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January 24, 2013 12:10 am


Come hungry: The options are endless at Country Cookin.



Home-style cooking with all the fixings can be dished up at the kitchen table, or at a restaurant. One Roanoke-based chain, with two locations in Fredericksburg, knows that its diners enjoy filling up their plates at an endless home-style buffet of sides and salads, and it puts on quite a spread.

For the novices (My Dining Partner and I were new to Country Cookin) a greeter explains that, after you select an entree from the menu, you then make your first of several trips to the buffet. The reasonably priced entrees include steaks, chicken, seafood or other basics associated with home cooking such as chicken livers or meatloaf. I define "reasonably priced" as the ability for two adults to have a complete meal for less than $20, which we did. If children had been with us, their meals would have cost $3.99 each.

It was no wonder that many families were dining at Country Cookin's new location on Plank Road on a foggy Sunday evening.

MDP ordered the Southern Bourbon Sirloin ($9.39) and asked for it to be prepared medium-rare. I decided to try the "new" Char-grilled Meatloaf ($8.29). Both of us chose baked sweet potatoes as a side, and off we went to the buffet.

We began with soup, both selecting chicken noodle, which had an excellent broth, large flat noodles to accompany the chunks of chicken. The other choice seemed to be a bean soup, but there were no informative labels at the buffet to let us know what this soup was or the names of some of the casseroles.

I also dished up samples of stewed tomatoes, collards, macaroni and cheese, steamed cabbage and added a corn muffin. I especially liked the slightly sweet tomatoes, but was disappointed that the steam-table offerings were only lukewarm (which I mentioned to the server).

MDP, who scooped his portions from the bottoms of pans (closer to the heat), said his samples were the right temperature. He especially liked the quality of the cabbage, and the flavor of the tomatoes.

Two salad bars provided many options to build meal even without an entree ($6.99 for just the buffet).

We both thought the potato and macaroni salads and coleslaw were excellent with good seasonings and a home-style quality. MDP particularly liked the marinated cucumbers with onions and tomato.

He was also impressed that the sirloin steak was tender and cooked to order. My meatloaf was a cross between a burger and a traditional meatloaf slab. Both pieces of meat, while not huge, were a portion size that satisfied. The sweet potatoes were lavishly adorned with butter and brown sugar.

Our dessert samples included brownies, various fruit cobblers, and an eclair pudding confection. If Grandma doesn't make the latter, she needs the recipe! There was also an ice cream bar, where diners could top their soft ice cream with a variety of options--and people did!

Country Cookin puts value and quality in its menu, making it a good spot for a meal out when folks are looking for a taste of home.

Linda Salisbury is the author of the Bailey Fish books, an award-winning adventure series for kids.

What: Country Cookin Address: 3400 Plank Road (State Route 3) Info: 540/412-1178; Hours: Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Prices:

Breakfasts (weekends): $6.99; Lunch: $5.99-$8.29; Dinners: $6.99-$12.99; Children's menu: $2.99-$3.99. Soft drinks only.

The Scoop: Family-friendly, good service, clean and plenty of parking. Other nearby locations include Culpeper and Orange.

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