Wells Kitchen: Good Food for Good Folks!
Started in 1971 by Louise Vandergrift, the Vandergrift family has been at the helm of Wells Kitchen for most of the time since. Other folks ran the restaurant for a brief time before 1999, but for the last 18 years, it has been family owned and operated.
“Our family has always had our own businesses, so when Mom, Vannice Crocker, asked if we wanted to run the restaurant, we said ‘Sure’ and started a different adventure,” said Sarah Crocker, granddaughter of Louise Vandergrift. Other family members include Vannice Crocker, Emily Schmitz, Sara Crocker, and Jennie McConnell. “But all of our employees are like family—some of them have been with us for over seven years,” Sarah explained. “We use family recipes and fix our food like we want to eat it—like our grandmother Vandergrift used to fix it. She was an amazing cook and even published her own cookbook.”
When asked what makes their food so good, Sarah responded, “Besides our grandmother’s recipes, we make our food, season it, and cook it the old fashioned way, here on our stove.”
Wells Kitchen meat comes from Fastimes. “Our Great Grandfather started a store in 1907. They closed it in 2007, but we all still use his recipes for the meat—sausage, ribeyes, pork chops...the only meat we don’t use from Fastimes is the chicken, and we go through over 1000 pieces in a slow week with no catering,” Crocker added.
Best sellers at the restaurant include fried chicken, pork chops, fried green beans, okra, and of course, the fried corn on the cob—battered, deep fried, and juicy enough that you NEED a napkin ready.
A relatively new and really successful dessert option is their fried pies—they offer eight different flavors with Apple, Peach, and Coconut topping the list. “But my favorite is Peanut Butter,” Sarah smiled as she added that note.
Each guest’s table is greeted with a small cast iron skillet filled with rolls and fried cornbread, bright white chairs, checkered tablecloths, sweet tea, and fried chicken…what’s more Southern than that? “People call in just to get our fried cornbread—ten cents each—and we get orders for 25-50 pieces,” Crocker added.
It’s not just the cornbread people order; Wells does catering as well. “It’s a whole ‘nother operation. We do any size, weddings, Dr.’s offices, people on jury duty, breakfast for the school, even a bus driver’s breakfast once a year,” Vannice explained. “Sometimes it’s catering on the spot, sometimes we have advance notice.” It doesn’t matter to them — they handle it all in stride with a happy face and top-notch food.
Wells' customer base is also a lot like family. Some of them have even become kind of like grandparents. “I love our customers. This place is hard work but when you cook for people you love—that have become like family—it makes it worth it.” Sarah smiled as she said, “I want to add every new customer we see to our family—keep them coming back and keep our customer ‘family’ growing.”
The family hopes to keep this family philosophy going by passing the business on to the next generation someday. “We are trying to instill the work ethic we were taught into our kids and employees,” Crocker explained. As for Vannice, she trusts that whoever owns it next will do a great job. “Once you learn to make my salmon—I’m good to go and can leave it to you,” Vannice laughed. To this, Sarah jokingly responded, “We can’t make it yet, Mamma.”
Wells is open for lunch and dinner on Monday through Saturday. The only Sunday they are open is Mother’s Day.
Look for them on Facebook or give them a call at (901) 476-5750 and check often for your favorite daily special. And remember—“Eat your Veggies!”