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Pot pie at a Greensboro institution

by Eric Ginsburg

| eric@yesweekly.com | @Eric_Ginsburg

Apostal worker, a lawyer, a retiree and a construction worker walk into a restaurant….

It’s not the beginning of a joke, just the start of a Thursday lunch rush at the Coliseum Country Café.

No, really.

The restaurant, next the shell of a former dollar store, is unassuming from the outside, but it’s one of the few places locals consider to be an institution. In other words, I’m embarrassed that it’s taken me so long to try it.

It’s not like there are many hurdles to getting there — just bring cash and an empty stomach.

The menu changes daily, including fried chicken each Wednesday and flounder — “The best fish in town,” my server said — on Fridays. The fall special: grilled pimento cheese. There’s also a threevegetable plate for $6 that a regular came in and ordered, but I don’t think I could’ve forced myself to order anything else once I saw the turkey pot pie.

I’m told that on first glance this may sound gross — news to me, but then again I don’t have the most refined palate. It’s not in the weekly or even a monthly rotation of dishes as far as I’m concerned, but there’s just something inherently comforting about pot pie. Maybe it’s the association with holiday cheer or the literal warmth of the meal, but there is something soothing about it, something that mitigates the problems of daily life with each velvety bite.

The chicken pot pie is usually a popular item — as are the country-style steak and the lasagna — but another fowl is in its place today. No need to despair: The turkey dish wore a flakey crust and overflowed with its creamy core, causing me to inhale with eager anticipation. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I could hardly tell I was consuming turkey and not the more traditional filling. Expectations fulfilled.

It comes with a choice of bread (a tough decision between jalapeño cornbread and hushpuppies, in my case), a drink and

two sides, all for $8. I opted for the spicier carb and took my server’s advice on the pineapple casserole before struggling to pick a second side. Collards, mashed potatoes, fried okra, Harvard beets — this is a serious First World Problem.

This is all about unhealthy indulgences, and despite selecting Brussels sprouts to accompany the fruity casserole, the hint of green didn’t exactly compensate for the direction of the rest of my meal. With four items to dig into at once, I salted the sprouts and saved the sweet pineapple for dessert.

Visiting the Coliseum Country Café, it was difficult to miss the fact that the people who work here have relationships with a decent number of customers. At one table a patron introduced a server to his friend. At another, a woman asked about a server’s sick relative. Between the personal bonds and the throwback posters flaunting James Dean, Elvis and Audrey Hepburn, it feels more like small town America than a café in a strip mall near Glenwood.

If it weren’t for the bits of pepper peeking out, it would be easy to mistake the jalapeño corn bread for a pancake, both visually and texturally. The pepper gives it a light zip, noticeable but not overpowering, and the packet of butter it comes with is unnecessary.

Hours later I was still too full to even imagine returning and trying something new, say the fried chicken or a burger, but I remember my initial indecision and know that they offer more that draws my interest. Maybe next time I need to follow that regular’s lead and stick with the vegetables. Then again, I know in a week or so I will start craving the generous portions and meat-based entrees. Especially that pot pie.

The Old Winston Social Club, located at 1131 Burke Street in Winston-Salem, will host its annual Mac & Cheese Fest on Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public — including tastings! — and it isn’t too late to join the competition. More information at macandcheesefest.com.

Opa! is closing. The Greek restaurant on South Elm Street in Greensboro makes its final run on Saturday with a “hat party.”

WANNAgo?

The Coliseum Country Café is located at 1904 Coliseum Boulevard in Greensboro. Call 336.299.1809 for more information or visit their Facebook page.

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