One of my best friends from high school married a man with land in Darlington, a backstory which made no difference to me until I learned I’d be in the area this week around lunchtime. Although they’ve landed back in our Michigan hometown, I frantically appealed to my friend and her husband for eating help.
“I guess there is a burger place called Joe’s something,” she texted back.
No offense to Joe’s, but I’ve since learned the correct answer to the inevitable “where should I eat in Darlington?” question is Jewel’s Deluxe, an upstanding meat-and-three on the town square.
Jewel’s is only five years old, but there’s nothing newfangled about the restaurant, which colonized a former bank building. According to online reviews, Jewel’s buys its vegetables from local farmers. And while I didn’t verify sourcing with our server, I can vouch for the grounded nature of the restaurant’s folksy cooking.
Each day, ingredients such as butter beans, beets, field peas and turnip greens figure into a list of a dozen specials. Customers pencil their choices on a blank slip of paper, which later doubles as their bill.
There are just a few constants on the menu, including a pale-skinned fried chicken with flavor down to the bone and tender rice baked with rich brown gravy. My order also included a plain hamburger patty smothered with sautéed onions and more gravy; ruddy field peas and cheese-topped potatoes broiled to a crisp, copper crown.
The only disadvantage of the menu system is you know exactly what you’re missing by showing up on Monday: I’m plotting a return visit on liver-and-onions day (although I’m sticking with the baked rice and gravy.)