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Get Good and Mothered in Fort Walton Beach

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I ate at Mother Earth’s Cafe on a recent weekday. I was on my own—my wife was at work and the TD is discovering the delights of school lunchroom food. I had not eaten there in a long time, and in my mind they still had their iconic planetary sign. They don’t—actually they moved it to the side—which led me to pass the place by several times. The new sign is electric, and that day read:

 

Guess I got there just in time.

 

Mother Earth’s sits in a small, unpretentious white building, with green trim and mirrored windows. Both restrooms are accessed by outside doors. Inside is warm, cozy and festooned with college pennants and team signs, along with odds and ends of posters, signs and little decorative touches.

 

They appear to accommodate a wide variety of sports teams, so you shouldn’t feel disrespected or overlooked. There are freestanding tables and booths. I got a deuce in the corner, which gave me a good view of the action. I tried to get there early enough to miss the crowd, but things were lively already. There’s a relaxed, country/lunchroom atmosphere, and that day the clientele looked 100-percent local, mostly business people, law enforcement and military.

 

The menu offers breakfast and lunch, with breakfast-only on Saturdays. I was there for lunch. The lunch menu bears an extensive list of meal-size salads; egg, tuna and chicken salads; stuffed tomatoes; light bites (chips and salsa, chips and spicy queso); soups; a vegetable plate; main entrees; and both house and specialty sandwiches.

 

There are daily specials, written on a board near the door. The specials that day were pot roast over rice, grilled chicken and spinach salad, and smothered pork chops. My server reminded me that today was my last opportunity for fried green tomatoes (the season was ending, she said).

 

I wanted something sort of homey, but I’m not a fan of smothered anything, and pot roast sounded good. I got that, with a side of pickled cucumbers and onions, and, yes, fried green tomatoes. I can’t say I’m a devoted fan, but when I heard that “last day” advisory I just had to get some.

 

Choosing your side(s) can take time at Mother Earth’s. As I write I am looking at the online menu for this week, and the list of sides includes cottage cheese, creamed corn, pole beans, fried okra, peaches, pot licker, butterbeans, tomato-cucumber-onion, turnips, okra and tomatoes, pan fried cabbage, buttered carrots, field peas and cole slaw. They also offer hand-cut French fries. The sides probably change seasonally.

 

The fried tomatoes arrived. A whole tomato was thick-sliced and crisp fried in a crunchy, not too salty batter. They were tangy (and rich), and I was glad they did not come with the usual dressing—they tasted great without.

 

The pot roast, rice, side and a square of cornbread came next, a perfectly meal-sized portion that hit the spot but did not make me feel like I had to plow the North Forty to work it off. The lean, slow-cooked beef was meltingly tender. The fresh onions, carrots and potatoes were rough-chopped, and the gravy was only lightly salted. The tart pickles and onions were exactly the thing to balance out the richness of the roast. It was a fine home-style lunch, right down to the cornbread.

 

Other choices are broccoli cheese, vegetable or basil tomato soups; taco salad; Greek salad; balsamic grilled chicken salad; beef or chicken enchiladas; wraps with spinach and turkey, balsamic chicken or chicken Caesar filling; house sandwiches with combinations of ham, turkey, roast beef, or salad; a garden sandwich with house made cheese spread; French dip; Cajun roast beef; muffuletta; club; hamburger; BLT; grilled cheese; and peanut butter with banana or jelly.

 

Desserts vary. That day they had peanut butter icebox pie, ice cream, banana pudding, fruit cup, and a triple berry tart. I chose the tart. My server graciously buried it under a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was warm, flaky and loaded with sweet, tangy berries. It’s big enough to share.

 

I ordered my wife a to-go sandwich of chicken salad and avocado, served with sprouts on a wheat roll. I took her word for it that the chicken was fresh (not canned), and she appreciated all the sprouts. It came with chips and a free description of the tart that I didn’t share.

MOTHER EARTH’S CAFE

512 Eglin Pkwy. NE
Fort Walton Beach
850-863-3092
Hours: Open for Breakfast Mon.-Sat., 6 a.m.-Noon; Lunch Mon.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Reservations: Not Necessary
Children’s Menu: Can Accommodate
Dress: Casual
Your mother wants you to eat. Choose from a variety of home-style plate lunches, deli sandwiches, soups, salads and daily specials, served by an ultra-friendly staff in a comfortable atmosphere. Plenty of vegetables and seasonal goodies. Breakfast and lunch, orders to go. $4-15.
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