Monday, July 30, 2012

“I Don’t Think This is Going to Work!”

(NOTE: The break in our entries was unforseen and was filled with technological frustrations. I spent twelve hours over two days with software tech support personnel before receiving the conclusion: "corrupted system due to a virus." Fortunately, a second opinion concluded: "I can fix it." The computer repair service in Russellville, AR, had a young man, James, who backed up his promise. He saved all our files and photos and removed the virus. Our laptop is healthy and we're happy. Thank you, James.)

We had just completed Step One of our plan for the day in Collierville, TN, and were ready to embark on Step Two—lunch. (Step Three was locating the tiger statue at the Ford dealership [see July 25 entry].) I had identified a lovely Italian restaurant and noticed while we were walking past it that the dining room was set with white cloth table covers, cloth napkins, and wine glasses.
Then I looked at us. While I had left at home some of my more outrageous t-shirts (like the one that reads “Where in the hell is Roscoe?” on the back), we were still t-shirt clad, and I surmised that our attire was a bit too casual for this restaurant.

Lucky for us, just across the town square stood the Silver Caboose Restaurant and Soda Fountain.

(I am assuming that the name refers to the silver caboose that sits outside of the historic train station.

Or, could it refer to the caboose of the train that circled the dining room next door? Or,...?)

Since a small group of people was already congregating at the doors awaiting opening time, we sensed that this might be a local favorite. We were right.

“The Silver Caboose is about tradition. It is not about trendy restaurant dining. It has no superstar chefs, but relies on good old fashioned cooking using tried and true recipes from our mothers and grandmothers. It is a place you can go and know that things will never change.

“All of our menu items are prepared from scratch and cooked to order. Fast food is not in our genes—only wonderfully flavored dishes served with heartfelt attention and loving care.” (

Bob and Mary Jean Smith opened the Silver Caboose in 1996, and the restaurant is run by three generations of that family. Their daughter Julie (center in the photo on the right) serves as General Manager and her three daughters work in various capacities. (We learned from one of the servers that the Smith family was one of the original families of Collierville with their arrival dating back to the 1850’s.)

“This building was constructed in 1890, but it is not known what business originally operated here. In 1920 it was known as Biggs and
Dudney Grocery Store. After the 1944 fire, it was rebuilt as an auto shop. You are invited inside to relive the past by having an old-fashioned soda or milkshake at the antique soda fountain” (

“The Silver Caboose's soda fountain is one of the few remaining original soda fountains in Tennessee. Dating from the 1800's, it has been in continuous use with its marble top and gleaming old soda pumps” (

The menu could be described as Louisiana Plate Lunch House meets Ladies Tea Room. Southern comfort food items included the Lacy Special (two open-faced corn sticks with sliced white chicken and fluffy rice on the side, smothered in giblet gravy) and Turnip Greens and Pot Likker with hot ham or fried pork and spring onion. And then there is the daily Silver Plate Special that includes one meat and two vegetables with corn bread or rolls. On the day of our visit, the meats were chicken and dumplings, chicken fried steak, and meat loaf, and there was a list of at least eight sides.

But it was items like these that reminded me of a tea room: the frozen fruit plate served with pimento cheese, cream cheese, or olive and egg salad finger sandwiches; tomato aspic served with pimento cheese, cream cheese, or olive and egg salad finger sandwiches; and the mixed fruit plate with cottage cheese or sherbet. I ask you, when was the last time you saw tomato aspic on a menu?

To those of you who know him well, it should come as no surprise that Chuck ordered the chicken fried steak. (Although choosing the meat loaf wouldn’t have been a surprise either.) His plate contained a small but tasty piece of battered cubed steak along with real (not from a box) mashed potatoes and slow cooked (i.e., really soft) green beans. And instead of the expected white pepper gravy, this was served with brown gravy. The gravy was delicious. It just came as a surprise.

Electing to eat light, I ordered a small side salad and an appetizer. I could have chosen the jalapeno poppers, the cheese sticks, the “crispy hot wingers,” fried pickles, or the Caboose Sampler—which included all of these. But instead, I chose the toasted ravioli, which came with a small dish of warm marinara sauce.

When writing about Fino’s from the Hill (see July 20 entry), I mentioned that the American tradition of breading and deep fat frying ravioli is thought to have started in The Hill neighborhood of St. Louis. This appetizer serving consisted of six meat-filled pasta squares that had been fried until the pasta became crunchy which was a nice
contrast with the softer filling. These were quite good. Not something I’d want all the time, but still good.

The salad contained crisp romaine, red cabbage, shredded carrots, radishes, cucumbers, and a tomato wedge and was served with a cup of blue cheese dressing (my favorite) that was full of huge chunks of blue cheese.

What’s the sense, I ask you, of being in a restaurant with one of the few remaining original soda fountains in Tennessee and not ordering a soda fountain confection? So under the careful supervision of Kitty Humbug, our server prepared a giant traditional banana split. All I can say is “yummo.”

Off now to find that tiger after a good 3.5 Addie lunch.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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