550 S. Lee St.
Sometimes when I take the rural two-lane highways that wind throughout this great country of ours, I’ll pass an old-fashioned establishment that’s just too authentic, too nostalgic, too quaint—and too endangered—to pass by.
Steffen’s Restaurant—a stone throw away from Okefenokee Swamp on old Highway 17, just north of the St. Mary’s River Bridge that separates Georgia and Florida—is one of those establishments.
The first time I ever drove by, I immediately knew something special was happening at this place.
The neon retro sign. The low-slung, decades-old building. The packed parking lot.
There aren’t many places left like this anymore.
Corporate chain restaurants, motels, and fast food joints are as far as the eye can see.
Kingsland may still be a sleepy Southern town, but it’s been discovered by the corporate CEOs of every fast food conglomerate from Arby’s to Zaxby’s.
Location. Location. Location.
Tourists traveling from the frigid northeast to sunny Florida pull off at the Kingsland exit in throngs to sleep, eat, and use the bathroom. Then hop back in their cars headed for the Sunshine State.
Six decades ago, Steffen’s might have been one of those places for travelers to stop. Back before there was an I-95. Back when Hwy. 17 was the only way to get from Virginia to Florida.
But those days are long gone.
Which is a testament to the good cooking and atmosphere that’s kept Steffen’s open for over half a century.
Steffen’s is so local and low-key, you won’t find it in any of those “Eat Your Way Across America” type shows.
Town cops, local politicians, and little league coaches crowd into Steffen’s every morning to slap backs, yuck it up about the high school football team’s latest state championship, and gossip about Mark Richt’s future as head Bulldog.
But what really keeps them coming back is the food.
My french toast, sausage, and biscuits and gravy was the trifecta of Steffen’s good country cooking.
I think it’s actually illegal to come to an old-fashioned Southern place like this and not try the biscuits and gravy.
And I was not disappointed.
A crusty golden buttery on the outside, soft and warm on the inside—under a generous amount white country gravy specked with sausage.
The french toast came as four pieces of Texas toast battered, buttered, seasoned and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Best of all, it came with real sugar cane syrup made on a farm just a few miles up the road.
Less sickeningly-sweet than your typical maple syrup, homemade Georgia sugarcane syrup was the perfect complement to an already sweet french toast.
On the side, my sausage—made by W. J. Wainwright and Son Meat Curing Co. just up the road in Nahunta—put regular sausage links to shame. This was thick, smoky sausage and packed a wallop of flavor.
You got to love it. Local syrup. Local sausage. Local gossip.
It’s little touches like that—homemade country cooking and local flavor—that makes a place like Steffen’s always worth the effort to take the backroads far away from the “golden arches” and Cracker Barrels along the interstate.
Rating: Bought the Shirt!