The day after my wife and I returned from our recent vacation to Boston and New York City I ended up working in Henderson, TN. I make the drive down Highway 45 from Jackson, TN, down to Henderson every couple of months. The quiet little stretch of road is called the "Rockabilly Highway" from back in the days when it was full of little honky tonk clubs where now-legendary musicians like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly would perform, which is why the Rockabilly Hall of Fame is located in Jackson.
After several days in Manhattan it was a little startling to readjust to just how much open land there is in the rural South. As much as I enjoyed our trip it definitely felt good to be back in the part of the world where I feel at home. And I already knew the restaurant I was going to try for some home cooking to accompany that feeling.
I'd noticed Greens, Beans and Taters on the side of the highway a couple months earlier, but I'd already eaten lunch up in Jackson on that trip so I just made a mental note to try it the next time I had a chance. Sometimes you see a new restaurant open up and you wonder what kind of food it serves. That wasn't the case with Greens, Beans and Taters; where one look at the name told me exactly what sort of traditional Southern staples I could expect to find on the menu.
The inside of the restaurant was spacious and clean, and the staff welcomed me in with the kind of enthusiastic Southern charm that let me know I was back in Tennessee. You order cafeteria-style at Greens, Beans and Taters and I was torn between the meatloaf and the fried chicken I saw on display since both looked excellent.
I ultimately went with the meatloaf. People use the phrase meat-and-three to describe soul food and country cooking restaurants even though almost all of the places I visit these days just include two sides with their plate meals. Greens, Beans and Taters still upholds the old tradition of three generous side servings. In a nod to the establishment's namesake foods I got turnip greens and lima beans, but I did get cabbage instead of any of the available forms of taters.
Each meal comes with a choice of a roll, a corn muffin or skillet cornbread. The man in front of me in line and I both opted for the skillet cornbread. The young man taking our order apologized saying that they were a little old and said that if we had any problem with them to bring them back for either corn muffins or some fresh skillet cornbread he was expecting out of the kitchen shortly. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the little cornbread pancakes, but his concern with making sure everything on our plates was top-notch indicated the kind of service and quality the restaurant strives for.
As he was handing me my plate the same young man asked if I was a fan of bread pudding as I was looking over the desserts beside the cash register. I told him that I'm generally not much of a dessert eater but I was intrigued by the strawberry-moonshine fried pies I saw on display. He grabbed one out of the case and said to enjoy it on the house since it was my first visit.
All of my food was cooked and seasoned with skill. As expected at a place called Greens, Beans and Taters there was a bottle of Bruce's Green Hot Pepper Sauce at my table but I only added a few shakes of it to my cabbage and lima beans. I ate half of my fried pie and took the other half home where my wife immediately claimed it and agreed with my assessment that the crust was merely okay but the strawberry filling was outstanding.
I'm already looking forward to the next time I end up in Henderson just so I can sample more of the menu at Greens, Beans and Taters.