The Country Store Series: Chisholm Lake Store Restaurant
The Chisholm Lake Store, located in a tucked-away building in Ripley, Tennessee, would not be what it is today without the work of its owners, Bubba and Beth Humphreys. As you drive toward the restaurant down Chisholm Lake Road, the scenery is really something else. As the road narrows and you catch sight of the gorgeous Chisholm Lake, surrounded by trees and scattered fishing cabins. The building has a long history before them, with different ownership over the years. However, with the work that Bubba and Beth have put into it, the restaurant has really become something special that people from all over the state (and even outside the state) come to visit. People rave that since the couple has taken over the restaurant, the experience has become vastly improved. It all started when the restaurant was established in 1923. While it has been a restaurant for a long time, the couple has really taken it to the next level and made the place their own. They took over management only a year and a half ago, on August 1st of 2016. “There’s a lot of tradition down here,” Beth explained. Because of this, she cannot alter many historical aspects of the building. “I can’t paint, and I can never do anything to that bar because it’s been here for how many years!” However, she has decorated the front of the bar with an adorable crab. The entire building is full of history and character, and along one section of the wall in the front and in the back room are countless dollar bills that visitors to the restaurant have signed. On one wall in the center of the main area, a couple signed dollar bills that had been soaked in floodwater years ago still hang on the wall today.
As to what made them decide to take over the Chisholm Lake Store, Beth tells me, “My husband loves to cook.” Before they could take it over, however, they had to undergo a process in front of the 9 board members who govern the area. “There were other people who wanted it besides us, so we had to go in front of the board and tell them what we were willing to do for the store to turn it around.”
The restaurant wouldn’t draw people from so many different areas if the food wasn’t worth it. “We serve steak, and they’re big...they’re ribeyes.” They also serve Chicken Monterey and crab legs that they serve in a bucket. “Everything comes with a baked potato, salad bar, and rolls, and we have a really good salad bar,” Beth explained. Their reviews all echo this sentiment. According to Beth, they use real bacon instead of fake bacon bits that so many other places use. Little things like that are what really set this place apart. She continued, “We added two things to the menu that the people before didn’t have...grilled shrimp and Chicken Monterey—that’s chicken with mushrooms and cheese on top.” They also offer a fried chicken salad. For kids, they offer chicken tenders and fries. “We also serve cheesecake,” she said. “We drizzle the plate with caramel and put the cheesecake on there, then sprinkle it with powdered sugar.”
The atmosphere of the Chisholm Lake Store Restaurant is laid back and comfortable and is set up so that everyone grabs what they need and shares the rest. “You place your order at the bar and put your ticket on the table, and [our waitresses] pick up your ticket and everybody helps themselves.” Pointing to the tables, she explained, “We put buckets on the tables with butter, sour cream, and paper towels...we’re really laid back!” Beth said. For Beth, her goal is to make everyone feel at home and comfortable. This is why the restaurant features long tables, so that everyone can interact and it can really feel like a community.
In addition to the wonderful food, the restaurant is the go-to place for parties and other events. “We have a lot of parties.” While they are usually only open Fridays and Saturdays, they will be open Thursdays as well during the month of December in order to accommodate all of these events. They host Christmas parties, class reunions, anniversary parties, and even a lung cancer benefit that was held on November 25th. They also hold huge birthday parties. “I have a girl who does the craziest birthday cakes you’ve ever seen, the best cakes,” she gushed. Her name is Leanne Harmon. “And they’re delicious! I haven’t found anything she can’t do.” When someone comes in for a birthday, they have sparkling candles and party poppers that shoot confetti everywhere. “People love to have parties down here!” They even offer a pool table and juke box.
They hold many other kinds of events at the restaurant, as well, mostly through the work of Bubba. “He’s kind of got his hand in everything!” Beth laughed. “We’re holding a huge coon hunt down here,” she explained. “It’s invitation only and there will be people from all over the United States here.”
Many people will attest to the fact that the restaurant has some of the best food around. Beth explained, “When people leave here, they always bring friends back with them.” As for how business is going, it seems to be going very well. “Sometimes we have 160 to 180 reservations a night.” However, despite this impressive turnout every weekend (they are typically open Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 9:30 pm), Beth is proud to say that nobody has ever had to wait more than 15 minutes. “If they have to wait, I usually give them a bucket of beer, we serve buckets of beer which are 6 beers in a bucket, and let them hang out on the porch while we get them a table...It’s just a good time. We’ve even had people who come from Missouri who came in a limousine! You just never know who you’re going to be down here with!” Rain or shine, anyone is welcome at the Chisholm Lake Store Restaurant (no, really...because it’s on stilts, the restaurant floats when it floods!) The one-of-a-kind food and laid-back atmosphere make the Chisholm Lake Store Restaurant very much worth the scenic drive to get there.