Travel by motorcycle brings a whole new level to finding gastronomical fulfillment. The highway interstate system is great for getting from here to there quickly but just doesn’t always cut it when it comes to good eats. Sometimes I’ll get on the CB radio and ask the truckers where the best road food is with good results but they usually only know where the restaurants are that they can park their big rigs.
When time is of little concern on my two wheeled adventures, I often find myself taking the back roads of America that time seems to have forgotten. That is where I find my favorite food joints. What makes the food experience even more special is when it’s near one of my all-time favorite roads to ride. The 444 mile long Natchez Trace stretches from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee where commercial traffic is prohibited and stop signs/stop lights are nonexistent. With its 50 MPH limit, the Trace meanders through lush forests and gentle rolling hills providing a memorable experience. The Old Country Store Restaurant is located near the southern terminus of the Natchez Trace where you can find quite possibly the finest fried chicken that you have ever had in your life.
I first heard about this restaurant from the Food Network television series “Feasting on Asphalt” by world renowned chef/motorcyclist Alton Brown. My first encounter of the Old Country Store Restaurant included a trip down the Trace with a bunch of my motorcycle friends that I was camping with. The closer we got the more my saliva glands were pumping in anticipation of this really special chicken place they were bragging about. Out in the middle of nowhere stands this rustic 140 year old building with a patina that puts you right in a mood for some good old fashioned comfort/soul food. It made me think of what life would have been like in southern Mississippi back when horses and buggies ruled the streets. Upon entering it’s not hard to see that this was once a general store with its walls lined with knick knacks from a bygone era.
The tables are covered in white linen and fresh flowers adorn them for a nice down home touch. Food is served all you can eat buffet style which I enjoy on the road when I’m in a hurry.
Southern staples like turnip greens, purple hull peas,sweet potatoes, okra, black eyed peas, green beans infused with large chunks of bacon and corn on the cob to name a few on the steam table. Chicken and rice, ribs, pork chops and catfish are also at your disposal. Top that off with cornbread and biscuits with a trip to the salad bar and a sweet tea to wash it down and you will know why I keep coming back to this little piece of heaven. But he star of the show is the deep fried chicken! Arthur only uses fresh chickens cooked in specially designed frying vats and he routinely changes the vegetable oil. The chicken is coated with a secret recipe along with a certain cooking technique that he learned from his grandmother that produces a taste and texture that is known far and wide. His technique keeps the white meat succulent, tender and juicy (not dry like most) with the skin still crispy. The coating produces just enough flavor that it doesn’t overpower the taste of the meat. Don’t forget to save room for the cobbler pie that he’s also well known for.
Not only is the food memorable but so is the owner Arthur Davis. He makes it a point to come over to your table and personally sing you a song about his grandmothers biscuits in a bluesy delta fashion. He once confided in me that he has never missed a day of work in his life, that to me says a lot about his work ethic and moral fiber. He is a true southern gentleman that I look up to.
I rate this Road Food Restaurant high on my list of two-wheel destinations for several reasons:
- Location (it’s only 2 miles from one of my favorite roads).
- Ambiance (this is definitely not a fast food place).
- Hospitality (the wait staff is very attentive and friendly).
- Arthur Davis (an American success story).
- Heavenly Fried Chicken (of course).