What's good here: Kathy's County Line Cafe

Special to The StateApril 28, 2010 

For some, it is a quite a drive to cross the Saluda County line on 378 just to sample one of Kathy’s County Line Cafe’s burgers — but it is a trek well worth it, according to those who have experienced it.

What’s good here?

“We’re known for our hand-pattied, quality beef, one-third pound burgers,” says Kathy Kimes, owner and chef. “I buy the meat at a local meat market and add my special seasonings.” The burgers, which are served to order with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mayo, mustard and ketchup, apparently are so good they were featured as “the best” in the book, “Stop Where the Parking Lot’s Full.”

What else?

“I also home make our chicken salad, pimento cheese, all the salad dressings — except for balsamic vinaigrette — meatballs for subs, and slaw. I also offer seasoned crackers, which have a touch of spice. They taste great with the chicken salad. And we have onion sausage from the local meat market that is really good.” County Line is basic, good food, Kimes says. Other menu items include barbecue; hot dogs; BLTs; ham, turkey and club sandwiches; and flounder on a hoagie. A new produce stand adjacent to the cafe will be an extra draw for customers, and will provide the cafe with produce from a local 400-acre farm.

How did Kathy’s County Line Cafe get its start?

“Three years ago my mother, who is in her late 70s, but acts much younger, saw that this building was vacant. . . . I come from a family of women cooks and have always liked to cook, so she encouraged me to check the building out as a possibility for a cafe. It had a big kitchen with all the equipment working, so I said, ‘Why not?’ ” Her mother helps out when she needs her to, cooking or serving.

What does the place look like?

The 40-plus-year-old building that houses the cafe originally was a bait and tackle store — it is close to Lake Murray and several marinas. Little had to be done to transform it into a casual cafe. Kimes painted and added rocking chairs inside and out. There is a swing at one end of the porch. She added decorative iron to the windows, as well as mossy window boxes. A sign on the door reads: “Do the muddy boot stomp outside, not in. Thank you, Management.” “I know which of the men are single and which are married. The single ones read the sign and then ignore it. The married ones wipe their feet,” Kimes says. Kimes is clearing a picnic area outside under some shade trees as a place for customers to eat as well. Her mother’s “Dishin’ in the Garden: Treasures of the South Carolina Cupboard,” decorative dishes on stakes to decorate garden areas, are for sale on the porch.

Who eats here?

The County Line Cafe is one of those casual, “regular” places where customers feel comfortable calling Kimes “Ms. Kathy,” and do not hesitate to call her ahead of time to have her prepare a picnic basket full of goodies or some sandwiches or onion sausage rolls for their day on the lake. “The fishermen know that I can make sandwiches in such a way that they won’t get soggy on the fishing trip.” Seniors often come in and stay awhile for breakfast . Families, including grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandchildren will congregate for lunch. Locals pick up containers of salads to take home, or for special occasions. “This is just a really friendly place where people like to gather,” Kimes says.

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