Cafe Society

Photo by Brent Fleury

Photo by Brent Fleury

When I mentioned my destination to a friend this month, she said, “Oh, I’ve loved that place for years!” Hmmm—how did I miss this?

Café On The Veranda is another one of Hendersonville’s low-key finds. Located within A Day in The Country, a 10,000 square foot shopping mecca for gifts, this lunch spot would seem like an afterthought to the serious business of power shopping. I was happy to discover that the food more than held its own.

Owned and operated by the third generation of the Oates family, I was surprised to learn that A Day In The Country is part of Manual Woodworkers and Weavers, a major employer in Henderson County and in business since 1932. While the store has been open for 20 years and showcases many of the items manufactured by their company, the owners wanted to have an eatery within the store and opened up the Café 12 years ago. Starting as a small bakery, it has grown into a full-blown lunch and special event destination with seating for up to 140.

The day I met my friend, it was a bit late for lunch, but the café was bustling even at two in the afternoon. Try to avert your eyes from the cute flip-flops on display as you walk in (don’t spend your lunch money!) and head to the café counter, where you order your meal. You might need a few minutes, because the menu is lengthy—my friend ordered her usual favorite, the Topped Veranda Salad at $6.99. A great big bowl of fresh greens with tomatoes, cukes, sprouts and onions came with a generous scoop of chicken salad loaded with dried cranberries and walnuts and house-made honey-poppy seed dressing. A chunk of corn bread was added for good measure.

I asked the lady behind the counter which wrap she would order (something you all know that I recommend—ask for help in choosing!). “The Hawaiian is our favorite,” she said. Now, I would not have ordered this without that prompt, but I’m so glad I did! Grilled chicken with smoky bacon, pineapple, greens and sprouts got a kiss of honey poppy seed dressing before being encased in a soft multi-grain wrap. The salt from the bacon and the sweet tang of pineapple brought a standard chicken sandwich to a much tastier plane. You get your choice of four signature sides: Sunshine Slaw, Wild Rice and Cranberry Salad, Veranda Potato Salad or Molly’s Pasta Salad. A great lunch value at $6.49. Originally thinking I couldn’t possibly finish it, I managed to devour every single bite.

Brent Fleury
Another must-have, according to my friend in the know, is the apple dumpling, which she asked them to reserve for us. These go fast and you need to grab one of these signature Veranda desserts before you order anything else. Having just returned from a trip to Germany, she commented that this was better than any strudel she had eaten on her trip. The pastry was delicate and was bursting with a whole Henderson County apple. Topped with Devonshire and whipped cream, it was big enough to share and good enough to not want to.

Sandwich choices are diverse, ranging from a Classic Reuben to a “Veggie Teaser” and most are served on breads baked in house. Two to three “Soup of the Day” choices are always available and you can do a half sandwich with salad or soup for only $5.99.There are lots of entrée salad choices and an array of specialty desserts to give you that sugar boost for more shopping.

On my second visit, I tried the “Magnolia’s Maddening Turkey Supreme.” A multi-grain cranberry roll (my health food nod for the day) comes bursting with smoked turkey and provolone cheese. Sweet cranberry chutney finished the sandwich and I chose the potato salad made with honey Dijon. Another tasty sandwich choice and all for less than $7.00. I added a glass of lemonade and was one happy girl.

Paula Flowers, Manager of the Café, sums up the business by saying, “We are very proud of our friendly atmosphere and tasty food—when we see clean plates coming back to the kitchen, we know we’re doing something right!”

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