Come, sit a spell at The Country Porch
By Sarah Hall
The Country Porch Cafe isn’t just off the beaten path. To find this out-of-the-way restaurant, you may need a map of eastern Rowan County.
It’s a destination for home-cooking, not a place you would stumble across, unless maybe you’re a teacher at Morgan Elementary School or a duck hunter.
Go southeast, out of Salisbury on, Stokes Ferry Road, about 9 1/2 miles from where Stokes Ferry departs from U.S. 52. Then take a right on Liberty Road.
You’ll pass Liberty Fire Department on the left, and Liberty Methodist Church on the right. Then 2/10 of a mile past the church, look on the right for what appears to be a cozy farm house with rocking chairs on its ample front porch.
That’s actually a restaurant, where owner Cristy Stiller is waiting to welcome you and feed you.
Cristy grew up just down the road. As a little girl, playing and helping on her grandfathers’ farm, she looked at the lot across the road and imagined a restaurant, with people sitting on a big front porch.
Childhood dream became reality four years ago when she and her husband, Mark, purchased that piece of land for a restaurant. Cristy designed the floor plan herself, and even though it may look like an old-fashioned farmhouse, the kitchen is modern, up-to-date and pristine.
The spacious dining room’s homey feel is achieved in part through purposely mismatched tables. Prints by artist Dempsey Essick of Welcome grace the walls. A pie safe holds gifts for sale ó holiday items, soy candles and honey from beehives belonging to Cristy’s dad, James T. Hill, a local land surveyor.
Cristy has as her culinary inspiration her mom, Bonnie Hill, who helps at the restaurant some on Saturdays. She is busy weekdays as a nurse practitioner at Rowan Prime Care, her own practice.
Cristy says her mom is an outstanding cook who loves to experiment with recipes, and who taught Cristy much of what she knows about cooking, and baking, which is what Cristy especially enjoys.
Being located so far out of the way, there’s bound to be spells when business is slow. But there are quite a few regulars, and on Saturdays the place can get rather full.
“I wish every day could be like Saturday’s breakfast,” Cristy sighs. “That’s the most enjoyable time, especially with the duck hunters coming now.”
The day we talked, the restaurant was unusually busy for a weekday.
“We were swamped,” a slightly disheveled Cristy exclaimed as she hurried in. “The teachers came back today.”
Morgan Elementary School’s faculty are some of the regular patrons, and many of them had taken advantage of the last few days before students arrived to take a lunch break down the road.
The Country Porch Cafe is open Tuesday-Saturday for breakfast and lunch. They also offer in-house catering in the evenings and have hosted church groups, wedding rehearsal dinners and family reunions. Groups may also rent the building for meetings.
Some of the most popular dishes are the barbecue meatloaf, chicken poppyseed casserole, deep-fried pork chops and broccoli casserole. They serve vegetables in season, picked from the garden of Cristy’s dad and mom, and from her uncle’s garden, all right there in the neighborhood. Out of season, and to supplement in season, she buys produce from the market in Rockwell.
The meats are from nearby, too. The restaurant serves Frank Corriher breakfast meats out of Landis, and other meats from a market in Denton.
The Country Porch Cafe has a reputation for delicious home-made cakes and pies, since baking is a favorite pastime Cristy still hasn’t grown weary of.
She estimates she works 58-60 hours per week but says she enjoys the customers, so it isn’t a chore. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for Mark, or the couple’s chocolate Lab, Jessie, or black Lab, Buzz. (Cristy sells collars and leashes at her place in support of NC Lab Rescue.)
Cristy adds that Mark “has always supported this crazy idea I had,” even though he told her he wasn’t going to have anything to do with the restaurant.
He has since found himself washing dishes, waiting tables and running the cash register to help out. He doesn’t help with the cooking, though.
“He can’t fix a bowl of cereal,” Cristy says, laughing. “But he can fix toast,” she adds.
So, do many people sit on the porch at the Country Porch Cafe?
Cristy says the rocking chairs are a popular spot after meals, and sometimes people don’t want to leave.
She recently found two ladies still rocking away as she and her staff were leaving after cleaning up from lunch.
“Ya’ll can stay here as long as you like,” she told them, “but we’re going home.”
– – –
Here are two of Cristy’s dessert recipes.
Old Fashioned Egg Custard
4 eggs (well beaten)
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter or margarine, melted
1/2 c. self-rising flour
2 C. milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Combine all ingredients. Pour into a greased 9- or 10-inch pie pan. Bake at 350 degree for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Should be lightly set in middle when touched. Remove from oven and let cool until set.
May add a cup of fresh fruit or coconut prior to baking for delicious fruit custard or coconut custard pie
Makes 2 pies, 14 servings
2 C. sugar
1 C. buttermilk
6 eggs (lightly beaten)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
2 C. fresh or sweet flaked coconut
2 pie crusts
Mix sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla until well combined. Fill pie shells with coconut (1 cup each shell). Pour mixture over coconut (equal portions). Bake at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes.
Check pies at 35 minutes to make sure they are not over-baked. They should be set in middle when touched.
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