The historic Readyville Mill recently debuted its breakfast menu. You won’t bite into fresher pancakes inside the Volunteer State.
The corn cakes and whole wheat pancakes are cooked with meal milled within a stone’s throw of the eatery each Saturday morning.
“Foremost, people need to understand we are not fast food. We want people to slow down, listen to the music, walk around the grounds and enjoy the history,” said Tomm Brady, owner of the 1878 mill.
“Everything we serve here, we grind. If you have pancakes and grits this morning, we ground it. It’s the only mill in Tennessee certified U.S.D.A. organic.”
The fresher-than-fresh pancakes are the star attractions. They may be accompanied with blueberries, bananas or plain, while the topping is 100 percent Vermont maple syrup. Larruping side orders include hickory-smoked bacon or sausage, grits, hand-patted whole-wheat biscuits and gravy. The beverages are coffee, juice and milk.
On a morning in mid-March, more than three dozen cars pack the parking lot and bear six different Tennessee county tags and three out-of-state license plates.
Judy Sadler, a meeting planner from Hendersonville, ordered the banana corn cakes, and her husband, Ken, had the sausage and gravy biscuits.
“We came here at Christmas for the tour of homes. Then my children suggested, ‘Why don’t you eat there for breakfast?’ The food was very good, very hearty,” said Judy. “It was like stepping back into the good old days. Real nostalgic for me.”
Pamela Barton of Murfreesboro brought 13 of her family members, including children and grandchildren to sample the vittles. Their three tables were groaning with breakfast plates that drew smacking lips from the youngsters.
“My boss at work told me about it. You have to get their by 8 to get a good seat,” said Barton, who ordered whole wheat pancakes with burnt bacon. “This is our first experience.”
The mill, whose origin dates to 1812, stands four stories high near the bank of the East Fork of the Stones River. Brady spent the past five years restoring the mill, which had been inactive for about 30 years. A little over a year ago, he began producing stone-ground corn meal, which he sells in 3?-pound bags.
Brady performed about 98 percent of the restoration work himself. The 19th-century grist-mill complex features a grainary and icehouse which the miller transformed into a restaurant with tongue-and-groove poplar walls. The décor favors rural America of yesteryear with numerous antiques nestled in nooks and crannies of the restaurant.
Live music plays continuously, courtesy of Johnny B and friends, who are “pickin’-n-singing for pancakes.” “Johnny B” is Murfreesboro attorney John Blankenship, who performs bluegrass, country and Marty Robbins tunes with four or five other musicians on guitars, banjo, mandolin, harmonica and spoons.
“Everyone loves the food. It doesn’t get any fresher. Tomm grinds it here and takes it right to the kitchen. Everything is all natural,” said Nora Robinson, who manages the facility and schedules weddings and parties here. “At one time Tennessee had 871 mills. We’re down to less than 15, and only three still grind,” she says.
By 9:45 a.m. this Saturday, about 75 people have enjoyed their breakfast in a kid-friendly atmosphere. A typical breakfast will run about $12 per person.
Brady and his mill may well be the biggest employer in Readyville on Saturdays with a staff of four waitresses, three cooks, a dishwasher and coordinator, but he insists it is just a hobby.
“We want people to come here and enjoy the entire experience, and that’s a lot more beside the breakfast. Sit by the river, mill around and visit the store. All the products we serve here, we sell here,” he says, referring to corn meal, grits, jams, jellies, molasses and local honey. Plus, the gift items include cast-iron cookery, T-shirts and art of the mill.
“It’s the first time anybody beat my mama’s biscuits and gravy,” says Carol Price of nearby Woodbury. “And the place is absolutely, well, there are no words to describe it. They couldn’t do it any better. It takes me home.”
The Readyville Mill serves pancake breakfasts with all the trimmings 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays. The scenic Cannon County mill, located behind Russell’s Market on old Highway 70, is 12 miles east of Murfreesboro and 1.5 miles from Highway 70 South. For more info, go online to www.readyvillemill.com or call (931) 580-3631. The mill also has facilities available for weddings, parties, receptions and reunions. For rental information, call Nora Robinson at (615) 409-1405.