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Music with your food at Muddy Creek Cafe and Music Hall

by Kristi Maier

@triadfoodies

Tucked away in Historic Bethania is a small cafe that’s transitioned into a music hall that’s become a favorite haunt a many a musician, local and national. It’s absolutely familyfriendly and lively, not to mention affordable.

We visited on a couple of occasions to get an idea of what the Muddy Creek Cafe is all about. The first time was on a Saturday evening, just the hubs and me. We wanted a light dinner but also some music, so it sounded fun. The band, Gray Matter, was playing in the cafe, and next door in the music hall, a couple of acts including the popular Norlina. Even in the early dinner hours, if you want some music with your food, it’s a great choice as many restaurants and bars don’t start their live music until after 8:30. It was a torrential downpour with a few rounds of thunder and lightning at precisely the time we arrived, but that didn’t seem to deter the folks on the porch of the cafe, and a handful of kids, jamming to the music. The cafe has counter service and we placed our order and grabbed a seat. And then, the power went out— and the band played on—acoustic.

But the power came back on—in less than a minute.

And I was relieved because I was starving and had ordered a panini. Can’t do that without a hot press. Speaking of, a bit about the food…that’s why we’re here, right?

Muddy Creek Cafe has some standard appetizers, salads and sandwiches. The kitchen is basically in full view—just a counter full of panini presses if you choose a hot sandwich. You have the choice of cold sandwiches like tuna salad, chicken salad, a BLT with turkey, muffuletta and hummus wraps for the veggie lovers. On the panini press are hot Italian, tuna melt, Reuben, a Roma with mozzarella and spinach and the famous New South Pimento, which is a homemade pimento cheese—but the way to go is add the spicy bacon and tomato to it. That’s what I ordered and it was fab. The bacon had a kick, the tomatoes were beautifully warmed throughout and had almost a jammy texture and that sandwich was piping hot. Mr. Foodie ordered the hot Italian, which has ham, salami, roasted red peppers and spinach. Meaty and satisfying. There are also a couple of soups offered daily as well as salads. For the kids, you’ll find grilled cheese, pb & j, turkey and cheese or a hot dog on a pretzel roll (available for adults too). There’s a little area where you can buy baked goods as well as some wonderful old school soda pops and local craft beer.

On a second visit, based on the suggestion of owner Shana Whitehead, I ordered the tuna salad on salad and it made for a great, light lunch.

Whitehead has lived in the area for 20 years and is the mom of two sons, one in college and the other in high school. She has a background in the natural food industry and says she always admired the old de-seeding mill when she drove past it.

“The owner of the mill is an architect and he renovated the outside and I kept thinking to myself it would make a great cafe—I always wanted a café,” Whitehead said. “I’d doodle menus so I just did whatever it would take. I leased the building, created a business plan, drew out what I wanted the cafe to look like and the engineers took it from there. And it was a mess. It really had to be cleaned up and properly uplifted for a cafe.”

Whitehead says they tried to keep it simple. “We don’t have a fryer or a grill, but we have a convection oven. It gives the baked good a great rise and we also constantly roast vegetables. We’ve learned to be very creative with what we can do without a stove.”

Speaking of doodling menus, Whitehead says she’s been making some of the recipes on her menu for 30 years. “The hummus recipe—I’ve been making that since I was a teenager and I haven’t really changed it at all. We make it all fresh and try to do as many things local as we can. The olive mix for the muffuletta, I traveled to New Orleans and tore apart muffulettas until I found the right inspiration.”

Whitehead says for the five years of being open, summer has been their season, which is a little different than many restaurants as things are a bit slower in the hot months. “A typical Thursday, Friday or Saturday night has families with kids and friends out on our porch under the shed and full inside.”

As for the music hall, it sort of just happened naturally, “I knew food,” Whitehead says. “People would call and ask to play and I’d open my calendar and write them in. They had to bring their own everything, microphone, amps—I had nothing. And they’d sit in the corner and they’d play.” Then it expanded to outside and got bigger and bigger.

“And then it got so big, that people couldn’t move and the line was out the door and that’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem,” she said. “Being in an historic building, you can’t just knock down walls, so the owner offered us a space to rent in the mill and we built it out with a stage and a bar.” And now she has a virtual entertainment complex with all types of music. “We have fiddle music, acoustic, bands, country music, Americana, Grammy award winning acts,” she says.

People can order food at the cafe and take it over to the music hall to enjoy the show.

The cafe and music venue can also be rented for private events, birthday parties or meetings but they are often booked each weekend with musical acts. And if you visit during the day, you can check out the grounds, the shops connecting the cafe and music hall and enjoy the grounds. And if you can pry yourself away, be sure to visit Bethania and the Muddy Creek, the cafe’s namesake. !

KRISTI MAIER is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.

WANNA go?

Muddy Creek Cafe and Music Hall is located at 5455 Bethania Road, Winston-Salem. Open daily for lunch and for dinner and dinner Wednesday- Saturday. Check out the menu and hours at muddycreekcafe.com. Upcoming events and music are listed on their Facebook page.

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