Village House creates homestyle taste
photos by Jesse Kiser
A while back while on an assignment, my editor told me about a movement in the world of food. A shift away from fast food. A shift away from the large chain restaurant and more to a place immersed in the local economy. A place that uses as many local products has possible. This idea intrigued me. I thought of down-home local places I was familiar with and one place came to mind: the little white two story house on the corner. Everyone has one in their town: the little restaurant that looks a little rundown on the outside, no just rustic. A place where all the customers know each other and the owner greets you at the door. It is the type of place you don’t even really know if it is a restaurant. A hidden treasure like the entrance to Hogwarts in Harry Potter, you just kind of miss it unless you look for it at just the right angle.
This little white house on the corner is appropriately named the Village House. It is located in Clemmons right behind the major row of businesses in town. Also it is merely a couple blocks from my house. I can remember taking high school dates to this place. It was a great romantic place to go, quiet and the food was great. I wanted my dates to think I was sophisticated and romantic when I was 16. Didn’t we all?
””Since those days in high school, the Village House has changed ownership. Jackie Harris is the current owner. Harris is a New Yorker whose accent drifts in and out until you ask her where she is from. Not only does her accent increase so does her voice. “Oh, I’m a New Yorker honey,” she yells with laughter. She and her husband envisioned retiring in the mountains of North Carolina with a small neighborhood restaurant to keep them busy, a little place with a view and only a lunch menu. They came close but didn’t quite make it to the mountains, only the foothills. Harris was good friends when with the old owners and they approached her when it was time to sell. She said it took her a year to decide.
It is a meeting place for the community where the usuals are friendly and inviting. Harris says when she sees customers come and sit in a certain place they typically strike up a conversation with someone at the next table. They return every so often but eventually the customers start seeing each other so often that they start coming in with each other, building friendships. It is a place in the community to feel comfortable. To not only revert the food industry to a slow way of doing things but for you yourself to revert back to a slow way of being. For this young reporter this was off the beaten path. Harris took me on a tour me around the store looking at the collection of antiques and the extensive wine list.
Stuff I am a little too young for. She asked me if I was old enough to drink wine. I replied, “I’m old enough to drink it, just not old enough to appreciate a good glass when I taste one.” The wine list has “everything but saki,” said the wine distributor, Stephanie Carboneau, from across the room. She comes by about once a month to have a small wine testing with Harris. “It’s a hard job but someone has to do,” said Carboneau with a big laugh. The wine list changes every three months and features wines from Africa, Greece, California, Italy, France and North Carolina. Tables set up inside of a creaky wooden floor home.
The Village House atmosphere is slower than the creak on the back screen door. You enter not to a large black stand with a hostess in a uniform but into a hallway. Not even a designated entrance; either the screen door in the back or the large wooden door in the front. Harris will walk out to greet you with a smile and offer you a seat. She says it was like going to your aunt’s house on a Sunday while she cooked. She says it’s the same kind of food you and I might cook. I disagree. It’s food from about every corner of the world. Her background is German but she says it has nothing to do with her menu, which is very eclectic. There are only five employed persons in the kitchen, which includes a head chef, and two training.
The Village House tries to use as much of the local economy as possible because a lot of the local farmers are also the best customers. After I leave Harris encourages me to come back and bring a date next time. Maybe this time I can act a little more sophisticated when the wine list comes by.
To comment on this story, e-mail Jesse Kiser at Jesse@yesweekly.com.