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Sunday
May052019

The Lunch Box: Cam's Cafe Offers Grandma's Table to Everyone

Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

The Lunch Box is a weekly feature of the Anderson Observer. The feature is not paid advertising, and the opinions and suggestions belong to the writer of each selection. 

One of the highlights of my life is finding a good place for a tasty lunch. Each week The Lunch Box will highlight a meal I have found to be a delicious and consistent go-to choice. This is not a restaurant review, it is more a “best of” what to eat for lunch in Anderson County. If you have suggestions for a great plate of food, email me at thelunchbox@andersonobserver.com 


Opening the Lid

“Dinner on the grounds” is a phrase that evokes fond memories among those of us of a certain generation. It meant that after church, tables piled with excellent food of every kind were going to be arranged on tables for a gigantic smorgasbord lunch that would satisfy even the heartiest appetite.

Insiders knew who brought the best fried chicken, the best potato salad and best desserts, and made a beeline for those offerings before filling in the rest of their paper plates.

Remember the tastiest fried chicken from your favorite dinner on the grounds, and you’ll have a good idea what you're in for with the fried chicken at Cam’s Cafe in Iva. And it’s not only the food, the atmosphere is about as hometown friendly as you’ll see anywhere. After entering, you grab a plate and fill it up just like at a church dinner on the grounds. It’s a meat-and-three and more.

Cam’s is a link to a vanishing past, where small town diners could go and enjoy a meal where everybody knows their name as well as those of their mother, brother, kids, grandkids, etc. The food is just a vehicle for visiting friends and neighbors, where people can meet face to face to talk about what’s going on in the community.

The bonus is, at Cam's they have the opportunity to enjoy such visiting time with a plate of top-drawer country cooking that would be hard to beat even if you worked hard on it at home. Which brings me back to the fried chicken. The chicken breasts at Cam’s are huge and juicy with just the right amount of fried-crust crunch that is the hallmark of great fried chicken. And they manage to do it without any hint of it being too greasy. All of the pieces of chicken were big and looked equally good, so I am certain if you’re a leg/thigh dark meat eater, you’ll be just as satisfied. 

The chicken is almost a meal in itself. 

Sides

Almost. You don’t want to miss the sides, which are many and homemade good, but I’m going to mention my regular go-to favorites at any meal where they are available: friend okra and macaroni and cheese. 

The macaroni and cheese is rich and hearty with the right mix of plenty of cheese and whatever Cam’s uses to set the macaroni noodles in the dish. If you order this great side with the chicken, make sure you come hungry or you likely will be unable to finish your meal.

The fried okra tasted exactly like the kind grandma made 50 years ago. Unless you are of a previous generation, which to me means you were born before 1940, frying okra at home is a real chore. It requires a pan dedicated to the process of frying the okra, which raises the bar when you are preparing multiple side dishes. The magic that allowed my mother and grandmothers to prepare meals for more than a dozen family members with everything, including great fried okra, landing hot and fresh on the table simultaneously remains a mystery.

That’s why when you find a great meat-and-three were everything is delicious, hot and ready on demand, you don’t forget it. Add Cam’s Cafe to your list of those spots.

Dessert

The peach cobbler is a choice you won’t regret. I am one of those who likes the crust on top as much as the fruit and Cam’s cobbler has plenty of both.

Thermos

It’s hard to visit a place like Cam’s and order anything other than full-on sweet iced tea, so I recommend choosing another way to cut sugar later in the day when you visit Cam’s. The tea is good and the service cracker jack (servers never let my glass get empty, which if more of a challenge that you might realize if you have never shared a meal with me.)

Closing the Lid

Monday through Friday, the buffet lunch is $8.67, which includes beverage. Cam’s also offers a Friday night catfish buffet for $10.55, a Saturday breakfast buffet for $7.34, and Sunday lunch buffet for $9.63. Please bring extra cash for a tip, though.

Bonus Information

I mentioned early that Cam’s Cafe is an important part of the Iva community, and their owners, Ray and Linda Graham, are well-known for their generosity. They not only give generously to community causes, they annually host a free Thanksgiving meal for those in the area with nowhere to spend the holiday. Can’t put a price on giving back, but you can support their business throughout the year to help them continue to be generous.

Cam's Cafe is located at 604 Front St in Iva. If you have any questions, give them a call at 864-348-2145.

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