Triangle (west): Snow Camp – Ye Olde Country Kitchen – Finally, a restaurant/buffet that does Southern food justice (KILLER fried chicken, stew, greens)
Folks, I think I found it. After being more than disappointed with most of the Southern food offerings in the Triangle proper (although haven’t tried Bullock’s yet for their non-BBQ offerings), I set out yesterday on a late afternoon drive down the old Greensboro-Chapel Hill road about 30 minutes west of Chapel Hill to a one-intersection town known as Snow Camp. Left at the Phillips 66 station, then another mile or so on the right, down another road, signs announcing “Ye Olde Country Kitchen” and the “Sword of Peace” production at the outdoor theater just next door.
I was skeptical upon driving out there what exactly to expect. After all, this place is practically in the middle of nowhere. Where would they find the clientele to operate on a Wednesday evening? Well, I had no reason to fear. Upon pulling up to the restaurant around 7 p.m., not only was the gravel parking lot full, but cars were parked along the roadside and across the street.
Photo 1 – the parking lot
Photo 2 – Sign beside front door (showing hours)
My fiancée and I took this as a good sign. It’s one thing to fill up a Golden Corral parking lot in a large city, but to draw a crowd on a weekday night in the middle of nowhere must take something special, right? Indeed.
The place was hopping inside, and, to my relief, all non-smoking. The atmosphere inside seems that of an old converted house with many small dining areas encompassing what in total is quite a large number of tables.
Photo 3 – interior
One has two choices, either order off the menu or go for the all-you-can-eat buffet ($7.99 for dinner, $5.99 for lunch). Everyone else was obviously doing the buffet, and I decided that following suit would provide a good survey of the versatility of this particular kitchen (and to determine whether return visits were called for).
Stepping back for a minute, I consider the mark of a good restaurant is the production of “wow” moments during the course of a meal. All restaurants that I hold in high esteem must produce at least one of these. Ye Olde Country Kitchen’s buffet produced three. The first was the beef stew, a hearty preparation chock full of meat, peas, potatoes, and carrots. Upon submerging a crisp-outside/fluffy-inside biscuit and spooning it in...oh my goodness, pure heaven. The second pure moment of joy came when tasting the fried chicken. A perfect batter, chicken meat underneath so juicy. No joke, best fried chicken I have had in my life (and I’ve experienced a lot of fried chicken in my days). The third “wow” came from the green beans – I have no idea how they do it, but the beans had the perfect firmness with a sweetness that suggests the beans came straight from the farm to the kitchen. This is Southern food done right.
Everything else scored major points as well. I was hesitant to take the collard greens since the condiment of green pepper vinegar sauce was not available, but I need not have worried – the greens were so tender and naturally flavorful that any addition would’ve been a distraction. Best greens I’ve had since my uncle’s grandmother prepared the Thanksgiving feast down in South Georgia a couple of years ago. Corn on the cob was obviously fresh but tasted just okay. Fried squash was amazing. My fiancée also gave thumbs up to the apple crisp, peach cobbler, and banana pudding. I did not have room for dessert because I loaded up on two full plates of veggies in addition to the chicken and stew. Oh, and the sweet tea – as good as it gets.
Photo 4 – fried chicken and stew; collards, mac and cheese, corn
Photo 5 – more collards, green beans, squash
Needless to say, I will be taking the pastoral drive out to Snow Camp many times to get my Southern food fix. They do a lunch buffet Wednesday-Sunday in addition to the dinner buffet/menu offerings. Friday and Saturday evenings they add seafood to the buffet as well. Dare I try their offering of Calabash-style fried shrimp, trout, or catfish? Absolutely...I look forward to it.
This place does NOT displace Market Diner in Thomasville, GA as the best Southern food I’ve had in a restaurant. The variety offered at Market Diner is about double of Ye Olde Country Kitchen (beans of all kinds, casseroles, more types of meat) and the quality about 10% better. I assume Ye Olde Country Kitchen may expand their offerings on the weekends. That said, even as a buffet, the food at this place makes you feel like having been invited into someone’s home for some great authentic Southern chow.
I'll give you directions from 15-501 in Chapel Hill (at least as best as I can as a newcomer). Take 15-501 south around the bottom of Chapel Hill. The road will transform into highway 54 (because 15-501 south exits off to the right). Continue west to the Jones Ferry Road exit. Take Jones Ferry westward for just a mile or so. Immediately after crossing University Lake, you'll come upon a stop light. Turn right. Now you'll be on the Old Greensboro Road. Take that west for 20-25 miles or so until you come upon Snow Camp, denoted best by a Phillips 66 that will be on your left at an intersection with a blinking light. Turn left at that intersection (onto Snow Camp Road). Drive south about a mile. On your right will be another sign pointing the way to "Ye Olde Country Kitchen" (Sylvan School Road), and shortly thereafter, a large series of signs on the right (at the entrance to Drama Road). After that, you can't miss it (it's on the right immediately after the outdoor theater parking entrance/exit).
Hope those directions are good enough, and I hope that the food is consistently good. As far as I'm concerned, the drive itself is part of the experience.
I'm going to try the Old Place Restaurant on Sunday (in Bear Creek, a bit farther but not too far from the Triangle) for their lunch buffet tomorrow to see how it compares with Ye Olde Country Kitchen. Their hours are more limited (just dinner on Friday and Sat., lunch on Sun.). Will report back.
Dude, posts with pics? You're putting the rest of us to shame! What an awesome report! When in grad school at UNC, my buddy and I would occasionally sneak off to Snow Camp to play golf there. It was a crappy cow pasture of a course but it was cheap and I'm a mediocre golfer anyway. Never heard of this place when I'd go there. Definitely going to try it out. I'm also looking foward to driving the tight, curvy road in my new 330i. :-)
(bbqme, formerly known as Sant)
Verdict on "Old Place Restaurant" out near Siler City - respectable Southern fare, but no "wow" moments like Ye Olde Country Kitchen.
I went out there yesterday for the Sunday buffet. Certainly no shortage of a crowd (had to wait 15 min. for a table at 1:30 p.m.). Basically a converted house with little if any decor inside. A few things disallow this place from being worth the drive:
1) Price - The buffet is $11.72 (CASH ONLY) per person. That's a good 25-50% more expensive than Ye Olde Country Kitchen, depending on when you go.
2) Location - a farther drive (at least from Chapel Hill/Durham) than Ye Olde Country Kitchen, and not as scenic.
3) Cuisine - the fried chicken was certainly juicy inside, but the batter itself was more cripsy, thicker, and more greasy than Ye Olde Country Kitchen. Reminded me more of KFC on a good day than home-cooked consideration (of course, I believe that unlike KFC they don't add MSG to the spices!)
Collards weren't on the buffet, so I settled for turnip greens. Nothing wrong with them, but not much better than what one would find at Cracker Barrel.
Stewed beans were definitely tasty, but nothing mindblowing.
Mashed potatoes were good and clearly "homemade," but nothing spectacular.
The closest thing to a "wow" moment came with the candied yams. They were pretty much as good as I have had, but then again, I've had "perfect" candied yams at many places.
Green beans were tender and fresh, but lacked the ethereal quality of Ye Olde Country Kitchen.
In summary: if you live in Raleigh or Cary, Old Place Restaurant might be the closest place to find authentic Southern fare that can be called satisfactory. If I happened to find myself near Siler City on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday and needed an expedient place to eat, I'd go here in a heartbeat. Otherwise, there's no reason to choose Old Place over Ye Olde Country Kitchen if you have to pick one. It CERTAINLY isn't worth the longer drive and the higher prices.
Restaurant exterior with sign -
Fried chicken, Green beans, mashed potatoes, candied yams -
More fried chicken, turnip greens, beans and corn
All right, that does it for Southern food reviews for a while. Time to sample what the Triangle has to offer once again. Hot weather inspires the sushi appetite. I smell Waraji in the near future...
I usually hang out over on the Southwest Board, but I clicked on over and saw this review. Great stuff, mikeh. You had me salivating with the words and even more so with the photos.
My fiance and I are thinking of doing a culinary tour of the south and now you have made things more difficult because I want to throw the Triangle into the mix.
I haven't made the drive out to Snow Camp yet, but you shouldn't have to go all the way back to Old Fayetteville. You can definitely cut over on Hatch, but from Saxapahaw, Saxapahaw Rd to 87 is less out of the way and should get you there. If you're closer to Haw River proper, 87 hits Snow Camp Rd.
Made the trek to Snow Camp yesterday. Lovely drive on empty roads through luxuriant green fields on a Sunday afternoon. My take is that it was good, but not spectacular. Maybe because we arrived at 3:30 pm, the fried chicken was tasty, but it had been sitting a while -- and was far from fresh and frankly a bit tough. The beans were good but nothing special. The beef stew wasn't available on Sundays. My DH liked the chicken and dumplings a lot. I liked the mac and cheese and the fried squash. Everything else was your usual fare. We really didn't have much room, but we did enjoy a taste of the large selection of desserts -- great coconut custard, 2 kinds of banana pudding, lime merinque pie, and cobbler. I dislike the typical sickening sweet southern desserts and these were sweet, but thankfully toned down a notch. Also had a good selection of sugar-free desserts - apple and cherry pie and a quite good peach pound cake. Our waitress was super nice.
A nice excursion and I would do it again -- especially if I could get that chicken piping hot from the fryer.
Went there yesterday and I hate to say it, I wasn't overly impressed. The fried chicken and veggies were good but nothing worth driving that far out for.
Two exceptions: instead of the buffet my wife got a hamburger. I had a couple of bites and that had to be one of the best burgers I've ever tasted! Must be the local grass fed beef they use. With two 1/4 pound patties that bad boy is a meal in and of itself. The peach cobbler was outstanding, with the cinnamon and nutmeg coming through and the crust was nice and crispy with no hint of sogginess.
Man, I lived in Chapel Hill for 12 years (just moved last year), must have driven through Snow Camp hundreds of time between CH and Charlotte but never stopped, even though I did go through the "Sword of Peace" set once, on a whim.
Great drive to do in the spring/summer, will have to check out the food sometime.
Speaking of that drive, anyone ever make it to the little cafe in Staley?
I've read the comments regarding Ye Old Country Kitchen and The Old Place. I've eaten at both places & in my opinion The Old Place cost waaaaay too much ($11.22) plus I didnt think the food was that great. After eating at Ole Place I thought... next time I'll go to either Snow Camp OR Best Foods in Siler City.
I'd like to mention BEST FOODS which is on Hgy 64West Siler City. It has cafeteria food - OR you can get more fancy fare in Hayley Bales, a steak place (both are in the same building). Both are very tasty & reasonably priced. At Best Foods you can go through the line for GREAT home cooked food (better than The Old Place) or go to the salad bar for $5.00 which has DELICIOUS fried chicken & desserts (cobblers, banana pudding, congealed salads) & salad makings of course. It is not unusual to see a busload of people eating there, usually on a Friday night when there is gospel music. Those who come for the gospel music eat in a large room away from the rest of the diners. Let's face it; not everybody likes gospel music & it is only on Friday night(smile). My problem eating there is that I always pig out at the salad bar. My friend often gets dumplings & vegetables from the cafeteria line. Also if you want to buy a pie to take home, there are many to choose from, prepared by a country cook. Either way, the food is good.
When I want a good ribeye I often go to Hayley Bales (located in same building as Best Foods but seems like it's not). It is not unusual to have to wait for a table if you get there after 630pm or 7pm so I go before then. They have the usual: salad, steak, white potato or sweet potato, bread... good eatin' at both places.