The quaint building located on Highway 59 in Braden, Tennessee between I-40 and Hwy. 70, just on the other side of Galloway and Arlington, has had many different lives, a general store with a cotton merchant business upstairs, a bank, a post office, many businesses have been housed under its roof. But the same thing has always happened there, people have gathered, told stories, shared time together, all the way back to 1908 when the building was built around a large safe in the back office.
Now, the building houses Braden Station. Featuring Southern food, catfish, and seafood with some of the best fried oysters you will ever eat, the restaurant has a buffet, or you can order off of their menu. Their mouthwatering buffet includes all of the seafood you could want; clams, shrimp, crab, oysters, and then they’ve added chicken and US pond raised catfish from Simmons Catfish Company in Yazoo City, Mississippi. “You can really taste the difference between the pond raised fish,” said owner Terry Graves. “and we have been told that we have the best fried oysters in the world. And that’s people from Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, they say ‘Come down and teach us how to cook these!” I might tend to agree with that, normally, I’m not crazy about fried oysters, but these were really good. And heavens, their chocolate cobbler is out of this world! “I started working on that cobbler, taking pans over across the street to CT McGraw, the guys over there would taste it, never have anything left, but on about the 6th batch, they said, don’t change it, this is the best!” Graves smiled, “I haven’t changed it since.”
All of the recipes are from scratch, and Graves likes old cookbooks nearly as much as I do! The building is pretty much ‘from scratch’ too. When they rescued it, they had a lot of work to do! “We had to haul out 16,000 pounds of actual junk.” Kim Graves, Terry’s wife, told us. The family still had their other jobs while they were working on the building, so this was a true labor of love! They tried to save as much of the actual woodwork in the building as they could. Today, it still has the old shelves with a ladder that slides down the shelves lining the entire north wall of the building. On the other side, some of the shelving remains, unfortunately, the back half didn’t survive, although they did save the wood for use in other places. “The flooring is the original flooring except where the old Coke machine was,” Kim explained, “It was pretty bad at that point.” The Graves and Kim’s parents, George & JoAnne Jensen bought the building. “I had been in restaurants since I was three, I wanted to put in a restaurant, been saving recipes, and getting the food ideas ready. I thought I’d get some land and build what we wanted.” Terry explained. But George had taken JoAnne for a ride to find the weather station at Mason after a casual question, then working principle JoAnne asked, “Where in the world is that?”. “We were driving around and came across this building.” JoAnne continued, “George stopped, looked at it and told me it would be perfect. Laughing, I told him, well then, you go ahead and buy it!” Little did she really think he would. “The next day he was out here looking at the building. He made an offer, they accepted it and two weeks later, he had bought this building! He loved old buildings.”
That started an adventure, and the Graves family never looked back! Customers have come back time and time again. People have come from nearly every state in the US, and every country in the world, Indonesia, Middle East, Europe, UK, Africa, and the names are in their guest book to prove it. “Seems like, when somebody has a guest in from out of town, this is the place they bring them,” Graves smiled, “We even had a family reunion here one time, part of the family was from the East Coast, part was from the West Coast, they heard about us and they met in the middle.”
“It’s fun to introduce people to catfish, the people from Denmark or Russia have been some of the most fun to introduce Southern Food too, they love it after they leave!” Kim added. “Some of them have said, I don’t really like catfish, but I’ll eat it here!”
The train even stops at Braden Station occasionally—just to pick up their call in order! The engineers will pick it up while waiting on the switch to turn back to their tracks. The building was NOT the train station in Braden, that was a little building just across the tracks. People often ask that question or think the building might have been a hotel, but it was neither.
The best time to come in is a little early, around 4:00 on Thursdays, this way you have time to look at all the stuff on the shelves. “My favorite thing is the blue pitcher/vase. It was my grandmother’s and I remember it at her house.” Kim continued, “And then there’s the John Deere Tractor up on top. My other Grandmother won that in a raffle, and my Grandfather worked for International Harvester. They asked her what my Grandfather did when she told them he worked for International Harvester, they said. ‘Please don’t paint that tractor red!’. We rode that as kids, and our kids rode it, too!” There are a lot of things on the shelves, some of it came with the building, signs, a few antiques, other things have come from JoAnne’s attic, and yet other things have been brought to them by customers. “You see that ‘clean restrooms’ sign? That’s a double porcelain sign, Hamblette Cocke brought it over from across the street.” Kim laughed and said she told him they were going to hang it up by the restrooms. Customers started bringing caps to the business, too. So Kim’s Dad figured out a way to hang them from the ceiling. “Daddy loved this place, he was a masonry contractor, he loved making this place back to the way it was,” Kim told us about her Dad, George, who passed away in 2016. “The building had the first elevator in Fayette County, it even predates the Courthouse. One of the funniest things, the shelves were kind of bowed, but when we stained and put the polyurethane on them, they straightened up. Some of those were 24” deep solid boards.”
The whole family works at the restaurant, although not all full time. JoAnne mans the front, Terry oversees everything, Bridgette Wyatt and Brittany Buyer, their daughters, wait tables, and finally, there’s Kim. She still has the job she started out with before the restaurant opened, and helps out when she’s not working in Memphis. Bridgett summed up how the family feels: “Where else can you get paid to have fun?”
It is a fun experience to go to Braden Station. The food is undeniably good, the atmosphere is something that takes you back to a time gone by, a slower time, that just puts you in a good mood, and the staff—well, let’s say you feel like you’ve been to a family reunion when you leave. You couldn’t ask for a better experience!
Braden Station is open Thursday and Friday, from 5:00 - 9:00 and on Saturdays from 4:00 - 9:00. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are the only two Sundays they are open. They are available for private parties on off days, and you can always call to reserve tables and give the staff a heads up if you have a large party. The address is 189 Hwy 59 Braden, TN 38010, call for more info at 901-594-5959. They are on Facebook, and their website is bradenstation.com.