December 30, 2011 12:49:00 PM
There's something comforting about walking into a place where they know your name and -- if you visit often enough -- what you'll have for lunch and what you'll drink with it.
If they don't know your name, the waitresses have enough small-town charm to get away with calling everyone "Honey."
A dining experience that keeps you coming back offers more than just good food. It's the atmosphere, the sense of community, the friends whose conversations you can fall back into even after missing days' worth of chatting over fried chicken and mashed potatoes.
Places like Glenn Baldwin's Kountry Kitchen are becoming endangered species.
Places where the owner chats you up and might even hand deliver your plate once you've marked your selections on the paper lunch-plate menu.
The food is good, but it's the ambiance that keeps people coming back.
It's as much about the communion as it is the menu.
In Starkville, a restaurant in the heart of downtown offers such a chance for food and fellowship.
The Starkville Café offers reminders of a simpler time with a jukebox, old paintings and antiques. The curled edges of a laminated menu offer a hint at the many hands that have gripped the page, debating between country-fried steak and whatever special is scrawled on the chalkboard.
Like Baldwin, owner John Peeples is on hand at the restaurant most days, working the breakfast and lunch crowds.
In Columbus, there's another such place that comes to mind -- Helen's Kitchen on Northside. There, Ms. Helen prepares a varying mix of soulful offerings, and she sticks around to make sure her customers enjoy their meals and each other.
It's a place to talk politics, buy poetry, catch up with old friends and remember old times.
The Kountry Kitchen has been at the same location since 1980. The restaurant has changed hands over the years (three times, to our knowledge) but always kept its name and distinct identity. That's about to change.
The Kountry Kitchen is moving to Highway 50 at the Cattleman's Steak and Fish building (formerly Jack's Steakhouse) for lunch service, and we wish owner Glenn Baldwin continued success. (Look for a story in Saturday's Dispatch)
We hope the restaurant can keep its essence at the new location and bring its usual cast of regulars with it.