Country Cooking on the Old Dixie Highway
Seven years ago while on a Florida road trip, Don and I pulled off the Old Dixie Highway to check out this little beauty. We'd already eaten that morning, but bought coffee and looked around. We quickly added Cypress Inn Restaurant (and its Country Cooking) to the "Must Return" list!
This past January, Don and I found ourselves on another Florida road trip. We headed north from St. Pete, with giddy anticipation. Lunch at Cypress Inn!
Before reaching the little restaurant in Cross City, the highway took us over the Suwannee River, right into Dixie County. Two songs came to mind as we crossed the bridge... I sang a few lines, from the one about the river. I have fond memories of belting out Suwannee River as a kid, while our family Ford traveled on that very highway, over that very river.
Big Lot in a Small Town
When we arrived at Cross City's iconic restaurant, we joined other vehicles in the large, unpaved lot. On that January day, it looked like every Dixie County police officer, sheriff and firefighter had already arrived.
Cross City is an odd title, for a town with fewer than 2,000 residents. But maybe the town earned its city status by importance, not size. It is the county seat of Dixie County, after all.
The sweet little side entrance delighted me. I loved the odd texture of the red painted cypress. The door windows were decorated with homey curtains and a sign. We read and chuckled, "Please Come Again" as we headed in.
90 Years Old
The other side of the door, showed a sign that might have made more sense for greeting us. "Cypress Inn Since 1928"
I loved the idea of dining at a roadside cafe, that opened the year my parents were born. I loved the visual, of two white birds, sitting on a cypress tree... dripping with Spanish moss.
At the Counter
We passed through the side dining room and into the front area, with counter seating. A few young women were cleaning up after the rush. They took turns fussing over one woman's 2 month old baby. All were chatty and welcoming. I was delighted to be introduced to the baby.
The old restaurant hasn't changed much since it opened 90 years ago, but I noted a few differences from 7 years ago. My old photo shows a juke box and upper shelves, filled antiques and a quilt. The display of dishes, even looked different back then.
The display was more colorful on this visit. I asked if the dishes were the restaurant's original plates and cups. I guess that was stupid question. The bright china matched the unstained potholders. I was told, "Oh no. Those are dishes from the Pioneer Woman collection." It took me a minute to realize we were talking about the blogger-turned-TV-personality-pioneer-woman.
The Cypress Inn got its name because of the "Pecky Cypress" paneling that covers the walls and ceiling. The Dixie County area is home to many lumber yards and sawmills and this special cypress is one of their unusual products.
At first glance the brown and white wood made me think of a stage set or a cartoon drawing. There was something fake looking about the weathered appearance of the wood. But the dips and holes in the wood were created naturally, by the growth of pecky fungus.
Words of Wisdom
Tacked onto the pecky cypress, I saw a few little reminder signs. "Be Thankful" and "Cowboys Welcome"
I also saw some words of wisdom scribbled in pen on the cypress... beside the Bible quote. Actually the graffiti was mostly names... nothing profound or rude.
Where to Sit?
There were open stools at the counter, but Don and I headed into the side dining room, where the folks in uniform were dining. I asked the cashier, if the tables were original. They looked mighty old. "Well..." She pondered a bit. "My dad owned the restaurant from the time I was about 6 to 16. They've been here as long as I can remember."
More Helpful Folks
Don and I looked over the menu first. Then I popped up to have a peek at the buffet in the front room. The fellow in the overalls was pretty clear. "There's nothing here that's not great! I've been in town working for 2 days and this is the second time I've eaten here. It's all good!"
All the locals were doing the buffet, but it was just more food than I was up for. I headed back to the table and paused to look at a photo of Cypress Inn, when it was more than a restaurant.
I studied the old photo from when Cross City was mostly a company town for Shamrock Lumber Co. It was odd to imagine our little restaurant having a service station and hotel rooms at one time. A police officer on his way to the buffet, paused to chat. "If you like old buildings, you should look at the Putnam Hotel across the road!" He was incredibly enthused about recent renovations of the old hotel... which also has pecky cypress wood!
Time to Eat!
I ordered the BLT and could barely see the bread underneath my mountain of bacon. "Oh we do bacon well!" Our server said with a proud grin. "We're a southern restaurant and we're going to feed you well!"
The menu itself looked retro, with old fashioned prices... skillet image... opening hours of 5 am... and the words... "Southern Hospitality Dixie Country Style"
Don and I will go a for a bigger feast next time, but we were both in a sandwich mood. Don was pleased with his good old fashioned cheeseburger and fries!
I didn't take a photo of the dining room this time. I felt a little restrained with all the people dining in uniform. But here is a photo from a few years back, showing the brown wood walls and beams... and a couple of deer heads, hidden in the shadows.
Sometimes a trip to the Ladies Room becomes part of my dining adventure memory. (There have been some odd ones over the years!)
I just had to capture this image, with the mint green walls and vintage tile. But best of all was the platform toilet, that just made me laugh. I'm guessing this was the answer to some tricky plumbing issue back in the day.
I don't know, but it amused me!
We headed to the car feeling content, that we could put a check on our list.
Don and I discover so many curious places on our travels, but we don't have time to experience them all. This was one of those places that we spotted, then added to the list. 7 years ago, I crossed my fingers that we really would have a chance to return. Cypress Inn asked us to "Come Again" and we did!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.