For as long as I can remember, The Country Kitchen was the seafood restaurant of choice for my family. If we couldn’t make it to the beach, it was the next best thing and many times was better than anything you could find in the state of Florida. At least one weekend a month we would make the short drive to Barnesville to stuff ourselves so full that the tires on the car probably needed more air in them by the time we made it home.
Then in the blink of an eye, it was closed. We had known there was a chance of that happening for years because the family which owned it wanted to retire, however no warning was given that the end was actually near and the goodbyes that you do not see coming are often the hardest to take. I don’t think I have ever missed a restaurant as much as I did that one (I really like to eat in case you haven’t figured that out yet) and eating there was at times the highlight of my day. It is like my sister always says; a good meal can make any type of day better.
However, I love it for more than just the food (and I really love their food). I have collected many priceless memories of time spent with family and friends there throughout my lifetime. It is where we went to celebrate things like my college graduation, my sister getting engaged and my grandmother’s 70th birthday. It was the meeting place when relatives came in from out of town and wanted something good to eat. It was a perennial favorite.
Over the last 24 months since the original restaurant closed, when asked where I wanted to eat on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, my typical answer was “The Country Kitchen” followed by a pouty face since I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Then one day my luck changed.
My daddy called one afternoon to tell me Grandmama had said she heard someone had bought the restaurant and was planning to open it back up in the next few weeks. Needless to say I was overjoyed, but also wary at the same time. Would it be the same? Or would the new owners decide they wanted to stray from tradition and create a completely new menu? Could things ever be as good as they once were?
All of my doubts were erased two weeks ago when the whole family decided to give it a shot for supper one Friday night, because it was just as good as it used to be! Of course there were a few changes. The inside had been repainted and the old ceiling tiles were replaced. The buffet had some new items, but also included all of my favorites like shrimp scampi, catfish and deviled crab, and they still have the best sweet tea around. The only disappointment was that the crab balls (bite-sized deviled crabs with no shell) had been replaced by what was labeled as “crab bites.” I didn’t like them as much, but that is just my personal preference.
I think the best way I can sum up my experience at the “new” Country Kitchen, is it was like meeting up with an old friend. The one you haven’t seen in a while and you are not quite sure how things will go or how to act, but when you get together it is like no time has passed. It may sound odd to have such strong feelings for a restaurant, but I do and it is not just because of the food. It is the chance to make even more memories while eating great food that make me so happy to be able to say “Welcome Back!”