The Hungry Traveler
In Yadkin County, you’ll never go hungry again
By D.G. Martin
On the way to see the colorful leaves in the mountains, many travelers from all parts of North Carolina pass through Yadkin County along U.S. Highway 421 between Winston-Salem and Boone without considering a stop for a meal and a chance to experience a touch of Yadkin’s rich history and culture. The local eateries described below are well worth a visit. Each offers something special: Have a chance to learn about Revolutionary War history; experience the Yadkin cultural scene; eat with the courthouse gang; have lunch with burley tobacco farmers; enjoy seafood or barbecue; or have a meal in one of the happiest eateries anywhere. Note that opening times are always changing so it is a good idea to call ahead.
Battle Branch CafÈ, Huntsville community
Battle Branch Café fits my ideal for a local eatery near a big highway. Good food, friendly staff, loyal local clientele and comfortable surroundings. It also has something extra special — a connection to important history. The restaurant’s name gives a clue: It sits near a Revolutionary War site. At the Battle of Shallow Ford on October 14, 1780, a group of Patriots (American revolutionaries) stopped and defeated a company of Tory militia (British Loyalists) that had crossed the Yadkin River at the ford and was on its way to join General Cornwallis in Charlotte. Large mounted illustrations inside the restaurant show battle scenes.
A comfortable homelike fireplace and an open-air feeling greet visitors. Mrs. Connie Spellman, who has been working there for many years, explains why the atmosphere is so comfortable. “When the Yorks, the original owners, built this restaurant 20 years ago, they made a plan just in case the restaurant didn’t make a go of it. They built the building so it could be transformed into a home with a big living room and fireplace.” No need to do that because the restaurant is thriving under its new owners, Nuri Llanaja and wife Lida. 2505 Farmington Road, Yadkinville;(336) 463-2122; www.facebook.com/battlebranch/
Third Branch CafÈ,
The Third Branch Café is a welcome surprise for an out-of-town visitor. In existence for about seven years, it is a part of an ambitious and successful effort by the local arts council to develop a downtown art center. It is not a typical country cooking eatery. Instead of meat and threes, there are bean dips, salads, quiche, quesadillas and other eclectic dishes. But the prices are right, and it is a community gathering place for everybody downtown.
The café adjoins display areas for changing exhibits of artwork from all over Yadkin County. 226 East Main St., Yadkinville;
(336) 677-6006; www.yadkinarts.org/our_facility/third-branch-cafe/
Across the street from Third Branch, Ace’s small county-seat restaurant serves as a gathering place for lawyers and the courthouse gang, especially at breakfast time.
From the outside it may look to some like a “hole in the wall” eatery. But owners Shirish Patel and his wife Trupti brag about their “quality country cooking.” They offer weekday lunch specials with mashed potatoes, pinto beans, salads, green beans, fried okra and coleslaw, and changing featured meats of fried pork tenderloin, country style steak, fried chicken, potpie and, on Friday, fried flounder. But on some days you can also get beef liver with grilled onions. 225 East Main St., Yadkinville (336) 679-2193
north of Yadkinville
My friend and retired UNC Professor Fred Hobson grew up in Yadkin County. When he was in high school, Jim’s Grill was his crowd’s favorite gathering place. Fred was surprised when I told him Jim’s is still thriving. Not much has been done to it since Fred last visited about 50 years ago. Located about two miles north of Yadkinville on U.S. Highway 601, it sits by itself close to the road. Its nearest neighbor is a lush field of burly tobacco. Long time employee Dana Watts told me that the eatery is covered up with farmers beginning a little before noon on weekdays. Country-style steak and mac and cheese are the farmers’ favorites. But there is a different special each day. 5101 U.S. 601, Yadkinville; (336) 679-7610, www.facebook.com/jims.grill.country.cooking/?rf=121767177836705
Yadkin Valley Seafood, Yadkinville
Yadkin Valley began its history in 1985 when Gus Janus, who grew up in the Greek community in Winston-Salem and learned his cooking skills there, came to Yadkinville. He built a small building just off the Yadkinville exit from U.S. Highway 421. He did such a good business serving seafood to locals and travelers that in 1997 he built a new large white building that stands out and is clearly visible on the north side of 421. Billy, son of Gus and his wife, Vivian, recently finished community college and was on the scene when I visited. It was clear his parents have prepared him to take charge should they ever decide to retire. I asked Billy what is his customers’ favorite dish? “Everything,” he asserted, and then said, “It’s probably popcorn shrimp.” 154 Beroth Drive, Yadkinville; (336) 679-8191; www.facebook.com/Yadkin-Valley-Seafood-Restaurant-119990264683788/
Little Richardís Lexington BBQ, Yadkinville
The first question barbecue fans ask is, “Is it the same as the famous Little Richard’s in Winston Salem? Not now, but it once was. Today, however, the Yadkinville branch is part of a group that includes Clemmons, Walkertown, and Mount Airy. It is no longer connected to Richard Barrier’s Winston-Salem Little Richard’s. If that is too complicated, forget the ownership and think about enjoying a Lexington-style barbecue plate or sandwich or something else from an expansive menu. You will find this Little Richard’s in a shopping center setting. It is a little more upscale than the usual old time barbecue shack, but don’t pass it by if you are hungry for barbecue. 916 South State St., Yadkinville; (336) 679-7064; littlerichardsbarbeque.com
Debbieís Snackbar, Hamptonville
There are lots of things to like about this small modest place that has been around since 1961. It is just off U.S. Highway 421’s exit 264 and easy to find. The home-style cooking is bountiful, good and reasonably priced. What I like best, though, is that it is a happy place. Its family atmosphere is almost overpowering as cheerful young servers rush in and out of the kitchen area. Debbie’s doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a small diner populated by locals, but I felt very welcome and my smiling waitress made the food taste even better. 3008 Rocky Branch Road, Hamptonville; (336) 468-8114; www.facebook.com/Debbies-Snackbar-175642289113388/ OH
D.G. Martin is the host of UNC-TV’s Bookwatch, a contributor to The Omnivorous Reader column in this magazine and author of North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints (UNC Press). Look for a roundup of his treasured local eateries in Wilkes County in a forthcoming issue.