Rural NC Piedmont Sunday feast at The Old Place: home cooking roadfood gem near Siler City
When I was a child growing up in rural southern Georgia, few experiences were more memorable than the Sunday feasts we'd sometimes have at my great Aunt's house. The birds and swine would be provided by the family friend down the road. The veggies would be straight from the garden out back. Everything was scratch-baked. Everyone pitched in. When we had to "say Grace" before digging in, the sumptuousness of the food that followed...well...really did seem like a blessing.
It's difficult to find restaurants that recreate the full experience of country cooking prepared with tender-loving care and true devotion to a high-end result. Many more places existed merely 10 years ago than today. It seems that all-too-often, shortcuts are taken. Veggies come from cans. Meats are pre-breaded. The purpose of a meal becomes more to fill the stomach than to satiate the palate.
I can count on one hand the number of places I have found in the South that live up to "Grandma's house" billing. One such place is The Wilkes House in Savannah, GA. Another is the Market Diner in Thomasville, GA (although it wasn't as good last time I was there).
I recently found a place to add to my list. I have concluded that it is the best country cooking I have experienced in North Carolina (after four years of living there and searching every nook and cranny for such places). It's located up Highway 421 in the small town of Bear Creek, NC, which is a few short miles southeast of Siler City. It's also about a 45-minute drive from the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. I stopped by there for lunch today on my way out of town, and it was as good as ever.
It's called The Old Place, and it's run by the Moore family. It is no coincidence that seemingly every road within a 5-mile radius has the "Moore" name in it. Located in an old farmhouse next to a field with cattle, the setting couldn't be more perfect for a down-home weekend Southern/country meal.
As you walk in, you'll be greeted by the owners in a "parlor room" type area. The old patriarch of the family is usually chilling in his oversized chair that looks like it was from the 1920s (and so does he, bless his heart!). You'll pay $13 and change for the all-you-care-to-eat buffet (and lower prices for more discrete selections from the buffet) up front and then you're guided to the buffet area, where the magic begins.
This country cooking place provided so many "wow" moments today. The fried chicken was perfectly fried in batter that is neither soggy or oily, with the chicken meat so juicy and succulent inside. The country ham was amazing. The crackin' cornbread (crispy and not sweet) is down-home excellent. The chicken n' dumplings were so savory and smooth without being clumpy or starchy - just perfect. The biscuits were fluffy and pillowy without a hint of greasiness. The fried okra was tremendous - with the batter so light and crunchy. The turkey and dressing was an early welcome to the holiday season. And the homemade apple crisp - a heavenly ending to the meal. Also on the buffet, to give you your necessarily veggie portions, are turnip greens, candied yams, limas and corn, mashed potatoes (of knockout quality - and yes, mashed potatoes is a veggie!), and green beans.
So, if you live in the Triangle, take the pastoral 45-60 min drive to get here. If you're traveling SE through North Carolina and want to avoid the I-40 doldrums and take the "scenic" route instead, try to swing by here come dinnertime on Friday and Saturday, or almost all day Sunday.
They also have a Saturday breakfast that I really want to try very soon. Because if the biscuits and cornbread are as good as they already are for lunch, I have to imagine breakfast is similarly dressed to impress. Oh, and it's cash only, so bring your wallet. http://www.old-place.com/index.html
289 Elmer Moore Road
Bear Creek, NC 27207