Stay golden

Traditional values remain at The Golden Jersey Inn at Young’s Dairy

Country comfort combo platter; photo: Paula Johnson

By Paula Johnson

Young’s Dairy is an iconic Yellow Springs tradition. The giant red barn still stands where the Young family built it in 1869. Over the years the family farmed the surrounding acreage and raised dairy cattle, selling milk to the public in 1958 and opening a retail store in 1960. (The ice cream they’ve become famous for came in the mid-1960’s.) Back in 1958, there was a 10′ by 10′ room adjacent to the milk room with some glass jugs, a refrigerator, a cash drawer, and the honor system. A customer would drive up, open the refrigerator, get his gallon of milk, leave an empty jug and the money, and drive away. This snapshot of a bygone era seems like a long, long time ago but visit The Golden Jersey Inn and you will feel that spirit still going strong. PIP (Palate In Progress) and I took the scenic drive on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon to sample the fare at The Golden Jersey Inn, which opened in 1998.

The restaurant’s space is barn-like, with a vaulting 30-foot ceiling. The entry area contains a retail counter selling Young’s cheeses, buckeyes, and gift items. There’s a sign at the host stand, a brightly painted Farmall tractor front that reads “Please Wait To Be Seeded”. This made PIP groan loudly, but I am a lover of puns, and found it perfectly corny. This made him groan louder, though that time it could have been from hunger. We had heard the lore of the stick to your ribs home style cooking and we both had quite an appetite.

Grandma’s greatest hits

The dinner menu at The Golden Jersey Inn reads like your grandma’s greatest hits: there’s meat loaf, buttermilk fried chicken, glazed ham steak, chicken and dumplings, beef and noodles, liver and onions, and a roast beef hot shot. PIP zeroed in on the Bacon Wrapped Grilled Pork Chop (one for $11.95, add $3.95 for a second) with mashed potatoes and green beans. I love the option of designing your own platter so the country comfort combo was for me. It’s $12.95 for two entree choices and two sides, and an additional $3.00 to add another entree choice. I picked three: Chicken and Dumplings, Meatloaf, and Buttermilk Fried Chicken Breast, along with sides of macaroni and cheese and sweet potato casserole.

But first, curds. Fried Young’s Dairy cheese curds – deep fried fresh plain cheddar coated in flour, egg wash, and an Italian herb bread crumb mixture. We tried a heaping mound of them with all three sauce options: Buttermilk ranch, Buffalo hot sauce, and sweet Thai chili. The Buffalo came out on top followed by the Thai chili. Fried comfort food to start, with more on the way. However, there was a pre-curd-sor I nearly forgot to mention, one which enhances Golden Jersey’s reputation as being for those with large appetites. Our friendly server plunked down a large plate of sweet potato bread, honey cinnamon butter, coleslaw, and homemade apple sauce. “We didn’t order this,” I began to protest, but she let me know this is how every meal begins at The Golden Jersey Inn.

Basically good

Our dinners weren’t far behind, and we happily tucked in. Basic is the best word to describe what the cooking is about at The Golden Jersey, and that’s meant in a good way. Everything that’s made is made with a short list of real ingredients for the most part, using the same traditional old-fashioned recipes that have been around forever. This can be verified on their website (which moos when you open it) where actual recipes are furnished. The Amish Beef and Noodles for instance, is beef, noodles, boullion, flour, and water. (They do use jarred Alfredo sauce in one of their recipes, so I am unsure that they actually make their own in the restaurant)

The highlight of what we ordered for me was the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Breast, made by dipping the chicken in a homemade ranch dressing then rolling it in a bread coating and deep frying it. The result is a crisp crunchy seasoned outside and perfectly juicy chicken inside. I almost skipped it, since for me a boneless breast is the least interesting cut of chicken there is. It’s most often dry and tasteless, but I reasoned that since I could try three of the entree offerings I might as well add it on – and I am so glad I did. The chicken also had the advantage of being one of the most highly seasoned entrees I tried, with the meatloaf and the chicken and dumplings falling towards the bland side, while still being good. What I am saying is don’t look for extreme flavor profiles or surprising ingredient additions in those dishes. Do look for well-prepared basics.

I also loved the sides, the mac and cheese and sweet potato casserole, which could qualify as dessert with its sweet and crunchy pecans and brown sugar. PIP’s pork chops were nicely done, simply grilled with a strip of bacon, along with home style mashed potatoes and gravy, on the lumpy side in a good way. “It’s like Cracker Barrel, but a lot better,” was PIP’s observation, and I would agree. We closed with hot fudge sundaes of course, because it’s practically obligatory. (On my next visit I plan to have a milkshake with dinner!)

These days, though there is a lot that remains traditional, Young’s has expanded in myriad ways its founders couldn’t have imagined. In 1995 a driving range was added, followed by Udders & Putters, an 18-hole farm theme miniature golf course. There’s also a nine position-batting cage featuring softball and hardball pitching machines. Recently added picnic area Barnabe’s Walnut Grove accommodates large groups from 50 to 5,000. A corn maze with wagon rides, a thirty foot slide, a bouncy house, kid sized pedal tractors, a wool gathering festival, and a 30-acre pick your own pumpkin patch round out things you can do besides eat at Young’s. Unfortunately, PIP and I experienced a little too much country comfort in the way of dinner. We passed on the mini golf in order to pass out on our couch. Next time the plan will be golf, pick a pumpkin, and then eat Buttermilk Chicken and a milkshake in that order.

The Golden Jersey Inn is  located at 6880 Springfield Xenia Rd. in Yellow Springs. For more information, please call 937.324.2050 or visit https://YoungsDairy.com/The-Golden-Jersey-Inn/

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Paula Johnson
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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