This year, we spent Christmas with my husband's family in southeastern Kentucky. It's a 9-10 hour drive from our home in DC, and we were traveling with a three-year-old and a one-year-old. Fortunately my worst fears were unrealized and the kids did great in the car. On the way there we drove through the night and they slept most of the way. But on the trip home, we decided to risk driving during daylight hours.
Our strategy was influenced by this article I read on Serious Eats about the excellent restaurant at the Museum of Appalachia. The museum is just outside Knoxville, Tennessee, a little over an hour from my in-laws' house and on our way back to DC. We decided to begin our journey mid-morning and stop at the museum for a visit and lunch before continuing on our way.
The museum itself is certainly worth a visit: it features a bunch of historic cabins and other structures that contain lots of interesting artifacts. The kids especially loved the free-ranging peacocks wandering the grounds and the live banjo music that was featured in one of the cabins. But the lunch we ate at the museum restaurant would have been worth a special trip.
Pictured above is homemade vegetable soup with cornbread and a vegetable platter of pinto beans, buttered corn, and fried apples (my daughter and I shared this). The restaurant serves a hot lunch from 11 to 2 every day. In addition to sandwiches and hot dogs, they offer at least one entree and a dizzying number of vegetable sides. You can tell that this food is made with love, and the atmosphere is really charming. Here is my son enjoying his chicken and broccoli casserole in front of the cozy fireplace:
And my daughter enjoyed her lunch in this adorable vintage high chair:
We got a large quantity of delicious food that handily fed the four of us for only $25 (the fast-food dinner we got at Wendy's later the same day cost the same amount). My only regret is that we didn't end up getting dessert--the post-church lunch rush led to a line at the counter, and we were in a hurry to get home. But given our regular travels to this part of the country I know we will get back to the Museum of Appalachia sometime soon.
If you live near Knoxville or ever find yourself in the vicinity, don't miss this special place for a delicious meal.