There’s no such thing as the perfect meal. There’s the next meal, and it might be an amazing one. But the perfect one? It’s hard to say an absolute perfect meal exists. Near perfection, sure.
But what about a perfect restaurant experience? Well, maybe not perfect; again, that ideal is just flat unattainable. But what if an experience is near-perfect, and might just be the epitome of a certain type of restaurant, say a Southern-style restaurant?
You know the one: large servings, hearty foods, lots of vegetables (many of which are fried), amazing desserts, friendly service and live music straight out of “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” Too good to be true, right?
Wrong, and that hype and more is found at Miller’s Grocery in Christiana, Tenn., about a 10-minute drive west of Interstate 24 near Murfreesboro, Tenn. There aren’t any signs along the road south from Nashville warning you “30 Miles Until Food as Good as Grandma’s” or “Exit Now for Fried Goodness.” There’s not a single sign, actually.
This restaurant’s owners don’t seem too concerned if you visit. Don’t get me wrong; I think they’ll be very grateful if you stop by. But I don’t think they really need you. This is a local’s local place.
So how do I know about it? Well, friends live nearby and when we said we’d like to meet up with them for dinner — thinking it would be somewhere in Murfreesboro or 30 minutes north in Nashville — they quickly suggested Miller’s.
First word of advice: Make a reservation. This place gets busy quickly, especially on the weekend. We had a 6 p.m. reservation on a Saturday and still had to wait about 10 minutes. If the wait is long just walk across the street to a little gift shop that’s part of the restaurant. We visited after our meal and picked up some random local art. The store is filled will all sorts of local finds.
But as good as the store is — and do take a quick peek — you’re at Miller’s for the food. The menu isn’t too extensive; even so, you’ll probably still struggle with choosing just one entree. If you’re lucky and with more than one person, consider ordering multiple entrees to share. We ordered the meatloaf, and chicken and cornbread dressing. Our son had the chicken tenders and I had been told by our friends that they are some of the best around. I’ll have to take their word for it; Colby finished them before I could sneak a bite.
Miller’s Grocery has a 75-year history, but it’s just since 1995 that it has served as a home-style Southern cafe. Previously, it served as a country store for the small community of Christiana.
The prices are quite affordable, especially considering all the food you get. Many of the entrees – including country fried steak, meatloaf, chicken & cornbread dressing and fried chicken tenders – are priced beginning at $8.95. Other items such as fried catfish, fired oysters, pork loin chops and prime rib are just a few dollars more.
We had corn nuggets, fried green beans and fried green tomatoes to start. Our non-vegetable eating son enjoyed the fried green beans. It’s probably not the healthiest way to eat a green veggie, but you have to start somewhere.
On the veggies and sides front, as is the case with every Southern restaurant, you’re likely to encounter macaroni and cheese. It is a requirement in the veggies category. It might be all carbs and dairy, but here in the South mac and cheese is a veggie. Trust us on that one. Other sides include cheddar-mashed potatoes, squash casserole, turnip greens, broccoli casserole, fried okra, corn nuggets and fruit salad.
The lunch menu lists many of the same dinner menu selections for a smaller portion and lower price, plus a few sandwich options.
Just as we finished our great fried veggie starters, entrees were delivered. Maybe a larger slab of meatloaf exists, but I couldn’t believe my eyes when this plate was placed in front of me. And it was good, too. As good as my mom’s? I can’t comment on that. Let’s just say it was some seriously quality meatloaf. And the cheddar mashed potatoes and corn nuggets as sides were just right.
My wife ordered my No. 2 choice: the chicken and cornbread dressing. It was more of a soup than a traditional Thanksgiving turkey and dressing plate. If I recall correctly she let me have maybe one bite. She devoured it pretty quickly.
And there’s no way to forget dessert. Southerners are known for good, rich desserts and Miller’s Grocery aces that test. When you’re ready just head toward the back of the restaurant where you’ll find loads of cobblers, pies, cakes and other goodies waiting for you.
Just make your selection and bring it back to the table to enjoy. Your server will just add it to the check.
There are many great things about Miller’s, the food being the obvious No. 1 seller. But the atmosphere is great, and the live music on weekend evenings adds to it. The musicians vary, but the trend tends to be a stand-up bass player along with a guitar-playing singer. Considering it’s Middle Tennessee, it’s fitting that the song selections on this night ranged from Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” to bluegrass favorites and even a little Bob Dylan.
Miller’s doesn’t serve alcohol but they’ll be happy to open a bottle of your choice if you bring it in. But you won’t need any liquid magic to have a good time at Miller’s. Let the music, the food and the atmosphere set the tone for a great night of Southern goodness.
If You Go:
Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sunday buffet 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (by reservation)
Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. by reservation featuring live music
There are a few ways to get there, but the easiest is to take Interstate 24 to Murfreesboro. Exit 81A in Murfreesboro, follow Highway 231 south toward Shelbyville about six miles. Turn left on Highway 269 East, go one mile, cross the tracks and take an immediate left on Main Street.