It’s getting cold all around the country, and my long pants had come out of retirement; that meant it was time to go south. From Fuquay (near Raleigh, North Carolina), where we were visiting friends, we headed to South Carolina, in order to see an aunt of mine who has a restaurant there (specifically, in Florence). It’s called Julia Belle’s, and is widely considered more than fantastic; even one of Guy Fieri’s friends was in raptures with my Aunt Fran’s macaroni and cheese.
The restaurant is in a large red barn, which is divided into many sections; it used to be used for animals, and so the rooms are small and slightly awkward. Despite this, Julia Belle’s manages a homey, comfortable feeling, with many small dining rooms. The first room on one side of the building is the kitchen and main sitting area, and directly opposite is the bakery, where buns, pie, and things of that sort are made, with another space for eating. It’s a beautiful but difficult old building, and though many restaurants have attempted to make it work over time, it’s only Julia Belle’s that has managed to pull it off.
And now onto the food. I’m really not the best person for the job, being gluten-free (and also not a fan of eating in general), but I’m the only critic available at the moment, so I’ll have to do. Truthfully, the options for someone like me were fairly limited, but I settled on mashed potatoes, green beans, and a burger without a bun. Gordon, who could elaborate on his food for hours, got the chicken and waffles, which came topped with cinnamon-covered peaches. Mom got the same thing, but then she started to wish she hadn’t; what she’d really wanted had been the shrimp-and-chilli sandwich that Dad had gotten. But the moment she took the first bite of her chicken and waffles, her expression was beyond words. I can’t tell you what it looked like, but I can tell you that it conveyed a simple but clear message: wow.
Dad loved his sandwich as well, and by the time we were stuffed to the gills with wholesome food, we were also convinced that dessert could only be better. So Mom and Dad got a piece of White Russian Pecan Pie, Gordon got a small “fried pie” that looked like a strudel. Meanwhile, I asked what they had gluten-free. My options? Zip. Having nothing for me on the menu didn’t hold the kind folks at Julia Belle’s back, however. Before long, I had some banana pudding filling in a small bowl in front of me, and boy was it good. There was a strong yogurt base, with sweet, banana-y flavor throughout, and I found myself eating slowly to savor the taste.
Having eaten our fill, and hugged Aunt Fran goodbye, we waddled out of the restaurant to the motorhome. Dad got into his van, Gordon, Mom, and I piled into our house, and off we went. That day we would cross South Carolina, Georgia, and get a decent way into Florida. Then we would arrive at TTO (Thousand Trails RV Park, Orlando) and meet up with friends. We’ll all be here until early February, when the families will start to disperse. And that’s when Turtletells will leave, headed out West once more.