I’m a city gal. Give me the hum of busy roads and a diverse neighborhood and I’m good to go. But sometimes, a change of scenery is needed. This is why my short trek to Tanglewood Ordinary in Goochland county for dinner inspired me to cherish the slower things in life – country livin’ and good food.
Tanglewood Ordinary came on my radar after reading a couple of reviews online, claiming this was one of the “best kept secrets in the Richmond area” so naturally, my girlfriend and I hopped in the Jeep and off we went to discover if this place lived up to it’s reputation.
Living in Richmond only a couple of years, I’d never been out thatta way so I was surprised by the beautiful countryside and rolling hills that exist along the Highway-6 route. I think my girlfriend might have even blasted country tunes during the winding ride there. (When in Rome …)
Tanglewood sits right off Highway 6/River Road and is hard to miss – the large black house with white trim and red sign that boasts “Family Style Dining” indicates you’re ready to get into something pretty good.
Built in the late 1920’s, Tanglewood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and its no surprise with the log cabin architecture that gives a little bit of Little-House-on-the-Prairie-meets-Grandma’s-kitchen nostalgia. The space has operated as a gas station, sandwich shop, dance hall, inn, and now a restaurant.
There’s even a little gay history to the place, in the 1950’s during its dance hall days, it became a common place for lesbians to retreat and let loose after sporting events. Over time, the space has undergone several updates and additions but you’d never really notice – it looks perfectly quaint and cozy.
While walking to our corner booth, I passed a server asking her table “Do you want ice cream or whip cream with your dessert?” With a standard question like that, I knew I was in the right place.
As soon as we sat down, an older woman greeted us and asked if it was our first time here. Her kind demeanor and soft voice was a nice change from demanding servers I’d recently experienced while dining in the city. She gave us a rundown of how food was served there and reminded us sharing was encouraged and seconds are on the house since everything here’s served family style.
Family style means there’s no set menu and food comes out when it’s ready- for those of you who are control freaks like myself, this can be tough but sit back and try to relax. It’s worth it, I promise.
I eyed the beer list which had a surprisingly substantial number of craft beers but settled on a water instead. Crazy, I know, but I needed all the room in my stomach to battle out this meal. In case you need further indication of what brews they have, they’ve mounted each beer’s box on the wall … over communication never hurts, right?
The first thing that was brought out was a parade of carbs – cornbread, biscuits, and rolls accompanied with 2 kinds of butter, jelly, and apple butter. With so many options, I liked where this was going.
Next thing I knew, a large tray was towering over us and our server was gracefully presenting each food item verbally and then setting it on the table. All together, we had 11 bowls and plates in front of us, including our empty ones that were quickly about to fill.
That nights Tanglewood served barbecue pork, fried chicken, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, collards, carrots, cole slaw, and green beans. The menu is in constant rotation but fried chicken is served at all times. Other entrees and sides like meatloaf, pot roast, stewed tomatoes, and mac & cheese can be found on your table on other nights.
For not labeling Tanglewood as a barbecue joint, I was pretty impressed with the bbq pork and line of homemade sauces. Our server explained each sauce in detail – including one that was almost white. She told us it was “allegedly” one of the first barbecue sauces created in Alabama, which consisted of mayonnaise (being the base ingredient), vinegar, lemon, salt, and pepper. This tangy watery sauce was wonderful and the perfect balance to the sweet pork.
The collards were great and spruced up a bit by a bottle of vinegar and hot sauce found on the table (along with the butters, jellies, spreads, and sauces). My girlfriend loved the carrots – simple and not too soft. The coleslaw was thickly cut – this is something I don’t see often so it was a nice change to get a full cabbage-crunch and also made a valuable addition topping my barbecue pork. The mashed potatoes were everything I’d hoped – softly whipped and served with brown gravy. I probably didn’t have mashed potatoes for at least a year before this night so I was in heaven.
One thing our meal lacked was a cheese-related side. Halfway during our gorge-fest, I found myself looking around the table, hoping a side of mac & cheese or pimento would arrive.
Through the post dinner food coma, we mustered what room we had left in our stomach and ordered dessert. Our server listed items like apple cobbler, buttermilk pecan pie, and chocolate chip pecan pie but keeping it old school, we settled on the homemade brownie sundae. It arrived just as a brownie sundae should, and even included rainbow sprinkles. Although it wasn’t out of this world, I still liked it and it’s child-like nostalgia.
The only family style place I’d been to before Tanglewood Ordinary, was a renovated Victorian House turned restaurant in Georgia called the Beaver House… yes, I am serious.
While there, I enjoyed the whole slow, simple philosophy of a true family style meal. After discovering Tanglewood, I’m thrilled a similar establishment is so close to home and involves a scenic trip out of the normal hustle and bustle.