I'm up here in the mountains between Dillard, GA and Highlands, NC. I've spent more time on the GA side because that's where all the farm stands and "home-cooking" restaurants are. There are some nice restaurants on the Highlands side, but this report is about country food, (and yes, I searched CH before heading out).
First, I'm amazed at how many places that bill themselves as "down-home" are really just mediocre hamburger and sandwich places. Very disappointing, when what you are looking for is Fried Chicken, collards, squash casserole, etc. It's been harder than I thought to find the kind of food I remember from my childhood. I was on the search for the meat-n-three kind of place.
So, in that vein I found:
Granny's Kuntry Kitchen. Yes, I spelled that right. This is actually my favorite so far- Fried chicken that was still sizzling when it hit the table. Tender and juicy on the outside, very crisp and dark brown on the outside- no flabby-ness to the skin- all cah-runch. Also happy with the sides of turnip greens (with diced turnips within) and the mashed potatoes, although I should have asked for the gravy on the side. I think part of what endeared me to the place was that there was no paper to read, and I was solo, so the waitress brought me her Family Circle magazine to read. About $9 after tip for lunch.
Henry's- mentioned here a few times. Was a weekday, and they do brunch on weekdays. Not bad- plenty of nice fried chicken- not as dark as Granny's, but well cooked, juicy. The sides available that day were just okay. Watery mashed potatoes, bland boiled cabbage, but good fried squash, and black-eyed peas and biscuits (more stuff I can't remember). Sadly, no collards or turnip greens. There was an icebergy salad bar, but I skipped it. Also about $9 after tip for lunch.
Third choice- The Dillard House. An institution, I know. Went for dinner, and while I understand the "family style" concept, it's weird for 2 people. They just start bringing out small plates with food on them- things you get whether you want them or not. Trying to send things back or not accept things (don't want to be wasteful and accept things you know you won't touch) resuts in great confusion. The array of plates on the table was amazing- fried chicken (okay), baked/grilled chicken (pretty good), roast pork (fatty but tasty), country ham (salty as I remember- made a great breakfast this morning), green beans (overcooked, but southern style), squash casserole- (Excellent!), stuffing (okay), fried okra (breading fell off), basket of assorted bread- okay cornbread but great biscuits, creamed corn- meh, white rice (didn't try) and that's all I can remember. Price- a whopping $20 base price. Not worth it, in my opinion. A friend and I went to relive a childhood memory. Consider it re-lived.
Good things about the area- the farm stands are outstanding. The local corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, melon, cabbage, peppers, etc. keep me very busy in the kitchen. I love the abundance of the produce. There's a meat market that will cut to order, and very reasonable in price.
When I decide to spend more time in Highlands I'll report on that. One thing I will say- On The Verandah has an excellent wine list, and great by-the-glass offerings (i.e. 2002 Paso Robles Turley- when do you ever see Turley by the glass?)