Today’s guest post is from Brian Mellott of This Cookin’ Dad.
Have travel plans that include Virginia this year? If so, consider heading to Charlottesville to visit the homes of former U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. After you see how they lived, make sure to take a few moments to see how the rest of the population lived by visiting and having a meal at Michie Tavern.
In 1784, William Michie established Old Michie’s Tavern in Earlysville, Virginia. The tavern was a place for weary travelers to receive food, drink, and lodging. It also served as the social center of the community, a place where people would gather to discuss the issues of the day, attend balls, or even to see travelling doctors or showmen. In 1927, the tavern was moved south of Charlottesville to its present location. Over time, they have moved other buildings to the site, giving the feel of all that a small way-stop would have needed to support travelers during that time period.
Self-guided tours run daily giving a little insight as to what it was like to travel in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. You can even choose from four shops, including a metal shop and a clothier, to pick up a souvenir or a gorgeous piece from one of our local artisans.
Great Southern fare “at the ordinary”
Perhaps the greatest reason to stop at Michie Tavern, though, is the incredible food “at the ordinary.” During that time period, “an ordinary” referred to a fixed price meal that was served to anyone or a tavern that served such a meal. The meal here is buffet style. You walk through the line, choose what you want, grab a drink, and take a seat. After that, the waitresses will take care of whatever you need. Just ask and they’ll bring whatever food you want.
You may be asking, just what do they serve? It’s pretty much southern food at its best. They have incredibly juicy fried chicken with just the right amount of crust and delicious pulled pork with creamy coleslaw. You can get perfectly cooked green beans and black-eyed peas – soft, but not mushy – with a lovely back note of ham without actually tasting like ham.
The creamy mashed potatoes and the gravy are really just spectacular and you can even get beets and sticky sweet stewed tomatoes! The vegetable soup is pretty killer, a light tomato broth with vegetables cooked just so. It’s perfect for dipping in some sunny cornbread or a flaky biscuit. The food was just what I would have found at my grandma’s house when I was a child.
The real surprise, though, was the baked chicken. Southern food can feel pretty heavy sometimes and I typically find baked chicken to be dry and pretty bland. You really need that crust to add some texture and flavor and to keep that juiciness in. At Michie Tavern, I was blown away with the baked chicken. It’s a lighter fare that is cooked perfectly, juicy inside with a slightly crispy skin. What blew me away was the spice mixture that they rubbed that chicken with. Salt and pepper? Sure. Some paprika for color and a bit of smokiness? Makes sense. The fennel, though, added this beautifully light licorice flavor. I really had to refrain from overdoing it!
Michie Tavern is a great stop if you are out traveling across Virginia and are looking for a place to stretch your legs, go back in time, and find a healthy change from the typical fast food travel diet. I hope you enjoy!