Like veined cheese, sourdough bread, and vintage wine, great country ham awakens that special fascination taste buds have for flavors that teeter on the refined side of rot. Southern Kitchen country ham is brick-red, salty, and powerfully tasty, not for palates who crave the blubbery pink stuff that comes in cans from the supermarket. For true ham-lovers, it is divine, especially with a side order of sweet stewed tomatoes to balance the savory smack of the griddle-sizzled slices of pigmeat.
Ham is great for breakfast, lunch, and supper. The Southern Kitchen’s other four-star specialty is something you want only for lunch or supper: peanut soup. A true Virginia treat, peanut soup can vary from bisque-thick to brothy; the version made by this kitchen tends towards the velvety kind, rich with butter but not thickened with cream, onion-sweet and silky. It is a satisfying soup, but it leaves you enough appetite to move on to one of the other gratifying cafe meals available here, such as ham with raisin sauce, fried chicken, or pan-fried trout from the James River. To finish any one of these exemplary western Virginia spreads, have a wedge of apple or coconut cream pie.
The Southern Kitchen is a supremely casual café that serves locals as well as tourists on their way through the Shenandoah Valley to the Luray Caverns. Seating is at a counter or in booths, and decor includes deer trophies above the booths on the paneled walls as well as beautiful whole hanging country hams (for sale). Place mats are paper; and service, by uniformed waitresses, is speedy and pleasant.