“The most divine dining room of the gentle South,” is how a culinary tipster described Caro-Mi many years ago. “You won’t believe the ham,” she wrote. “It is country-style, with grits and gravy and all the trimmings. As for fried chicken, there is none better. And be sure to see the front porch. Sit there awhile, and you will know what I mean when I tell you that Caro-Mi is God’s country.”
The scenery truly is heavenly as roads twist and climb towards the Blue Ridge Mountains: Cows graze, horses gather under shade trees, old tobacco signs crumble on the sides of listing barns. Caro-Mi, which got its name because the original owners spent equal amounts of time in the Carolinas and Miami, Florida, dates back to 1945. From the road you scarcely see it, but you do see the Caro-Mi covered bridge, which takes you from the parking lot over the Pacolet River to the restaurant on the other side. A stroll along it over the rushing water is a trip back in time to the middle of the twentieth century and to an unaffected supper of immemorial southland fare.
Every meal begins with a dish of sweet-pepper-laced macaroni salad and another of coleslaw composed of limp shredded cabbage and zesty vinegar dressing. “It’s the best thing you’ll eat all night,” our waitress declared as she presented them, suggesting we mix the two together.
Caro-Mi country ham is rank and chewy, served with a bowl of grits and red-eye gravy. Another long-time favorite is sauteed chicken livers, which are laced with onions and only minimally worried as they cook, developing some crusty edges but maintaining supreme lusciousness.
The best part of a meal at Caro-Mi just may be the afterglow. Step outside to the wide front porch where rocking chairs stand in a row. Rock a spell. Listen to the river run. Watch couples pause and gaze down at the water as they amble hand in hand across the covered bridge. If the breeze is blowing right, you breathe in the scents of sizzling ham and trout, biscuits hot from the oven, sweet apples stewing on the stove. God’s country, indeed.