is tucked away behind the off exit 290 of Interstate 75. If you didn’t know it was there, you might miss it. That’s okay, because everyone who needs to know about it does. It’s a popular lunch spot for locals, especially after church on Sundays. In fact, if you do go on a Sunday you might have to wait for a table like I did!
The restaurant is wholesome and authentically country. The decor includes hanging quilts, checkered tablecloths, fruit jars (obviously) and even a wheelbarrow that serves as a photo prop for patrons. The walls of the waiting area are papered with photos of patrons sitting in the infamous Fruit Jar Café wheelbarrow.
Though the restaurant was full and bustling on my visit, tables were turning over quickly so the wait wasn’t that long. My family and I were seated and greeted quickly by our server, who arrived with a smile, giant fruit jars filled with ice water and a basket of cornbread. How’s that for a friendly greeting?
The specials of the day included Salisbury Steak ($6.45) and Chicken and Dressing ($6.45), both served with two veggies. The menu features all-American fare such as fried foods (chicken, catfish, jalapeno peppers, mushrooms, onion rings, fries and steak), sandwiches, salads, platters, burgers, cobblers and ice cream. Prices range from $4.95 for the Frito Pie (chili covered in Fritos and cheddar cheese) to $12.95 for a large rib-eye. Looking around the restaurant, the platters (one meat and two veggies with the complimentary cornbread and bean bar) appeared to be the most popular dish, and those range from $9.25 to $13.95, unless you get the special of the day for $6.45. As you can see, the prices are quite reasonable.
Before I tell you about my meal, I feel compelled to point out that I ordered the entirely wrong thing off the menu. When you go to The Fruit Jar Café, and you should go because it is clearly, overwhelmingly popular, do not order a grilled chicken salad! Just don’t. Order the chicken fried steak or Salisbury steak and enjoy it. I was there for an early lunch and didn’t have a big appetite so I went for something light, and while it was good for what it was (a typical salad with perfectly cooked chicken, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, cheese and bacon), it wasn’t the restaurant’s specialty. This was only obvious to me after the fact and if I had to do it over again (and I will) I would go with a bigger appetite and order something fried.
I did partake in the cornbread and salad bar and can speak to those items first hand. The cornbread is served as a small muffin. It is a pale yellow, dense and rich. I expect it is cooked in fatback, as the server informed me that most of the vegetables are cooked in fatback and it definitely tasted a little richer than butter. The cornbread, like the restaurant, is authentically southern, and if you like a traditional cornbread you will love this one. The beans were also traditional and the bean bar boasted more than one variety. There weren’t any signs in front of the bean pots on the bar so I had to kind of guess what I was taking. Turns out I selected the chili beans. They were spicy (how I like them) and tasty!
Another thing I regret was not ordering a sweet tea. What was I thinking? At the end of my meal I started looking around and noticed sweet teas on all the tables. They looked beautiful, too, served in giant fruit jars filled with ice and garnished with lemon. It was a sunny day and the restaurant gets great light through the windows and the sight of all the sweet teas on the checkered tablecloths simply warmed my heart. Don’t be like me; order a sweet tea when you go there!
If you look through the photo gallery you will see that my husband also ordered the wrong thing off the menu. There was nothing wrong with his grilled chicken sandwich other than it wasn’t a house specialty. The piece of chicken on the sandwich was a little small and his order of fries was a little sparse, but as far as the taste went, it was fine…just not exciting. A fried chicken or catfish sandwich would have kicked it up a notch!
The Fruit Jar Café is a local favorite and should be enjoyed on an empty stomach. Even though there may be a line, I recommend going on a Sunday to be a part of the after-church crowd because the feeling of family and celebration is palpable. The owner (at least, I assume he was the owner) stops by each table to chat and everyone from young babies to senior citizens are having a great time. As a bonus, if you bring your church bulletin from that week you will receive 10 percent off your purchase.
Restaurant hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. The restaurant offers take out and has a children’s menu. Visit its website at fruitjarcafe.com!