Thursday, February 28, 2013

Southern delights on menu and buffet at Anna;s

Special to The Burgs


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It is at least a half-hour drive to Narrows from our home, but it's one we haven't minded making since we discovered Anna's Restaurant.

Located in the heart of small Narrows, Anna's country atmosphere and friendly staff welcome customers when they walk through the door. Anna's is a big restaurant, and once you taste the food on the buffet, you will know why there is a lot of seating. Owners Jerry and Anna Frazier said December will mark their 30th year in business.

Antique household items, photographs and flower arrangements decorate the walls and hang from the ceiling. Sound travels across the wood floor, but we did not find it bothersome. Aromas from the kitchen tease. At any given time, there are likely to be families, businessmen and police officers among the patrons - a sure sign that this is a good place to eat.

The menu at Anna's includes appetizers, salads, entrees, side dishes, sandwiches and a Kiddie Corner, but a look at the buffet may discourage any ordering from the menu. The fried chicken caught our eye first, followed by the array of cakes and pies. The buffet ($5.99 to $10.99) also includes a nice salad bar.

The fried chicken was hot, juicy, crispy on the outside and seasoned just right. We don't know if they use 11 secret herbs and spices, but the chicken called for more than one trip to the buffet and a lot of finger licking.

The salad bar offers all the fixings for a nice tossed salad with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots and the standard choice of dressings. We found everything to be fresh and well-chilled.

The cooked vegetables on the buffet, which were all well-seasoned and enjoyable, included green beans, lima beans, corn, yams, mashed potatoes, brown beans and hominy.

The hominy reminded one of our guests of what her mother used to make, so she was pleased to see it on the buffet. The yams were savory, not overly sweet as they are at some eateries.

The brown beans were a great accompaniment for the cornbread - not sweet cornbread, mind you, but cornbread that tasted fine on its own and was elevated to scrumptious with the addition of butter.

On another visit, we discovered fried fish and hush puppies alongside the fried chicken. The fish was moist on the inside and crispy on the outside, and the hush puppies were some of the best we have ever eaten. They had a delicate crunch and a hint of onion flavor. The only disappointment on the buffet that night were some tough BBQ ribs.

The dessert offerings on the weekend buffet consisted of a variety of cakes and pies that might make you sorry you made two or three (or four) trips to the buffet. Coconut cake, chocolate cake, pecan pie and lemon chess pie are just some of the options. Our favorite was the light, moist carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Our guests were partial to the lemon chess pie, but when we passed around the coconut cake, nobody frowned when they took a bite.

Starting at 5 p.m. every Wednesday, Anna's serves a breakfast buffet ($7.99), so we had to go back. Some of our friends had the buffet, but another chose the Giles County Delight ($8.59) off the menu. The dish is described as a country-style steak, but you could also call it chicken-fried steak. A tender chopped beef steak is battered and fried, then served covered with a thick milk gravy that has just the right amount of black pepper seasoning. It comes with two sides, and the chosen mashed potatoes and broccoli met expectations.

The breakfast buffet offered scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and that wonderful gravy, as well as grits and fried apples. It also included something that surprised us: delicious fried bologna.

These were not thin, precut slices but thick, irregular slices that appeared to have been cut off a big roll. It's not a breakfast choice we'd had before, but it was flavorful and paired well with the large, fluffy biscuits.

Almost everything we tasted at Anna's was worth the trip. If you enjoy good country cooking, then we recommend taking a scenic drive to this country gem.