by Madison White Franks
In Caret, in Essex County, you will find a gem of a restaurant.
Appropriately named, 17 South Family Restaurant is located on Route 17 about seven miles outside of Tappahannock at Stephen Ellis Farm. Stephen and Susan Ellis opened the restaurant in July 2017. The tiny red, barn-like building is surrounded by farmland.
On a Saturday afternoon in August, my husband Taylor and I made the hour and a half trip from our house in Middlesex County to 17 South. The owner, Susan seated us by the window.
I immediately noticed the rustic, farm decor. One sign read, “Farm to table, table to soul.”
The front of the menu included a note from the Ellis’, “Welcome to the farm! Our dinner menu is sourced locally and we try to give you the experience of eating at your grandmother’s and never leaving hungry. Large plates and seconds if you need them is a memory that has always been with us. So, sit back and enjoy Virginia favorites, and if you get too full, we will send some dessert home with you for later. We can’t have you wasting away.”
As promised, our helpings were large and we got a sense of being at grandma’s house.
Our appetizer of fried pimento cheese balls, served with pepper jelly, was a fried take on a southern staple. The cheese oozed from the breading. Once we dipped the cheese ball into the pepper jelly, we expected the spiciness of the jalapeño but instead were greeted by a sweet aftertaste.
Although pepper jelly is usually red, the Ellis’ had a turquoise hue, which made it even more appealing.
For his entree, Taylor chose the angus ribeye, a 12-ounce, hand-cut, local-aged, angus ribeye topped with onion straws and butter. Taylor’s initial reaction after his first bite of steak was simply, “Wow.”
It was tender and loaded with flavor.
His side of mixed vegetables was blend of fresh squash, zucchini, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and onion.
A seafood and pasta fan, I couldn’t pass up the 17 South crab pasta alfredo, a crab cake grilled and chopped over penne pasta with old bay cream sauce. It came with a salad and another side. I chose corn pudding.
My dish did not disappoint. The spices weren’t overwhelming and the sauce was just right, not too thick, not too runny. The crab cake was flaky. I would venture to say, it was one of the best seafood pasta dishes I have ever had.
The corn pudding was also spiced perfectly with hints of cinnamon.
17 South also offers a selection of beers and wines and a variety of homemade desserts. Our meals were so hearty, we had to pass on the sweets.
“There is something to be said for sitting at a nice restaurant with a window view, knowing the food you are eating is coming from your surroundings versus somewhere far away,” Taylor said.
Stop by and eat at the farm!
15344 Tidewater Trail
Tues. through Thurs. 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Fri. 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Sat. 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Sun. 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
On the Menu
Did you know?
17 South also offers outdoor picnic tables and take out.