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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I got love in my tummy

I’m addicted to watching shows on Food Network and Travel Channel. Guy Fieri is funny and engaging touring across America on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Anthony Bourdain is not only a true chef but a pure storyteller and what I like to classify as a real food journalist. There are truly some things Andrew Zimmern puts in his mouth that make me question his sanity, but there is something distinctly clear when watching their shows. They have a passion for the foods they eat and cook as well as a desire to understand the culture the recipes come from. I have a passion too, a pure joy and passion of eating but sometimes I find myself limited to what and where I can eat due to budget constraints. I think many people during this tough economy can probably say the same thing. But every once in a while I get those few extra bucks and once I’ve made sure the bills are paid and I have enough gas in the car to last for the week I will allow myself to indulge. One of those opportunities happened on Christmas day. I posted a status on Facebook to see if anyone else wanted to join me and with a party of four we headed to Townsend to the Old School Diner. To be up front it was my second time visiting the Old School Diner and I was thrilled at the chance to be able to step inside this eclectic yet warm and inviting diner known locally for its carpeted parking lot (yes real carpets are strewn throughout the parking lot) but more importantly for Cher Jerome (Brown) and the delicious foods he cooks. It was my friends first time and I waited for them outside I wanted to see the reaction they would have to the rugs making up the parking lot and it was just as I expected. They had that “wear in the world did you bring us to,” look on their face and I knew they would be just as curious as we stepped inside. As soon as you walk in you know you are in for a treat. The walls are covered with photos of happy diners, many posing with Chef Jerome. You walk into the hallway with a real roaring fire place, perfect for the cold winter night, and delight in the Christmas tree, completely decorated and lit. It will take a second look before you realize it is hanging upside down. You enter the main dining area also covered in photos, old movie posters and memorabilia. A piano sits in the corner and old vinyl albums from Teddy Pendergrass, Mile Davis and Dionne Warwick hang next to music by Kenny Rogers and a poster of Al Pacino from the movie Scarface. I can still see the puzzled looks from my friends, “Trust me,” I tell them, “It’s the food that will make you understand.” Still unsure all the fear and uncertainty is gone once the hush puppies arrive. Every table gets a complimentary appetizer of hush puppies and my friends were starving. After the first bites I can see them coming around much to my relief. You never know if your friends are going to like a certain place just because you do but as the night went on it was obvious we were all enjoying the experience. Old School Diner offers seafood, ribs and steaks but most people come for their signature dish – The Wheelchair Platter – a sampling of whatever Chef Jerome decides and as the menu states “trust your chef.” So we do trust our chef and how can you not when the chef himself comes to greet every patron personally, offering Christmas hugs. Chef Jerome doesn’t reserve his personal welcomes to just holidays; he socializes with his patrons every day. “How often do you get the chef to bring you the food and sit down and talk to you,” one of my friends said. EXACTLY…it’s this personal touch and the freshest ingredients that make the Old School Diner so special. “Those are 16-20 shrimp and they are local,” the chef said as our Wheelchair Platter arrived, laden with fried shrimp, grouper, stuffed crab cakes and the BIGGEST pork ribs I’ve ever seen. We ordered the Wheelchair Platter for three but it was enough to feed five to six – easy. My other friend ordered a cheeseburger with mayonnaise and pickles. The pickle slices were huge, which was great since she loves pickles. “How do you like those pickles,” the chef asked. “They are slightly spicy I spice and prepare them myself.” And that is the key, the reason the locals want to keep this place to themselves and return as often as possible. The chef prepares everything from scratch with local ingredients and as he says, “A little bit of this and a little bit of that,” and obviously with a WHOLE LOT OF LOVE. Open since 2005 Chef Jerome’s Old School Diner is one of the best kept secrets around and worth the trip into McIntosh County, a mere 15 minutes from Liberty County and 40 minutes south of Savannah. It is clear Chef Jerome takes his cooking to heart infusing his love of local meats and fish and adding a dash of his passion for people into the daily ingredients. And just when you think you can’t stuff in another bite he starts to talk about his home made lemon meringue pie or cheesecake. The silence during dinner was enough to let you know we were enjoying every last bit of our food. Just an occasional, “Yum,” and, “This is so good,” to remind you it was a social gathering. During the chef’s visit to our table we enjoyed enough conversation and laughter it made us feel we were at home with family....because that is how Chef Jerome treats you. It’s the culture of the south to treat guests like family and the folks at the Old School Diner epitomize that sentiment. As they say don’t judge a book by its cover, because it really does look like an old shack, instead judge it by the delicious food and fine company of Chef Jerome, trust me you won’t be disappointed. But you don’t have to take my word for it google it for yourself to read the reviews and visit the Old School Diner’s web-site at: http://oldschooldiner.com/ AND BY THE WAY: When it was tie to pay the bill I found out my friend had already taken care of that..I felt truly blessed and thankful, being away from family this year made the whole experience more special. Atmosphere: Is A plus Menu: Have appetizers, including gator bites, catfish nuggets, hot wings, onion rings, cheese sticks and chicken fingers. Entrees include steaks, seafood and BBQ pork ribs and they even offer kiddie meals. Cash and credit card accepted

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