If you have heard of Ooltewah, there’s a good chance you’ve been to Countryside Cafe. Owned and operated by Ponder and Marlene Geren it began life in 1990 and has had happy Chattanoogans (and many others) heading out into the country for some of the best Southern cooking in the area. Not too surprising to find a great respite at Countryside. The name Ooltewah is Native American for “Resting place.” Another story tells that it comes from the Muskogee word meaning “Town.” That said many residents will tell you it means “Owls nest.” Not so co-incidentally the local High School team is named the “Owls.”
Countryside Café sits at the corner of two country roads about a half hour outside Chattanooga. In what looks like a ranch style house. The parking lot is a large and just about always crammed to the point of busting. Not to worry though, the staff inside is quite efficient and wait times are usually short. Even for large crowds. Inside there’s obviously plenty of tables in the dining room. Another way to keep the line moving.
As usual at these great Meat n 3 places, they do pretty much everything from scratch in the kitchen.
So let’s have a look at what’s coming out of that kitchen.
The corn bread was good and completely Mrs. Sippi style. Which is to say denser dry than what I prefer. There was nothing wrong with it, in fact it had a nice corn flavour. Great with butter naturally. I just like mine moister and with a crumb closer to cake. The dinner roll was fairly bland but that's how I wanted it. It was to be a vehicle to sop up the goodness left on my plate. In that it succeeded very well.
The Country Fried steak was very good. Nice and tender with a crunchy crust. The White Gravy could've had a bit more character but all in all it was good. The White Beans were only okay. There wasn't much seasoning in them and no pork so they had to carry the ball on their own. The fried okra was also only okay. I’m not a big fan so I’m not much of a judge. The carrots were of course carrots. So a good plate all around. The main of course being the star.
The Meatloaf was very nice. I was asked if I wanted gravy and of course I did. I was surprised to find that it had a tomato sauce baked onto it like you'd expect. Which would've alleviated the need for gravy. Oddly enough, the combination of the tomato sauce and gravy on the meatloaf made for quite a tasty bite. I don’t think that I’d opt for that again but for a surprise change, I think it was welcomed. The broccoli casserole was great. I'm trying to ween myself onto broccoli for health reasons and while I doubt it was healthy, it might help bridge the gap. The Hashbrown Caserole was your typical type and there's nothing wrong with that. Just a good ole work horse starch. The Black Eyed Peas were fabulous. I don't know how they did them since there wasn't any pork to be found but they had that good earthiness they are known for and some depth as well.
The Coconut Cake was excellent. This is what I refer to as new style. It's a single layer cake with frosting and coconut. A traditional coconut cake takes hours to make if you do it from scratch. Most places just won't dedicate the time anymore. This particular cake as you can see used a yellow cake and had the traditional 7 minute frosting sprinkled with grated coconut. Basically, if you made 2 and piled them on top of each other you'd have the old school version. Also, this one wasn't round.
The Hot Fudge Cake was very good but I honestly think it didn't taste as good as it looked. I just don't think it did the picture justice. Don't get me wrong, this was a very good dessert. The cake (buried under all that whipped and ice cream) was a bit of a cross between a cake and a brownie. It had a mild chocolate taste. Not a rich, knee buckling smack from the Dark Lord. The whipped cream was very light and tasty but the ice cream was only okay. The hot fudge sauce did have that blast of chocolate that you want. The best part was where everything had melted in the bottom. Scoop some of that up with a piece of cake and it was fantastic. The bottom line is, it just wasn't decadent.
So there you have it folks. Some terrific country cooking in a nice country setting.
You can find Countryside Café at 8223 County Hwy 1124 (Mahan Gap Road) Ooltewah, Tn.
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You can also find them on the web.
Well that’s all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court.