Down in the Backwoods

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July 22, 2011 by paiday

No matter where you are from in the continental US there is some version of the “Valley.” The Valley is that no-man’s land sitting between the larger cities or towns. In this case it’s a collection of tiny towns off of US 1 between Aiken and Augusta, and appears to be nothing more than a long stretch of run-down industrial parks, shot gun houses, and the strangest glimpses of Americana to those heading from city to city.

The valley offers stories, mostly those appearing in the jail report, but there are also the stories of the culinary finds in the most unlikely of places. A restaurant with a “real” chef by Reid’s, the “best” pastries in the antique store, authentic Mexican dishes in Graniteville, are some of the adventures a culinary experience seeker such as myself might undertake.

I was long ago made a believer of this area on a little visit to the Blue Top Grille to try their burgers. The Blue Top sits on a corner in a neighborhood in Clearwater and looks like a little run-down hobbit house with a blue, tin-roof. The burgers are greasy and cheesy, reminding me of the much missed Delta sandwich shop. In addition to some tasty greasy spoon burgers, the Blue Top has chicken and dumplings with the thin rolled, hand made dumplings that are impossible to pass up.

Feeling in the mood for some good burgers, we had decided to try out the Blue Top once more. A wrong turn later we were in Langley and outside of the Country Connection. This time the rumors surrounded the desserts, which were supposedly out of this world. The Country Connection is in an old house, which has been converted into a restaurant. The interior boasts Country Kitsch decor and there is even a bathtub in the restroom – just in case you’re feeling dirty.

Who can pass up a restaurant that uses rag dolls as the logo?

The front room offers a selection of cakes – red velvet and chocolate graced the table, and swizzle stick candies to complete the old time country feel. The menu consists of soups, sandwiches, and the country “blue plate” specials with the expected hamburger steak, fried chicken, fried pork chop, and smothered pork chop. You can also do a vegetable selection. With a name like Country Connection, it seems a given that the southern specials are the way to go, and my four year old really seemed to enjoy his rice and gravy and fried chicken – and I mean REALLY enjoy it. But I found the breading on the chicken and pork chops to be pretty tasteless, and my sister’s chicken fingers were obviously prefrozen.

A table of red velvet cake and chocolate cake slices greet customers. These cakes are heavenly!

My sandwich was actually the best entire meal. The chipped beef sandwich was thinly sliced beef, warmed on the flat-top and then covered with white American cheese. Served on an onion roll with a side of horseradish mayo, it was quite tasty.

Chipped beef on an onion roll with a side of horseradish mayo - now that is a good lunch.

Now, although I don’t know if the food is worth a trip to Langley, unless you are interested in the adventure, I want to say what is worth a trip to Langley. The corn nuggets. Corn nuggets sounds as if it should be a hushpuppy, or for those of you not from the south – a corn fritter, but no, this little bundle of heavenly goodness somehow takes creamed corn and gets it inside a crunchy fried nugget. Both an enigma and a miracle, this thing will change your world. ****Disclaimer: This very same night I told my friend about the corn nuggets which inspired him to try them at Helga’s Trivia Night. They were offensively bad. He ate them all but they were sweetened and the crust was downright bad. **** So, the point is that if you tried them at Helga’s or anywhere else and the sweetness made your mouth pucker and eyes water, not all corn nuggets are created equal.

Corn nuggets in the foreground seem so unassuming but inside each of these little nuggets is creamed corn. Yum.

The second point that I would like to make and I do believe this is a stroke of genius is the fact that you can call Country Connection 24 hours in advance and place your order for a homemade cake or pie. They have a selection of over 50 cakes and pies with the average price of a pie around $10.00 and the average price of a five layer cake around $25.00. The cakes taste exactly like your grandmother made it, only if your grandma could throw down in the kitchen that is. Now, I am not much of a baker so I am seeing some trips to this little store before my next dinner party, and when my friends start praising my new found baking skills, I am just going to smile and say “thank you.”

Country Connection is located on Old US Highway 1 and can be contacted for cake or pie orders at 803-593-6748.


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