Friday, October 9, 2020
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The Villages

Wildwood’s hidden-gem eatery takes Southern cooking to a new level

The Ole Coffee has been in Wildwood since 1941. The restaurant’s current owner, Carolyn Orr, has been operating the Southern-style eatery for 30 years.

I sure do miss real, down-home Southern cooking. Some of you know what I mean – green beans cooked with real slab bacon, collard greens with ham hocks, stewed tomatoes, butter beans over rice, chicken and dumplings, and of course, juicy fried chicken with that special outer crunch.

Sometimes, while driving with the windows down, I think I catch a faint whiff of the familiar smell – and then it’s gone as quickly as it came. Oh sure, I can cook those familiar recipes passed down to me, but I’m always on the lookout for that hidden-away gem of a restaurant that has grandma cooking in the back.

I just can’t keep it a secret any longer – I found it! It’s called The Ole Coffee House and it’s located on the corner of Main Street (U.S. 301) and County Road 466A in Wildwood. The restaurant is open daily from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is beyond fantastic!

Carolyn Orr has been the owner for the past 30 years. The recipes come from her Southern roots in Alabama and she hasn’t changed them one bit.

Miss Carolyn said that when she took over the restaurant 30 years ago, she was busy painting and fixing up the place when a guy came in and asked her what she was going to rename the place (it’s been The Ole Coffee House since 1941). She said she could call it Luigi’s, “but y’all will still call it The Ole Coffee House.” So, she kept the age-old name the same.

The buffet at The Ole Coffee House in Wildwood offers a variety of fresh vegetables – green beans cooked with real slab bacon, collard greens with ham hocks, stewed tomatoes and butter beans over rice, to name a few. There’s also a salad bar, dessert and the restaurant’s signature dish, delicious, juicy fried chicken.

Now, don’t expect to be walking into some modern, fancy, pristine restaurant. It’s very homey and well-lived in. You just walk on in and seat yourself. Someone will holler at you that they’ll be right with you and for you to make yourself at home.

You’ll get to walk past the buffet line on your way to your seat and don’t hesitate to linger there to take in all of the deliciousness waiting for you. You can order from the menu, but I’d recommend that you start at that buffet line on your first few visits. It only costs $9.95!

This sign says it all about a buffet that will make you want to come back time and again for delicious home-cooked vegetables, juicy fried chicken, soup, salad and desserts.

You’ll always find the freshest of food waiting for you in colorful, well-seasoned pots. Fried chicken is The Ole Coffee House’s signature entrée and always available, but you’ll find another accompanying featured item on any given day of the week, from meatloaf to pork and rice to beef stew to chicken and dumplings.

The Ole Coffee House even offers a vintage jukebox that still works and is loaded with a variety of songs from several different genres of music.

Equally as important – the variety of sides is outstanding, including collards, pinto beans, stewed tomatoes, mashed potatoes, rice, macaroni and cheese, garden peas, gravy and corn bread, to name a few. You’ll also get to dip into the fresh salad bar – but hey, my dining partner calls that “filler.”

The day we ate there, they also offered delicious, tastes-like-mom-made-it banana pudding and chocolate pudding on the buffet line for dessert.

Breakfast is served all day, as well. You can choose from a selection of breakfast platters, omelets, breads and cereals, and griddle items such as French toast or hot cakes. And no Southern breakfast is complete without biscuits and gravy.

If you’re not in the mood for the buffet, a variety of “Plates” also are available, such as ham steak, liver and onions, roast beef, burgers and sandwiches.

The dining rooms at The Ole Coffee House are old-school – homey, well-lived-in and quite welcoming.

Everything we ate was fresh, homemade, hot, delicious and plentiful. We gladly went back for seconds because we just couldn’t fit everything we wanted on one plate!

I’ve got to say that this restaurant offers the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten. It was plump, juicy and hot with a crust that will whisk you back home – all in just one bite.

Oh boy, I just let the cat out of the bag. Miss Carolyn, you’ll need to fill up that fried chicken platter again!

In addition to a buffet filled with home-cooked dishes, patrons at The Ole Coffee House also can order off the menu, including lunch specials and various ‘Plate” dinners.

Patrons at The Ole Coffee House can enjoy sandwiches and breakfast items that are served all day.

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