender coconut in the filling and toasted coconut on top of the meringue. Even the crust was flaky and fantastic.
This pie is out of this world good. I couldn’t decide which part was my favorite – the creamy middle or the flaky crust. In the end, I just called it a tie and wished that the entire pie was in front of me.
As you’ll notice in the pictures below, the North South also got it RIGHT with ketchup. If you read many of my Kentucky Restaurant Reviews, you know I”m a stickler for Heinz Ketchup (or Hunt’s). It’s a personal mission to wipe out all of the cheap, nasty, foul-tasting off-brand ketchup that haunts far too many restaurant tables. It matters, people, it matters! That’s why, in my restaurant reviews, you’ll notice that if a certain restaurant has Heinz or Hunt’s Ketchup, I’ll take a picture of and let it show off.
As a matter of fact, yes, sometimes I get a few stares when I position and photograph a ketchup bottle. Their faces are like, “What the….” I want to tell them, “Back off people, I’m having a photo shoot with a beautiful red head!”
The North South is located at 14260 US HWY 41 S. in Robards, Kentucky. Well within reach of Madisonville, Owensboro, or Henderson. See the North South Website for more information, the menu, etc. I just noticed that they serve breakfast! The North South would be a really cool place to enjoy breakfast. The atmosphere, friendliness… oh, yeah, I can’t wait to have breakfast there!