Chef Jerome and The Old School Diner
About a half hour south of Savannah, in the small village of Townsend, is one of the area’s best-kept secrets: The Old School Diner, owned and operated by Chef Jerome. A couple friends invited Juergen and I to the restaurant, and we had an incredible time which won’t soon be forgotten.
When we pulled into the Old School’s driveway to find it covered in carpets, I suspected we were in for a treat. The wooden building was painted in bright red with farm tools hung on the outside walls, and we entered cautiously. If I hadn’t known in advance that this was a restaurant, nothing would have immediately tipped me off. It felt like we were invading someone’s home — photos were on the walls, comfortable furniture was strewn about, and there was nobody to be seen. As we ventured further inside, a young girl came around a corner to greet us and lead us to our table.
The dining area is big, with room to seat a lot of patrons. We ordered beer and took a look at the menu. There wasn’t much debate about what to order — I mean, with a special called The Wheelchair Platter, you don’t have much choice — you are going to get The Wheelchair Platter. I suppose the name comes from the mode of transportation you’re likely to need afterwards. When it was brought out, my veins seized up in fear and my stomach shuddered in ecstasy. Mountains of fried food — oysters, shrimp, chicken. Clam bakes and ribs. We were five hungry people, and although everything was delicious, we couldn’t finish it.
The evening really got going when Chef Jerome came out of the kitchen to greet us. He does all the cooking, and clearly enjoys meeting the people who’ve discovered his little place. The first thing he did was give us all big bear hugs. “You’re family here”. And he meant it! He took us on a tour around the restaurant, telling us about his life and work. We saw pictures of famous people who’ve eaten there, including Ben Affleck and Michael Oher (from the Blind Side). He showed us love letters he’s written to his wife over the years (complete with drawings) and into his kitchen and its wall-to-wall deep fryers. The staff clearly love him, and were just as friendly and welcoming as their boss.
I think we spent about an hour talking to Chef Jerome, and he even walked us out onto the carpeted driveway to say goodbye. “Don’t forget now! This is your home, and you are family when you’re here!” And as I gave him a final farewell hug, I didn’t doubt it. It was an incredible night, and the Old School Diner is truly a special place.
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January 5, 2011 at 12:05 pm