If you head into Middle Valley, deep in Hixson, TN, you will find a little cafe nestled into the intersection of Boy Scout Road and Middle Valley Road. Yep, that’s why you probably didn’t know it was there. I wouldn’t know that Wisteria Cafe existed if Philip’s parents hadn’t told us about it, having recently eaten there. Friday night provided the perfect opportunity to try it, as I had spent the entire day studying for my final and was in NO mood to cook. In fact, I hadn’t even bought groceries. We didn’t even have bacon. Those are dire straits, people. Anyway, we are not “eat out on Friday night” people in general, because the crowds and the waiting are just a little much for us. Wisteria Cafe, however, was not crowded, and we didn’t have to wait.
Wisteria Cafe is located in a small strip mall, technically on Prestige Lane, behind Dixie Barbecue (which is another local establishment on “the list” to be reviewed). It is small, two rooms, and sparsely decorated….but then, it’s not really about the decor, is it? When we walked in, we were greeted by the chef, Wolfgang, and another very nice man. Wolfgang told us everything-everything-that was on the buffet, then told us that he also had fresh okra and squash (the squash had just come in from Crabtree Farms) that he would be glad to fry for us as well if we got the buffet, since it wasn’t included on the buffet. The buffet includes salad, two or three meats (that night there was fried chicken, grilled chicken, and fish), vegetables, dessert, a roll or cornbread, and a drink. Sounded good, but we decided to look at the menu as well, and it was quickly apparent that we would not be ordering from the buffet.
Philip has apparently developed a taste recently for country-fried steak, and decided to order that. The description said it was “as big as the plate,” and it came with two sides-he chose fried okra and mashed potatoes, as well as a bread (he got cornbread). My eyes were immediately drawn to “fried green tomato BLT,” and I was sold. I had recently seen an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay where Bobby threw down with a guy who was know for his fried green tomato BLT, and I was intrigued. I chose handcut fries as my side.
Now, I am not going to lie…the wait was a little longer than you might be used to, so if you are in a hurry and don’t want a buffet, wait for another time. That said, the food was very fresh (including what we saw people getting off the buffet) and to me, sometimes a longer wait means a better product. We were not disappointed.
When our food came, Philip’s steak was, indeed, as big as the plate. He was extremely happy with his okra, remarking that it was “the best fried okra he’d had in a while.” My mom makes some pretty good fried okra, so that’s saying something. The okra wasn’t “wearing a jacket,” which is how I like to describe your typical restaurant fried okra-out of the freezer, bagged, and wrapped in 1/2 inch of breading that had to have been put there by a machine, then deep-fried. True southern okra should have a simple seasoned cornmeal crust, and this okra was perfect. Just a little spicy, very hot, very good. The potatoes were clearly not instant or canned (yes, if you didn’t know, canned mashed potatoes do exist. It’s an abomination, I know.) and the steak was crispy and tasty with homemade cream gravy. The cornbread was a little sweet, and we typically prefer our cornbread more on the salty side, but the flavor was good, and the butter that the server brought Philip was real. If a restaurant brings me real butter, they have scored major points. I hate asking for butter in a restaurant and being brought “buttery spread.” They also brought out an extra plate of okra, which I happily let Philip share with me.
Before I saw Throwdown a few weeks ago, the idea of a fried green tomato BLT was completely foreign to me, but this open-faced sandwich was just great. A slice of whole wheat bread was topped with mixed field greens, two slices of fried green tomato (again, in a light cornmeal crust), homemade pimento cheese, and crumbled bacon. It was really, really good, and something that I will likely try to duplicate at home (if you’ll recall my Southern Star post, I have a “thing” for homemade pimento cheese, and I was very impressed). The handcut fries were tasty and seasoned with a nice seasoning blend, not too crispy-which is the way that I think seasoned skin-on fries should be. Needless to say, we were very happy with our meal, which cost $13.65 before tip (we drank water, by the way).
We liked it so much, in fact, that I immediately told my mom about it, and we decided to go again on Wednesday. This time, my mom ordered the buffet (fried chicken, chicken & dumplings, and meatballs), I got the burger with cheddar cheese, and my sister ordered the grilled chicken salad. My nephews shared the chicken fingers and fries from the kids’ menu. I’m not going to write about chicken fingers and fries…besides, 4- and 6-year-olds rarely have deep insights into food taste and quality, but here’s a picture….
Mom decided on a piece of fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, fried squash (again, from Crabtree), macaroni and cheese, and a piece of cornbread. I tasted the fried squash-very good-and a piece of the coating from the chicken, which was super-crispy and well-seasoned. Mom really liked everything, and said that the mac-and-cheese was baked, which is always a plus. She also got a plate of the chicken and dumplings so we could try them. She said there was more chicken in the pan than she would have used, but we’re carb-lovers, no two ways about it. The dumplings (dumplins? The grammar cop in me cannot bear to leave off the g) were made in the traditional southern style, and I thought they were really good. And if I said, it must be so.
My burger was very good. There were a few things that really impressed me about it. First of all, I’m not sure where the bun came from, but it was not a squishy store-bought bun. It had some heft to it without being chewy, which is important if you want a burger that doesn’t fall apart but also doesn’t require excessive force to eat. Second, the onions were grilled. I hate hate hate raw onions. I have tried them as an adult, and there is nothing, not one thing about them that I like. The taste and the texture make me want to cry. That said, I love cooked onions as much as I hate raw. These had a nice flavor and texture. Third, the beef tasted grassfed. If you’ve never had grassfed beef, it definitely has a distinctive flavor from grainfed. Some might call it an acquired taste, but I just call it good. It has more personality than grainfed, which is bred to have one consistent flavor. I gave Wolfgang one of my cards and told him I was going to do a write-up on the Cafe, but forgot to ask if the beef was grassfed! It was either that or a very interesting seasoning. Anyway, the burger was very large and I could only eat half….but I was happy.
My sister’s salad was large and very fresh-looking, mixed field greens with sliced grilled chicken, tomatoes, and shredded cheddar cheese. Again, not a lot to say about a grilled chicken salad, but the chicken tasted great (I sampled it) and everything was very fresh. I will definitely be going back to Wisteria Cafe.
This is a start-up restaurant that just opened in May. When Philip and I were there Friday night, several tables were taken, but I would definitely not call it crowded. Yesterday, one other table was occupied in the hour that we were there, and I saw a guy come in and get a to-go order. The location is definitely a little “out-of-the-way,” so word of mouth is going to be the best tool. It frustrates me to see so many good local restaurants come and go quickly while only mildly decent chain restaurants flourish, so I want to encourage you to get out to Middle Valley Road and try Wisteria Cafe. Then tell someone about it!
Wisteria Cafe is located at 6849 Prestige Lane, Suite 117, Hixson, TN 37343. They can be reached at 423-847-1163. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8p.m., Sunday 11-3. Check out their Facebook page or their website!