Chuckwagon Roundup

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As Hank Williams, Jr. says they are "just carrying out an old family tradition" and the food in these multi-generational restaurants makes that family proud. These restaurants are still operated by a family member of in one case passed on to a "like family" member.


Hagy's Catfish Hotel
Hagy's Catfish Hotel near Shiloh has a long and interesting history. It's one of the oldest family owned restaurants in the country.

The Henry Hagy and his wife Polly settled here in 1825 and Hagys have been fishing  and cooking the catch ever since. Their son, John, built what was to become "the Catfish Hotel" but it wasn't until the 1930's that it became a restaurant officially.

The Shack as it was known then was uses for may purposes before it became a restaurant. Originally,  it stored items to be shipped by steamboats plying the river and  was later occupied by Union soldiers during the Battle of Shiloh.

In 1938, Norvin Hagy who was well known for the delicious catfish, hushpuppies, and hospitality he served to friends and passerbys, held a political rally for his friend, Gordon Browning, campaigning for his second term as Tennessee governor. Gordon suggested Narvin should open a restaurant as his food was so good. 

Fried Green Tomatoes at Hagy's
The idea took root and Norvin followed his friends advice. He, his wife, Dorothy, and sons Jack and Bob built a thriving clientele until the building burned in 1975. Within a year, the structure I visited was opened and the restaurant continued, now under the leadership of the third generation of Hagys.

You can get catfish almost any way you can think of here, from catfish lightly breaded and fried to Cajun Catfish and many other creative choices. If you are not a big fish eater like me, you can have a choice of lots of other dishes equally savory. I went with the baby back ribs and made a complete pig of myself with the succulent juicy fall-off the bone treat.

Hagys is no slouch on the traditional southern food either. I sampled the fried green tomatoes and was not disappointed'

This one is a "must eat at" place. Put it on your bucket list. The Catfish Institute rated it in the top ten catfish restaurants in the country.

Buffet at Brooks Shaw and Son
Brooks Shaw & Son Old Country Store in  Casey Jones Village is a tourist attraction in itself. Even if those huge buffets were not filled with delicious items, folks would flock in for the  1890's aura, the old  Ice Cream Parlor & Fudge Shoppe , the Gift and Confectionery Shoppe and the authentic Old Country Store would bring in people in droves.

But there is no denying the buffet food is delicious. I think the fried chicken is my favorite. Not greasy and so tender. The made-right -in-front-or-you corn bread is another treat I haven't seen many other places. This is Southern cooking carried to an art form.

Brooks Shaw's first store had humble beginnings. When he had a heart attack at 32. His doctor advised him to get a relaxing hobby and he did. Brooks began collecting antiques. When the collection began to overflow his home in 1965, Brooks decided to open county store where he could also display the antiques similar to the store he had worked in as a boy before he went in the service.

He and his wife, Anne, also had a small selection of cheeses, cold cuts and other food items and before long the country store/museum added another persona, a restaurant. 

Old fashioned candy store at Brooks Shaw and Son
Brooks passed away in 1971 but Anne continued to run the business with the help of their children, Clark and Debora.  In 1978, they moved to the present location at the Casey Jones Village.

Today, Anne is still involved in the business as is Debora but Clark had taken the reins as CEO. Clark is his father's son and has carried on the antique collecting. In fact he has carried it to a new high. The village now includes Casey Jones home and museum, the original old Wellwood Country Store his father worked at a s a boy, and Clark's latest achievement, the moving of a beautiful antebellum mansion to the grounds. All of the building are filled with the collection of antiques begun by Brooks and continued by his family.

They have won the Jackson Sun Newspaper Readers Choice Award Winner - Jackson Best Overall Restaurant & Best Southern Cooking for so many years I can't count them all. They have also won the best Jackson County Attraction.

This is a family tradition in the best possible sense. Anne is still involved in the business and Clark's and his wife, Juanita's, children are also working in the business.

Here's Anne Shaw's own recipe for Chess Pie.

Chess Pie Recipe


1 cup sugar

1 tbs. flour

tbs. Meal

1 tsp. vinegar

cup milk

3 eggs

1 stick butter melted

1 tsp. vanilla


To Prepare :

Beat eggs. Add sugar, flour, and meal to eggs. Stir. Add vanilla, vinegar and milk. Lastly, add the melted butter. Stir all ingredients well.

Put into unbaked pie shell.

Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes until firm in the middle.

Dinner at Peppermill
Peppermill and E.K. Valentine Lounge  is located in little Valentine Nebraska. Valentine is a small town in Cherry County (Isn't that a perfect county for any food establishment) that is more known for its outdoor adventure than epicurean delights. But who says just because you want to go hiking the sandlhills or kayaking the Niobrara River that you don't want a feast at the end of the day.  

Peppermill specializes in beef. After all you are in the heart of cattle ranching country here. You will find unusual items (for us out-of staters) like Rocky Mountain Oysters. If you don't know what these are, I'll not spoil your appetite by telling you. They also serve a heart-shaped steak that makes a great Valentine's Day treat..  

Black Angus beef is common on the menu but you can find some interesting chicken, turkey of seafood dishes here.  I had to be different and ordered the ribs. They were fantastic. 

The salads are great here , too. Unlike a lot of beef heavy eateries, Peppermill knows that vegatables are important as well.

Ribs at Peppermill
The owner, Robert Joseph has a family tradition to live up to. William and Betty Joseph, his grandparents, began the restaurant in the Fort Niobrara Hotel and Peppermill Cafe on Main Street in Valentine, Nebraska with the same dedication to good food and good service many years ago.  His father followed in their footsteps.

Judging by the reputation Peppermill had garnered in Valentine and all over the state, Robert is upholding the family tradition. He has moved the restaurant to a new location on Highway 20 and now offers a full service lounge, E. K. Valentine, with lots of local Nebraska craft beers.

It's a great place to dine after a busy day of adventure.

Bucth talks about the old days at Roanoker
Roanoker Restaurant opened on July 1, 1941 in downtown Roanoke as a partnership of three friends.  When war broke out, two of the partners left to join the service.

Crafton Warren and his wife, Florence, remained behind to serve in a different way. Crafton and Florence helped the war effort as civilian neighborhood volunteers by packing food for the soldiers on troop trains that passed through  Roanoke .

After the war they bought out their two partners and continued with the fine food tradition they had begun. In particular, the Roanoker was earning a reputation for the best biscuits in town. the restaurant grew and moved over the years.. Crafton passed away in December 1982 and Florence in 2005. 

Their son, E. C., who had worked at the Restaurant since age 8 moved into the ownership easily. As the restaurant continued to prosper, E. C. hired a secretary, Renee "Butch" Craft, in 1970. Butch would become just like family and when E.C. decided to semi-retire in 2005, Butch was his natural choice as successor. He still remained involved in the everyday working of the restaurant until he passed away in 2008. 

Strawberry Pancakes at Roanoker
The restaurant continued in the tradition mapped out by Crafton and 'Florence. Especially those biscuits which have become famous in Roanoke. Butch told me they serve about 1000 on an average day and on Xmas eve they stop at 3000. People order them ahead as the restaurant is closed on Christmas. Their buttermilk biscuits are so famous the recipe is featured in the "Southern Living Off the Eaten Path" cookbook and they also named the Roanoker as one of the top five restaurants in Virginia, an honor that won the restaurant a spot on the Today Show.

It's not only the biscuits that bring in the customers. The Roanoker prides itself on having everything homemade and fresh. They buy locally whenever possible. I sampled the biscuits and gravy  of course and agree with the majority opinion. I got adventurous and also tried their Strawberry Pancakes and would give those a gold star as well. This place has got their act together. It's no wonder many of the staff have been with them for 25 and some even 25 years.  Butch confined their secret to the Roanakers success: "If a customer says something is not right, we look into it. It doesn't matter if we think it's okay. If they don't then we work to improve  it. After all, they are the ones keeping us going."

As a bonus, here is that famous recipe for you to try at home courtesy of the Roanoker Restaurant:

The Roanoker Restaurant's Buttermilk Biscuits
Roanokers famous biscuits

Makes 8 biscuits

  • 3 cups self-rising flower
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • cup shortening
  • 1 cups buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine first three ingredients in a large bowl; stir well. Cut shortening into flour mixture with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Add buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly three or four times. Pat dough to one-inch thickness; cut with a three-inch round cutter, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Brush tops with melted butter.

Why not take your family out to dinner at one of these great restaurants and create your own "Family Tradition."


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