After more than 20 years, Countryside Café is still going strong. "We're just a good old mom-and-pop restaurant," said Marlene Geren, who runs the café with her husband, Ponder. "It started with my parents and now it's us," she said, smiling.
This year, Marlene is taking a fresh approach. Literally.
"People are very concerned in the new year with diets and eating right," she said. "Lots of people come in and order small salads or foods they don't normally like; maybe lose 10 pounds in January and regain 15 pounds in February."
According to Marlene, if you're going to eat right year-round, you must have a variety of fresh foods from which to choose. "You can have a flavorful meal and still be on a diet," she said.
Countryside Café offers more than 20 different vegetable dishes daily. There is also plenty of grilled recipes, like grilled chicken topped with onions, peppers and mushrooms - which totals only 5 Weight Watcher points. I know this because atop every table there is a separate menu that lists healthy menu options with their respective Weight Watcher points. On the flip side, the menu suggests healthy options as part of the South Beach, or low-carb, diet.
"New to the menu this season is our kale salad," Marlene said. Kale is a trending health food. "It helps to speed up your metabolism," Marlene explained. Countryside Café's kale salad is prepared with kale, broccoli, feta cheese and Craisins and tossed in a light Italian dressing. All of the café's dressings are homemade, including the new diet-friendly dressing made with virgin olive oil, fresh lemon and garlic powder.
In fact, many of Countryside Café's dishes are prepared fresh. "We still peel our own potatoes and cook our beans from dry and prepare our casseroles and specials from old-fashioned recipes like Grandmother used to do," Marlene said. She added that she has loved watching the next generation's burgeoning appreciation for unprocessed foods.
In addition to the push to encourage healthier eating habits, this year the café is welcoming new assistant managers: husband and wife duo Joel and Alyssa Land. "They have great attitudes and a great business sense," said Marlene. She encourages customers to introduce themselves during their next visit. And if customers have any suggestions for the restaurant, feel free to share them with the Lands, she added.
"So," Marlene said, "now that we've talked about the healthy stuff ... would you like a piece of pie to go?" I chose a slice of the famous chocolate meringue. At the end of the day - no matter your diet - Countryside Café is still all about sweet Southern hospitality. And that, I have been grateful to learn, often entails a fresh slice of homemade pie. ?
Location: 8223 Mahan Gap Road
Phone: 344-TOGO (8646)
Hours: Monday-Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and
Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.