Whenever I stop by a restaurant with a popular musician’s name slapped above the title, there are a few famous touches that I’ve come to expect, like neon-embellished guitars and pun-strewn dishes, all meant to honor and reflect the artist and their collected works. See Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill in Bricktown, if you need a local example.
It was refreshingly not so, however, with Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen, 15366 Highway 13 S., in the rural burg of Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. A somewhat shabby building—what you’d expect from a “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” I suppose—with each particle-board wall completely filled with pictures and posters from the country music queen’s life, seemingly decorated by obsessed fans.
Meanwhile, outside, locals climbed a rusty tractor.
Walking past the gift shop and the hometown buffet, I was told to sit wherever I wanted by a teenage waitress that was saying goodbye to her age-appropriate lover. Bringing me a cup of coffee—complete with Loretta’s picture emblazoned on the mug—and a basic menu, it being morning and my stomach begging for one last bit of Southern comfort before crossing state lines, I ordered Loretta’s Smoke House Special ($13.99).
My waitress, obviously born and raised in these here parts, giggled with a twang as she refilled my cup, admitting to me how she brings the whole pot to the table because she’s “scared” she’d spill a cup of hot coffee right in my lap. I laughed in respectful fear, and took a big gulp of my quite-good coffee just as this large country breakfast was sat down on the table.
Being a longtime fan of not only Ms. Lynn’s fist-raising and pill-taking tunes but her personal story of overcoming strife as well, I have to admit that it would’ve been quite the three-chord heartbreak if these rustic eats from her kitchen wasn’t all that good; when I looked at this plate, however, I knew I was looking at country.
The dutiful egg, traditional biscuit and dark home-fries were a tasty trio that I gladly square danced with, but the country gravy, while fine by any other standard, was supposed to be done up red-eye style here, with the ham run-off dangerously mixed with coffee grounds; the waitress mournfully told me they had just ran out.
The centerpiece was a thick slice of country ham that, while absolutely filling, left me with the feeling that I ain’t man enough to take on that ham. Boxing up my leftovers, the waitress offered me a piece of pie for my gravy-based troubles; I ordered a thin-cut slice of heaven, a chocolate delight that was made only a few hours prior.
As my fork gently cut into that morningside dessert, I glanced over at a black and white portrait of duet-partners Loretta and Conway Twitty—the country crooner that made Oklahoma City his home in the 60s—and wondered when we’re going to get a tribute eatery to his much-maligned local delicacy, the Twitty Burger, around these here parts.
I’d rather eat there than at Toby Keith’s…wouldn’t you?