By Jennifer Brule
Julia's Talley House
At the Talley House in the small town of Troutman in Iredell County, country favorites are served cafeteria or family style. Joe Shumake, who
opened the restaurant more than thirty years ago with his mom, Julia, still runs it with his wife, Kim. Many family members, including four children and a nephew, have worked at the restaurant over the years. Talley House serves up dishes like country-style steak, meatloaf, chicken pot pie, country ham, and eight to ten vegetables daily. Most of the desserts are homemade. “But our fried chicken is really popular. We can’t open the doors without that fried chicken being ready,” Kim says. 21-305 N. Main St., Troutman, 704-528-6962, juliastalleyhouse.com —Jennifer Brule
John's Country Kitchen
This Plaza Midwood spot, which John Margiotis and his wife, Margaret, opened thirty-four years ago, claims to be the last country kitchen in metropolitan Charlotte. John's son Jimmy does most of the cooking now, while Margaret makes all the vegetables. John's Country Kitchen is a serious breakfast place, serving up livermush and creamy grits, but also has a loyal lunch following. "It's not just the good food, it's
the atmosphere," says Art Quales, who's been eating at John's weekly for thirty years. After finishing lunch, Quales heads for the door, saying, "I'll see you in the morning, Jimmy." Jimmy smiles and nods, "It's that kind of place." 1518 Central Ave., 704-333-9551 —J. B.
Isy Bell's Cafe
Ask Karen and Mike Kabouris, who opened Isy Bell's (named after Karen's grandmother) in Mooresville in 1995, what the key to their longevity is and they'll tell you, "Good food at reasonable prices." Mike is head chef, while Karen makes all desserts from scratch and runs the front of the restaurant. The menu has 123 dishes, plus daily specials and kids' meals. Sweet potato casserole is a customer favorite, but if that doesn't suit you, Isy Bell's offers twenty-three other vegetable dishes. Along with country favorites like fried pork chop, country ham steak, fried green tomatoes, and baked chicken, the restaurant proudly features fresh fish (grilled or broiled) in the summer. 1043 N. Main St., Mooresville, 704-663-6723 —J. B.
Grandma Hoyt's Country Buffet
If you're planning on a Sunday trip to this country buffet, anticipate waiting. Even with seating for 200, there's often an after-church line out the door. The restaurant, which Ed and Julie Hoyt named after Ed's grandmother, is run by the couple and their twin sons and daughter. The buffet changes daily, except for the country fried steak, which Julie says is a requirement for their customers. Baked and fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, pot roast and meatloaf are also favorites, but if a customer wants a dish not on the buffet that day, Julie says, "I spoil my customers — I get in the kitchen and make them what they want."
421 E. Virginia Ave., Bessemer City, 704-629-9440 —J. B.
Becky and Steve Gibson opened this country kitchen in Lincolnton eighteen years ago, naming it after Becky's great aunt, Bessie Mitchell. Today they've teamed with partner Carrie Zittler, who also manages the busy restaurant. "We make everything from scratch. The dumplings for our chicken and dumplings, all the pies and cobblers — everything is made the way your grandmother would have made it, and that's why people keep coming back," Zeither says. The restaurant's twenty-two vegetables are so popular that many people order a vegetable plate sans meat. And Sundays are especially busy here, with families filling up tables after church. 1557 N. Aspen St., Lincolnton, 704-732-3774 —J. B.