Restaurants & Bars 1

Branch Ranch

Tim | Jun 19, 2001 08:05 PM

We stopped in at the Branch Ranch last week, the first time in many years. It's a favorite of those Roadfood folks, and we had forgotten how much we like it.

It's not even a mile off Interstate 4 near Tampa at the Branch Forbes Road exit, about the last place you'd expect to find country cookin'. It's several old stone-and-wood farmy buildings, with a vegetable farm on one side and citrus groves nearby. It's been open since 1956, which in Florida is equivalent to the Stone Age (being pre-Disney and pre-air conditioning by a long shot.)

The family-style dinners run from $11 to $18. They start you off with baskets of fresh biscuits, pickled beets, homemade bread and butter pickles, orange-pineapple marmalade (yum,) strawberry preserves, and a salad plate of sliced tomatoes, green onions, radishes, and other vegetables.

With the entree, they bring cooking pans of home-cooked vegetables to the table, all you can eat: eggplant casserole (didn't like it,)corn on the cob, chicken pot pie with homemade biscuit topping, pole beans and white potatoes, and great slabs of vibrant orange yams baked in syrup. I got the chicken, and it was a half of a huge bird, hot and juicy in a light crispy crust. We didn't have room, but the red velvet cake looked great.

You won't believe you're in Florida (between Disney and the west coast beaches) when you look around at the wood walls, stone fireplace, and old-timer waitresses. Mighty good eating in really rustic surroundings.

I wouldn't go out of my way if I lived in the "real" South instead of Orlando, but if you can't get country vittles either, it's worth a stop. Kind of like the Smith House or Dillard House, if you like those (and I do.)

They have a very descriptive web page at if you want to check out their menu.

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