If You Go> Where: Oren's Orchard Cafe (and Pie Shop) at Wooden's Apple House, 6351 New Harmony Road (Route 443 East, two miles from Highway 30), Pikeville, Tenn.> Phone: 423-447-6376.> Website: woodensapplehouse.com.> Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 1-6 p.m. Sunday (open till 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday during daylight-saving time, which ends this weekend) from Aug. 1 through end of harvest (November-December); all times are Eastern.> Price range: $6.99 for three vegetables to $8.99 for meat-and-three plate.> Payment options: Cash or check. Debit and credit cards not accepted, but ATM on-site.
Nobody would blame you if you wanted to start with dessert at Oren's Orchard Cafe, the newest addition at Wooden's Apple House on Dayton Mountain near Pikeville, Tenn.
That's kind of how the Woodens do things too, opening up a Pie Shop years ago as part of the family business, a 100-acre farm that grows and sells some 20 varieties of apples, plus peaches, pumpkins, tomatoes and other seasonal produce. They added the home-style meat-and-three diner last summer.
Come to think of it, Oren's Orchard Cafe doesn't even sell dessert. For that, you still have to stand in line at the Pie Shop. And as good as the food in the cafe is, the sweets are what you come for.
The standard menu offers two meats (fried chicken and hamburger steak) and five sides (corn, mashed potatoes, green beans, pinto beans, macaroni and cheese). Daily specials add other options, such as pork chops, cheeseburger casserole, baked beans or okra.
I've been up twice this month, most recently trying the Boston butt roast, along with a cornbread muffin and sides of hashbrown casserole, green beans and apple coleslaw. I had enough food left to get a to-go box for lunch the next day - partly because the servings were ample, mostly because I was saving room for dessert.
The roast, a cut usually used for pulled pork barbecue, was instead seasoned with onions, tomatoes and button mushrooms. The hashbrown casserole was a yummy medley of potato chunks, cheese and Ritz crackers. The green beans were tasty, but if I'd been paying more attention to the menu, pintos would have been my preference. There's always next time. I'm not sure what I was expecting with the apple coleslaw. It was good but nothing fancy, just a basic blend of cabbage and carrots with an extra crunch from diced apples.
I've also tried the fried chicken, herb-seasoned roasted potatoes, macaroni and cheese and yeast rolls - all delicious.
The cafe also serves up chili and a soup of the day. Drinks include sweet and unsweet tea, helpfully labeled as the "Southern" and "Northern" variations.
But no visit to Wooden's Apple House would be complete without a visit to the Pie Shop. With a few bites of dinner out of the way, I queued up at the counter for the must-have apple dumplings, served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream if you like. I like.
Then I spotted another contender on the counter and couldn't resist an impulse purchase. The apple cake was baked in a tube pan and each slice was covered on three sides - three! - with a thick and creamy cinnamon frosting and a sprinkling of pecans on top. Now my favorite apple dessert is whichever one of these I happen to be snacking on at the moment.
Oren's Orchard Cafe is set up cafeteria-style. You get a tray and utensils and tell whoever's dipping what to put on your plate. You pay at the register, then go find a seat. That can be the tricky part. Weekends, especially after church on Sundays, can be chaos. You're on your own to find a free table or track down an extra chair for your party.
Still, the folks are friendly here. You get the feeling that everyone helping out is either a family member or close friend.
Regular visitors to Wooden's Apple House know the drill: One section of the main building is stocked with bags upon bags of apples and whatever other produce is in season. The varieties change as the harvest progresses.
Through an interior door is the Pie Shop, home to more than a dozen treats, including fried apple pies, pumpkin pies, peach cobbler and cider slushies. To make room for Oren's Orchard Cafe, a couple of the Pie Shop's exterior walls were knocked down and the space expanded, so the two share floor space and tables.
It's a comfortable but no-frills area with concrete floors and lightweight black metal chairs. Red-and-white checkered tablecloths and chalkboard signage add farmhouse charm.
There are a few picnic tables for sitting outside on pleasant days. In a nearby patch of grass, kids can play amid the pumpkins for sale.
If there's a crowd, you'll need to pay attention to which line you're in when you enter the building. There are separate registers to pay for produce, desserts and meals, but when the place is full, the lines seem to intermingle.
Oh, and a note about payment: Wooden's Apple House accepts only cash or checks. But don't despair if you're packing only a debit or credit card. There's an ATM on-site where you can withdraw cash.
Like the produce it sells, Wooden's Apple House comes and goes with the seasons, making it a fall tradition for many families.
Candace Smith, who runs the cafe, says customers can count on an Aug. 1 opening every year, but the closing date depends on how long the crop lasts, which can vary from November to December. "We're usually here till at least the day before Thanksgiving," she says, "but last year we went through Christmas."
That leaves four, possibly five, months each year to make the trip. Oren's Orchard Cafe is one more reason to go.
Contact Lisa Denton at email@example.com or 423-757-6281.