September 2018

Daniel M. Walker, Contributing Columnist

Country cooking that defies the odds

Virginians are fortunate to have access to so many good restaurants that specialize in country cooking. Good country cooking captures the tastes, flavors, likes, even the attitudes of its locality. In New Mexico, country cooking may mean hot tamales and refried beans seasoned with red pepper, while in Virginia it may mean fried chicken, country-fried steak, spoon bread and vegetables seasoned with lard and bacon drippings.

Sherion Farmer, restaurant partner.

Sherion Farmer, restaurant partner.

However you define country cooking, it’s usually considered “comfort food” and promoted like a badge of honor by locals.

One of those special country-cooking places that diners flock to in Central Virginia is The Pickel Barrel, located in Centerville near the border between Goochland and Henrico counties. Sherion Farmer, the visionary of The Pickel Barrel, says, “I want all my diners to feel like family at our house.” When I visited The Pickel Barrel, I had to smile at her comment because that was exactly how I felt.

Over several days I “taste-tested” seven different meals at The Pickel Barrel. The laws of gourmet probability would suggest that at least one of those meals would not be to my liking. Sherion must be rewriting the laws of gourmet probability, because each meal I tried was very good.

L-R: Jennifer Etogh, Herbert Pickels, partner, Joy Pickels and Sherion Farmer, partner.

L-R: Jennifer Etogh, Herbert Pickels, partner, Joy Pickels and Sherion Farmer, partner.

My favorite combination was the country-fried steak, spoon bread and green beans. I try not to use hyperbole to describe a particular dish; however, at my advanced age I can truly say that I have never tasted a chicken-fried steak as tender as that at The Pickel Barrel. In addition, the spoon bread was just as good as the spoon bread prepared by my grandmother.

Wow! Two dishes at the top of my all-time favorites. It was my lucky day, and the idea of buying a lottery ticket crossed my mind! But wait, the other six dishes I tried were also at the top of my favorites list. These dishes were sautéed scallops, fried oysters, flounder, salmon with a citrus glaze, crab cakes and fried chicken.


Front of The Pickel Barrel.

Front of The Pickel Barrel.

A good restaurant often reflects the characteristics and personality of its owner or owners. Sherion said she always wanted the service to be attentive and the plate portions to be generous. Each time I visited The Pickel Barrel both the service and food portions lived up to Sherion’s intentions.

As you might know from reading past articles, I almost always order desserts. However, during my Pickel Barrel visits with the portions so large, desserts were the furthest thing from my mind. So, in the future I plan to return and only order desserts. Oh, my, that could become a habit!

So, in conclusion, I have to say that if you love country cooking, The Pickel Barrel is a Blue-Plate Award winner.


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I receive most of my restaurant recommendations via email from readers of Cooperative Living. This time the recommendation to try The Pickel Barrel came from a trip to the barber shop. I would like to thank barbers Karl Philippe and Rhonda Raymond at Karl’s Place Barber Shop for their recommendations. 

Let me know about your favorite restaurant at [email protected]


12912 Plaza Drive
Henrico, VA 23233
(804) 708-0166

Open Daily 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.